Once you decide that you want to sell online, the first question that you have to answer is where. There are a lot of options. You can either go for one or more of the innumerable sales channels that make up the online retail horizon, or fly solo and open up your own online store. Also, if you do go for the sales channels option, which ones do you subscribe to? And how many of them? These are tough decisions, and we are here to help you with them.
Let’s understand first what an online marketplace offers you. An online marketplace is your virtual store – your customers will be able to browse through your products here and make purchases. What online sales channels do is they assist you in this process in the following ways –
- They let you create product catalogs and list them on their virtual real estate
- They provide you with a customer base
- They act as middlemen during the transaction
- They assist you with the logistics part of the process
In return, they take a certain percentage commission from each sale. You also have to adhere to their rules and policies, and they have the power to penalise you if you don’t. Essentially, the store might be yours, but it’s their mall. As opposed to this, having your own online store gives you back your sovereignty in the virtual world. Let us look at the pros and cons a little more deeply.
How to Choose Where to Sell Online
Analyze Your Product
If you are just a retailer, it does not make much sense for you to open your own online store, especially in popular product categories like electronics and apparel. These are high volume markets, with a massive demand and a supply that just barely matches it. As opposed to that, if you are a manufacturer too, or are selling a niche product, you can really develop your brand from ground up in the online world. Subscribe to a marketplace which is popular for selling products in your category.
Think about logistics before subscribing to marketplaces. If a particular sales channel is inept in providing logistical assistance around the area where your warehouses are situated, you will be in a tight spot. If you plan to start your own marketplace, study logistics providers carefully. We have already written extensively about logistics providers here and here.
Sales channels like Amazon and Flipkart are pretty much synonymous to online retail in today’s market. The top few sales channels generally are the consumers’ first choice when it comes to shopping online. Subscribing with one or more of them means you get access to that big a customer base. Having your own online store means starting from scratch.
The other side of the coin is the immense competition that one finds on these huge online sales channels. There are multiple sellers jostling together for the same product, differentiated only by little things like product descriptions, photographs and seller ratings. It sure is a tough market.
Subscribing to an online sales channel doesn’t give you much room in terms of growth. Here, people don’t buy products from ‘seller123’; they buy products from Flipkart or Amazon. You are reduced to a nameless provisioner. This is bad because this way, you cannot grow your brand image. On the other hand, on a dedicated store, you can carefully tailor your brand image by harnessing the power of social media. Amazon recently started allowing sellers to use their dedicated website to funnel transactions through their Amazon accounts. This way, you get all the benefits of subscribing to an online store while preserving your brand image.
Different sales channels have different subscription costs and commission plans. In return, they also offer different essential and optional services. It is better to shortlist a few channels and then carefully go through their specific plans to choose the ones that you want to go for.
For any more information about sales channels and online retail in general, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading e-commerce solutions experts, and we are always happy to help!