Understanding comparison shopping engines & online marketplaces

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There are a number of ways to start an online store. What approach suits you best?

Man sitting in front of two computer screens

When starting an online store, one of the most important elements to work out is which platform you’ll use to sell your products or services.

Picking the best option depends on the type of business you run, what products you sell and where your customers search online.

Two common marketing channels for online sellers are:

  • online marketplaces and
  • comparison shopping engines.

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces are third party websites that let you sell online without you having to invest time and money into creating your own ecommerce website.

Selling on an existing online marketplace is one of the easiest ways to get started because you literally set up your own shop within their site!

Examples of online market places can include Etsy, eBay or Amazon.

Comparison shopping engines (CSEs)

Comparison shopping engines are sites that let you sell your products alongside other suppliers. The site’s main role is to display offers for the same product from a range of sellers so buyers can pick the best deal from one location.

When a customer is ready to purchase an item, the comparison shopping engines send the customer back to your ecommerce website, to buy your product.

Examples of comparison shopping engines can include Shopping.com, Nextag or Webjet.

What are the differences between comparison shopping engines and online marketplaces? 

Although comparison shopping engines and online marketplaces help drive business, there are two main differences between them:

  1. Where the transaction takes place – comparison shopping engines send customers to your business’s ecommerce website so they can buy the product. With online marketplaces, all browsing and transactions take place on the one website.
  2. How much you pay the website to market your products – – comparison shopping engines operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) form of payment, while online marketplaces take a percentage of the sale price. A cost-per-click is an amount you pay the site provider when a user clicks on your advertised product.

What are the benefits of comparison shopping engine and online marketplaces?

Whether you list your products on an online marketplace or on a comparison shopping engine, both can help give your small business an edge over your competitors!

  • Both should have established platforms and a high volume of traffic going to the website, which means you might be able to spend less money and time on marketing!
  • You can usually offer a bigger range of products using an online sales platform than a physical store.
  • You can list your products across multiple sites (giving you more opportunities to be found!) while also increasing your brand awareness.
  • The information you’re able to get at the checkout about your customers (e.g. location, email address) can help you develop relationships with new customers and provide you with the opportunity to offer them further products.

Five tips to consider when choosing a sales platform

  1. Spend time researching the best platform to sell your goods. Don’t just go for the cheapest or simplest – think about what you’re selling and where your customers are searching online.
  2. Make sure you provide plenty of information about your product so that customers can make informed purchasing decisions.
  3. Include quality images or videos of your products where possible.
  4. Put together a strategy to work out how you’ll keep in touch with your new customers.
  5. Update your products and information often to make sure you’re displaying up-to-date information and removing any out-of-stock items.

Find out more about starting an online business:

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