Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Internet Business Basics: Selling To Where Online

By Trisha Frauenhofer

Starting a venue for sales on the internet can be a daunting experience if you're just looking at technical requirements. You need a server, a certificate, a merchant services vendor, tested and trusted security and on top of that, you need something to sell! Putting all the pieces together can be a lot of work.

My internet business recommends that you start out small. There are three major venues for selling things on the internet before you take the plunge on your own web shop: eBay, Amazon Shops and Cafe Press. We're going to explore all three to give you a baseline for comparison.

The easiest one to get into, assuming you have a means of generating graphics, is Cafe Press. You upload your artwork, set up the shop, and select what products it'll be on, ranging from tee shirts, to coffee mugs, to calendars - even intimate apparel. (Yes, we have seen "Just Do IT?" thongs) The flip side is that Cafe Press charges a pretty premium; they handle all the manufacturing for you, so you don't have to cover inventory. So you're not making much per sale unless you can command a premium. Still, if you're an artist and lazy, they're a good way to make some money off of your artwork.

The next step up from Cafe Press is Amazon Shops. Amazon Shops lets you print books on their Booksurge service, or just sell used books online. My internet business is not limited solely to books - we've sold tee shirts, cookware and electronics on ours. Amazon Shops charges $40 per month as a listing fee and takes anywhere from 10% to 25% of the sale price of the item. The advantage is that it's a natural destination for selling things online. Millions of customers go to Amazon every day. The setup is more involved than Caf Press is, but the reduced fees probably make it worthwhile once your business grows.

My internet business reviews Etsy as a similar site to eBay, but it focuses on handmade things. Etsy charges smaller listing fees than eBay does, but has a smaller clientele. That said, Etsy's clientele is looking for handmade things, and it has a comparable set of options for setting your own custom web shop. Etsy has a few more search options than eBay does, like a color search wheel, even a geolocator. The aim for Etsy is to be the online equivalent of a crafts fair.

eBay is more labor intensive than Amazon, but the percentages that they take out are less. eBay has moderately high listing fees, so keep that in mind when planning your sales patterns. eBay is the ideal forum for selling things you buy locally, or retailing something you buy at wholesale. By the time you've outgrown an eBay shop, you'll be well set on setting up your own eCommerce site.

Checking out the sales niche means checking out the competition. Unless it's a really popular item (like, say, an iPhone), you're going to want to narrowcast your sales items. Always search for the item you intend to sell and look for other people selling the same thing or similar items. Watch how their auctions and sales options run.

Finally, keep your options open. Never ever sign an exclusive deal, and always be on the lookout for new products you can sell; not all products have to be made of atoms, Informational products are also a natural product for the Internet, and may be the product type that catapults you into doing your own web shop. - 16651

About the Author: