So you’ve got a great product you’re sure the world would flock to buy? It sounds like you are probably ready to start selling online. You may be baffled by the array of choices facing you before you even start, or perhaps you had no idea they even existed. Unless you have already done extensive research and evaluated the many options, read on, this article is for you!

There are many ways to sell online

The countless e-commerce options available fall broadly in to three models, each with their pros and cons and each suitable for a particular set of circumstances. What do I recommend to my clients? Jump to the end to find out! 


1. Online Marketplaces & Social Media

ecommerce marketplace logos

  • How does it work
    You join the platform and are able to list your products for sale on their website. Visitors to that website are able to purchase your products using the platform’s own payment system. You can have a URL that will lead directly to your products, but it will not be on your own domain.
  • Examples
    Facebook, eBay, Amazon and Etsy

Curated Stores

These are a sub-set of marketplaces and share some of the same characteristics, though the rigorous selection process means they are not an option for most sellers. Usually, as with other marketplaces, they will not hold your stock and you will be directly responsible for fulfilling orders. A fascinating and growing sector to keep an eye on.


2. Turnkey Websites

E-commerce turnkey websites

  • How does it work
    You join the platform and are able to use it to create your own website with your own domain. Your website will be hosted on the platform’s servers and you will only be able to access your assets (images, product data, etc.) using the admin interface that they provide.
  • Examples
    Shopify (specifically for e-commerce),  BigCommerce (specifically for e-commerce), Squarespace / Wix / Etc. (general website tools with limited e-commerce functionality)
  • More info
    https://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/ecommerce-website-builders/comparisons/
  • I use
    Shopify

3. Self-Hosted Websites

ecommerce self hosted websites

  • How does it work
    You arrange your own domain and hosting with a web hosting company and install, configure and maintain the e-commerce platform software, usually with the assistance of a web designer or developer. You have direct access to all of your assets (images, database, etc.).
  • Examples
    Woocommerce, Magento, Prestashop and OpenCart
  • More info
    https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/open-source-ecommerce-platforms
  • I use
    Woocommerce

What do I recommend to my clients?

To answer this question, first I would have to get a feel for their products, their budget and their skills. The answer will be either an online marketplace, Shopify, Woocommerce, or perhaps a combination of approaches. It often makes sense to sell through more than one channel and Shopify, for example, makes it very easy to combine selling via your own store with other channels such as Facebook and other online marketplaces.

I would ask the following:

  • What are / will you be selling and to whom?
  • Have you any special design and / or functionality requirements?
  • What’s your setup budget?
  • How tech literate are you?
  • How much time and money can you spend on an ongoing basis?
SituationSolution
Very low budget, low tech skillsOnline marketplace
Dip your toe in the water, test your market and take it to the next level when you’re in profit.
Very low budget, decent tech skills, plenty of timeShopify or your choice of turnkey website without my help, possibly also online marketplace depending on your products and ability to generate traffic to your own site.
Low budget with low tech skills and / or little timeShopify with my help to set up, possibly also online marketplace.
Moderate budget and requiring high quality design and / or particular functionalityShopify with full set up and a custom theme developed by me, possibly also online marketplace.
At this point you will be confident that your sales will soon cover the setup costs, you want things to be done properly and professionally and you expect every stage in the customer’s journey to be carefully managed.
Moderate budget and certain circumstances, such as an existing WordPress site or particular functionality (such as gift vouchers) that is not currently well catered for by ShopifyWoocommerce with full set up and a custom theme developed by me, possibly also online marketplace.
At this point you will be confident that your sales will soon cover the setup costs, you want things to be done properly and professionally and you expect every stage in the customer’s journey to be carefully managed.
High budget (€15k +), large and complex catalogue, complex requirements for customisation, security, etcThis may require a larger web development agency.

The primary reason I recommend Shopify over Woocommerce in most situations is this:

All security and technical functionality is taken care of by the platform

Only with bitter experience will the significance of this point become clear. The stress, expense and damage to sales that a malfunction or security breach can bring to a website owner should never be underestimated. To mitigate against this on a self hosted website requires expertise and some expense and is impossible to guarantee. Of course, problems can befall a platform like Shopify too, but when they do, you can be assured that they will have extensive backup systems in place and a large team of skilled professionals immediately on the case to resolve the problem. Additionally, Shopify is typically quicker to set up, easier to build custom themes for, and requires no ongoing maintenance, making both the initial and ongoing investment smaller than for a self-hosted website.

And finally

No article on e-commerce would be complete without mentioning the vital ground work that must be done before you can hope to make any sales online, and the enormous investment of time and usually money required to reach customers. Shopify provides an exceptional educational resource, full of well researched, well informed articles: https://www.shopify.co.uk/guides

Their blog is also well worth subscribing to, whether or not you choose to subscribe to their services: https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog

If you are ready to embark on the adventure that is e-commerce, or if you’re at the very beginning of your journey and just thinking about creating your brand, get in touch to find out how I can help you to make it all happen.