How To Start Selling Online: Online stores vs marketplaces

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How To Start Selling Online: Online stores vs marketplaces

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how we shop, with an accelerated shift towards buying and selling online. Now more than ever, making your products and services available online is an essential part of staying competitive and building a more resilient business.

Ready to make the leap? First you should decide whether you want to create your own store or sell through a marketplace. Both options allow existing and potential customers to browse and buy your products or services 24/7, wherever their location.

Joining an online marketplace

Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy allow you to set up and get selling fast. To start you’ll need to apply to be a third-party seller. These steps will look different for each platform. Once your application has been approved you can upload your products – remember, you’ll need to create photos and descriptions to list them. If you need help, you can find information online or get step-by-step support through our Digital Solutions program where an advisor can assist you with this process.

Online marketplaces come with a built-in audience, so people may find your products organically when searching within these sites. Keep in mind these audiences are different — Etsy is favoured by people looking for handmade and vintage items, whilst Amazon and eBay appeal to a broader audience.

Tip: if you have an existing online store, listing your products on marketplaces can be a great way to diversify reach.

Online marketplace seller fees

Another consideration is the seller fees that each marketplace charges. These include:


  • A monthly eBay store fee
  • Fees for additional listings and optional listing upgrades
  • A ‘final value fee’


  • A monthly fee
  • Referral fees for each sale (a percentage that differs based on product category)


  • A monthly fee
  • Listing fees
  • Transaction fees for each sale
  • PayPal fees

Different sites have different costs associated with them, so do your research to make sure you’re making the right choice.

Creating an online store

Interested in creating an online store? Along with being able to make sales through a website, you’ll also get to control the design and features, and build your brand credibility and visibility. You’ll also get to avoid marketplace rules and limitations.

You’ll need to choose an ecommerce platform to make sales. Some options include:

  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Shopify — for building a site from scratch or changing an existing website into an online store
  • WooCommerce — ideal if you already have a WordPress site

If your chosen ecommerce platform offers themes or templates (which Shopify, Squarespace and Wix do), you’re in luck! They’ll make setting up easier, keep in mind you may need to pay extra for themes or templates when creating your website.

The design of your website is important – it should be an extension of your brand identity and voice. When done well it adds to the credibility of your brand. If people feel confident shopping with you and have a good experience it can lead to positive reviews, word of mouth recommendations and customers who keep coming back.

The importance of marketing

Whether you choose to sell through an online marketplace or make your own store, marketing is essential for driving traffic to your products.

Social media marketing

Social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn allow you to build communities and connect with your audience, which is how you can establish and strengthen brand loyalty, gain new customers and retain existing ones. When choosing social media platforms to use, make sure they’re relevant for your target audience.

Some ideas for posting on social media include:

  • General product promotion (this should only make up 20% of your overall content)
  • Adding a human element to your brand by introducing yourself or showing behind the scenes processes
  • Reposting user generated content and reviews as social proof

Email marketing

Another essential marketing channel is email marketing, which is a channel you own. You can offer new customers discounts to capture their emails, create a contact list, and send out regular newsletters to promote your products, or create relevant content that adds value and establishes goodwill between your brand and customers.

Want to learn more about marketing for your business? Read more about creating a social media strategy here and email marketing best practices here.

Need extra support to start selling online?

Interested in expert help to start your eCommerce business or optimise your current store? Our Digital Solutions program can help with tailored advisory and guidance. Learn how here.

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