How to Build Your Online Platform and Start Selling Now

While the pandemic was doling out lemons, many small businesses made lemonade by offsetting declining in-store revenue with online sales. Nearly half of businesses surveyed implemented an online store last year (another 28% plan to add one). And it’s getting results. A Bluehost's survey of small businesses noted online revenue increased by 49% while in-store sales decreased by 61%.

Some businesses have built their own online platform or partnered with hosted sites like Shopify or Big Commerce. You can customize it to your needs but it can be costly and time-intensive to build, promote and maintain. Not all businesses have the inhouse expertise needed to use this option.

Others businesses partner with existing marketplace platforms that already generate large amounts of traffic. You’ll pay fees for participating and compete against other businesses, but you can be up and running quickly.

Here’s a look at some of these marketplace options that don’t require you to build your own online platform.

Amazon

One of the advantages of this platform is it already has a built-in audience—nearly 59 million  monthly unique visitors. Small and medium-sized business account for more than half of the units sold there.

This Beginner’s Guide identifies what you need to get you started. The subscription fee ranges from $0.99 per item to $39.99 a month, based on how many items you sell. Here’s a breakdown of other fees you may incur (e.g., fulfillment, referrals). They also offer tools to track and manage sales.

Like many marketplace options, Amazon owns the customer relationship making it more difficult to market additional sales. Here’s a pro/con review of Amazon along with advice for new sellers.

Etsy

This marketplace focuses on maker businesses offering unique handmade products to nearly 70 million active buyers. The guide from Small Business Trends provides step-by-step instructions.

There are three selling fees: listing fee ($0.20 per item), transaction fee (5% when sold), optional payment processing fee (3% + $0.25). They will also place online ads on other sites for an additional 15%. There is no subscription fee to open your shop.

They also offer online management tools including discounted postage, website creation and online support and advice.

eBay

This marketplace boasts over 182 million shoppers. Some of the top-selling items in 2020 include electronics, video games, beauty products and home and garden items. You can choose from a fixed-price listing or an auction-style listing where the price is based on the highest bidder.

Their seller fees include: $0.35 per item insertion/listing fee (first 200 listings per month are free), 10% final value fee. You can upgrade your listing for an additional fee. There can be some variation in fees for some product categories.

Their eBay Seller Hub helps you track and manage sales which includes optional marketing and promotion tools.

Facebook Marketplace for Businesses

Facebook is a highly recognizable, high-traffic website that offers a marketplace for retail/ecommerce businesses (separate spaces are available for car dealers and real estate professionals). Entrepreneur offers this step-by-step guide for small businesses.

They offer a number of unique advantages:

  • Add it to your business’ existing Facebook page. Followers can shop, ask questions and leave reviews without leaving your page.
  • You can live chat directly with customers using Messenger.
  • No additional fee to create or manage your listings. You need to connect with one of their ecommerce partners like Shopify or Bigcommerce to create the listing. These partners may charge a fee.

Like other marketplace platforms, they also offer tools including payment processing, order management and real-time sales insights.

Online marketplaces can offer a high-traffic option to quickly market products online without having to build your own platform. Start by considering these platforms to determine what works best for your small business.

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