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Why You Should Stop Hankering After Your Own Web Store

By Andy Geldman

Why You Should Stop Hankering After Your Own Web Store

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Trevor Ginn

I think that web stores don’t make sense for a lot of online retailers. However for retailers who are looking to grow beyond marketplaces sellers they are essential. eBay and Amazon are an enormous part of the ecommerce landscape, but they are only part of it. If a seller can develop a good website experience they can access sellers who are searching for products on platforms such as Google.

Being a marketplaces only seller also exposes the seller to the risk that they may be ejected from the marketplace and lose a significant proportion of their business. This is unlikely but possible. We have for example recently had our Amazon.it account suspended.

Brian Arkton

Replying to Trevor Ginn

To add on, there’s a massive fundamental aspect one must look at. When selling on the marketplaces of eBay and Amazon, it will be run along the lines of eBay’s and Amazon’s interests. Sometimes policy changes will not align with your own interests and you’ll be forced accomodate or lose your ability to sell.

If you’re a seller on Amazon, it is most wise to use the success in that marketplace to expand your business into other marketplaces and perhaps even major retailers. Tapping into a major retailers marketplace will not only provide you with a more specialized relationship with the marketplace owner but they’ll show interest in the sale of your merchandise since it has a bigger influence on them(unlike Amazon or eBay where it’s not always easy to speak with somebody with sway in the company to help make things easier for you and there is always a horde of sellers ready to take your place).

Even if you don’t think your own site can fit you while selling on Amazon, if you plan to expand, having a site at least with a core setup(say to serve as a database for product information and images) will come in handy because it’s highly likely you’ll evolve and expand to a point where it becomes more profitable to handle matters in-house than to rely on marketplaces.

Patricia Beattie

I am so glad I read your article Andy. There is much pressure to have a web store with little thought of how to manage one – assuming you can get people to buy in the first place. I am a sole trader and haven’t the time to devote to two ‘shops’ or to co-ordinate stock between one and the other. I am now going to use my time to try and increase traffic to my eBay shop through email, and concentrate on doing one thing well instead of two things badly. I have bought a couple of Domains for possible future use, but I will wait until I have a unique selling point before I think about opening an independent shop.

Neil Waterhouse

Great article Andy.

We have a matching website for every eBay store and sell 8% more on the websites than eBay however… we buy a lot of traffic from Google, Bing and comparison shopping engines.

We do also spend a lot of time optimizing the sites and listings for SEO (search engine optimization) however over 90% of the converting traffic on the website comes from paid advertising.

I think many sellers feel eBay and Amazon fees are expensive and think having a website is a much cheaper method of getting sales however…. from our experience buying traffic is the only way to get a lot of traffic to a website.

Jack Phillips

Replying to Neil Waterhouse

Excellent points Neil. I look as the costs of the various marketplaces as customer acquisition expense. You are going to pay to acquire customers on the websites also. In fact, there fees provide a good estimate of what to budget when creating your own marketing plan.

Jack Phillips

I think there could be a lot of reasons for having an independent web store. However, I am going to stick with the most compelling reason, as well as the simplest to illustrate. The fact is, most people DO NOT shop on marketplaces. I did a quick search for 2012 numbers and a little quick math found the following:

2012 B to C revenue on the internet: ~ 1 TRILLION dollars worldwide
2012 Amazon Revenue: $61 Billion (~6.1%)
2012 eBay Marketplaces: $6.07 Billion (~0.61%)
2012 Rakuten (Play.com and Buy.com and more): $4.7 Billion (.047%)
2012 Alibaba: $157 Billion (15.7%)

This shows, even using rough numbers, that these major marketplaces are less than 25% (22.9%) of the total B to C revenue on the internet in 2012. Additionally, this number is probably very high since Amazon and Alibaba likely include lots of none B to C revenue (wholesale and cloud revenue) that I didn’t attempt to split out.

