Let’s be real, smaller businesses can no longer rely on brick-and-mortar stores, as more customers take to their browsers over the street. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, and marketplaces like Etsy and eBay dominate the online commerce world—not to mention the thousands of other selling platforms worldwide.
That’s why as an online business owner, you need to “Dig your well before you’re thirsty”, as famous marketer Harvey Mackay wrote. The concept works well to illustrate a simple ecommerce strategy that’ll help you reach even more customers—multichannel selling.
Multichannel selling is the strategy of listing your products on more than one platform, to reach a larger audience. The more space you carve out for your products online, the more potential sales you’re gaining. Plus, the sooner you do it, the more potential revenue you get for the future.
In this blog post, we’ll be focusing on how to sell on online marketplaces, and we’ll look into:
- Why you should sell across multiple channels
- Some potential drawbacks
- Popular online marketplaces
- How to decide which marketplace is right for you
- How to integrate your Printful account with your online marketplace(s)
Why you should sell on multiple channels
Selling online gives you a chance to reach a global network of potential customers.
Sticking to one sales channel might be limiting how many people discover you, then go on to make a purchase. Luckily multichannel selling can help you solve this problem by:
- Increasing customer reach. You can have a beautifully designed website and offer top-notch quality products, but if nobody stumbles upon your store, you’ll have a hard time making more sales. However, if you sell your products on your website and also list them on several marketplaces, your brand and product reach can increase significantly.
- Offering a convenient shopping experience. People are creatures of habit. If they are used to shopping on Amazon, placing an order on eBay or Etsy might seem like too much work. By being where your customers are, you’re making their shopping experience easy and more pleasant.
- Helping you understand your audience better. Selling on multiple sales channels gives you a chance to gather more information about your customers and their shopping habits. You can later use this knowledge when crafting your marketing or sales campaigns, or when deciding which sales channel should be your next target.
- Multiplying sales during peak spending days. These peak days fall throughout the year; Black Friday, Boxing Day, back to school and more. Multichannel selling in this sense is like hitting a double-word score in Scrabble—add more channels to multiply your sales.
The drawbacks of multichannel selling
Selling on several different channels can help you generate more sales. But with new sales channels come a few extra responsibilities. Here are some you need to be aware of:
- Rules and restrictions. Each marketplace has its own rules you must comply with. Sometimes this means you can’t brand your store the way you’d like, or you might not be able to sell the products you want. For example, Etsy is very particular about sellers working with production partners.
- Inventory. Managing inventory can get difficult when selling on multiple channels. You have to make sure you have enough products for each, and that you can deliver every order on time. Our print-on-demand customers don’t have this issue.
- Fees. Many marketplaces will require you to pay fees. These can range from monthly subscriptions to a percentage of each sale.
- Setting up and keeping track. Every marketplace is slightly different. So setting up on each, understanding how it works, and maintaining it can take quite a bit of your time.
- Taxes. Managing your taxes can get complicated as you’ll have to pull and juggle data from each sales channel.
But of course, these obstacles can be overcome, and they’re well worth the time and effort with the right strategy.
Popular marketplaces to sell on
There are nearly unlimited potential combinations of channels to utilize for your business. A common approach would be a main store with Shopify, a secondary set up on an online marketplace like Etsy, and a buy button on your Facebook page.
To narrow it down, let’s take a look at some of the most popular marketplaces you should consider getting set up on.
Amazon is an online marketplace giant that has over 310 million active customers and receives over 197 million unique visitors every month. In 2018, this marketplace generated $232 billion in net sales, which was $55 billion more than the year before. Besides, Amazon holds 49.1% of all online retail spend in the US, and 5% of all retail sales.
If you want to be successful on Amazon, first and foremost, you need to carefully follow their seller guidelines. Here are some key points you should be aware of:
- Orders must meet shipping deadline times
- Customer questions must be answered within 24 hours
- Tracking info must be passed along to your customer
- There has to be at least one product photo with a white background
Amazon has two seller plans: Individual and Professional. The Individual plan has no monthly fees and is ideal for smaller merchants who plan on selling less than 40 items a month. The Professional plan costs $39.99 a month and it’s meant for experienced, high-volume sellers.
This marketplace has per-item fees, which means that you’ll be charged a certain fee for each item sold. The exact amount depends on the type of product sold and whether you have an Individual or Professional plan.
Amazon has earned its reputation as the place to get the best prices online, so competing in this marketplace can get difficult. Make sure you check out our guide to selling on Amazon to pick up a few useful tips for a successful launch of your store.
The amount of branding allowed on your Amazon store is somewhat limited. You won’t be able to display your logo or have a header image on your store’s page.
- Amazon’s page for sellers
- Amazon seller FAQ
- From $0 to Your First $1000 a Month: The Step-by-Step Guide to Selling on Amazon
Etsy specializes in handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies. It’s one of the go-to places for online shoppers who are looking for unique products that aren’t available in big-name retail stores.
Etsy is a huge marketplace, with more than 1.93 million sellers and 34 million buyers. Etsy is also growing fast. In fact, active buyers grew 18.3% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019.
Setting up a store on Etsy is free and there are no monthly subscriptions fees. However, you’ll be charged for listing an item and selling it.
While there is a lot of competition on Etsy, you might be able to price your products higher on this platform because people expect to pay more for handmade items or personalized items. If you want to offer product personalization and/or a gift option to your customers, our integration fully supports that.
And here are a few things you should do to get your first sale on Etsy:
- Upload high-quality product .jpg images (both mockups and lifestyle)
- Write creative and accurate product descriptions
- Make your products searchable
eBay is another marketplace giant. It was launched as an auction-type sales marketplace, but over time, more and more sellers started opening stores to offer products with fixed prices. Today it has around 25 million sellers with over 1.1 billion live listings. eBay is growing year on year, and according to their regularly updated quarterly stats, there were 182 million active buyers over the second quarter of 2019. Impressive.
