To have an e-commerce store or not to have one, now that is the question! Now since you are not Hamlet and neither a teenage girl holding a daisy, playing “he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not”, you need real justifications to have your own e-commerce store. You have already decided that selling online works. But you are confounded with the options you have. This, against a backdrop of selling on Facebook, Etsy or other online marketplaces. Tough nut to crack? Let me do it for you.
Now what I discuss below are honest opinions of mine, and the final judgement is really left to your rationale. Ultimately, you should go by your own convenience and preference no matter what anyone tells you. For people just starting out, online marketplaces can be a blessing. In fact, yes, one should test the waters there before making a permanent investment in their own store front. Yet, after 5 years, the above question remains- website or no? So before much ado, here are my top reasons why one should have an e-commerce website:
1. All for your Customer’s convenience
Having a web-store may no be the most convenient thing for you. After all, when it’s so easy to upload a few pictures to your favourite e-marketplace, mark it for Sale and then curl up in your sofa with a mug of coffee until you wait for someone to message you to purchase, why would you take any other route? So oft sellers look for their own convenience, that they forget what the customers have to go through to buy your products. First, if a potential customer saw your product once upon a time and becomes ready to buy it only after a few months, have you ever estimated the loops that customer has to go through to buy that particular product? Not only do they have to find you on the social media channel (or remember the link of the marketplace), they have to scroll down all the way amidst a lot of other distracting content to find that particular product.In the marketplace itself, they are bombarded with so many other ads, you’d be lucky if they don’t get diverted.
And then the buying process itself is so time consuming. They have to message you. They have to get confirmation. They have to get your bank account details for the transfer. Then they have to transfer. Not only does this take over a couple of days (in which the customer may lose patience), but there could be security issues, lot of bargaining, and other unheeded hassles in the buying process. Compare this with website shopping- customer adds to cart, checks out in a click and waits for parcel. All done in zip,zap, zoom.
2. No limitations whatsoever
No, you don’t have to pay 20 cents for every product you upload on your website. No, your product listings do not expire every four months. You don’t have to pay a percentage of your sales to anybody! For very product you sell, you get to keep every penny (Ok, excluding the payment processing fees of your payment gateway, but c’mon, better than an additional fee to the online marketplace!).
You can group and categorize your products however you wish! Make it easier for people to find what they are looking for, anytime they want, from anywhere. (see, customer convenience again!). You can place sign-up forms to your e-mail newsletter anywhere in your website. You can cross-sell, up-sell and well, just sell anything you want. You can keep expanding your inventory without a second thought. People get to browse more products, which means there’s a higher probability they will buy something. And no, you don’t have to pay additional fees if they buy multiple products at once.
Put your logo anywhere you want. Use large photographs. Have a look-book section. Have a running blog. Use your brand colours and the fonts you like to give a unique not-another-one-like-that experience to your customers. Yes, with your own website, there’s no limit to what you can do to sell your products.
3. It’s gonna be your own!
Yes, which means you don’t live on rented space. Or rented time. Or rented anything! Online marketplaces are just like tradeshows. You sit with everyone else and sell with everybody else. How’s that for competition? Having your own website is like owning your own boutique at a physical location. Not only will local passers-by stop to look, but there’s an address which they can refer their friends to. It’s just easier compared to giving them the website of an online marketplace. Nothing has changed. The physical world has just carried onto the digital world, but the societal systems and affinity to familiarity/convenience remain the same.
Also, you are not going to be at the mercy of the whims and fancies of social media platforms or the online marketplace. They may change their policies anytime, increase their fees and may just shut down, who knows! You are not at the mercy of whom they promote on their first page or in the Newsfeed of your followers. The idea is, rented land is just that- rented. It’s time to get a place of your own ( at least that should be your goal).
4. A growth Transition
Consider moving to your own website a phase of growth. It shows that you do have a healthy inventory. It shows that you want to be in this business for the long run. It shows you are moving out of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks.
A lot of people complain about managing a web-store and therefore do not opt for one. Again, your ease is not the customer’s ease. You complain that there’s a lot of SEO to do. Yes, by taming the SEO beast you are actually making it easy for people who are already looking for you to find you. Not only people locally, but international customers can find you as well.
You say you have to be on social media additionally to market it. Yes, by being on social media you get a great platform to build a brand. Create stories. Intensify the user experience. Respond to customer complaints. Icing on the cake- you get a lot of love on social media!
You say it’s quite expensive. Nope, it’s the same. Initial development charges will yield good returns later because you are building your brand equity. The remaining hosting charges, domain name charges etc add up to far less than what you pay in fees to online marketplaces.
So the real deal about having your own website is about seeing and managing your business growth. Not to mention, your own too, because the challenges you face in building a successful web-store makes you feel like you accomplished something. Time to move out of your comfort zone!
5. It’s a social thing.
Really, there’s a lot of difference of being in the business to just sell apparel and to build a brand out of it. Yes, you can be only on social media and get a lot of people to love your brand. But as a designer, you want to have to an identity. Your business is an extension of you. So when people ask what you do or where you sell, it’s quite a different thing to say “I sell on Etsy and Facebook” and “i have my own digital flagship, you can shop at this website-…”. Now you get to choose what you want to say in your social circles.
Well, I may have come to the end of the post, but you may have just begun to ponder. Go ahead, this is an important decision for you to make. As a parting advice, I would say, there’s really no downside in having a website. All the problems you associate with having a website is really just temporary. With many logistics managing companies like Pigen sprouting, many marketing teams like GLAMAFONE starting-up, and many other freelancers out there to your aid, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t own a website. Just ask the already successful ones!