*July 2012 Update: A Google announcement in May 2012 states that Google Merchant Center products feeds will now become part of Google Shopping and will be managed through your Google Adwords account. This means that the previously free product feeds will no longer be free. You can read the announcement here. Thanks Lori (in the comments below) for the update!
Selling your products online can give your local small business a reach far greater than your retail store would ever allow. You may see thousands of businesses, big and small with their own E-Commerce websites set up and you think, “That's where I need to be”. So you do the next logical thing, you set up (or pay someone) to set up an E-Commerce store on your website, upload all of your products, and wait for the orders to start pouring in. So what usually happens? Nothing. Very little visitors, little to no sales and an online catalog of products that now need to be maintained. Great, now what?
Selling your products online has many challenges
- Their is tremendous competition in the online space and getting your products to stand out and be found is a challenge
- Like most small business websites, you probably do not have the “Authority” that other, better optimized websites have
- Selling online requires a knowledge of internet marketing. Many are easy to learn, but they do need to be learned
You Can Sell Your Products Anywhere
Selling your products online does not have to be a zero sum game. Just because you are selling products on your website, it does not mean you cannot use other platforms to sell that same product. Think of it like this, you own a small retail store in your town that sells doggy apparel. You contact Walmart one day about your product and they agree to give you a very small amount of shelf space in their pet department. You are still selling the same products, but you now have a very big brother helping you move those doggy sweaters.
Places To Sell Your Products
Listed below are three options to consider for selling your products online. They can be used in addition to your own website and will give you an opportunity to cast a much wider net online and to help drive sales of your products. There are many other options available to sell online, especially in certian niches, but below is a great starting point. I did not go into much detail about each service in this article so i suggest you thoroughly research each of them before you start. It's also a good idea to start with one, and add additional services slowly as they all require some form of product maintenance.
Allows you to quickly and easilly set up a customizable storefront on Ebay. Think of it like setting up a stand at an outlet mall or flea market, except that major retailers also have stands set up there. Some key features are:
- You can have your store set up in a day, the website building tools are meant for “non-techy” people
- Ebay provides tools to help manage your listings
- You can promote sales and special offers on your Ebay store.
- You can track sales, visitors and product pages views
Amazon lets you sell your products through their own website. Since Amazon is currently the largest online shopping site in the U.S.(according to Alexa.com), it's a great place to begin selling your products. Depending on your niche, there can be some stiff comepetition, but for the cost and marketing reach you gain it's still a very good option. Some key features are:
- It's easy to upload your products
- Amazon takes care of the entire shopping experience for your customer
- You get notified when an order is placed. You can either ship it directly or pre-arrange for Amazon to ship for you
- There are no listing fees or monthly charges. You pay a fee for each sale plus some smaller transaction charges
While Google Merchant Center does not allow you to directly sell products through a specific website, they do allow you to upload your product information so that customers can find you through Google Product Search. Google product search allows people to find products through a simple Google search. Some key features are:
- It's free to upload your products, you just need to register with Google Merchant Center
- Google is starting to mix in Product Search results with regular search results
- It can can drive traffic directly back to your website
Get Started Today
As you can see, there are many different ways to sell your products online apart from your own website. All of the above companies allow the small business owner a great opportunity to expand their reach on the internet. If you do try out one of these services or have any questions, i'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!