How to Figure Out Where to Sell Your Products

As a retailer, you obviously want more sales. And to get these sales, you want to be everywhere your customers are: on your online store, Facebook, Instagram, and even your own physical outlet.

This is the promise of omnichannel retail — the ability to give customers a seamless experience across every sales channel. But how do you decide where to sell which products? If you are short on resources, which channels should you prioritize?

In this guide, we’ll discuss the top sales channels and help you decide which ones to choose.

Online Store

When you think of “e-commerce”, you usually think of an online store. This is typically a branded store where you sell products from your own inventory. A huge establishment such as Amazon is an “online store”, as is a small startup such as Kant.

An online store might be on your own domain or on a mobile app. The mobile app acts as an extension of the website.

Let’s look at some key trends, challenges, and opportunities for selling via an online store.

Online store trends and statistics

Running an online store is one of the oldest ways to sell anything on the internet. In fact, Amazon, one of the biggest online stores in the world, was launched way back in 1995.

From those humble beginnings, these stores have gobbled up a huge share of the total online retail market. The top 10 stores in the US alone account for over $150B in annual sales. Amazon leads the pack with a whopping $94B in e-commerce sales.

This screenshot from WWD shows the top retailers in the US and their annual sales

E-commerce itself continues to significantly outpace physical retail sales. In the US, e-commerce has constantly clocked in double-digit growth while physical retail barely touches the 2% growth mark.

This figure illustrates the wide disparity in growth rates of physical and digital retail

Of course, not all of this can be attributed to online stores alone — there are a number of marketplaces in the mix as well. We’ll cover marketplaces — including mixed marketplaces — in the next section.

E-commerce growth isn’t uniform across verticals, of course. As this report from BI shows, some sectors such as electronics and hobby goods are poised to grow at a much faster rate than others.

This report from BusinessInsider shows the difference in growth rates for different verticals

The growth in total number of e-commerce buyers also coincides with the growth in internet users. As more people join the internet, they turn to online stores to experience digital shopping.

This graph shows the rise in total digital buyers over six years

Growth isn’t uniform by geography either. China and India, two of the fastest growing internet markets are also leaders in e-commerce growth with average growth in the double digits over the last several years.

China and India lead the charge in growth of e-commerce

For a retailer, the key takeaways are:

Advantages

There are several advantages to selling via an online store:


WIth your own store, you can collect email addresses and create custom offers such as the pop-up shown above

Challenges

Selling via an online store offers many advantages, but there are also some challenges:

An online store should be a must in your e-commerce strategy. This is where you eventually want to direct all customers, even if they find you through marketplaces or social media. The ownership of the traffic and data makes it possible to understand customers and create better products.

Regardless of where you initially start selling, you should consider setting up your own online store as soon as possible.

If you’re just testing the market, have extremely limited technical know-how, or work in industries with complex legal, shipping or payment-related requirements, it might be better to keep your store on the backburner.

For example, if you’re just checking the market appetite for your handmade craft items, you’ll be better served by a marketplace like Etsy than a full-fledged online store.

Similarly, if your customers are all on mobile but you (or your e-commerce software) can’t offer a strong mobile shopping experience, you should prioritize a mobile-optimized marketplace or social network instead.

MisliStudio is a small online store selling shoes from a single brand

Overstock.com is a huge store selling millions of products from thousands of brands

Online Marketplaces

A marketplace brings together different merchants under a single roof. Think of it as a mall where different retailers can sell different products. The retailer can be a large established business (such as on Amazon), a small business (as on Etsy), or even an individual (as on eBay).

Broadly speaking, marketplaces can be of two types:


Amazon sells products from its own inventory as well as different merchants such as “Electronics Club” as shown above

Marketplaces give retailers easy access to hungry buyers, but they also give you limited control and ownership as we’ll see below.

Online marketplace trends

The marketplace model has seen rapid growth in the last few years. For instance, third-party sellers account for more than half of Amazon’s total e-commerce sales.

51% of Amazon’s sales come from third-party sellers, up from just 26% in 2007

A growing number of retailers have also switched to selling exclusively on marketplaces according to one survey.


This graph shows the percentage of retailers who sell only on one platform

Another survey found that 77% of retailers sell on multiple platforms with eBay as the top choice.


eBay is the preferred marketplace for most sellers followed by their own online store

The rise of omnichannel retail means that sellers can easily run an online store while also offering their products on different marketplaces.

Advantages

Selling on marketplaces offers some clear benefits to retailers, such as:

Challenges

For all the advantages, there are also quite a few challenges in selling on marketplaces:

Online marketplaces work best for retailers who:

Want to get started quickly without the development effort of a conventional store (such as domain, design, SEO, etc.)

Operate in an industry with significant trust hurdles or limited customer demand (such as niche handicrafts).

Selling on a marketplace isn’t recommended for any business with long-term ambitions. You don’t own the traffic nor do you get to collect substantial data about your customers. While it might be a good place to get started, you should look to build your own audience on your store as soon as possible.

Keep marketplaces as a part of your omnichannel strategy. Once you have the resources, however, you should prioritize your own store.


Etsy is an example of a large niche marketplace that offers products from a range of small sellers


Alibaba is an example of a huge B2B marketplace that offers a vast range of products for businesses

Also read: Sell Your Products on Amazon With Real-Time Inventory Synchronization

Social Commerce

Social commerce is one of the newest ways to sell around, led by the emergence of Facebook and Instagram. The idea is simple: instead of running a fully fledged store, you sell to customers on social media.

The social store, in this case, acts more as a discovery tool than a sales tool. Customers can tap a “buy now” button and be taken off-network to complete the purchase. In some cases (such as a Facebook store) the purchase can be completed without leaving the store).