If you set up as a business seller with eBay you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee. This marketplace also has two types of selling fees you should be aware of:
- An insertion fee when you create a listing. This depends on your subscription level, the type of product, and whether it’s listed at a fixed price or auction.
- A final value fee when your item is sold. This fee is calculated as a percentage of the total amount your customers pays, including shipping and handling.
eBay has more store branding options than Amazon, so you can modify your store’s aesthetic (eg. adding a header photo) if you want to.
Wish is a massive marketplace with more than 90 million monthly active users (with over half living in Europe). What’s more, 80% of Wish customers return to buy again, showing that Wish is truly an ecommerce contender moving forward into the 2020s.
Back in 2010, Wish was created as a wish list creating app. However, three years later, it became an ecommerce marketplace that lets small business owners and manufacturers sell their goods directly to customers on the Wish app.
Wish doesn’t have a registration, monthly, listing, or any other fees, but it has a commission fee called Revenue Share. You can find out the percentage you’ll be charged by signing up, then visiting Account>Settings.
The competition can get tight on Wish, as the majority of products offered on this marketplace are from Chinese manufacturers, so they have incredibly low prices. But there are ways you can make this work to your advantage. For example, you can plan a flash sale every now and then to drive up sales volume and increase your chances of being seen.
Just like on any other marketplace, aesthetically pleasing products tend to sell better on Wish. In fact, Wish suggests uploading more than 5 photos per product to capture the attention of the shoppers.
Short but detailed product descriptions are also important, so make sure you mention product measurements, material, care instructions or any other information that would come in handy when making a purchasing decision.
Lastly, since the Wish audience is global, consider making your products available in as many countries as possible.
Storenvy is a unique ecommerce platform that offers both an online store builder and social marketplace. It positions itself as a place where indie brands can find their home and encounter buyers who are interested in one-of-a-kind products.
If selling on Storenvy sounds intriguing, you’ll first need to decide whether you want to:
- Sell on their marketplace. There are no monthly subscription or product listing fees, but you’ll be charged 10% for every sale made on the marketplace.
- Open your own store. Opening your store on Storenvy is completely free, and you get to keep 100% of your sales, minus transaction fees. However, you might be charged 10% commission fee which is called a Marketplace Assisted Sale and is applied when the customer purchases from your custom store but initially found you through the marketplace.
Remember that although the big marketplaces get a lot of traffic and recognition, there is also a lot more competition. Do your research to find marketplaces that are more tailored to your niche; sometimes smaller marketplaces are more effective than the big players.
Which marketplace is right for you?
First and foremost, you need to strategize where you want to sell. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, so choose wisely. Do your research and compile a list of marketplaces with these points in mind:
- Product. Take into consideration the types of products that are sold on each marketplace and whether you fit in.
- Target audience. You want to be where your ideal customers are, so go to the marketplaces where you’re more likely to find them.
- Regulations and fees. Pick the marketplaces with fees you can afford and with regulations you can comply with.
- Competition. There is a lot of competition on online marketplaces, so you want to go where your products can stand out and where your prices can compete.
How to integrate your Printful account with an online marketplace
Once you’ve found a marketplace that suits your needs, make sure to check whether it’s on the list of Printful ecommerce integrations. We have tutorials for each and every integration we offer, including:
- Shopify—an easy to use platform, perfect for any business.
- Etsy—a trusted, well-known marketplace that’s ideal for creatives looking to reach a large audience.
- WooCommerce—a free plugin for WordPress blogs, suited for developers and large retailers.
- Squarespace—a design-oriented platform known for simplistic, minimal, and fully responsive website themes.
- Ecwid—supports sales on multiple platforms including Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Shopping.
- BigCommerce—perfect for multi-channel selling.
- Prestashop—a free, open-source ecommerce platform.
- Weebly—an ideal platform for small to midsize businesses with little to no technical experience.
- Amazon—a great choice if you already have an online store and want to sell on another channel.
- eBay—great if you’re looking for an additional selling channel.
- Big Cartel—an easy to use platform that focuses on artists.
- Magento—an open-source platform with powerful features.
- Wish—a successful mobile marketplace that makes shopping fun.
- Storenvy—a ready-made marketplace with a focus on social sharing.
- Gumroad—add a “buy” button to any webpage.
- Inktale—allows artists to sell their designs on print products as easily as possible.
Alternate ways to sell Printful products on online marketplaces
If you’d like to sell on a marketplace that doesn’t integrate with Printful or ShipStation, don’t worry. You can still use Printful by manually submitting the orders you receive. When a customer purchases something from you, you can manually input that order with Printful, and then we’ll print and ship it to your customer.
Keep in mind that this can be time-consuming if you have a lot of orders coming in. Take a look at this video for more info on placing manual orders.
Pro tip: If you’re a Shopify Plus user, take advantage of the platform’s multichannel capabilities. With a Shopify Plus account, you can push the products on your Shopify store directly to Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces. It’ll show up on the backend of your Shopify account and on your Printful account.
Go beyond online marketplaces
Multichannel selling is the future of ecommerce. Join several marketplaces or start selling on your social media accounts by adding buy buttons to your profiles and posts. But don’t forget the opportunities brick-and-mortar can bring, so think of ways to take your brand offline, like opening up a pop-up shop or attending a craft fair.
Without a doubt, expanding your selling channels may be a challenge, but it’s definitely worth a try. So pick your sales channels wisely and be sure you can handle the increase in sales.
Do you have any multichannel selling tips? Share in the comments!
This article was originally published in April 2016; it has since been updated.