Why and Where You Should Expand Your Ecommerce Empire

Why and Where You Should Expand Your Ecommerce Empire
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If you’ve considered expanding where you sell products, beyond your current ecommerce store, now is the time to do it.

Ecommerce continues to grow in profitability as more and more consumers turn to the web for product purchases. Online Consumer spending grew by more than 13 percent between 2013 and 2014, and again between 2014 and 2015 by 14.6 percent. Sales are projected to keep climbing, and by some estimates, ecommerce sales will hit nearly $500 billion by 2018.

Those purchases take place all over the web, whether they’re made on hosted shopping platforms, which are branded to sellers, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, or through online marketplaces, like eBay, Etsy and Amazon.

If you want to expand, the best approach is to analyze individual marketplaces, and determine which ones would be the most lucrative with minimal deployment time. This way, you can develop, and prioritize a strategy to test one marketplace before expanding into another.

Why should you consider multi-channel marketplace expansion?

Individual marketplaces have their own systems, processes, quirks and limitations that you have to learn to navigate. It would be tough to juggle it all if you expand into Etsy, Amazon and eBay all at once. Keep this in mind when evaluating your prospects for expansion.

Grow your sales.

One of the main reasons individual online retailers expand into online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay is the potential for increased sales.

Forty-four percent of consumers go straight to Amazon to find products, so expanding into a popular platform like this can translate into a major boost in sales for your business. Make sure you’re capable of fulfilling orders from these increased sales.

Acquire new customers.

Eighty-one percent of shoppers research products and brands before making purchases. This can lead to increased traffic to your site, where you can then build rapport with the consumer.

Also, the “find everything you need” nature of marketplaces creates better sales opportunities. For instance, customers may start searching for one product, and discover something you’re selling instead, which translates to new customers that otherwise might never find you.

Start paying listing fees.

Aside from hosting and transaction fees, it costs you nothing to list products on your own site. If you expand into marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Etsy, you will have to pay listing fees. These can include any combination of flat rate charges, as well as a percentage of each sale.

Fee structures vary from site to site, and the fees you pay might even depend on the category of your products. You have to consider your margins when taking on these extra costs of doing business in a marketplace.

Sync your data.

You’ll need to make sure you have a solid system in place for handling incoming orders, managing inventory and fulfilling orders across multiple channels. Each marketplace pulls from the same inventory, but those channels don’t talk to each other. You’ll need a platform to sync all of your information.

Software platforms like Ordoro and Sellbrite can integrate with multiple marketplaces - even Shopify and BigCommerce -- so everything is synced, and inventory is managed appropriately.

Which marketplace is best for expansion?

List with Amazon.

Amazon is a popular choice for ecommerce sites that want to add more product listings and grow their revenue, especially given the sheer volume of consumer traffic. Here's few things to consider about Amazon.

  • If you don’t sell unique products, your products will share an existing listing. The best-rated seller is listed under the “Buy Now” box, while you might fall into the “Available from Other Sellers” category, which might bury you. This means you’ll have to find ways to stay competitive.
  • You can handle fulfillment on your own or ship your products to Amazon, and let them handle shipping for you, for an extra fee.
  • Amazon offers several tools to help sellers market their products, improve sales and boost engagement with customers.
  • Amazon consumers are typically looking for common, branded items, so it might be harder to sell unique or artisanal products.

Related: What's Next for Ecommerce in 2016?

List with eBay.

eBay is a vast marketplace and a good choice for expansion. If it’s on your radar for listing products, consider these points.

  • It’s more brand-focused, so you’ll put more time into optimizing a brand page and putting content together to help sell your products and build rapport with consumers.
  • eBay still has the stigma of an auction site, and while there are “Buy Now” options, users on eBay are often looking for the best deal at the lowest price possible.
  • Non-standard products sell well on eBay because some users are looking for unique items.
  • You’ll handle all your fulfillment, and you’ll need to set aside extra time to manage buyer communications to preserve your good seller rating.

Related: All Business is Personal -- Especially in Ecommerce

List with Etsy.

With more than 25 million active shoppers, Etsy has grown considerably in the decade since it launched. While it’s a seller marketplace, just like eBay and Amazon, there are a few things that separate it from the norm.

  • Eighty-six percent of Etsy sellers are female, typically individual manufacturers of artisanal products, who sell to a similar audience.
  • Ninety-six percent of Etsy sellers run their shop from home.
  • Commercially branded products are less commonly sold.
  • You’ll handle all fulfillment, similar to eBay, and you’ll need to manage buyer communications from within the Etsy platform.

Related: The 6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Carefully weigh each marketplace’s advantages and disadvantages before deciding to expand beyond your current ecommerce site.

There are a number of factors to keep in mind, including a lot of different things, such as:

  • If the profit is there based on margins,
  • If it’s a place where your ideal customer can be found,
  • If you have the infrastructure to handle multiple channels, and
  • If your products are a good fit for the marketplace.

Approach expansions strategically - just like you’re launching a new ecommerce business, and you’ll find the right marketplace for your goods.