If you’re directing customers away from the network, you’ll obviously need a way to collect payments. A conventional online store works well here.

Social commerce should be a key part of your sales strategy, especially if you sell apparel, hobby goods, and any product that requires “discovery”.

Social commerce trends

Most businesses use social media as a platform to acquire customers. Nearly 50% of Facebook users say that they’ve bought something directly as a result of a post on the network.


This graph shows the percentage of people on each network who’ve bought something as a result of posts on that network

Facebook’s dominance is also visible in its adoption among business owners — 94% of social businesses use Facebook.


This graph shows the percentage of social businesses using each social network

Customers enjoy social commerce as well; 80% of Instagram’s users voluntarily connect with brands to discover their latest offerings.

In fact, Instagram leads the pack when it comes to engagement — 4.21% of a brand’s followers engage with its posts on average as compared to just 0.07% of Facebook followers.


This graph shows the percentage of a brand’s followers engaging with its content on average

Of course, this isn’t uniform across all categories. When you look at influencers, you’ll find that niches with highly visual content get more engagement than others.


Photography, art and travel lead the pack in terms of engagement

For retailers, the takeaways are clear:

Advantages

Social commerce offers several advantages:

Challenges

Selling on social networks comes with its own share of challenges:

If you sell clothing & accessories, hobby and gift items, innovative electronics, or anything with a strong visual component, developing a social presence should be a key part of your sales strategy.

As for selecting the right social network, ask yourself: “are my target customers on this network?”. If the answer is yes, you should be on it as well.

If your customers aren’t on social media or if your product doesn’t have a visual component (such as a digital product), social commerce should be low on your priority list. You should still try to maintain a presence on top social networks for customer acquisition, but it shouldn’t clash with your commitment to more lucrative channels such as marketplaces and your own store.


FlowMovement offers customers a selection of its products right on its Facebook page


KarbonSpeed offers its products for sale right from its Facebook page

Offline Commerce

You’re all familiar with offline commerce — walking into a store, picking a product, and paying for it with cash or a credit card. E-commerce might be growing at breakneck pace but offline commerce still dominates the world in terms of total revenue.

Whether you sell offline or not will depend greatly on your access to a local market and your ability to create a store. There are several challenges, but some key benefits as well.

Offline commerce trends

Offline commerce depends heavily on the local market. In saturated markets such as the US, growth rate is slow but steady, hovering around the 4% mark.


Total US retail market and its growth rate

In China, where the retail market is still maturing, the growth rate is substantially higher in the late single digits.


This graph shows the growth of China’s retail market. Note that all figures are in Yuan

As such, it is difficult to generalize offline commerce trends. Some sectors might be booming in one market, stagnating in others. Your ability to enter the market will also depend on local trends. If retail space is expensive in your city, you might want to focus on cheaper online channels first.

Advantages

Offline commerce offers some benefits when compared to other channels:

Challenges

As you would know, running an offline commerce venture comes with a huge list of challenges such as:
Initial investment: Between renting a physical space, interior decoration, and hiring retail workers, the initial investment to build an offline store can be enormous. You also have to pay high ongoing maintenance costs.

Running an offline store makes sense only in a handful of circumstances:

If you’re starting out and don’t have a strong budget, have never operated a business before, or don’t understand market demand for your products, an offline store should be low on your priority list. It’s much better to test the market demand online before investing thousands of dollars into a physical retail space.


Pop-up shops offer an alternative to traditional retail by helping you create a temporary store

Other Ways to Sell

Besides the above, there are several other places to sell your products such as mobile apps or your blog.

Mobile apps

Think of a mobile app as an extension of your online store, except that it’s in a mobile-friendly format. Instead of logging into your website via a browser, customers can install your app and shop directly from their phones.

Mobile apps offer a superior shopping experience for online customers. However, they aren’t without their challenges.

Advantages:

Challenges:

Mobile apps work best if you have a lot of returning customers or offer a wide range of products. They are also recommended for businesses with younger customers who shop mostly on mobile.

Instead of creating a dedicated mobile app, however, you can use a solution such as Ecwid to create a mobile app from your existing store.

Avoid mobile apps if your customers are older, don’t use smartphones, or if you have a very limited product catalog. In such instances, a responsive website will serve you well enough.

Blog

Besides mobile apps, you can also sell through your blog via a “Buy Now” button. This button can be added to virtually any page (including your blog posts). It gives customers the option to buy from a small selection of products without visiting your store.


The “Buy Now” button on WellProducedWins.com plugs into the blog and lets customers buy a single product

The content-focused nature of a blog means that you have ample space to tell the story of the product and its benefits.

Selling on your blog is a great option for businesses who don’t want to maintain a full-fledged store, or want to educate their customers before they buy.

A blog doesn’t work well if you have a large selection of products or if you want to offer a more traditional e-commerce experience.

Conclusion

With the number of channels available to you, figuring out where to sell your products can be a challenge. Marketplaces give you easy access to hungry buyers but limit your freedom. Your own store is easy and affordable to run but requires strong marketing capabilities.

Ideally, you should have a presence on multiple channels. Give customers the option to buy your products wherever they are — on marketplaces, social media, offline, or on your own store.

Where do you sell your products? Do you target multiple channels or focus on just one? Let us know in the comments below.

Also read: How to Make Ecwid’s Omnichannel Potential Work For You

About The Author
Jesse is the Marketing Manager at Ecwid and has been in e-commerce and internet marketing since 2006. He has experience with PPC, SEO, conversion optimization and loves to work with entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality.

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