9 Steps to finding your Perfect Online Marketplace

 There are a lot of choices when it comes to finding somewhere to set up shop for selling your digital or handmade products. Finding the right one for you can take a lot of time and trial and error! Read this post for 9 steps to help you consider what's important for you and your customers in an online shop.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to finding somewhere to set up shop for selling your digital or handmade products. Finding the right one for you can take a lot of time and trial and error! Read this post for 9 steps to help you consider what's important for you and your customers in an online shop.

Setting up an online shop and selling your own products (both digital and physical) on a website such as Etsy or Folksy is an excellent way to start selling. You can have a shop set up and your first item listed in less than an hour for minimal money.

But how do you know which site to use? Which one is best for you and your customers?

The following 9 steps will help you find the perfect place to have your online shop

Step 1: Will the site appeal to your target market?

Before you go any further, you need to download your Free 'Online Marketplace Comparison worksheet'! Print one out for each site you investigate to make comparing them and making final choices a lot less stressful! (<< click the link or the image below to download the worksheet)

 Download your Free Online Marketplace Comparison worksheet from The Badass BusinessMum to help you compare the websites you research. Make it less stressful to find the perfect place for your shop!

Download your Free Online Marketplace Comparison worksheet from The Badass BusinessMum to help you compare the websites you research. Make it less stressful to find the perfect place for your shop!

When people arrive at the site where you sell your products what do they see? Do they see beautiful, pin sharp, bright photographs of well designed products or do they see fuzzy phone pics of jewellery with the remains of the breakfast dishes in the background?

Extreme examples? Maybe... but have a think about what you want your brand and your business to be associated with. And the customer with high standards that is looking for quality photographs of a unique, quality product will willingly pay more for that product too. Not On The High Street has a selection process for their sellers and when you visit their website.... it shows!

Step 2: Is it easy for customers to use?

Online we want it all to happen now and in the simplest possible way.

When you're deciding which website to sell your crafts on, using it first as a buyer will help you evaluate it from your customers' perspectives. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Was it easy to find what you were looking for?
  • Did the search work properly?
  • Was the navigation intuitive?
  • Was it easy to add things to your basket?
  • Could you easily go back and add something else?
  • Could you change the quantities once items were in your basket?
  • How long did it take to check out?
  • Was it a simple experience?

You need to make shopping with you as simple and pleasant as possible. People will come back if their first buying experience with you was pain free. Consider the customer when choosing a selling site.

Step 3: Make sure your shop will be optimised for mobile

Is the site optimised for mobile? This is important for 3 reasons.

It will make life easier for your customers that use their phones to shop. And lots of them do! (This website says visits to ecommerce sites via smartphone and tablet devices accounted for 45% of all ecommerce traffic in the UK!) They won't have to do loads of irritating zooming and scrolling to see everything. Most just won't bother if they can't use their phones comfortably. Etsy has an app for buyers too which makes shopping, browsing and 'favouriting' easy! (I use it, all my Etsy shopping is done via the the app on my phone).

It will make life easier for you if you use your smartphone for running your shop. Etsy has an app specifically for sellers that makes creating new listings on your phone a breeze!

Google says it's important. Yes, Google has spoken and as of April 2015 mobile optimisation will be used as a ranking factor in its search algorithm (which in English means a website will rank higher on Google if it's mobile friendly). So if you sell sensory baby blankets on an e-commerce site, when a customer searches on Google with a mobile or tablet you want to be selling them on the mobile optimised site that will have its listings shown before the non optimised site.

Step 4: Find out what you can sell

Maybe this is a no-brainer but just in case it's not.... check what the website allows you to sell!

Folksy have strict guidelines and only allow the sale of handmade goods or craft supplies. They even specify they don't allow the sale of assembled items such as nappy cakes or jewellery made only from mass produced components.

Etsy has recently relaxed it's rules (with a lot of uproar from sellers) to allow manufactured goods when they are based on original designs.

And then you have sites like Ebay that allow you to sell pretty much anything (ok, apparently there are rules.... allegedly... )

Find the seller guidelines and don't breach them because if you do, you could easily have your shop removed which could be the end of your business.

