Don't set about trying to pick the absolute best website for online selling; instead, try to pick the best site for what you specifically have to sell. Whereas the buyers flocking to one online retail platform might love those vintage doll clothes you just posted online, the clientele of another site might laugh them right off the Internet. Picking the right platform for the specific items you have "in stock" will help you complete sales; having great stuff to offer never hurt either. Write compelling product descriptions, snap a few great photos, set your price, and then let the Internet shoppers come to you.
Arts and Crafts and Cold Hard Cash
The customers that turns to Etsy for their shopping needs are, for the most part, a discerning group of people more interested in authentic quality goods than in rock bottom prices. For this reason alone a seller can potentially make a decent amount of money when selling their goods via Etsy as they don't have to compete to have the absolute lowest price. However, there is a double edge to that sword: rather than trying to attract business based on rock bottom rates, Etsy sellers have to rely on having genuinely well-made, rare, or otherwise alluring items available, and this presents its own set of challenges, of course. But perhaps most challenging of all for the potential Etsy seller is getting found in the first place. As this sales platform tries to attract original artists and sellers of unique goods, it can be harder for these specialized artisans and vendors to stand out from the pack and be found by would-be customers. Selling on Etsy can be a satisfying and successful endeavor, but it usually requires months or even years of dedication and patience in order to build a "shop" that is large enough to be frequently found by buyers. Or you might get lucky by selling framed posters of cats yawning and make a sack full of money in your first week.
Going Once, Going Twice... Boom. Sold.
eBay is arguably the juggernaut of online person-to-person sales. The company has been around for more than two decades already, making it almost as old as the mainstream Internet. During that time, eBay has refined and revised their approach in myriad ways, including pioneering and then developing now common features such as seller feedback, and has become the go-to resource for sales of many types of items. Today, the site offers all types of products offered by all types of vendors, including private citizens like you and huge retail outfits with warehouses and employees and the whole nine yards. It's a perfectly viable place to shop for luxury watches, outdoor gear, bedding, cameras, and so much more. Yet eBay remains one of the best -- if not still the absolute best -- platform for selling rare, unique, or vintage items such as that classic Beatles LP album, a 1950s motorcycle jacket, or a piece of Civil War memorabilia. So if you are looking to sell a few specialty items that might not find buyers on a consignment shop shelf, you can rest assured that if anyone anywhere is potentially interested in the kind of goods you've got, they'll find your wares on eBay. And that's true even if what you're selling isn't a vintage belt buckle or Native American arrowhead, but is in fact a Gulf Stream jet. Yep, one of those sold on eBay way back in 2001.
The Easy-To-Use Heavyweight
From its humble beginnings as an online book seller back in the 1990s to the massive international powerhouse of an online retailer that is the Amazon we know today, this company has become the go-to source for tens of millions of buyers worldwide, and that's true whether they're buying books, baby clothes, basketball shoes, or just about any other product ever manufactured. What many Amazon shoppers don't realize is that often they are making a purchase that ships not from a massive 800,000 square foot warehouse, but rather from the home of a person just like them. A large percentage of Amazon's business is conducted via the facade of the online juggernaut retailer but is in fact ultimately a sales transaction between two people, or at least between a buyer and a very small business. It's like the confluence of cottage industry and industrial revolution, if you will, and you can easily join the ranks of sellers taking advantage of this unique setup by taking a few minutes to create a seller's account. Amazon sellers who only complete a few transactions a month (fewer than 40 per month, to be precise) can use an Individual Seller's account that carries no fees except for the commission Amazon charges once a sale has been completed. Those who want to sell higher volumes of items can create a Professional Seller's account and, for about forty bucks a month, sell virtually unlimited amounts of goods and enjoy the support of ads, sales tracking metrics, and stellar client support offerings.
Selling Online: In-Depth
Online Selling - The Easiest Way To Make a Buck Or Ten Thousand?
Like online dating, online travel arranging, and even online education, over the past few years, online selling has moved from a fringe sector of the retail market to a position of near dominance in the way people buy the things they want and need. If all those millions and millions of people are buying all those billions and billions of things, things ranging from wine to windshield wipers to volleyball nets to violins, then that means there must be a lot of companies selling things on the Internet, too.
And here we reach a common misconception held by all too many people these days. Yes, indeed: there are lots and lots of companies, both large and small, that sell things online. But thanks to some of the topnotch online selling portals available these days, it's actually easy for anyone to sell almost anything online, no LLC or warehouse or staff required.
In fact, all you really need to get started selling things online is a halfway decent Internet connection and some stuff to sell. And maybe a post office or UPS outlet within driving distance. OK, and also in most cases you'll need a credit card (or debit card) that can be kept on file. But that's it, really!
Who Can Sell Online?
You can. Most online sales sites have absolutely no requirements placed on who can sell using their services, so don't worry if you don't have an incorporated business or if you lack any previous sales experience whatsoever. With most of the leading online sales websites, there is also no cost involved in creating a seller's account or profile and often no charge to create a listing, either, so in most cases you have absolutely nothing to risk by giving online selling a try past the few minutes it will take to create your initial account and then upload an item or two. And even those sites that do charge per listing usually have fees counted in cents, not dollars, by the way, and they often charge a lower commission rate, so the listing fee comes out in the wash, as it were.
