To Sell or Not to Sell...on Multiple Marketplaces, That is the Question

2020 has been a sobering year in many ways. The gloominess has not extended to eCommerce sales, however.

Unfazed by Covid-19, or maybe because of it, people are spending more than ever before on big online marketplaces.

Delve into the numbers for other major eCommerce channels such as eBay, Etsy and more recently, Walmart Canada Marketplace, you will find a similar trend. 

Take the 2020 Amazon Prime Day, for instance. Effectively positioned right before the holiday season, Prime Day witnessed record sales as the pandemic raged on. In the US, online sales for September increased by 43% compared to 2019, and Prime day sales hit $10.4 billion – up 45.2%) over Prime Day 2019 and 148.2% over Prime Day 2018.

 

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These skyrocketing eCommerce numbers are one part of the story, however. 

When you own an emerging or even an established eCommerce business, it can be risky to rely on the wins from a single marketplace.

In other words, there is merit to moving some of your eggs to another basket, even if your first basket is as big as Amazon.  

That said, selling on multiple marketplaces might not be everyone’s preference, for one reason or the other. You may just be comfortable with one marketplace and have a loyal customer base,  you may feel that your products are suited to a specific marketplace, or you may not want to spend time and resources on promoting stores on multiple marketplaces. 

If your mind’s made up that way, I’d still urge you to read what I have to say! 

 Done right, a multi-channel can be extremely rewarding and set you up for long-term success, as I found out with my foray into selling online.

“What do YOU sell? You write blog posts,” you might say!

As with most people nowadays, I have a side to me that is not very evident in my corporate role as a writer with Freightcom! 

Surprise, surprise! I am a published wildlife photographer when not pumping out blog posts for Freightcom!

 

 

Having been told numerous times that I should “do something about my pictures of birds, bees, and baboons”, I decided to take a slice of the eCommerce pie and see how it tastes. 

In other words, people, I experimented with selling my photographs online, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. 

 

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Having found some success as a seller, I decided to document findings from my journey, and I want to share what I found with you. I hope that some of you, especially those who are on the fence about selling  on multiple marketplaces, will find these insights helpful.

This is how we will do this. Without getting into the details of setting up stores for my own specific products -- since those details might not apply to sellers with vastly different products -- I will generalize findings for you to apply them to your own specific journey.    

The three marketplaces that I experimented with were (no surprises here) were Amazon. eBay and Etsy. 

To get down to brass tacks, let me dive right into what I found.

 

Amazon is amazing, but Amazon is also risky 

Amazon recently went past Google in being the leading platform for product searches with 54% of total searches getting initiated on Amazon. This guarantees great exposure and consistent sales, especially for sellers who work on high volume. 

For one or more reasons, however, Amazon may suspend your account at any moment and reinstating yourself might be a process that has you pulling your hair out, and often in vain. If this happens during Prime Day and you’re not set up on any other marketplace, you can effectively say goodbye to sales that your competitors would be swimming in.

Amazon also exerts significant control over your listings in more ways than one. You’re not allowed to price your products higher than what you would on other platforms, and if you reduce your price for a promotion, you might not be allowed to raise them back up, leaving you with reduced margins far beyond you had initially envisaged. 

While the ease with which you can set up a store on Amazon makes it so enticing, the competition that results from this can be scary. Customers have hundreds of options to choose from for even the same product type and you might get lost in the maze that is Amazon. To make it more complicated, Amazon often becomes a competitor , selling products resembling other successful products, often at prices that the original sellers just cannot match. Dangersome-1

Lastly, if you use FBA Amazon owns the customer data as well as the relationship. All you know is how much money you made.

This seems to tell us that Amazon should not be the only channel that you should look at.

What about Etsy? Let’s take a look!

 

Etsy offers a fantastic opportunity for artisans  

With the plague having wreaked havoc on livelihoods of many handmade goods sellers and artisans, many people have asked whether selling on Etsy is worth it now.

The unequivocal answer - both from others’ and my experience - is Yes.

With online being the only option for most consumers to shop handmade goods right now, setting up shop on Etsy is a no-brainer. 

