Thanks to the Internet, small retailers no longer have to rely on a brick and mortar shop to reach potential customers, sell their products, and make money. Instead, there are now tremendous opportunities to sell products, drive additional revenue growth, and reach a new set of customers with an online business and e-commerce store.
But with all the e-commerce websites to choose from, how do you know which will be right for your specific business? After all, the best venue for selling trending products like knee-high grey boots will be a whole lot different from the e-commerce platform to score the best price for a rare, gold-plated pocket watch.
So, by determining the best online selling platform for your products and avoiding those with high fees or long-term commitments, you can grow your online store strategically and show a profit.
Advantages of online selling sites for small retailers
Online marketplaces offer a number of advantages for small retailers who sell online, including the ability to direct their resources to their core business instead of dealing with the logistics of their own e-commerce platform. Online shopping sites also provide the ability to reach a new and diverse customer base.
But, not all online selling sites are created equal. Some have invaluable resources for sellers, while others levy numerous fees without delivering the large number of customers you need to move your products.
Take a look at seven of the most popular online marketplaces and determine which is ideal for your company’s unique needs and which will give you the best return on your dollar, draw the largest crowd, and move your merchandise.
Amazon is the titan of online retail, consistently dominating more than half of all retail sales online. Amazon is also likely one of the first places to come to mind when you consider selling products online. Along with a broad reach, Amazon offers an easy-to-use selling platform and numerous product categories, including beauty, books, electronics, arts and crafts, video games, clothing … the list goes on.
Amazon offers two selling plans: the Professional plan and the Individual plan. The Professional selling plan comes with a monthly subscription fee. On top of that, there are per-item selling fees, which vary by category.
The Professional Seller program offers sellers these benefits:
- Use of spreadsheets, feeds, and other tools to load inventory
- Access to seller reports
- Top placement on product detail pages
- 20+ categories with the option to sell in an additional 10+ categories
- Customized shipping rates
- No per-sale closing fee
The Individual plan provides many of the same perks as the Professional plan. But with an Individual plan, there is no monthly subscription fee. Instead, you pay a small fee per item sold, plus other selling fees that vary by category.
Keep in mind that there are additional fees added if you use Fulfillment by Amazon to pick, pack, and ship your products, and to provide customer service.
Founded in 1995, eBay remains one of the most familiar and longest standing e-commerce marketplaces for selling stuff online. While almost any item can be listed on eBay, online sellers offering books and media, holiday decorations, and office supplies tend to do better on eBay’s marketplace than on other e-commerce sites.
If you’re selling on eBay, you will be charged two types of selling fees: an insertion fee when you create a listing and a final value fee when your item sells. According to eBay, “Final value fees are calculated based on the total amount of the sale and are charged per item.”
Keep in mind that eBay also provides seller protection, managed payment options, growth tools, and inventory optimization. In addition, now that eBay has partnered with PayPal, seller transactions are easier and more secure, and buyers feel confident that their information is protected.
Fees for listing and selling items vary greatly on eBay. There are insertion fees, final value fees, basic fees (for most categories), fees for real estate listings, fees for optional listing upgrades, and promoted listing fees.
Fees aside, eBay Stores give sellers a wide variety of customizations for their eBay storefront, including a banner image, featured products, larger product photos, product categorization, a customer newsletter, and more.
Additionally, selling on eBay is ideal for merchants with a large number of international customers. With the Global Shipping Program, your products are available to 60+ million buyers in 102 countries worldwide. There are restricted products you that cannot sell on eBay — such as real estate, perfume, pet supplies, tickets, and travel — so before opting in, make sure your products can be shipped to all the countries listed.
Over the past few years, Etsy has made a name for itself as the de-facto marketplace for people selling products, typically handcrafted and handmade items, online. Etsy’s marketplace features 54+ million members, 35.8 million active buyers, and 198+ million sellers in 83 countries.
There are a number of benefits to selling on Etsy, including:
- Sellers gain access to a targeted customer base who logs in to find handcrafted items not easily found elsewhere
- Sellers can customize many of their items
- Sellers can team up with other sellers to sell their items (through collective stores), which allows greater flexibility to take time off
- Etsy Wholesale lets sellers gain access to wholesale clients who may want to sell your items in their stores. There is a one-time fee and a percentage taken as a commission on every item sold
- Etsy’s suite of marketing tools makes it easy to create promotions and coupon codes for your customers
Etsy charges a minimal fee for each item listed on Etsy. All listings are active for four months or until the item sells. There is a percentage taken for each transaction, plus a payment processing fee. Unlike some other e-commerce stores, Etsy does not offer a subscription program for power sellers. Instead, it keeps its rates uniform for all merchants. If you’re considering selling products on Etsy, check out these marketing tips from an Etsy power user.
