How to Select the Best Platform to Sell Products Online

Anne Shaw

Do you have a product or service you think will sell well online? Once you’ve done your homework to understand how to sell successfully online, the next step is choosing where and how to sell it. Lucky for you, there are a growing number of online marketplaces and eCommerce platforms you can use to market and sell online, and we’ve put together a list.

Now, we don’t mean to imply that these sites are the only ways (or even the best ways) to sell products online. In fact, some small business owners choose to build their own websites. But if you’re looking for a quick way to start selling online, we think this list offers a decent starting point.

7 eCommerce Platforms to Sell Products Online

For sellers who plan to make a habit of selling their products online, here’s a list of eCommerce platforms to consider, with advice and tips about each one.

Shopify

Built as a turnkey way for sellers to go online, Shopify includes a website with an online store, 24/7 merchant support, shipping discounts, and credit card acceptance service. For its robust eCommerce solution, Shopify charges a fixed monthly fee to host your business website and sell your products. The site is also considered a one-stop-shop for sellers since listings on Shopify can be automatically ported over to other channels, including Amazon and eBay, making it easier to reach buyers who might be shopping on multiple marketplaces. Shopify often offers short-term trials so sellers can get a preview of how it works and what’s included without incurring initial out-of-pocket costs. Because sellers can create their own website using Shopify, they don’t just choose it to sell online, but also to build their own brand. Shopify’s platform includes fraud protection, a number of ways to cultivate customer relationships (including the option to publish a blog), and an SSL certificate that authenticates your business and builds customer confidence by encrypting their transactions. As of February 2021, Shopify operates in 133 countries around the world, which means you can market your hometown business on a global scale.

Etsy

Etsy bills itself as a creative online marketplace, and many artisans have used it to set up profitable online shops for their handmade goods and vintage collectibles. The site claims to bring millions of sellers and buyers together. And because sellers can list their products for just 20 cents per listing, Etsy requires only minimal up-front costs. When an item sells, Etsy deducts a credit card transaction fee and commission charge from the purchase price. Another advantage of Etsy is that it advertises sellers’ products on other websites virtually free of charge. You pay a percentage of the sale price if your item sells through one of those off-site ads. An important note when selling on Etsy is that if your product doesn’t sell for four months, you must opt to renew your listing, or it will be removed.

Amazon

While Amazon sells its own merchandise, the company also opens its marketplace to millions of other online sellers. In fact, it’s the most popular online store in the United States. Amazon offers a turnkey selling platform, and sellers who want to become a “registered Amazon seller” receive guidance from the retailer, including a beginner’s guide with step-by-step instructions. But this service doesn’t come without a price. The current cost to open a store on Amazon starts at $39.99/month, but the benefits are numerous, including being linked with what’s arguably the best-known name in the eCommerce world. But you don’t have to be a big operation to take advantage of Amazon’s reputation and sales platform. Individual sellers can list their items on Amazon for as little as 99 cents per item sold. When it comes to shipping, Amazon sets rates that sellers must adhere to when sending products themselves, but there’s also an option to let Amazon fulfill orders (for an additional cost). While Amazon gives sellers credibility and access to a large pool of buyers, it also holds them to high standards for the privilege of selling on its platform. The site not only invites customers to review products and sellers, but also monitors sellers to ensure they maintain Amazon’s reputation as a legitimate and credible marketplace. When sellers don’t meet its standards, Amazon doesn’t hesitate to suspend them.

eBay

Having started with auction-style listings, eBay is the granddaddy of online selling sites. Today, eBay includes buy-it-now options for merchants who don’t want to wait for an auction to close. It also permits buyers to make “best offers” on some listed items, and sellers can then accept a bid or negotiate a deal. Think of eBay as the world’s biggest garage sale. It keeps haggling alive while helping buyers find a myriad of new and used items. If you’re in the early stages of marketing an item, try listing it on eBay as a first step. Most categories don’t require a listing fee, so it’s a good place to see if buyers would respond to your products. And once you’ve sold an item, eBay simplifies shipping by storing shipping weights of common items and permitting sellers to generate mailing labels right on the site. The marketplace offers free listings for individual sellers (with commissions paid when items sell) or paid plans for businesses that sell at high volumes. Like many top ecommerce sites, eBay ensures buyer satisfaction by holding sellers to high standards for product quality, accuracy of descriptions, shipping times and other factors. Customers rate sellers for all of these traits, so it’s vital to maintain an impeccable level of feedback ratings to succeed on eBay. Negative feedback ratings can be a death knell for budding businesses.

