Remember the Amazon craze of the early 2000s? I recall it fairly well. Here was this online giant, selling all sorts of products – books at first, but their inventory soon expanded to include apparel, health & wellness products, sporting goods and more. It was a pretty exciting time for the internet in general, and Amazon in particular.
Practically overnight, online outlets like Amazon (and, to some extent, eBay) redefined the entire marketplace. Some things were fairly obvious from the get-go: purchasing products online was incredibly easy (and it still is, in fact!), and another big bonus was the convenience factor. No need to fight crowds to shop – with a reliable internet connection and a few clicks of the mouse, you could go shopping anywhere.
But there were some other aftershocks of the “Amazon quake” that people didn’t immediately realize. Probably the biggest one was that “brick and mortar” storefronts were suddenly expendable. Why would you need an actual store to sell stuff? As Amazon showed everyone, you just required some warehouse space, efficient logistics, a website to handle all your shoppers, steady product flow and not a whole lot more.
One thing was lost in all the excitement – sure, Amazon was doing well, but what about small & independent merchants? In order to get their products and services to as many people as possible, many businesses created their own websites. Time-consuming and tedious, this method was still the only way to sell goods, aside from a physical storefront or old-school door-to-door sales.
I’ve been involved with internet marketing for many years, and I always thought there had to be a better way. Why should someone be forced to build their own website to grow their business? And as I figured, social media and other online communities were just two ways that leveled the playing field, so to speak. Today, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of places that people can sell online without their own website. This post will examine some of the most popular outlets. You’ve probably heard of some, but there are probably others that’ll surprise you.
Have an old hoodie to sell? Threadflip might be right up your alley. The site is popular with the “gently-used apparel” marketplace, and generally accepts most things submitted for sale. And even if an item doesn’t make it to market, you can have it donated to charity.
Combine eBay and Esty, and you basically have Ruby Lane. This fast-growing online community has nearly 2 million active users, passionate & dedicated merchants, unique product selection and easy-to-use features.
Say who? SaleHoo. Here’s a different concept (kind of like 99 Designs) – SaleHoo caters to any seller looking to build an e-commerce platform with minimal hassle and maximum profit possibilities. Unlike the early days of internet commerce, many companies can help get merchants up and running in no time. SaleHoo is one of the best options in this regard.
Selling stuff online doesn’t always mean actual “stuff” (don’t forget about the intangibles). It can also mean services, and 99 Designs caters to this community. A great source for ambitious graphic designers, this site allows users to publish logo designs, which prospective clients can purchase.
What about selling a product that doesn’t exist yet? Quirky is sort of like an online inventor community, where different product ideas are submitted. If your idea is chosen for possible product development, you’re looking at possible royalties, and perhaps riches. It’s best to keep your expectations realistic – many people have already thought of “the next big thing,” and the patent process can be difficult without expert guidance.
Now here’s a really innovative way to sell products. QWIQQ leverages existing online websites and communities (Facebook, Twitter, other social media sites) with immediate PayPal portals and “buy-it-now” urgency. Once a product is bought online, the customers go to an actual store to buy, which is a great revenue generator – once a customer is in the store, it’s easy for them to spend more money!
This cool application is run thorough popular social media site Instagram. What’s better than a crisp, colorful photo of your product in front of millions of users? That’s the method behind inSelly, which uses hashtag data to accurately focus sales toward specific customers in defined geographical areas – for instance, #inSelly #StylishHats #SanFran.
Sort of like Threadflip (see above), this online group specializes is slightly used clothing and apparel. Many people take the profits, while others choose to take their money and put it toward a charity or other donation.
Instagram really has a firm hold on the online selling community. As we mentioned previously, the site’s already geared toward photos, which integrate perfectly with sellers – and buyers! Hashbag uses the #forsale tag. From there, merchants have a full range of sale options and merchant tools, including PayPal capability.
As anyone who’s familiar with Pinterest and Facebook can attest, many people visit these sites as buyers. Soldsie ensures sellers can connect with this (previously) untapped market. With a simple “sold” comment under a product’s comment section, the sale is completed through an emailed invoice and PayPal payment option. This is one of those tools that makes you think, “Why didn’t I think of this?”
No surprise here. After Amazon, this is probably the best-known online marketplace. eBay has been around since the late 1990s, and they’re still a favorite destination for anyone looking to sell something. Through the years, eBay has also developed online store templates, so merchants can seamlessly build a virtual storefront within the eBay community. My only word of caution here: watch out for that 9-10% final sale value fee. That $100 coin you just sold is actually only $90 in your pocket.
Some people make a comfortable living on Etsy. Geared toward homemade products, this site provides a creative & active community of like-minded people. So, the competition can actually benefit your own business – definitely a contrarian concept, but then again…the online revolution has turned a lot of things upside-down!
Wait – isn’t Amazon the big bully on the block, the megastore that stifles independent, smaller sellers? Not even close. Amazon’s smart business model now includes an eBay-like auction network, where anyone can sell practically anything. And because everyone knows the Amazon brand, their storefront is really popular with those people looking for maximum exposure for their product or service.
It’s hard to believe how far e-commerce has come since Amazon’s early days. From brick and mortar stores to strategically-placed warehouses to the current anytime, anywhere, all-the-time marketplaces, one thing’s for certain…interesting selling solutions are never far away.