I’m new to online trading – is a website essential?

A website isn’t essential and they aren’t cheap BUT having a website will help increase your chances of success.

It’s not unusual these days to see businesses trading digitally but on channels not commonly associated with a standalone website. Examples include Facebook stores or a presence on selling portals such as eBay, or Etsy.

Lesser known is the opportunity to be a selling partner of huge trading sites like Amazon or AliExpress – where they get the customers and appear to be the seller but in reality, you can be the end recipient of the order. This then is closer to the opportunity known as affiliate marketing or drop shipping in that the boundaries between who makes and retails the goods and who ships them and owns the customer data are somewhat blurred.

All these various scenarios exist online in some shape or form but they are not necessarily the same as having your own website to host on a server and maintain from a design and content perspective as well as a compliance one. They are generally easier and less expensive to manage but of course do have limitations too.

So which is best?

It has long been known that to succeed in Marketing you need to touch the customer (thankfully not literally) in as many ways and over as prolonged a period as possible if you hope to have any chance of securing a sale and longer-term relationship. This is for the simple reason that in general people take a long time to make a decision about purchasing so the pipeline from first thoughts and pre-purchase research through to closing a deal can be prolonged. They also often forget how they first interacted so the more channels you can cover, the better as the sale may come via a different route than the first enquiry. Frustrating or what.

  • This is why SEO as a discipline is so important as it helps ensure your brand is front and centre, not tucked away down the rankings where nobody will bother to find you without a concerted archaeological dig.  And it’s important to be found if they resort to search engines to find you again or make that final buying decision.

Covering as many bases as possible is therefore the smart decision and if you can use some of these newer channels as well as a website and other marketing routes, that’s the best scenario of all.

You can, of course, go it alone without a website at all but this will undoubtedly lose sales from people that expect to transact that way and you will miss people coming in via a new secondary channel.

The other reason a website is important is purely as a health check. People often check out businesses in a bit of depth before they buy, especially with major purchases, and just like having a nice business card printed in the real world used to be essential, a decent website gets a nice tick in the box. This is cheaper than a fully transaction e-commerce enabled website so if funds are too tight to cover all the bases, at least having a small brochure website saying a bit about your business is strongly recommended even if you plan to focus on the alternative “not-a-website” channels.

A simple brochure website delivered through an easy-to-maintain platform such as WordPress and built by a good design agency will normally cost between £2-£5,000 with hosting and associated costs adding another £500 per annum – so it’s not a cheap hobby. But compare this to a full e-commerce website where costs of £20,000 are not uncommon and it’s easy to see it’s a more affordable scenario.

The key is to understand how much business you are losing by not presenting your business in its best light overall?

So if you sell £1-£200 of goods per month and can do this via channels like Facebook, you probably don’t need a standalone website too. But if you have bigger aspirations, high-profit margins or recurring customers, it’s certainly worth adding a website into the mix.

We can help give advice on the best strategy and will often do so at no charge as we like to see people prosper and avoid pitfalls, that’s why we are called Seriously Helpful!