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Does an Online Store Make Sense for Your Business?

Pros and cons weighed, it’s time for the tough question: Does it make sense for you to abandon eBay and build your own online store? As with all other questions of this nature, it depends.

When you move from eBay to another online marketplace, such as Amazon, one of the key considerations is what type of products you sell. It’s a fact: Some items sell better on eBay, some sell better on Amazon.

But that’s less an issue when you’re creating a stand-alone web presence. You can sell virtually anything from your own website; it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling $2 cables or $2,000 industrial supplies: If you can draw customers to your site, you can sell it. No one type of merchandise is any better or any worse in this regard.

To my mind, then, the key consideration isn’t the products you sell but rather your own experience and skill set. eBay makes selling easy; selling on your own website is a lot harder. This is what a lot of eBay complainers fail to consider. Yes, you pay a lot of fees to eBay, and sometimes rankle under eBay’s many rules and regulations. But this is all in service to what is truly an easy selling environment. You don’t have to do a lot more than put together an item listing in order to sell on eBay; practically anyone can do it, to some degree of success.

In fact, eBay makes selling so easy that it’s a relatively level playing field—which constrains some truly skilled sellers. But it also makes it easy for the little guys to compete with the big guys, even if they’re not particularly skilled or experienced. Just follow the rules, and you’ll do okay.

The same cannot be said for selling on your own website. If you’re not an experienced seller or trained businessperson, you’ll quickly find yourself over your head with your own website. There’s a lot involved; it’s running a real business, complete with all the issues and headaches that entails. If you’re not prepared for that, you can fail spectacularly.

To run a successful online store, you need to treat it like a real business—because it is a real business. That means creating a business plan, arranging proper financing, researching site design and product sales, closely managing the day-to-day operations, devising compelling marketing campaigns and promotional activities, and providing exemplary customer service. You don’t have to worry about many or any of these things when you’re selling on eBay, but it’s all there every day when you’re running your own site.

So my advice is simple: If you have formal business training or previous business experience, by all means consider creating your own e-commerce website. But if your business experience consists only of selling via eBay auctions, think twice before you go this route. It’s a big jump from eBay to your own website, and it may be better to take an intermediate step (such as moving to the Amazon marketplace) before you put all your chips on your own online business. It’s a big risk and a big effort; make sure you know what you’re getting into before you’re in too deep.

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