Why Amazon and Etsy Sellers Should Expand to Shopify
Marketplace platforms like Amazon and Etsy are a great way to get your e-commerce business up and running. But eventually, you’ll need to think about expanding.
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The best way to expand your business for long-term success is to start selling on Shopify as well. This doesn’t have to be your only sales channel – you can continue making sales on Amazon or Etsy as well. However, if you leave yourself wholly reliant on either of these platforms, your business could disappear overnight.
In this article, we’ll introduce the biggest pros and cons of selling on marketplaces like Amazon, and guide you through expanding to your own Shopify site.
The Pros and Cons of E-Commerce Marketplaces
Sites like Amazon and Etsy are popular with online sellers for a reason. They make it extremely easy to start an online store. You don’t need to worry about designing your site, and getting your products in front of people is a lot easier. But you give up a lot of control, which is worrying in the long term.
Let’s expand on some of the pros and cons.
The biggest advantage of a third-party marketplace is that it’s very easy to start selling. You just list your products on the platform, and right away you can start making sales.
This is awesome for people who are new to e-commerce and online business, you have to worry less about branding and marketing when you’re starting out.
On the marketing side, in particular, it’s a lot simpler when you sell on Amazon or Etsy. These sites already have a lot of shoppers ready to view (and buy) your products. Instead of a detailed plan for how to market your store and attract customers, oftentimes you can simply optimize your product listings for the marketplace search engine and traffic will come.
A pre-existing customer base is very attractive for new sellers, but also dangerous, as you can end up relying too heavily on a traffic channel you don’t own (more on that a little later).
Marketplaces are a great starting point for online stores but don’t come without their share of disadvantages.
While the low barrier of entry for selling on Amazon or a similar platform is great, it’s also great for thousands of other sellers. This means you’re going to have to contend with a lot of competition. This can make getting traction and separating yourself from the field extremely difficult, especially when your branding options are limited.
These platforms also have quite high fees. So while it’s a little easier to get your first customers, you’ll end up keeping less profit as a tradeoff.
You’re also presented with a big long-term issue. The problem is that you don’t truly own your customers. You can’t build a list, like an email list, or contact people directly to nurture long-term relationships and create loyal customers.
These sites own your customers, and as you sell on them, you’re essentially renting your traffic. This is okay when you’re just getting started, but at some point, you’ll need to begin building something you actually own.
Why Having Your Own Site is Essential
The problem of “renting” your customers is pretty threatening to the long-term success of your store.
As long as you’re reliant on Amazon’s or Etsy’s search engine for all of your sales, you’re in a situation where you could wake up in the morning with zero sales.
There’s always the chance that a change to the ranking algorithm could knock you out of the search rankings. Alternatively, new competition could come into the marketplace and take over your spot.
Worse yet, the platform might decide you’ve broken their rules, and suspend you entirely. If this happens, you go to zero customers, likely with no assets to start making sales through other channels.
On top of this, you’re always going to be looking over your shoulder for new competition when you sell exclusively on a marketplace. If it’s easy for you to start selling, it’s easy for the next person as well. The new competition will always come along. Without the tools to build a recognizable brand, or to develop long-term relationships with your customers, it’s tough to create separation between yourself and a new shop selling a similar product.
This is why you need to expand to your own site eventually. It doesn’t matter if you make this your main sales channel, or continue to put energy into growing your marketplace presence, it’s just essential that you have options.
The best way to build your own e-commerce site is with Shopify. Shopify simplifies a lot of the work involved with setting up a website, which is why it’s used by more than 1.5 million brands across the world.
How to Start Your Shopify Store
Now we’re going to take you through the steps of launching your own Shopify store, assuming you’ve already been selling somewhere like Amazon or Etsy.
In this case, a lot of the hard work involved in building an e-commerce business – such as validating your product idea and finding a supplier – is already done. That means you’re in a great position to launch your site and start building a profitable, multi-channel business.
Step One: Sign up for a Shopify plan
First, you’ll need to sign up for one of Shopify’s subscriptions. The cost of your subscription covers hosting of your site and access to the selling tools and reporting provided by Shopify. However, you have complete control over your site, unlike when you create an account on Amazon or Etsy.
If you’re just starting out, the basic Shopify plan will likely be enough. As you grow your site, you can consider eventually upgrading your plan to get access to more advanced reporting, tools for selling internationally, and lower transaction fees.
Step Two: Get your branded domain name
Next you’ll want to grab a domain name for your site. This is a simple, but important step. You want to make it easy for people to remember your brand, and to quickly type in the URL when they’re in the mood to buy something.
