Expert Tips for eBay Sellers Starting Their Own Webstore

Expert Voices May 2014

Back in March I wrote a post about why many marketplace sellers shouldn’t open their own webstore.

There were some strong reactions to it, both in the blog comments and on Facebook. It was intended to get people thinking, so it was great to see the discussion.

But I’m not against independent ecommerce – not by any means – and do want to help sellers expand with a successful store of their own when it makes sense for their business.

With that in mind, I spoke to a dozen sellers, suppliers and experts around the world. I asked them what marketplace sellers should look out for when starting their own online shop. Here’s what they said.

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It’s Really Not That Hard

John Lawson

I deal with marketplace sellers, and I deal with ecommerce sellers who have never been on marketplaces. It’s like speaking another language. I try to get people with webstores on marketplaces, and they think that is the hardest thing in the world. Marketplace sellers think marketplaces are easy, and webstores are hard! It’s really not that hard, we’re just going to have to relearn a lot of things that we think we already know about how to sell on the web.
John Lawson, CEO, 3rd Power Outlet and ColderICE Media

When we get really comfortable with one platform or approach, it can make all the alternatives look difficult. But when we proclaim something to be too hard, there might be something else going on. Change is uncomfortable, and the prospect of failure can be terrifying. Sometimes we will jump through a lot of mental hoops to avoid both, including putting a great opportunity in the “too hard” bucket.

Launching is Just The First Step

Jack Phillips

Launching your site is only the first step. Your website is never really complete but is constantly a work in progress. Just keeping your products up to date can take a significant amount of time. Then there is SEO to think about, inventory synchronization, etc. The pay-off is big if you can find the time. If you are time crunched already, you may be better off without one.
Jack Phillips, President, Jax Music Supply

You can make sales on the marketplaces just by buying stock and creating listings. But with an independent webstore, all those useful services provided by the marketplaces – particularly marketing and advertising – have to be brought in-house.

Neil Waterhouse

Since opening our independent websites our sales have more than doubled and now 58% of our revenue comes from our websites. But just opening an independent store costs time and money and your new store will be a needle in a haystack. Rarely will a customer searching for an item which you sell find your new store, unless you have implemented some sort of traffic generation strategy driving traffic to your store.
Neil Waterhouse, Author of Million Dollar eBay Business From Home

Store owners also need to think about positioning – how are they going to set themselves apart from other retailers? Both eBay and Amazon have systems to spread out sales and help new sellers get started. Outside the marketplaces it doesn’t work that way. It’s up to you to give buyers a compelling reason to buy from you and not your competitor.

Prabhat Shah

A lot of small businesses just build a store and expect it to generate sales, but developing a webstore needs to be thought through. There is tough competition out there so you need to add value to the products you are selling. There will always be someone who will sell for a lower price than you. Plan how you are going to differentiate your offering from others.
Prabhat Shah, Founder, DayToDayeBay

It Puts You In Control

Neal Kaiser

Merchants who are just resellers are OK with competing on price and will use Amazon or eBay. But they will always be the middle of the middle-men. They are not producing, distributing, or completing the transaction. They are just cogs in the big marketplace machine, and often many of them find themselves competing with the very platform they are selling on. Amazon has done that for sure.
Neal Kaiser, CEO, Upshot Commerce

Sellers might not feel like “cogs in the big marketplace machine”, but I think that’s pretty close to reality. The seller provides sourcing, listing and fulfillment services while the marketplace handles marketing, website technology and payments. Most importantly, they package it all into a consistent whole. Sellers might be happy and profitable as “cogs”, but should recognise there’s a lot they can’t control when they sell on marketplaces.

Dan Wilson

You never know when eBay might kick you off, or Amazon make it tough to compete. It’s hard to establish a webstore and that’s why it’s vital to get going now. Small efforts each month will pay off and hopefully over time it will be a serious part of your business. It doesn’t happen overnight and you will need to invest in marketing. If anything, you might better appreciate why the big marketplaces charge fees. They spend millions on marketing.
Dan Wilson, Editor,

eBay and Amazon understand the value of playing fair with the (mostly) small businesses who sell through them. But they write their own selling rulebooks – and act as referees – so can limit or suspend sellers as they see fit.

Matthew Ogborne

Imagine that this afternoon you get banned from the marketplaces, what do you have to fall back on? If it’s nothing, then that’s a serious concern for your business.
Matthew Ogborne, Co-founder,

Choose a System Carefully

Trevor Ginn

A stand alone website is a mark of quality of a business. Whereas any business can sell on eBay and Amazon, only a few will make a success out of their website. And suppliers frequently specify that they will not sell to marketplace-only sellers. But take great care in selecting your website platform. Many all-in-one ecommerce platforms have their own website offering, but frequently these have limited functionality.
Trevor Ginn, Managing Director, Hello Baby

Selling through multiple marketplaces is a challenge, but one that’s very well served by multichannel management tools. Experienced marketplace sellers often have a management solution, but they don’t need to be limited to the built-in websites. Many tools can synchronize data with webstore platforms, and some webstores can even synchronize data with the marketplaces directly – without a management solution in between.

