It’s convenient to sell products through third-party sales channels like Amazon, eBay and Etsy.
Internal marketing isn’t a big concern when selling through a larger brand that gives you instant exposure to the world. In addition, shipping and complex logistics are easier than if you had done it all on your own.
But these benefits come with a tremendous risk, especially if they are your only sales channels.
The Cost of Convenience
All it really takes is one seller making a counterfeit or copycat product for cheaper to hijack the “top-seller” position you worked so hard to obtain. Even worse, if they claim you’re the copycat and manage to get your store shut down, there’s nothing you can do about it.
This is partially due to the fact that customers using these popular sales channels are looking for the cheapest price, and not for products from your brand. When prices are the be-all and end-all of business, it’s extremely difficult to develop customer loyalty.
Business is about people and connecting with them. Without a direct connection to your customers it’s near impossible to establish long-term relationships.
For instance, with companies like Amazon and Booking.com, customers you acquire over the years aren’t even technically yours. Instead, they are the customers of the marketplaces you use. Those very companies helping you profit now can take business away from you in the future, by making their own line products or shutting down your account without a moment’s notice. It might seem unfair, but it’s perfectly within their rights to do this.
It’s almost impossible to create a loyal customer base on Amazon, because as a seller you don’t even have access to your customer’s email addresses or pre-purchase browsing history. For the benefits of being able to list your products quickly and getting immediate exposure to a wide audience, you’re giving up a lot.
Your business may sell commodities, but in these price-driven marketplaces your business becomes a commodity in itself.
A cruel twist of irony, indeed.
Without customer information to inject into your business’ feedback loop, small businesses are left with few options to grow in a sustainable manner.
So, how can you prevent your business from being reduced to a commodity - a number on a screen?
Before I go on, I want to make one thing clear: I’m not here to tell you to remove all listings from marketplaces like Amazon, and I’m not saying these companies are evil - there are benefits for both sides. But as time goes on and your company grows, these benefits may start to shrink.
If you’re selling through third-party sales channels already, you probably know what I’m talking about. All I’m saying is if you haven’t diversified your revenue streams, or more importantly, if you have yet to set up a storefront that is connected to your website - a direct sales channel - it’s time to consider it.
The 8 Benefits of Owning Your Own Online Store
Owning your online storefront has eight key benefits:
- Direct, personalized communication with your customers
- Improved customer loyalty and retention
- Full access to customer information (email, browsing/purchase history)
- Faster dispute resolution
- Optimized business decisions, operations, products and services
- Keep 100% of your sales revenue (instead of splitting it with third parties)
- Resilience against copycat companies and products
- Complete business autonomy (you set the rules)
It’s important to note that building a direct sales channel has its own difficulties. Sales and marketing efforts will need to be internalized, as you won’t have a multi-billion dollar corporation doing it for you. It’s a lot of work, but the benefits are immense.
If your business is growing and you are looking to ride that momentum for the next 5-10 years, it’s imperative you future-proof your business by creating an avenue that connects you directly with your customers.
What does your long-term sales plan look like? How are you adapting to the era of digital commerce? Are you putting all of your eggs into one basket? Do you truly own and control your business operations? These are some questions to consider.
If you’re still on the fence about establishing a direct sales channel for your business, I implore you to ask yourself why you do what you do. What is the foundation for your drive as an Entrepreneur? Let me take a guess:
You started your own business because you wanted to break free from an overbearing system of rules to follow your passion. You became an Entrepreneur to control your own destiny, and to be able to look back after many years with fondness and pride and say, “I was able to build something great - out of nothing.”
So before going back to your daily grind, take a second to step back and assess whether your business has the appropriate foundations in place. A direct sales channel won’t guarantee the success of your business, but it will definitely improve your odds.