If you can get a clean, branded “.com” URL (such as [yourbrandname].com), this is perfect. Otherwise, experiment with catchy abbreviations of your brand name, or other options like “.co” or “.store”. Whatever you choose, ensure it is easily connected to your brand name – this is a great opportunity to start building brand name recognition with your customers.
Step Three: Kit your site out with a theme and plugins
To make your site look and feel professional, you’ll want to make use of Shopify’s range of themes and plugins.
First, your theme. This is the template of your website – how your product pages are going to look, how your homepage looks, your checkout flow, and so on. You can choose from a huge range of paid and free themes, most designed to fit specific niches or industries.
When choosing your theme, you’ll want to consider things like design, budget, catalog size, what kind of functionality you require and whether you need tools like multi-language support and search engine optimization.
You can learn more about picking the right theme, and where to find them, in this complete guide to Shopify themes.
Once you’ve got your theme installed, you can fill in any added functionality you require with plugins. Plugins can help you with things like capturing emails, building landing pages and custom design elements.
Try to keep it simple at first – you don’t need a hundred plugins right off the bat. But you should definitely consider adding an email opt-in plugin at an early stage, to start building an email list for your brand.
Step Four: Add products to your site
Once your site is set up, customized, and ready to go, you’ll want to fill out your product catalog.
You should be able to copy and paste a lot of your content from wherever else you’re selling (Amazon, Etsy, Walmart). However, read through your product descriptions and titles, and edit where necessary to improve readability and conversion optimization (many Amazon product descriptions, for example, are skewed in the way of keyword optimization and a little difficult to read).
If you’ve got a small product catalog, you should be able to do all this manually. For larger stores with a lot of products, consider using a plugin or service to automatically import your collection from your existing sales channels.
Step Five: Figure out fulfillment
Now, think about how you’re going to store, pick and ship your products when you get sales on your Shopify store.
If you’re already managing fulfillment for your Amazon/Etsy sales, there’s not much more to do. Just send orders from your Shopify store to your fulfillment partner as normal. However, many Amazon sellers may be using Fulfilled by Amazon to store and ship products. In this case, you’ll want to consider whether you want to ship Shopify orders from your Amazon inventory, or start using a third-party logistics (3PL) service.
Using Amazon inventory is convenient, as you can keep all your stock in one place, allowing you to maintain lower overhead costs. But it’s also more expensive, and orders will be shipped in Amazon boxes, which is not ideal.
You can fulfill Shopify orders from your Amazon inventory if you only expect sporadic sales here and there from your own site. But once you begin to get more consistent traffic on your Shopify site, definitely look into options for a separate logistics partner.
Step Six: Send traffic to your store
Finally, once your site is completely functional and you’re ready to take and ship orders, you can start getting traffic to your site.
This is the biggest difference between selling on a marketplace and on your own site. To get sales on your site, you need to actively drive potential customers to your store, rather than relying on the passive model of marketplace SEO.
Whether or not you plan to make Shopify your main sales channel, you should at least start working on a plan to generate traffic. That way, if you need to pivot your sales channel with short notice, you’ll be able to maintain your revenue with a shorter downtime.
A few ways you can get traffic to your site are:
- Facebook Ads
- Google Ads
- Email marketing
- Google SEO
- Blog/influencer partnerships
It takes a little time to test and optimize these channels to get them right, so it’s best to start learning this as soon as possible.
Moving Forward: Which Channel to Focus On
Once you’ve finished building your Shopify site and you’re ready to take orders, there’s one question left. Which channel should you focus the majority of your attention, energy and resources on?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. If you’re selling on a marketplace and making good revenue, there’s no reason you can’t continue with this as your main sales channel. Alternatively, you can begin to focus primarily on your Shopify site, in order to save on fees and make higher profit margins.
In time, you should notice that one channel performs better than the other. Whichever that is, it’s smart to make this your priority.
If all things are equal, it makes the most long-term sense to focus more on your Shopify store, as this is an asset you have greater control over. However, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining a presence on Amazon or Etsy and still using this as a way to increase your reach, and thus your revenue as well.
Expanding your business to multiple audiences – whether it’s a number of different marketplace platforms, or even different countries – is essential if you want to build a profitable business that lasts.
This is a guest contribution by Andrew Buck. Andrew is the Head of Marketing at LandingCube, a marketing software tool for Amazon sellers. Originally from New Zealand, he now travels around Asia, spending the day writing about e-commerce, and nights studying films or training martial arts.