Step 5: Is it easy for you to use?

You're going to be spending a lot of time on your chosen e-commerce site so if you can find one that is intuitive and easy to use it helps!

Ask yourself:

  • Is it easy to find everything on your shop dashboard?
  • Can you easily update your policies and about pages?
  • Can you use the site on your smartphone?
  • Is it easy to find and process your orders?
  • Does the site have stats and analytics to help you track and improve sales?

And is it easy to list items? And edit them? This is important because listing items for sale has got to be one of the most boooring jobs you will do when selling online! Look for sites that have bulk editing tools and a 'copy' option for listing similar items so you haven't got to copy and paste everything half a million times!

This one can be a bit difficult to check out before parting with your hard-earned cash, so look for seller reviews, and a seller guide or FAQ on the website itself. This is when starting small without committing to a monthly payment plan pays off so you can try a site out.

Step 6: Can you customise your shop?

Can you customise your shop so it fits in with your branding? You want to be able to create a cohesive branding experience so when you send your customers to your online shop to make a purchase it is obvious it is yours.

  • Do you get a shop front that you can customise?
  • Are you limited to the number of categories you can have?
  • Can you format your product descriptions?
  • Can you add a header?
  • Are you allowed to include links to your social sites, blog and email list sign up?

Step 7: Is there a seller community and help?

Selling online can be pretty lonely. Being self employed can be pretty lonely! An e-commerce site that has a thriving online community, like the Etsy forums,and teams, can help you feel less 'on your own' and can offer lots of help and advice from fellow work at home Mums.

Join The Badass BusinessMum's Club for weekly Badass Business Essentials lesson, access to the Members' Only Resource Library and your Free, Exclusive 69-page Productivity Workbook as soon as you sign up!)

One of the best things about Etsy is the ever helpful Etsy Success newsletter, which, if you sell on Etsy you really need to sign up for! It contains useful information articles specific to Etsy and the 'Quit your day job' series which is a great motivator on a bad day. They also host online labs and regularly have email delivered seller seminars, like the 'BootCamp' every Christmas.

Step 8: Find out how much it will cost you

As a seller you will be charged a fee for using their platform to sell your products. Fees vary quite considerably and different sites have different pricing structures. Some, like Etsy, charge a listing fee and then a final commission fee, others charge a monthly fee, (and not a listing fees) plus the final sale commission. Some of the sites offer different packages depending how many products you have for sale in your shop. For example Folksy offer a 'Pro' service where you pay a yearly subscription and no listing fees.

If you have a lot of items to list it is generally more cost effective to go with a pay monthly plan if one is available from your chosen selling site.

You will have to pay the transaction fees for processing the payments from your customers. Most websites use PayPal which charge between 1.4% - 3.4% + 20p per transaction. Etsy has a direct checkout service where a customer can pay direct with a debit or cedit card which they charge an addition percentage transaction fee for.

Fees can add up pretty quickly, so you need to factor them in when pricing your products.

Step 9: Does the website's marketing help you too?

Where and how does the website market itself?

Not On The High Street is the only selling site I discovered through an advert aimed at shoppers and not sellers. In recent years Etsy has also started advertising on TV as a site for shoppers of Handmade Items.

Does the website advertise in craft magazines as a great place to sell your crafts? Fair enough, they need customers too but if that is the only place they're advertising, unless your customers are also crafters, they are not targeting your customers. Yes, you need to do your own marketing but if the site you are using already has a name for itself selling high quality handmade goods your customers will be confident buying there.

Selling online isn't just a case of opening up shop on the first website you find. And it's not just about finding the cheapest place either!

You need to carefully evaluate yours and your customer's needs. When considering the features of a particular website, remember to consider them for the future of your shop, not what you have know you're just starting up. If different options are available at different price points will it be easy for you to upgrade in the future?

Time to take action! Download and print off your Free 'Online Marketplace Comparison worksheet' (one for each shop site you investigate) and make choosing your perfect place for your shop easier. Fill out the sections of the worksheet and remember to consider the answers from your target market's perspective as well as yours.