Doctor Digital, I'm a crafter who sells at markets, I want to start selling online, should I use an established platform or set up my own website?
Doctor Digital Says
This is a frequently asked question by people who are looking to make a decision about whether to use a marketplace platforms such as Etsy or Ebay or even Amazon, or set up their own e-commerce website. The answer is always - it depends. There are pros and cons to both pathways, so let's have a look at them, and help you to decide what is right for you.
- Established e-commerce function
- Strong security for transactions
- Large amount of traffic looking to buy
- Minimal outages
- Global marketplace
- Community of vendors
- No setup costs
- Automated shipping costs
- Dispute resolution
- Mobile app
- Lots of seller tools to automate and analyse sales
- Higher transaction fees
- No brand recognition for individual businesses
- Massively competitive marketplace
- SEO difficult and time-consuming
- No control over platform changes
- No IP ownership
- Sellers are forced to take returns and pay both ways for shipping
- Pressure to compete on price with other sellers
Own Website Pros:
- You own the IP
- You have full control over your brand
- No transaction fees
- SEO is for whole website and specific to your market
- Capacity to collect customer data and build email lists
- You can change content with ease
- You control inventory
- Customers are exposed to your brand exclusively
- No surprises
- Able to strategically integrate with digital suite of products
Own Website Cons:
- Initial set up and build costs
- Ongoing maintenance
- Management of shipping and fulfillment
- Management of returns/dispute resolution
- SEO has to be right
- Potential outages and instability due to local servers
- Inventory management in real-time
- Responsible for security
Before you make a decision, it is worth understanding where you are at in your business lifecycle, as this will have some bearing on your decision. If you are just starting out and looking to test the market and your products, platforms like Etsy and Ebay can be a good low cost place to see what is resonating with the market while you build your own brand and website with e-commerce functionality. While there are some definite pros to this soft entry approach, do not underestimate the competition on the platforms and how hard it can be to actually get found.
Sure, you can direct people to your store via social media etc, but if you are putting the effort in to direct traffic, wouldn't it be better to be doing that to your own brand and owning the data and details of those potential customers? One of the major issues with using a platform is the absorption of your brand.
Unless you are literally dropshipping commodity goods out of China where it is transactions that matter not brand, the brand of the platform tends to be the one customers remember, rather than your individual brand. If you have a boutique brand and want to develop it and a loyal following, you need to consider the solid building blocks of your digital strategy and where you invest your time and money for the longer term.
There is undoubtedly a convenience with the big platforms, however, convenience isn't always better value, and what you think you are saving on building your own site, you may well be losing on the fees and returns policies. The prescription from Doctor Digital always favours a scenario where you own your IP, control your brand, can build meaningful and valuable customer lists, and aren't captive to the whims of change of big corporations.
If you are a startup creative or a hobby business in it for the love rather than building a business (and there is nothing wrong with that) then a platform is a sensible way to go as long as the costs to use aren't greater than the costs to create. If you are planning on building a brand, a business and a loyal following, it is worth the effort to set up your own site. Why not use our friendly and clever Digital Coaches to help you make a plan for entering the market and how to implement your digital strategy?