A guide to online marketplaces: the big three
The internet has undoubtedly revolutionised retail. No longer are would-be shop owners required to invest big money in bricks and mortar stores before they can start selling - now all it takes is a few minutes to set up the digital equivalent.
Obviously, e-commerce success takes more than just registering - that's only the first step. What we're trying to say is that it's easier than ever to get going. With so many online marketplaces to choose from, though, how do you know which one's right for you?
Let's take a look at the three biggest contenders and see what each has to offer.
Let's start with what many would consider to be the most obvious example. eBay has been around for two decades now, and while most people know it predominantly as an auction platform, fixed-price sales actually now make up a bigger portion of the site's transactions.
There are many reasons to set up shop on eBay. For one, it's extremely quick and easy. You also have a huge audience of potential buyers ready and waiting - making the task of marketing a little easier. That said, you'll still need to make your listings discoverable and appealing.
You might want to take some time to get your head around the charges for business accounts, as the pricing system isn't particularly simple. Some critics also say it's expensive, but judge for yourself by visiting eBay's fees guide.
Amazon's story isn't far from being eBay's in reverse. Known initially as one of the web's first major retail giants, it's now hugely popular among smaller businesses looking for a ready-made platform through which to sell their own products. It too has a huge audience already, with millions visiting in search of bargains every day - the difference here is that your products will be made available across five separate European marketplaces (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it and Amazon.es).
Again, like eBay, the site operates a feedback system that allows users to rate merchants based on the service and products they receive. This - along with the fact that Amazon is a huge, widely recognised brand - will help to instil trust in your brand among customers.
Unless you plan to sell fewer than 35 items a month, you'll be required to register for a Pro account at a cost of £25 a month, although the company often waives charges for the first three months. More information can be found on the Services section of Amazon's site.
There's no doubt that Etsy is restrictive; the site only allows users to sell handmade goods, vintage items and craft supplies, so if you're pushing CDs, books or anything else, you're out of luck. If anything, though, it's this niche approach that has made Etsy so huge. These days, it's home to around 1.4 million merchants, selling their wares to 30 million registered buyers across the world.
Etsy is as cheap and easy as they come. First and foremost, there are no membership fees to consider. It simply costs $0.20 (13p) to put an item up for four months (or until it sells) - then, Etsy takes 3.5 per cent of every transaction completed. International selling is made easy too, with the site's Direct Checkout payment system taking payment in the buyer's local currency and passing on the funds in the seller's local currency. Simple!
There's not too much more to say but it's worth visiting Etsy's Business page to go through the details. You can register from here too.
Scratching the surface
These are the three biggest platforms out there, but there are plenty more to consider before you go ahead. Just be sure to do your research and weigh up the pros and cons of each before you sign up.
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