Those 75% are shopping other places, most likely specialty stores. I know personally that I shop on Amazon a lot, eBay some, but I buy a lot of other things from specialized retailers on the web for the depth of product they have. Most people are operating in the same way, as the numbers indicate.

Building and maintaining your website is not easy. As Neil pointed out, it is costly. However, taking the time to do it is a long term payoff. This is where the customers are.


I have my own webstore (3 in fact) but I still sell on ebay – I use ebay to get customers to come back and buy more from my webstores – I have a lot of repeat customers this way – who often come back and buy in bulk from my webstore. If a few years ago I sold mainly on ebay – now it is about 60% ebay and 40% my own stores – and the amount I sell on both has increased in total.

Bernard McNamee

Great article and interesting discussion sparked….

Seamus Breslin

Excellent article Andy.

Mark Hetherington

Absolute rubbish. There are millions of buyers who do not trust ebay, and less so but increasingly so, amazon because of the high number of scammers on those sites. It is difficult to find anybody from those who buy regularly on ebay who has purchased something and not been ripped off, although now ebay and Paypal have cleaned up their act a little it is sellers rather than buyers who are ripped off the most, particularly from false claims.

You stated yourself, “I hadn’t created a compelling reason for them to buy from me instead of someone else.” – so there’s your answer. Just because you didn’t doesn’t mean that nobody else can. There are millions – yes, millions – of independent websites out there that are flourishing. I know of one set up just six months ago that is now making it’s owner a regular four-figure monthly profit, and it’s nothing special, nothing particularly unusual, it has just been done the right way. notably he has not spent one penny on marketing it, but has spent a lot of time and effort learning how to market it.

I am in the process of doing exactly the same thing and although I am targeting a very competitive niche I am already getting thousands of visits and sales are starting to come in. As I continue to build it this will improve over time. It’s not easy, it takes time but it can be done and is being done by millions around the world. I

Ask yourself one simple question, would the internet really exist if it only existed of ebay, amazon and a handful of major players?

Mark Hetherington

I don’t disagree with any of that but the general theme of the thread, that you are wasting your time if you want to take on ebay/amazon et al is rubbish. There are ways of building and promoting your website and climbing up the rankings, as well as building trust. I know because I have done it. I just think it is wrong for people to get the impression that it isn’t possible.

Frankly there isn’t much you can sell on ebay and amazon that you could not sell on your own site, and in fact you are not subject to the same restrictions as the big boys place on you. For example, there is a guy lives a few miles for me who has made millions selling electronic cigarettes which are banned on ebay.

Another positive aspect for sellers of setting up your own website is that you are not subject to the restrictions placed on you by the marketplaces, e.g how many photos you can upload, what size they have to be, terms and conditions of sale and so on.

The bad thing about the marketplaces is they are good for buyers but for sellers they are shocking at times. It’s fairly common knowledge that if you file a claim on ebay you will get your money back. This applies to scammers too. It is impossible to sell low value items and make a worthwhile profit unless you are selling large numbers because on such items those extra fees make a lot of difference.

But the other, unseen issue is the ludicrous amount of “Item not received” (INR) claims you get. It is far too easy for scammers to claim, often under the threat of leaving negative feedback. I have sold on ebay, amazon and my websites and simply do not get those claims from website sales. The number of claims you get on ebay is shocking, it was 4% of sales at one point earlier this year. Furthermore many sellers will tell you that as a fee-paying customer both sites are absolutely appalling at “looking after their customers”. These are all good reasons why sellers should consider operating their own websites and done correctly you can use ebay and amazon to drive customers to your sites.

e-commerce via your own website is alive and kicking I assure you. Affiliate marketing is another angle too. I am a member of a site which even shows you how to set up and market your own site though I’m not going to add an affiliate link obviously. As for Google’s latest plan I think it’s just another attempt to get their share of the pie that gives ebay and amazon a lot of their traffic. Like those two, all Google really want is your money.

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