The Internet has become a dominating force in our lives and something that we would be hard-pressed to live without. In tandem with this social shift, the idea of using the web to sell products online is also becoming more commonplace.
The motivation to sell varies from person to person. You might be:
- getting rid of the crap in your life
- looking for extra money by converting hard assets into cash
- buying and reselling merchandise as a business
- monetizing your hobby or “side gig”
- unemployed and looking for quick money to get grounded
The means by which you go about selling products online also vary widely. Perhaps a good illustration of this is my own experience with selling online through the years…
eBay & Half.com
When I think back to early days of the web and the first time I started to buy and sell things online, I think back to about the year 2000 and eBay. I was only 16 at the time, but I was already helping my Mom sell things online, mostly outdated technology that we were no longer using at home. eBay had just launched a few years prior and the idea of online auctions was a new and novel one.
Anyone with an account could post their item for sale, set a starting price, and watch people bid up the item over the next week. Of course, the system had its fair share of early-day problems. One of my first online purchases was a laptop computer on eBay that turned out to be a scam. Today, eBay is a powerful marketplace not only for household item auctions but of everything from cars to collectibles.
Two to three years later, when I was working on my college degree, I used eBay’s sister site, Half.com, to buy and sell used textbooks and work around the locally monopolized textbook market. Half.com had almost any book, game, or CD I wanted to buy, and I was assured of a market when I wanted to get rid of items I no longer wanted or needed once the semester was over.
It was Half.com I turned to when I was getting rid of my old videos and DVDs, video games and books after graduation, and the prices I got for many of the items were good and fair.
For a while, I feel, eBay was really it in the online world. People were selling things on their own sites and many had success with this model, but Etsy really introduced a new concept that has taken off in recent years to dominate the artistic and hobby-type market. I call it the “online shop” model.
For the first time, anyone with a small handful of goods, often handmade, could have an online storefront on a reputable website, get exposure, and greatly limit their overhead costs. I personally know artists who have made Etsy and many new websites like it their online home and have seen a lot of success in terms of sales.
Artistic items no longer had to be “auctioned off” to be online, or sit idle on an artist’s own website. They could leverage the power of a big website and leave their items for sale perpetually.
Depending on the product you happen to be selling, another effective strategy could be to create and market your own website. Some people turn to ecommerce website templates while others start from scratch and build a website over the WordPress framework with pre-designed or customized themes.
This works especially well if someone has an established audience who wants to buy that person’s particular product, or if they rank well for the desired keywords in search engines. Rather than giving away their overhead and profit to someone else’s website, people who choose to run their own sales get to keep the large majority of their gross revenue for themselves.
One of my own goals for 2012 was to sell something online, and while I’ve always considered that this would be on a site that I created myself, I’m also looking at some of the other options available in terms of websites that have ready-to-go functionality.
How about you–are you currently selling things online, and how do you go about it?