Bonanza

Imagine a virtual flea market and you’ve hit upon Bonanza. Here you load merchandise into a free online “booth,” and buyers can see all your items in one place. If a buyer visits your booth for a piece of crockery to match the rest of his dinnerware, then he may come across your kitchen knives as well. Boom — you’ve increased your sale. This selling format helps buyers save on shipping costs (because you can package everything in a single shipment), and you’ll benefit from a higher sales volume per customer. Bonanza takes advantage of something retailers have known for generations: Impulse buying boosts sales. Consider your local supermarket’s checkout lanes. There’s a reason you pass between candy bars, chewing gum, magazines and batteries as you wait to pay for your groceries. Bonanza can make the same thing happen for your online business. You pay Bonanza a fee only when items sell, with a 50-cent minimum per sale. Be sure to keep adding items to your booth’s product mix. Inactive booths on Bonanza are automatically closed after six months.

Mercari

This relative newcomer in online marketplaces began as a smartphone app on both Apple and Android platforms and now offers a full website. Mercari is convenient for sellers who are often on the go and want a simplified listing process. You simply take photos of the items you wish to sell, write a brief description, then set a price — all on your smartphone. When someone buys an item, the app automatically emails a discounted flat-rate shipping label to you, with $200 of loss and damage insurance coverage built in. For those sellers who don’t have a printer, Mercari even provides a shipping QR code they can bring to any UPS Store. Also, listings are free. You only pay a selling fee once an item is purchased. Mercari offers a quick tutorial to help sellers get started and also provides a suite of seller protections to provide assurance that you won’t be taken advantage of by buyers with bad intentions. Another element that keeps buyers and sellers safe is that Mercari requires that transactions never take place face to face.

Wix

If you’d rather build your own brand rather than sell through an online marketplace, you may want to look into Wix. Like Shopify, Wix lets you design your own retail website from scratch using a variety of readymade templates. Wix also provides a way to set up your own domain name to differentiate your business. Since you pay Wix to host your site, there are no commissions on sales, and Wix sellers can accept credit card payments and funds via PayPal with zero fees. Wix also offers ways to track your inventory, offer sales and discount codes, and deal with complicated shipping and taxation issues.

Where Can I Sell My Products Online For Free?

So far, all the sites we’ve mentioned come with costs for online sellers, but there are several well-known marketplaces that are absolutely free. Selling on Facebook is one of the best ways to give buyers confidence. After all, they can see who you are by viewing your profile. If you want to sell large items that aren’t easily shipped, then consider selling more locally via Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and neighborhood-based NextDoor sites. Just keep in mind that this will require personal contact between buyers and sellers to close the sale. Also, these online marketplaces don’t support credit card transactions, so unless you have your own way to accept credit cards (such as Square), you’ll be dealing with either cash, checks, digital money transferring or bartering to exchange merchandise.

In all cases, consider your personal safety and security when using sites that require meeting in person to collect payment. Whenever you can, avoid allowing buyers to pick up items at your home. Of course, sometimes that may be necessary if you’re selling large furniture or heavy appliances. At these times, ask someone you trust to be present. Otherwise, try meeting buyers in a well-lit, populated parking lot to take payment and deliver merchandise.

It’s Time to Get Started

If you’re ready to sell online, The Hartford is ready to help. As you navigate the world of online selling, whether you already own a business or are thinking of starting an online business, we’ve shared solid business management advice to help novice online merchants succeed in every step of the planning process.

Know of any other online marketplaces or eCommerce platforms that you recommend? Share them in the comments to help other readers find new and exciting online selling opportunities.

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