Should You Specialize in One Online Marketplace or All of Them?

Online marketplaces have taken over the internet. There are now dozens, if not hundreds of options for businesses (from one-man operations to major corporations) to list and sell products online, including headliners like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy. To marketers, each of these is an opportunity to acheive higher visibility and reach a new segment of your target audience, but do those effects compound? Is there an advantage to marketing your products through multiple online marketplaces, or is it better to specialize in just one?

Effort

One of the most important considerations you’ll face is how much effort you’ll need to spend to maintain multiple platforms versus only one. Traditionally, you’ll need to go through the same motions for each platform, uploading images, writing product descriptions, and establishing your shop. You’ll also need to log in, manage orders, and market each platform you add to your repertoire. Under ordinary circumstances, each new platform will, therefore, add hours of work to your week, so you’ll need to balance that carefully against the potential benefits each new platform offers.

If you’re interested in the multi-platform angle, one potential solution is a listing software service like Sellbrite, which allows you to list your products on multiple platforms at once.

Target Market

You’ll also need to consider your target market, and what type of audience you’re trying to reach. Adding new platforms generally means broadening the total number of people you can reach, but different platforms cater to different demographics. If you simply want the greatest number of people, you can (and should) list your products everywhere you can, but for most businesses, it’s better to remain targeted. Study the demographic data associated with each online marketplace, and make sure each new platform you add (if any) bears some resemblance to your ideal customer demographics.

Goods

The type and quantity of goods you sell should also factor into the equation. If you’re selling a lot of goods, you may become overburdened by managing inventory on 10 different platforms, forcing you to narrow your focus to the 1 or 2 that yield the most profit for you. On the other hand, if you only have one specialty product, it’s probably worth distributing it through as many platforms as are relevant. Different types of goods also fare better on different platforms—such as handmade goods on Etsy and second-hand goods on eBay.

Experience

If you’ve had experience with online marketplaces in the past, you can probably jump into multiple simultaneous platforms without much of a problem. However, if you’re new at this and you don’t have a marketing team to support you, it’s better to start with a single platform and expand from there.

Selling Fees and Profitability

Before finalizing your decision, you’ll need to make a thorough review of each platform’s selling fees, and evaluate your profitability when using each platform. Where to Sell Online is one of the best online resources for comparing and contrasting different online marketplaces in this area.

Growth Potential

You’ll also want to think about how you intend to grow your business from here. You might want multiple platforms to maximize your audience potential, but what are you going to do if you start becoming overwhelmed with orders? What if you decide to launch several new product lines? Remain flexible and have a game plan that accounts for your future goals.

Competition

Finally, you’ll need to consider the level of competition you’re going to face on each platform. A platform like Amazon, for example, offers many advantages, but you’ll also be competing for visibility with thousands of other brands like yours—and optimizing for their internal search engine will be a formidable challenge. If you can find a platform with minimal competition, or one that serves a slightly different target market, it may be wise to pool your efforts there. If you find competition high across the board, resist the urge to spread out; you’ll stand a better chance at getting visibility if you focus all your efforts on a single platform, rather than diluting your marketing engagements.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the number of platforms you choose to use to promote your products depends on your unique needs and the amount of time you can afford to spend managing them. For many specialized niches and small businesses, one strong platform is enough to secure a sufficient stream of revenue, but there’s also little harm in listing your products in multiple places. If you’re unsure, or if you’re hesitant about your initial assumptions, invest in multiple platforms; you can always drop underperformers later in favor of those with the strongest potential.

About Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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