“Vanity is a motive of immense potency.” – Bertrand Russell

Let’s face it, generally you’ve got to have a healthy ego if you’re going to start a business and be successful. Being an entrepreneur is not a great career choice for those lacking self-belief.

Putting yourself out there and starting a business is an act of ego. As the Aussie rock band Skyhooks said: “Ego is not a dirty word!” You need ego to endure the slings and arrows of running a business, especially in the early years.

However, the flip side to a healthy ego is vanity, and vanity can be a dangerous thing for a business.

Plenty of big and small retailers seem to get hung up on building the biggest and best website possible, to the point where it becomes a vanity project. However, with the resources they’ve put into building and maintaining a website they often end up with a Taj Mahal that’s more about looks than results.

Instead of trying to do it all themselves, retailers looking for a strong online presence might be far better off focusing their attention on marketplaces.

Online marketplaces are becoming a bigger part of the e-commerce mix because they free up retailers from a lot of the drudge work that goes with running your own website while giving retailers ready access to the click traffic.

I have seen quite a few people start up an e-commerce site only to disappear down the website rabbit hole. Many thousands of dollars later they emerge with little to show for their venture other than a fancy new website generating minimal ROI.

The thing is you don’t need a lot of money or time to get a basic web store up and running anymore if you’re just starting out. Get an MVP (minimum viable product) website going and upgrade and tweak as you go. You don’t need to have the most beautiful website to sell lots of products. Test your market and find out if customers are biting.

The second thing is that your website should not be your sole focus. Even the biggest retailers are now seeing the benefits of being on a marketplace. For smaller retailers, the benefits are even more more numerous.

You could go to the mass market options of eBay and Amazon, but I’d argue you should look for a marketplace that already attracts and vets customers who will be interested in your products so you can focus on forging strong brand recognition and relationships with engaged customers.

As an example, I’d say if you’re a bike shop you’ll certainly get some sales on eBay but you’ll be less likely to get the type of customers who spend more money on a regular basis, which is what you’ll find on a specialised marketplace.

That’s because sites like eBay and Amazon just don’t have the tribal stickiness of sites like BikeExchange, which is deeply entrenched in the cycling community and encourages regular visits. For cycling enthusiasts, BikeExchange is a bookmark site.

Ultimately, though, the point is you shouldn’t let the vanity of your own website operation distract you from the possibility of the even greater returns you could be getting from channels like online marketplaces. Don’t be blinded by website vanity.