The requirements for selling online will likely include nothing more than:
A reliable Internet connection
A credit or debit card
A bank account
What Can You Sell Online?
That's almost an impossible question to answer, actually. Answering it properly would in fact require you to list basically every single product known to mankind, and that would probably take more time than we're going to spend today. So instead, let's talk about a few of the things that you most certainly cannot sell via an online retail site, which include:
Prescription or illegal drugs
Perishable food stuffs
Most firearms or explosives
Items recalled for safety reasons (e.g. drop side cribs)
As for what you can sell online, just to highlight a few things to give you an idea of how wide open this frontier really is, let's just point out a few things that have indeed been sold via websites in the past:
A private jet, luxury car, or boat
A ten thousand dollar baseball card
A copy of the first ever Spider-Man comic book
In fact, the question really shouldn't even be "What can you sell online?" but rather should be "Which site is right for my online selling needs?" Though the basic process involved in online selling tends to be the same, namely the creation of an account, the uploading of some images, the writing of a product description, and then the waiting for someone to buy it, the online sales portal you choose will have a direct impact on how successful you are at selling various types of goods. So let's shift focus, now that we've established that online selling is easy and available to one and all.
How To Pick the Right Site for Online Selling
Before you decide which online retail platform you'll use for selling your stuff, first keep in mind that you can always list your items for sale on multiple outlets at the same time. Doing so might even be shrewd, at least in your early days as an online retail enthusiast, as you will learn which types of goods sell best via which services, and where you can command the best pricing. Just be ready to delete a listing off one (or all) site(s) once your stock is depleted, as canceling sales is not good for your seller rating, e.g. not good for business.
Now then, the best online selling site for you? Well, what do you have there? If you're hoping to sell what we can blandly call "mainstream" items, like books, DVDs, electronics board games, household goods, tools (in good condition) and the like, then you might want to give Amazon the first shot. As hordes of online shoppers flock to Amazon in an attempt to avoid going to the hardware or home goods store, things that one might find there often sell well on Amazon.
If you have rare, vintage, or specialty that will appeal to a more limited audience of discerning buyers, then eBay is probably the right first stop for you. That's because people on eBay are often looking for specific items, rather than shopping by category. In other words, while someone might go to Amazon in search of a decently well-made, very low priced stereo system they can safely use by their pool, brand and make not really that important, people might go to eBay looking for that exact make and model of record player their parents used to have, price not much of a concern because they just have to have that specific thing.
(eBay also has that nifty facet of being an auction site. That means you can list your item at a low price that initially attracts interest and then kick back and watch as frenzied would-be buyers bid and outbid one another in a pitched battle to win that thing you posted for sale a few days back. On the other hand, if you place an item for auction and receive only one bidder, chances are good that you'll end up selling your goods for much less than you wanted. There's always the Buy It Now price point for hedging your bets, of course.)
And finally (for our purposes, anyway -- in fact there are myriad other online sellers out there) let's talk about Etsy. Etsy has carved out a cozy little niche as the place to go when you want to buy or sell artistic stuff. That can mean actual, original artwork commissioned from an artist who sells via the site or it can mean crafts, clothes, and much more. There is a veritable seal of authenticity that comes with an Etsy product, so keep that in mind if what you're selling is more of a mass market item than a handcrafted nicknack. If you knit, paint, weld, or cross stitch, Etsy is the place to go to sell your creations. Likewise if you seek out vintage clothes, prints, or jewelry, go ahead and sell via this trusted site. Just know that selling on Etsy tends to require more patience than selling via Amazon or eBay, because it can be hard to stand out of the pack when you're selling something very specific.
Are There Drawbacks to Selling Online?
Sure, of course. And we'll talk about them, but for the record, they are more than offset by the convenience and security that comes with entrusting most of the sales process to thoughtfully conceived, thoroughly well run online selling sites.
That said, when you sell online, you do run into a few factors that traditional retail models don't contend with. First, you have to ship things. If the item you sold gets damaged or lost during the shipping process (or if a crooked buyer claims as much), then chances are that you will end up being obliged to refund a purchase and will be left without much recourse. Second, there are those fees that the online retailers charge you. Yes, you will make sales you would never have gotten the chance to complete via these online selling services, but they will take some of your money in the process. Also, while some sites and seller account types let you specifically set your shipping charges, others don't, so you might end up losing some of your overall profit just to send the sold goods along on their merry way.
And then there's one more thing to consider: while selling online means infinitely more exposure to a potentially global marketplace, it also means more competition than you would ever have faced if you were selling your goods at a shop or market. Be ready to price your items at very low rates if you want to sell them at all, and just keep in mind that for most people online selling is not a way to get rich quick, but rather a good way to make some cash on the side, often by selling stuff that was just sitting there, sometimes literally collecting dust. (Wipe that dust off before you ship the order out, by the way.)