Mark Hayes

Marketplace sellers should think of their ecommerce store as their home base. Your online store should be the heart of your business because it offers you the most control over your brand. Using Shopify as an example, merchants use us as a central database of orders, inventory, customers and finances. From this “central command centre” they manage sales through channels like Facebook, eBay, Amazon, even their physical retail store and events like trade shows and farmers markets.
Mark Hayes, Head of Communications, Shopify

Yet another option is adding a dedicated marketplace connector to an open source shopping cart such as Magento or Zen Cart.

Anthony Musselwhite

Focus on systems that centralize inventory and optimize back office operations before you open a webstore. You’ll quickly run out of hours in the day trying to manage product listings, inventory and order processing manually across multiple marketplaces and a webstore.
Anthony Musselwhite, Founder, AuctionBlox Inc.

There’s No Limits

Neal Kaiser

Marketplaces are very limiting, strict and standardized in how a merchant can engage with their customers. The independent web-store on the other hand has no limits. If they want to provide relevant content that changes on a daily basis – no problem. They can use segmentation and offer a personalized shopping experience. They can display product videos or other relevant content, like shots from social media of customers using their products. In the long run this kind of engagement is more valuable than the convenience of the platform.
Neal Kaiser, CEO, Upshot Commerce

Restrictions are fine, until you come up against them. For some marketplace sellers that happens straight away, for others it never happens. Not being able to create the kind of business you want can make the choice to break away from marketplace selling an easy one.

Anthony Musselwhite

Consider using a webstore when your product would benefit from a specialized selling format. A webstore can improve the buyer experience for subscription products, customized products and personalized products. However, be sure to budget for set-up or customization costs to accommodate the specialized checkout process.
Anthony Musselwhite, Founder, AuctionBlox Inc.

Think About Branding

Shabbir Nooruddin

The biggest advantage you are lending yourself when you start your own webstore is branding. Even though customers trust Amazon and eBay, there is only so much information and value that they can provide for every single product they sell. This is where you come in – your star products are only by-the-way products for Amazon and eBay. If you can create an experience or an information hub around your product, eventually, people will start to buy from your webstore more than from you on Amazon.
Shabbir Nooruddin, Author, The RIGHT Way To Do Ecommerce Marketing

Branding is limited on eBay, and impossible on Amazon. With your own store, branding can extend as far as your imagination and resources allow.

Brandon Dupsky

When selling on a marketplace you’re typically focused on the transaction value. When selling on a website you need to focus on the customer value. Focusing on customer value takes transaction value, brand awareness, brand loyalty and brand affinity. Having your own website allows you to build long-term brand value with long-term customers. Put your marketing hat on and use this to your fullest advantage!
Brandon Dupsky, CEO, eCommerce Money for Nothing

Get Buyers to Your Store

Dan Wilson

The best place to market your webstore is in your eBay parcels. It’s the one place that eBay doesn’t have prying eyes. Include a flyer and discount offer for your webstore in everything you send out and you should start to make a few sales and raise the profile of your webstore.
Dan Wilson, Editor,

Selling independently brings freedom but also complexity. Even the simple activity of getting visitors to your site needs learning, experimentation and investment.

Neil Waterhouse

Collect email addresses from every eBay sale and email offers weekly. Put a discount card for your website in every parcel you ship from your eBay sales. Buy traffic from Google, but study a good PPC book first. Buy traffic from comparison shopping engines. Buy traffic from Facebook advertising. Get free traffic from social media sites, but social media can suck away all of your spare time with very limited reward.
Neil Waterhouse, Author of Million Dollar eBay Business From Home

Don’t Follow The Crowd

Antony Chesworth

Every time I go to a site that asks if I have a coupon code I do the same as 90% of other users and Google for the code. A lot of the time I end up buying the product elsewhere. It’s the same as walking into a high street shop to buy a brand new 50 inch flat screen TV, and the cashier saying “Do you have a coupon to get this half price?” What are you going to do? Just say no, or frantically start searching on your phone? Do yourself a favour and avoid coupon codes on your website.
Antony Chesworth, CEO & Founder, ekmPowershop

Buyers are people, and people are complicated. I’ve written before about influencing buyers, but it’s not as straightforward as one incentive having one effect on everyone. Discounts such as coupon codes can be effective to encourage repeat purchases, but if you prompt all buyers for one you’re giving them a good reason to leave your site – which is the last thing you want them to do.

In Closing

For the right business, running your own webstore can be immensely liberating. With the right platform there’s virtually no limit to the opportunities for branding and marketing. The customer relationship that’s so hard to peel away from eBay and Amazon, is all yours from the first sale. Keep giving customers what they want, and they’ll keep buying from you.

But it’s not easy. It’s not just that there’s more to do, it’s that some of the activities that there’s more to do of are demanding in ways that seldom challenge marketplace sellers. Few eBay sellers do their own advertising. Not many do email marketing, even though it’s built into the platform. Some think about branding, but within the confines of eBay stores and listing templates – not a whole website and customer experience.

But the fact that it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You should do it when and if it’s right for your business, with a full appreciation of what it’s going to take.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

3 comments on “Expert Tips for eBay Sellers Starting Their Own Webstore

  1. Hi,
    I am selling the shoes and clothing through eBay since 2011.
    The inventory in my eBay account keep on missing.
    I do not have my own website.
    Do you think I need my own website not to miss my inventory and improve more sale?
    Well, how can you help me to set up my own website for eBay?
    Also, what is the total cost including domain name registration fee?
    Please email me.
    Thank you so much for your time.

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