As I found out in a relatively small time, it does pay to be a visual artist selling on Etsy. Setting up is very easy and effective, costs are low, you have control over your prices, and adding or removing listings is a piece of cake. Etsy only charges $0.20 to list an item and takes a 3.5% commission, which is very low compared to other marketplaces such as Amazon.

And while not as massive as Amazon, Etsy does have a large reach (over 2.5 million active shops), especially for niche products such as arts, crafts, jewelry, vintage goods, or homeware. The community aspect on Etsy is very strong, with sellers promoting each other and Etsy itself providing numerous resources to help sellers promote.

As with Amazon, however, there is oversaturation with the number of sellers rising every day. Even though the number of sellers is much less, you also must remember that Amazon gets much much more traffic. Also, Etsy does not offer much customization, which is nevertheless better than Amazon, which offers none.

 

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This again leads us to conclude that Etsy should also not be your only platform, even if you’re an artist like me.    

Let’s now look at the last platform that I experimented with, eBay.

 

eBay lets you retain a strong brand identity and won’t compete with you

Compared to Amazon, eBay is hands-down costs much less to sell your wares. In fact, eBay has proven to be the cheapest of all major marketplaces to sell on, and that is what I also found out through my own experience of setting up a store on eBay. 

And while eBay has a reputation for being a primarily used-goods marketplace, you might be surprised to find that 81% of products sold on eBay are new. 

Another huge advantage of selling through eBay is that you are able to position your products to a large, international audience, compared to Amazon and Etsy that are targeted more at North American online shoppers. 

Also, eBay, unlike Amazon, will not compete with you. You can include a lot more of your own branding without fearing the looming presence of a giant ready to undercut your success.

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Most of all, if you sell collectibles, or used or new brand name items that are restricted on Amazon, eBay is the way to go.

That said, it is evident that Amazon’s sheer reach makes it very hard for any eCommerce business owner to forego it. 

My Conclusion is Unambiguous... 

If you read through the whole thing that preceded this, you know what I am going to say. But if you were eager to just get to my verdict about going multi-channel or not, here it is:

Go multi-channel and do it now! 

 

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To summarize, the most compelling benefit of going multi-channel is the tremendous exposure for your products - more online outlets means more visibility, which means more customers.

Adopting multi-channel would be even more important for sellers who find that their sales are stagnating on a single platform, or if you feel really tied down (as has been the case recently with a lot of Amazon sellers). As you would expand your business by opening a new brick-or-mortar store, you’d want to deploy the same strategy with your online stores.

Since you now are selling your products in multiple online marketplaces, this will usually result in more sales and increased profit. 

...but there’s a Caveat

As I said in the introduction, adopting a multi-channel strategy comes with its share of challenges, including promoting each store, making modifications in response to changing marketplace policies, ensuring consistency in messaging across channels, inventory management. With a little bit of effort, however, these challenges can actually become opportunities as you learn more and solidify your brand. 

The challenge that I found most intimidating (but only for a really short while, and I’ll tell you why soon) is shipping. I know through my interactions with many small and medium sized businesses that this is also true for them.

Specifically, the logistics of handling shipments for multiple marketplaces was daunting for me even with the handful of sales that I got in the first few days of going multi-channel. 

This is before I used ClickShip, and using it made me realize why customers value it so much!

An innovative and easy-to-use shipping solution for eCommerce stores that manages the  shipping process, ClickShip not only made my life easier by allowing me to manage the entire shipping process from one platform, it also gave me access to exclusive discounted carrier rates, in real time. 

As a wildlife photographer, my art has a strong personality and I want that to be conveyed in every aspect of my messaging and interaction with my customers. Fortunately, I found that through ClickShip I could easily add my branding on my packing slips and emails.

The best part about using ClickShip? It integrates with all 3 marketplaces - Amazon, Etsy, and eBay -- that I evaluated above, along with Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento2.

As an example, watch below as I integrate my Etsy account with ClickShip and decide for yourself if that was easy to do!

 

Interested in learning more? Reach out to our team here.

 

Ankur Khurana

Written by Ankur Khurana

Content Writer at Freightcom