Selling online is probably the quickest way to get a business going. The first step to starting online sales is choosing your online channel. You generally have three options when you start selling online. Here is an in-depth look at each option.
1. Use an online marketplace
A marketplace is a website or app that brings together lots of sellers and buyers. Good examples include Skygarden, Jumia and Jiji. Rather than selling their own products, these platforms get merchants on board to sell and then look for customers for these merchants.
Using an online marketplace has the following advantages:
- The platform takes care of marketing to end-consumers. These platforms have considerably more resources to use on advertising, discounts and promotions to get more customers on board.
- These websites already have considerable traction. Jumia and Jiji were ranked among the top 50 sites in Kenya in April 2022.
- Online platforms have strong reputations hence customers trust your products more if they find them on the platform.
The problem with using online marketplaces includes:
- You may have to pay a commission
- You are limited in terms of how you can develop your brand
- You have to adhere to the marketplace terms and conditions
2. Sell on social media
Selling on social media is great because:
- It is inexpensive and easy to use. To get started, all you have to do is create a social media account and start posting pictures. Advertising cost on social media is also pretty low. On Facebook, for instance, the cost per click at the end of 2020 averaged at USD 0.97. Some of our campaigns have had CPCs as low as Kes 4.
- Leverage network. It is easier to start when the people you are selling to know you. Your first followers and customers are most likely people you know.
- Consumer data. Social media makes it easy to measure how your consumers behave from which products they like most to what gets the most clicks.
Selling on social media has the following drawbacks:
- You need to spend money to make money. The biggest social media platforms are restricting the visibility of your business page even to your followers. Social@ Ogilvy estimated that in 2014, only 6% of page followers saw the page’s posts. It is even worse for bigger pages with more than 500,000 followers. They got only 2%.
- It’s a crowded field. Everyone (2.6 billion people on Facebook alone) has a social media account and is putting content out. It is tough to stand out. So much so that Facebook is even restricting the visibility of brands on its users’ timelines.
- You need to actively manage your social media presence. You also need to experiment continuously to find what types of content and Calls-To-Action work best.
3. Sell from your own website
The good thing with selling on your own website is:
- Your products are the only ones there. You don’t have to compete with customer eyeballs once they are on your site.
- You don’t have to pay a listing fee or commission on your sales. All you have to do is pay for the annual hosting for your website and you are good to go.
- It makes you credible. When most users go online to find out more about a product they Google it. Having a central source of information and an online address means you exist and actually do things.
However, when selling from your website:
- The cost of getting started is relatively high. You either need to pay a web developer or acquire a website template. You also need to pay for the domain name you will be using.
- Nobody knows you well enough at the start. Traffic will be next to nothing at the very beginning and you will have to invest in advertising yourself before you start to see any results.
- Maintaining a website could take a lot of time and money. You need to make sure your content is up to date. You will have to fix any bugs. If the website crashes, it is on you. You also have to take care of things like Search Engine Optimization.
Creating your website does not need to be expensive though, you can set up a free .wordpress.com domain and use any of the numerous free website templates to build your site. Shopify is also a great option for e-commerce businesses. They provide a lot of website templates that are easy to use and are specifically tailored for e-commerce. This includes integrated carts, payment option and even discount codes. You also get 24/7 support for your site. It is not completely free but it’s inexpensive.
All in all, the platform you choose will affect how much flexibility you have in when growing your online business. Choose carefully.