Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of a project, especially when the first step is making a huge decision about what platform is the best place to grow your small business.
Choosing a platform is about balancing what’s important for growing your business right now, and you can always scale up into another platform later. Consider the importance or need for elements such as a payment gateway, storefront website, shipping and inventory management, and other things like fees involved or your business’s social trust.
There are plenty of options in the endless ocean of the internet, but I’m going to highlight the difference between selling online through Shopify, Etsy and social media direct messages. There isn’t really a wrong answer, but there is probably a better answer for where you and your business are, at this point in your growth.
The cheapest way to sell online is to start a business on Instagram or Facebook and sell through direct messaging communications and e-transfers. These platforms are free and their inherently social aspect can help to build trust and community around your products and brand.
Many businesses start by selling on social media before they are ready to integrate a payment gateway or website into their business (both which come with a price.) Selling through direct messages and email transfers is effective, but only to a certain point in the growth of your business. Once it becomes unmanageable, you start to lose sales and lose traction as order management takes over your business.
You as a business owner have immeasurable talents, and you shouldn't be spending most of your time sorting out purchases. At a certain point, it’s time to upgrade to a system that manages your inventory and shipping for you, so that you can focus more of your time doing what you do best.
Selling on the Etsy platform has the undeniable benefit of the maker's community that you become a part of. Many customers shop directly through the Etsy site and will be directed to your shop based on their searches for your product or industry.
Unlike social media sales, Etsy has an integrated payment gateway, inventory tracking and shipping included in their platform so that your customers can buy directly from your Etsy store. First you receive an order notification and then you proceed to fulfil and ship the order without having any direct communication with the customer.There is a fee to be a part of the Etsy community, in exchange for the space to host your products and business there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the delivery price you set and if you accept payments through Etsy Payments, they also collect a 3-4% + CA$0.25 payment processing fee when an item is sold.
Etsy shops are moderately customizable but visually they are still an Etsy shop holding your brand and products to an online shopper. The customizability is limited to a sliding banner at the top, a profile photo/logo, and then some text about the shop (location, about the store, ratings, announcement bar.)
This minimal visual customization is sufficient for representing your brand and enticing your new customers, but it doesn’t provide the entire experience like a fully customized web page does.
Having a website with eCommerce functions is the best of both worlds, you can have your fancy website and sell from it too. The Shopify platform has a monthly fee that includes a payment gateway, shipping management, a customer-facing website, inventory, blog feature, marketing apps and other tools to help you grow online.
The most powerful tool in online sales is the ability to align with your customer's values and build trust based on the story that you share with your digital audiences. Trust is not inherent on the internet, far from it.
If your website is just a list of items and prices you demand for them, you’re not very likely to land a sale unless that customer has been directed from an external influence (like social media.) Your website should reflect your products, but it should also reflect the passion in the business and the reason for purchasing that product. It’s just not possible to convey this story in an Etsy store layout.
The platform is super user friendly to create your own shop, but like any website, it stands alone in the sea of the internet. Without social media or marketing, a website doesn’t generate traffic on its own and needs to be paired with a variety of ways to drive traffic to your stores (either by paid or organic marketing and social trust-building.)
The Basic Plan for a Shopify account is $29/US/month, and it includes everything you need to create a branded storefront with inventory management and shipping build right in (get two-free free trials right here!) This plan will be sufficient for most new businesses, but some may need additional third-party apps for specific website functions (like dropshipping or advanced email marketing.)
Shopify can be used in tandem with in-person sales, and you can synchronize all your inventory to one shop. There are also a number of sales channels available other than your storefront that are integrative, such as a Facebook Shop, Instagram Shopping, Pinterest, and many others.
No two small business journeys look the same, and as much as it may feel like it, it isn’t a race. There isn't a wrong place to be in your business growth, as long as you’re still growing! You can try Shopify for 14 days for free, just click the image below :)