Known primarily as an online marketplace for digital products, computer hardware, electronics, and tech gear, 17-year-old Newegg.com has become the first choice for many technophiles looking for a great deal. Newegg has over 36 million customers in 50+ countries.
Newegg offers a free option for their seller program, along with two paid options.
The Free Tier allows you to upload up to 5,000 products and gives you access to their seller portal and data feed. This lets sellers bulk-upload their items, manage listing creation, process shipments and returns, and edit pricing.
Sellers also have the opportunity to participate in Newegg’s promotions and can advertise on Newegg’s homepage through on-site banners within the featured seller’s area or in their Daily Deals section.
For a competitive monthly fee, merchants can take advantage of all the benefits listed in the Professional Tier and upload up to 25,000 products. In addition to all the perks of the Free Tier, the Professional Tier also provides merchants with a dedicated account manager, a premium seller store, access to Newegg’s premier seller program, and discounts on fulfillment and shipping label services with Shipped by Newegg (SBN) fulfillment.
At the Professional level, merchants are also eligible to participate in Newegg’s curated marketing programs — meaning your products could be featured in Newegg’s social media, blog posts, newsletter, and other select marketing services.
For high-volume merchants, there is the Enterprise Tier. You’re also charged a monthly transaction fee, but you get all of the same benefits as the previous tiers, plus unlimited product uploads, and better discounts on Newegg’s fulfillment and shipping label services.
In addition to Newegg’s monthly fee, they charge a commission on each product sold, depending on the product’s category.
5. Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace has the potential to reach thousands of customers every day. Although people already buy and sell online on their personal or business pages, or with Facebook advertising, the social media giant now allows online retailers to do this from one place: Facebook Marketplace. It’s a relatively new concept, but Facebook is hoping it will create enough stir to compete with already established online marketplaces.
With Facebook’s 2.20 billion active users, (plus friends and family) the possibility to get broad exposure for your products is huge. Facebook does admit, however, that the social media platform is better for startups who want to concentrate on selling to their own communities. Of course, if the marketplace takes off, it could easily become a strong competitor to all online selling sites.
Facebook Marketplace’s online store doesn’t charge for listings, and the page defaults to allow members of the local community to view your products first. There is no protection for either the seller or the buyer, and all of the work is left to you to set up shop, warehouse, ship, and market your goods.
Many say Bonanza is a good alternative to sites like Etsy and eBay. Not only can you list your products for free on Bonanza, but the online site also tends to take a smaller commission than some of the other online marketplaces.
With 2.2 million unique views per month, Bonanza is an excellent choice for retailers who specialize in fashion, home, beauty, and art (although the list is growing to include other categories).
For sellers, Bonanza charges no listing fees, however, the company does collect monthly fees (which are a bit high in comparison to other sites) and a percentage of the sales price, based on tier level — Free, Gold, Platinum, or Titan.
Sellers also get Google shopping integration and studio quality photos of all your products. They will even sync your products with any other online stores you sell through. Plus, they boast that over 12,000 sellers say Bonanza is the marketplace they are most likely to recommend to a friend — over eBay, Amazon, or Etsy.
Shopify’s numbers are impressive. The site boasts 800,000 businesses powered by Shopify, 1,000,000 active users, and $100 billion+ worth of products sold on the site. Shopify lets you create a customized shop that mimics the aesthetics of your own website. You can choose from over 70 professional and free store themes that work just as well on a cellphone as on your computer or tablet.
It’s not free to sell on Shopify, but you can choose from multiple tiers, and transaction fees are competitive compared to other similar online stores. There are additional costs for add-ons and special features.
Shopify Payments supports over 100 external payment gateways and lets you accept credit cards instantly without third-party accounts. There’s a dashboard that shows your product listings, sales, orders, and audience so you can tailor your marketing and products.
Shopify also has built-in SEO tools, and your inventory can be synced across all sales channels — much like what Bonanza offers. There are even discounts on shipping and automated tracking updates.
Final Thoughts on Selling in Online Marketplaces
Not all online retailers are big international companies, which has allowed small businesses to profit immensely from the rise of online marketplaces. Email marketing and selling on your personal website can add to your online presence, but both require time and money. That’s why getting potential customers to add your products to their shopping carts on one of these e-commerce websites just makes good sense.
As this list isn’t exhaustive, you may also check out online marketplaces like Craigslist, Poshmark, Ruby Lane, Overstock, and eBid.
No doubt, there will be other marketplaces standing ready to enter the world of e-commerce platforms. With malls showing poor attendance and retail stores competing with online shops for customers, finding the best online shopping site for your business is worth the time and effort. And, with more and more potential buyers shopping online first for almost anything they need, it’s time to grab a piece of the pie and start selling online.