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Author Biography:

Allison B. Vought  is an inventive scientist and educator specializing in natural cosmetic formulation and short-run, private label skincare. Since 2005, she has worked as chief cosmetic formulator, business consultant and CEO of various skin care companies. Allison is the co-founder of AliMar, LLC, (www.alimarlabs.com ) a private label manufacturer specializing in ultra-low minimums, as well as co-founder of the Vegan skincare line.



Successful Selling Via Online Malls
By Allison B. Vought Wednesday, May 3, 2017
When you visit online malls like Etsy, Artfire or Handmade Stores, you probably have an idea of what you want to buy, but you expect that there will be some browsing involved. Just like brick-and-mortar shopping malls, online marketplaces offer the convenience of multiple vendors carrying similar products.

Stores that are part of an online marketplace benefit from the fact that many shoppers aren’t brand loyal. They’re more open to price shopping, checking out new products and businesses they’ve never heard of before. Those shoppers also share a common goal of wanting to support individual artisans or independently owned businesses.
 
Being part of a larger shopping platform offers higher visibility in search engine results. When you host your storefront through a larger entity, like Etsy, the host has had an online presence for a longer period of time with the ability and funds to ensure that the platform is optimized. With the appropriate search engine optimization (SEO), your store gets more visitors than if you were starting out on your own with no budget or knowledge of SEO.
 
There is also the credibility that comes from being paired with a well-known online marketplace. Nearly everyone has heard of sites like Etsy, Amazon and Ebay. Consumers associate each platform with a specific type of product and have a level of trust when providing payment details to a platform they trust, as opposed to a website they’ve never ordered from before.
 
One of the greatest benefits to an online shopping mall is the low cost to start your own ecommerce store. Most marketplaces have low to zero startup fees, low monthly site fees and no credit check for processing payments.
 
Custom designed websites often take months, if not years, to build and perfect, and then you have to maintain them and keep them up-to-date. Small businesses don’t have that kind of time. Setting up an Etsy shop, Handmade Store or listing products on Artfire is rather speedy and many shops start selling in minutes, not months or even years. Online marketplaces rarely burden their sellers with site up-keep or website maintenance and they hire a team of engineers to work behind the scenes so you don’t have to.
 
Online malls also provide online communities where you have the opportunity to connect with other sellers. Not only does this help you to troubleshoot issues you may have with the selling platform itself, but it can also provide a group of likeminded business people who provide invaluable feedback and a “hive-mind” to give insight into what works and what doesn’t as you promote your business.
 
Do Your Research
Before you start an online shop, do some market research. Think of what type of store you have. Who is the competition? How saturated is the market? And then study the most successful sellers on each platform and take notes on what they’re doing, what you like and dislike, and what aspects may work for your store.
 
Be Social
Join the groups associated with the online marketplace like the Etsy forum, the Soap Makers Plus Facebook group or other site forums so you can communicate with other shop owners. This should not be used as an opportunity to blast members with advertising for your business, but as a way to cross-promote and network within that group.

Splurge On Product Photography 
Product photography might be the most important aspect of your online shop. It’s best to splurge here as quality photography signals trust. Your images should be detailed, clean, clear and provide multiple angles of each of your products.
 
Encourage Customer Loyalty 
Since you are competing with other storefronts on the same platform, be prepared to offer deals to encourage customer loyalty. Give buyers a reason to return, but don’t undercut yourself just to make a sale. Have a good understanding of your costs and price your products with a cushion so that sales and discounts don’t cut into your profit margins.
 
Update Often
You’ll need to update your web store often. Doing so signals that your products are in demand and this encourages frequent returns to your store to see what’s new. Even if products are not moving quickly, you should change the available products often to signal supply and demand. Visitors who notice the same listings over a long period of time may begin to think that your products are lesser quality or old, causing them to shop with another vendor.
 
Use Great Packaging
Invest the extra time and money to ensure your products are wrapped creatively, that the package will be memorable once received and remember to include thank you notes to set yourself apart!
 
Utilize Tags and Titles
These things help the search function of the online marketplace so that buyers can find you. You want to make sure every item has effective and appropriate tags and titles and avoid using tags and titles that have nothing to do with your product. Many platforms can penalize you for using unethical tagging or gaming the system for clicks.
 
Market Your Store
Although the marketplace itself will be working to bring the platform in front of potential shoppers, you still need to advertise your own store and products. Make sure to invest time into free resources such as social media, blogging and a store newsletter so that you can communicate directly with the people interested in your products. These extra steps to get your shop in front of buyers will ensure your store is a success!


 
 
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