Read about the major online shopping sites, how they work, the advantages and disadvantages of the sites.
It’s hard to believe that some people ever thought that online shopping—and even the internet itself—wouldn’t last, much less become the monstrously successful entity that it is today. Ebay and Amazon are becoming major online shopping sites for businesses to sell their products. These third party retailers have become shop fronts for many smaller businesses.
The first-ever secure online shopping transaction—the purchase of a Sting album—was completed on August 11, 1994. That first purchase was an experiment, to prove that the tech really did work. In the same year, one of the first user-friendly browsers, Netscape Navigator, also hit the scene, making it even easier to access the web.
1995 saw the launch of both Amazon and eBay. Both sites took off quickly, and have both gone from strength to strength in the race to dominate online shopping. New competitors have entered the marketplace too, but none of those newcomers have proven to be serious contenders for the title that Amazon continues to hold as the world’s biggest online marketplace.
The World’s Biggest Shopping Sites
After launching Amazon as an online bookseller, Jeff Bezos packed boxes in his own garage, and took them to the post office himself. That was in 1994. In 1997, Amazon went public with a valuation of $300 million, and continue to expand, into music, clothing, web hosting, and then…everything. Ironically, the company now has over a dozen of its own physical bookshops.
eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, who developed and launched AuctionWeb in 1995. By 1996, the site had sold $7.2 million worth of merchandise, and Pierre Omidyar had quit his day job to work on the site full time. In 1997 AuctionWeb officially became eBay, and eBay went public in 1998. By 2003 Fortune listed eBay as one of the world’s fastest growing companies.
Founded in 2004, Shopify settled into its niche quickly. This ecommerce platform connects buyers and sellers as an entirely cloud-based and cloud-hosted service. Shopify provides online retails with the software to build a store, and the tools to run it, and then lets them get on with it.
Launched in 2005, Etsy was something of a slow-starter, due at least in part to the nature of its own market. Etsy is now a leading ecommerce platform, with a focus on creative handmade products and vintage items, and posting earnings of over $200 million a year.
What are the Major advantages and disadvantages of Selling Via an Online Marketplace?
Advantage and disadvantage: the online marketplace can be both a blessing and a curse
One of the biggest advantages of using an online marketplace is that you get to tap into a huge, ready-made customer base. The power of that just can’t be overestimated. The downside, of course being that on such a busy site, it takes a lot of work to stand out from the crowd of competitors.
Advantage: built-in goodwill and credibility
You might have a huge customer base, but if they don’t trust your site, it doesn’t matter—because nobody will use it. While most people are happy to use their credit cards on the internet, it’s still important that your online shop looks credible and trustworthy. The Amazon or eBay logo can help tremendously with that.
Advantage: some of the back-end work is done for you
Some online market places take on the work of tasks such as handling taxes, tracking inventory, and shipping. For instance, as an Amazon seller, you can opt to have inventory shipped to an Amazon warehouse. From there, Amazon takes a fee for handling fulfilment of sales, along with returns and related tasks. If you’re selling globally, this is a godsend.
Disadvantage: you have little control over branding
On most ecommerce sites you have virtually no control over how your products are displayed, and your brand gets little to no visibility. If you’re hoping to build brand awareness, this isn’t the way to do it.
Disadvantage: no customer loyalty
Since these online marketplaces don’t offer much in the way of visibility, it’s hard to build up a brand reputation. And without that reputation, you don’t have the chance to build up brand loyalty. Unless your products are truly unique or special, it’s hard to get repeat business.
Disadvantage: no remarketing opportunities
On Amazon, at least, you’re unable to capture buyer email addresses—so there’s no opportunity to remarket to those individuals.
Disadvantage: all those “pros” cost you money
Selling via an online marketplace is convenient, but you can end up paying through the nose for the privilege of not having to worry about shipping or calculating taxes.
Tips for Using Shopping Sites
For sellers, Amazon, eBay, and Shopify are user-friendly, but it does take time to learn the ropes. Each site has a distinct suite of tools and services for sellers, but all operate along similar principles. Some quick tips for using these online marketplaces include:
- Don’t start selling until you’re done reading. Make sure you understand the buy/sell process inside-and-out before you get going.
- Make sure you know what you’re paying, and what you get for the money. For instance, Shopify operates on a subscription model, with a monthly fee and tiers of service. In contrast, Etsy doesn’t charge a monthly fee, but does charge for every listing, and takes a cut of every item that sells.
- Use whatever branding opportunities you get. While some sites offer more in the way of personal branding space than others, be sure to make the most of what you get.
- Above all, don’t neglect your SEO. You’re looking to capture web traffic, not just casual browsers.