Selling online is the same as brick and mortar sales in that where you showcase your products is as important as how much you price them, how you deal with customers, and other parts of your retail operations.
Here are the top online marketplaces to shop your goods.
Offline equivalent: swap meet, public auction.
Cost: per-item listing fees + up to 15% of sale price in transaction fees.
eBay is as close to an unfettered global size bazaar as you can get. Individuals selling stuff from their attics co-mingle with big small retailers moving hundreds of units a day. With over 60 million monthly unique visitors and over 14 million active listings at any given time, no one can compete with eBay's size.
Selling on eBay is a good strategy for marketing, but not great as your online retail home. Downward pressure on prices (lots of competition), per-listing controls that favor few products and smaller retailers, and comparatively high fees makes eBay not a great place to call your online retail home. But as a marketing vehicle, it's an effective way to reach a very big market of buyers.
OnlineAuction.com (also known as “OLA”) – They charge a flat monthly fee to list your products for auction. No per-listing fees. Good for retailers with unique products that sell well in an auction format. Not for retailers looking to list hundreds of commodity products in a fixed-price setting. Think of OLA as the site for auction purists.
Offline equivalent: mall. It's expensive and there are lots of restrictions, but it also provides lots of customers and convenience.
Cost: $40 per month + up to 15% transaction fee ("referral fee")
Like a mall, Amazon has more restrictions on retailers, but also offer a more pleasant shopping experience for buyers. There are no auctions or haggling, only fixed price listings. Selling on Amazon offers several benefits to small business retailers.
Brand. You get a reputation boost by being associated with Amazon's trusted brand.
Reach. Instantly reach a national (and even global) market. Amazon reaches over 50 million monthly unique visitors searching for all kinds of products from electronics to books to groceries.
BPO (outsource). You can take advantage of Amazon's vaunted infrastructure and let Amazon handle fulfillment.
The problem with listing on Amazon is that your prices will be seen right next to other retailers – and alongside Amazon's hard-to-beat low prices. Plus it's more expensive than other selling platforms.
Yahoo Stores (Yahoo Shopping)
Offline equivalent: opening shop in the downtown shopping district. There are no mall regulations you have to obey (like closing at 9pm), but you still get some walk-in benefits of being next to other retailers.
Cost: $40-300 monthly fee, plus 0.75-2% transaction fee.
At Yahoo's ecommerce solution, you can create your own storefront – at your own website and domain – but also have your store be listed at Yahoo Shopping.
Shopify – An up-and-coming ecommerce platform that has a nice admin interface, powerful themeing system, and a rapidly growing community of designers and developers. Cheaper than Yahoo and easier to use, but without the huge benefits of Yahoo Shopping. Shopify stores are some of the nicer looking and easiest to administer online stores being launched, but the aggregated Shopify store search receives just a tiny fraction of traffic compared to Yahoo Shopping.
eCrater – Sell for free. eCrater doesn't charge for listings, and they don't have a transaction fee. eCrater makes money from add-ons like a premium listing. You also get your own store at a sub-domain (yourstore.ecrater.com).
Other places online to sell your wares
Ecommerce is a booming industry and there is no shortage of online outlets for retailers. Look beyond the big names to hit a more targeted market:
Craigslist – Like posting a flyer on a bulletin board at a local college. Craigslist is 100% free to list items for sale. But it is not anywhere near a full ecommerce solution. There's no per-item listing system, no shopping carts, no checkouts and payment system. Good for reaching local bargain hunters. Local and bargain are the key words.
Etsy – Sell handmade goods that you made. It's the eBay of handcrafted goods. No monthly subscription, low listing and transaction fees, and the handmade requirement, makes Etsy a friendly sales outlet for crafters.
Bananzle – Niche marketplace for "unique" items. Their tagline is "find everything but the ordinary".
- CafePress and Zazzle – Print your designs on mugs, bags, t-shirts and other products. You can't upload your own products. These print-on-demand are good for designers to bypass local printers to make and sell their own merchandise, or for small businesses to print company shwag on demand (like my favorite mug).