Location, location, location.
Those are the three most important things in real estate. When it comes to selling on line you will find that the location, even though it is just a cyber one will have a large impact on your business. It will affect: the number and kind of customers you receive, your costs for doing business, the amount of advertising you will need to do, and how much work you will need to put in designing your web pages. Websites have advantages and drawback as do auction sites and other third party venues. Deciding ahead of time what your strengths are and identifying the areas you will need assistance with will help you decide which option is right for you.
One large advantage of selling products on an auction or other venue made up of third party users is that you immediately become part of a community. The world wide web is a big place and there is a booming market for people trying to draw visitors to their websites. Unless you already know a lot about search engine optimization selling you wares on a large auction site like ebay will garner your business more visibility than launching your own website would. Third party venues also give you more tools.
Generally all you need to do is fill out a bio page and then fill out a form to sell your item. You can usually choose a basic listing or use HTML or templates for a more elaborate listing. This is a lot less involved than designing and building an entire website. There are lots of easy to use templates available some are even both free and web based so you will not have to download anything. Most third party venues also have their own checkout process where payment processing is integrated or you just email the purchaser of your item a paypal invoice. That process is simpler than trying to integrate a payment system on your website.
Third party venues have advantages but they have drawbacks also.
Fees seem to be the universal complaint that users of third party venues report. Unlike personal websites, venues generally charge a fee for each item listed plus a percentage of each sold items total. There are also additional charges for upgrades to your listing. Websites costs are much lower when you compare the two. Websites cost more initially, especially if you pay for help designing it. However if you plan to sell a lot of low priced items you can save quite a bit of money over time by not having to pay to list or sell items. You will probably have flat costs per month though for web hosting. You should also plan to pay at least a small amount for advertising if you choose to run your own website because websites do not receive the traffic that large venues like ebay do.
Personal websites also offer you the freedom to sell any kind of item you want (provided it is not illegal) without having to concern yourself with the vendor’s rules. An example of this is Ebays policy against food items. If your goal is to sell gourmet cookies you will have to use either a different venue that does allow food or run your own website. Before you decide on a venue read through its help menus carefully to make sure your type of item is allowed. Personal websites generally allow you more freedom but if you plan to use a storefront system pay just as careful attention to the web hosts rules as you would on an auction site. Many companies that host storefront solutions have rules that are very complex. An example of this is the company VStore. It hosts storefront website system and specifically bans Celtic / Wiccan stores according to their frequently asked questions page and it appears to be purely out of principle. You need to find information like this before you sign up, make payments for hosting, and start setting up your sales catalog.
Whichever method you choose your decision does not have to be set in stone. Many merchants choose to start out selling on Ebay or Overstock auctions so they can build a loyal customer base while designing their websites. Many merchants continue to use third party venue sites even after their own websites are completely designed and running. Listing on large third party sites with the intent of drawing new, loyal, long term customers can be an excellent marketing tool. Consideration of part of the fees those big sites charge as advertising costs can help take the sting out of them. Each kind of internet selling medium has pros and cons. Learning and understanding what each medium can do for you will help your business.