The number of independent sellers has ballooned since platforms like eBay, Amazon Marketplace and Facebook Marketplace came to the fore.
They’re great for first-time and casual sellers with a ready-made market of customers searching for items that they’d struggle to find in the shops.
But before you jump in, think about whether selling through your own website would be better for you.
Amanda Johnson, owner of Elsie’s Attic, talks about why she moved away from the big selling platforms.
What made you decide to go from eBay and Facebook to selling through your own website?
Selling on eBay is quite tricky as there are lots of hoops to jump through including fees and competition, so it can be quite tricky for a small business selling relatively low-value items to stand out.
Similarly, Facebook was great, but it meant I had to personally interact with every customer for a sale and issue invoices through PayPal. While it is always lovely to chat to customers, that model was simply not scalable and it was very difficult to take any time off, as I would worry we would miss messages and, by extension, sales.
Also, Facebook is going through a lot of changes, which means it is harder for businesses to have their content shown to potential customers. So, having our own website was the obvious answer. People could see all our items and shop with ease and confidence any time of the day or night.
What were the main challenges you faced?
When we started this business neither of us had any experience in the field, so we had no idea what to expect. There were just so many challenges. We had to have a crash course in how to manage and edit a website for starters.
Before our first site launched, I worked 27 hours without a break just to load all the products for the first launch! Now we are more experienced, we ensure our agency does this work prior to launch. After we launched our first website, it was more popular than we could have ever imagined and we were in no way prepared.
The site often experienced outages and the company that hosted us originally then refused to host us, as we were also taking down all their other sites. A nice problem to have, really!
What steps do you need to take to make the transition?
Finding someone that is used to dealing with e-commerce is a massive advantage.
The first person we used was great and we paid a very small fee, which certainly helped the business grow. However, our first web developer lacked e-commerce experience and was really only available to us during regular business hours, not usually the hours that people are shopping online. Our site regularly crashed on Sunday evenings due to the sheer volume of traffic and there was often no one available to help us.
“Finding a good agency or web developer that doesn’t cost the earth is the real key”
Finding a good agency or web developer that doesn’t cost the earth is the real key. As well as ensuring you have all the product information and images, there are lots of policies and basic information that you must display for visitors to be complaint – particularly following GDPR.
What advantages does selling on your own website have over eBay and Facebook?
The main advantage is that customers can browse our products 24/7 and we don’t have to be present to answer questions and issue invoices. All of that is done automatically through the site. People are able to view all of our products and necessary information in one place and we can also link sell.
For example, if a person purchases a dress, the site also suggests suitable petticoats, shoes and other items to go with the dress. We can also use our site as a platform for interacting with our lovely followers by posting blog entries.
Further, once a person has visited our site, they will hopefully sign up for our newsletter so it’s easier for us to make direct contact with them in the future.