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Selling online is easier than you’d think

Want to sell your products online, but not sure where to start? Find out just how simple and low-cost it can be with ActSmart's guide

Many successful businesses started off as a passion or a hobby. If you want your hobby to start making you money, it could be time to start selling your creations online. Do I need an e-commerce platform? In today's retail environment, online sales are arguably the key to growing a successful business. Traditional models based on physical, bricks and mortar shops are evolving and increasingly retailers are moving to multi-channel processes. This is no surprise, since trends show that UK consumers are more likely than ever to shop online. According to the Hermes pParcel Deliveries Usage and aAttitude survey, British consumers are almost twice as likely to shop online as their French counterparts, with 27 per cent favouring this method between August and October 2014. The survey also showed that retailers are now in a position to profit from soaring confidence, with 42 per cent of British consumers planning to shop online even more in the next 12 months.

Showing your work at craft fairs and markets is great, but you'll only reach a fraction of potential customers compared to going on the internet. Online sellers have their doors open to the entire world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But e-commerce websites can be expensive and time-consuming, right? Wrong. There are lots of simple-to-use services available to help businesses set up a website to handle transactions - and many of them are free!

Go it alone or use an established site? There are a number of marketplace sites out like Etsy and Folksy that give you a platform on an established site to sell your products. However, there are also alternatives that allow you the freedom to create something more personal, where you can take full ownership of your brand. One example is Tictail, an e-commerce site builder.

Here are a few different factors to consider when deciding where to sell your products online:

1. Design Starting from scratch gives you the most scope, allowing you to set up something truly individual from the branding, colours and layout to the payment options that are available.

But for a start-up store, the range of designs and layout options on established sites are more than adequate, and when you take into account the fact that these are ready-to-use, it makes sense to avoid costly and time-consuming web design unless you've the skills and resources readily available.

Whether you choose to sell through a site like Etsy or create your own website using a platform like Tictail, you'll be sure to find a design to suit your business with the key e-commerce components such as analytics and payment transactions already built in. This means getting started with your own e-retail site couldn't be simpler.

2. Competition With millions of online retailers around the world, there's always going to be competition in your market. However, the risk of losing a sale to a competitor can be minimised by creating your own site that gives you more control over what your visitors actually see.

Even if a customer does come straight to your shop on the Etsy platform, it can be difficult to keep them on your page, particularly when competitor products are listed in the sidebar. This is especially frustrating if you've done the hard work of getting a customer to visit your page, only to have them turn elsewhere for a lower price or better deal. Creating your own customised site means you can promote your business safe in knowledge that when a customer comes to your shop they've done so to buy from you. You can also introduce up-selling techniques by including items on the page that 'they may also like' or 'other customers have bought'.

3. Cost You probably think that having a ready-made platform to start selling your products will come with a hefty price tag, but the good news is that is doesn't have to. You can set up and manage your shop for nothing. It's free to set up a shop on Etsy or Folksy, and you have to pay when you list products, or when you sell a product and the site takes a small commission. Setting up a shop on Tictail is free and they won't charge for listings or sales, but instead retailers can purchase add-on apps for their shop as it grows. However, with apps such as '.com domain', 'basket abandonment' and 'product up-sell' included free with ActSmart subscriptions, there's no need to spend a fortune to make your shop stand out.

4. Making a decision If you're still not sure about the right platform for you, Etsy and other e-commerce platforms aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, many first-time craft sellers give Etsy a go to develop their business and marketing skills and build a loyal customer base before moving to their own site. Many online sellers then continue to successfully sell on both platforms.

To find out more about e-retail and see just how simple and cost-effective setting up your own e-commerce store can be, contact ActSmart for further information, ActSmart is a business support organisation for specialist retailers, their supply partners and trade associations. With more than 3,000 subscribers, ActSmart is one of the fastest growing organisations of its kind in the UK.

ActSmart works in partnership with Tictail to help independent craft businesses set up their own online store quickly and easily and take advantage of a selection of Tictail's premium apps - all free of charge. Whether you're a small start-up seeking the help and advice needed to get ahead, or an established independent small or medium-sized enterprise looking for a little support, ActSmart's a valuable resource giving you 24/7 access to a wealth of relevant, trusted information.

T: 0845 618 7256
E: info@actsmart.biz
W: www.actsmart.biz/creative