I have run two different online stores now with two different platforms, not including Amazon, Ebay and Etsy which I run and also have got the bottom of those as well (though etsy less so). This article may get quite long as it evolves. But really you are going to get gold nuggets of information- dare I say value bombs! If you got something from it and you will if you are a budding entrepreneur.
"Because it's frowned upon to be in a store with no bra, sweatpants and a glass of wine.."Online Shopping, 2021
We create Shopify stores. One of the leading and most popular selling platforms. Recommended if you have no experience with hosting or managing a website. That's why the company exists. That $29 per month is cheap! If you believe you can do woocommerce for less you are in for a loss of money!
Let's assume someone visits your website on their mobile phone via a link you know how that works already. So your website - let's say you went with Shopify (Why Choose Shopify?) . Shopify is a catalogue system that helps you organise your products and variations of products through images and text. You set your prices and other stuff like shipping options. Are you enabling shipping to Honduras? This SaaS platform is incredibly popular because it helps you achieve all this with a lot of existing users ready to help you and perhaps your developer too! Payments are taken through what is called payment gateways. You know of PayPal and perhaps Stripe. Two well regarded in the industry. You may even get your first order. Let me tell you you never forget it. Mine was an eyeliner pencil. I was so ecstatic. Then the 'backend' of your Shopify Store manages the customer information and order details. You will need to fulfil the order and notify the customer. Getting the sale is often just the start. But there you have the gist of it.
Where's the catch?
Well getting a good product and supplier are generally hard to do. If these exist you will find sellers bartering each other down so that in some cases no one makes a profit. It's a win win for the customer. Another effect of the internet you might say.
Having your own Shopify store Vs Ebay for example you will not be competing with other sellers on the same website at least. This is one key advantage to owning your own store. Also you won't have to cough up seller fees you have your own Shopify monthly fees- this is generally how SaaS works. If you had a woocommerce shop you might have it managed by your web designer then you only have their fees. But whatever way yo go you have fees.
Where's my money?
You will get paid through PayPal or Shopify (or other payment gateway) in this case shortly after minus a transaction fee. You will maintain accounts with your payment providers. Hopefully you will sell a good service or product and you won't get too many returns. After selling you will need to manage the tracking to the customer and give them news on their order. There are some scripts in the service that help with automated tracking being sent to the customer. This can be via SMS message or email.
The other catch is the early assumption that you managed to get RELEVANT traffic. This too is an area of trickyness. Fortunately after 2 years of marketing and over £50k spent in advertising I know a thing or two about that! I am happy to share with you some of the discoveries. get in touch through the website or on Social Media.
Selling on Amazon is slightly different for each locality e.g. Amazon.com Amazon.ca Amazon.fr etc...The interface is clunky given modern standards and it is clearly a large project that they struggle to get modern standards on. Legacy systems represent greater risks in adopting modern standards. It works though.
You can sell on amazon through 2 options typically with a 3rd option for bigger established brands. Amazon FBA and Amazon FBM. These acronyms mean that either the product is housed in Amazon and fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) vs fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) which means you will do the packaging and shipping part.
You need to pay Amazon around 50 dollars to join to sell too.
Listing on Amazon can be full of pitfalls. To this day I am still unable to list Chargies lightning cables on the platform despite sending across the paperwork and abiding by their terms and conditions. It's a risk that means you might not be able to sell your product for ANY reason on their site. It's often very unjust but Amazon as you may find out are one of those really arrogant corporations. The conversation would be a little like this.
Could you upload a document that shows a yellow square in the middle. You upload the document with a Yellow square and get an answer like. This document does not meet the criteria set out or some other boilerplate message the 3rd party staffer (NOT AN AMAZON employee) choose from a drop down box.
You also need to buy a barcode for EACH product variation. This is an attempt to reduce the generic products appearing on the site. It doesn't work but provides a revenue stream. This revenue stream is the start of how Amazon works. If you want to do things properly and start a Brand then you need to get the Trademark setup. None of this is required by law by the way. It's how Amazon work to limit and control the inventory. There are some valid reasons for the existence of these things but the bigger truth is what it is.
Let's assume you get your barcode and list your product. If Amazon gets a sale they take away a portion of revenue depending on the type of goods and selling cost. One of the biggest takeaways is that getting sales requires you to run ads within Amazon. That's right you need to then pay Amazon to show your product in a way to the right kind of purchaser.
There have been a ton of people trying to sell courses on getting you to start an Amazon FBA business and it's a very competitive place. I broke even after such a lot of effort and diligent work with my first product. Not impressed. I could have persevered but I found the running my own shop much more lucrative and it took a lot less time and effort. And I didn't have the prolonged frustration of talking to robotic people in control of a chunk of my business.
The compliance in Amazon is also ridiculously hard. we're not afraid to roll our sleeves up but...
Need Support? Yes- because the 3rd party support company (Not Amazon Staff) don't really help and often are very poorly trained. There is the Amazon seller forum. Wow join that and take a ride through troll ville. Openly nasty comments and discussion in a place that is supposed to be helpful.
I AM VERY SURE THERE IS A LOT OF QUALITY PEOPLE IN AMAZON YET THEY HAVE NO IDEA THIS ALL GOES ON!
If you ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and know what a spite store is I really would love to be in a position to open up against Amazon!
I once heard it said that selling on Ebay is like the wild west of ecom. I agree- anything goes and opposite to Amazon is the lack of control. Ebay might argue that reviews of both the seller and product protect the consumer and even if that fails the PayPal protection is there. So it's true people shop on there a lot. It's just not such a great place for sellers. Unless you have your own brand that is well known you may struggle to get sales. It has a lot of competing sellers. One nice touch is that you only pay for ads when you get a sale which is fair. If you do a good job of listing your item with a nice title you might just get sales without promoting (Ads).
Never trust the flags or sellers stating items are located where they say. if there is one thing I learned it's that Chinese sellers don't mind to lie about the location of goods stating that they are coming from the UK for example when they don't. The other is that people forgive them the 8 -14 day delivery time and post good reviews. Nowt queer as folk.
As a vendor how will you compete with Chinese suppliers selling direct to consumer? You will need to find a way.