In our first post in the Shopping Bag series, we talked about the current trends in ecommerce and how people buy online. This time, we’re looking at how businesses sell online.

Most online storefronts for major retailers look pretty similar. After visiting the front page of the website, you can select from different categories of items. After looking over the list presented, you can check out separate pages for each item, and add them to your cart. This type of online store is meant to mirror a visit to the actual location; here, too, you would scan through racks of items, add them to your real shopping cart and then “check out” at the cash register. While these types of online stores are obviously successful, they also take a lot of work to set up and maintain. They work well for big chain companies with several locations and a head office to handle the online distribution. What, however, are new or small businesses supposed to do to keep up with their larger competitors?

There are tons of ways for small businesses (or even just creative individuals with something to sell) to put their stuff on the web. We’re going to talk about three different sites that let you sell online: Shoplocket, Etsy, and Shopify.

The Basics: Shoplocket

Sell Online with Shoplocket

By basic, we don’t necessarily mean someone who is new to business. We’re talking about the people who want to sell a few items online in the easiest way possible, and this is what Shoplocket will offers its clients. Setting up an entire online store isn’t necessary if you are only selling a few products online. Shoplocket is an alternative to traditional ecommerce platforms in that it allows you to create a small, embeddable application for our product which you can then post on any website. Shoplocket doesn’t create a new website for your business; it just gives you the tools to sell on your existing website or social media profiles.

Shoplocket is best for people selling a few individual items. If your business focuses on a few, specialized products and is looking to expand online, this could be the website for you. Shoplocket has no upfront fees, but charges a 2.5% per transaction fee, as well as small payment processing fees.

The Creative Types: Etsy

Sell Online with Etsy

Etsy has been described as “eBay for crafts”. It’s used by thousands of sellers to market items that they have created themselves. Items are only allowed to be sold on the website if they fit into one of three categories: handmade, vintage (at least 20 years old), or crafting supplies. On Etsy, creating an account is fairly simple, and you are given a storefront where visitors can view all of your items together.

Etsy is often used by sellers who sell customizable products. Buyers are able to leave a comment for the seller when they make a purchase, which allows sellers to request information for customization, such as measurements or colour preferences. Etsy is best for crafters looking to sell their creations online; its most popular products are jewelry, clothing and home decorations. Etsy charges a $0.20 listing fee per item and takes 3.5% of the final sale value.

The Advanced: Shopify

Sell Online with Shopify

Shopify is a very popular site which allows businesses to set up a storefront online – it essentially gives you all the tools to look like the big chain companies. Aside from setting up a storefront with free theme designs, Shopify offers a host of other services to their clients. Shopify shop owners have access to built-in SEO for their site, ecommerce analytics, coaching on how to sell online from their support line, the ability to create coupon codes for buyers, and the ability to embed a blog  in their site. They also allow businesses to set up a mobile version of their shop for use on smartphones and tablets.

While Shopify may seem like online sales heaven, it comes at a price. The basic account costs $29/month, and the price increases if you need more than basic bandwidth. While Shoplocket and Etsy are low-risk and low-cost, Shopify works best for businesses with an established clientele, as no one wants to lose money paying their monthly fees.

Each of these websites has their strengths, and they are all suitable for different kinds of businesses. Finding out what the best way for you to sell online is means looking at all of your options, and choosing the right one for your company.

Feast Interactive Inc. is a Digital Advertising Agency in Markham, Ontario.