Selling online using third-party platforms
To set up your online business, you can also set up an online shop using third-party platforms, which is any software developed externally to you or your main website provider. Another alternative would be to list your products on well-known marketplaces. Keep in mind that some of your basic obligations in running a website still apply if you chose this option.
E-commerce third-party platforms
An e-commerce platform is a software programme or application that will allow your business to sell goods and services online by helping you manage your website and other operations such as marketing, sales, and logistics. Here are some of the things you should look at when choosing this type of solution:
- Setup simplicity: look at the different templates offered by each platform to find what best suits your business and brand.
- Easy and secure browsing: choose a solution that will give your customers a high-level user experience. You should also check that security levels are in place for the payment processing features of the e-commerce platform.
- Multiple integrations: look for a wide variety of integrations with the software and marketing tools that you might already be already using or will consider adding in the future.
- SEO features: Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process by which you can improve the quantity and quality of the traffic to your website from search engines. Your business should be easy to find in customers' searches, so the platform must allow you to implement some of the most common tools for organic growth in rankings, such as using your own domain name, or collecting customer feedback and reviews.
- Mobile-first approach: a growing number of customers use their smartphones or tablets for online shopping, and this is why the platform's adaptability to mobile devices should be an important factor when you decide on your choice.
- Monitoring tools: choose a platform that will allow you to easily monitor the performance of your online shop in terms of sales volumes, preferred payment means, or number of orders.
- Technical support: find an e-commerce platform that is highly ranked by other businesses in terms of customer support
- Payment options for your customers: consider the payment options, such as direct debit or credit cards, you want to offer your customers and make sure the platform you choose will enable your online shop to use them.
- Pricing: consider the costs involved in using one platform or another. E-commerce platforms offer a variety of pricing schemes, ranging from monthly subscriptions to rates per transaction, flat rates, additional costs for add-ons or features, so you should weigh carefully the pricing options that best suit your business model.
If using a third-party e-commerce platform is too much effort for you or you want to expand into an additional sales channel, consider selling through a marketplace.
Marketplaces are another type of e-commerce sites that connect sellers with buyers and follow the offline model of traditional department stores. All transactions on a marketplace are managed by its operator and you can use this channel to reach customers who are interested in your products or services.
Some of the advantages offered by online marketplaces are:
- reduced marketing costs
- instant access to international markets
- transparent competition with similar businesses
- increased trust and security for customers
- no interruptions in operation
- predictability in terms of stock, prices and availability
- handling of order payment and processing
- assistance to both sellers and buyers throughout the whole sales process
Platform to Business Regulation (P2B)
The European Commission has introduced new regulations to increase transparency and fairness on online platforms. These rules address the obligations of online intermediation and search engine providers (including e-commerce, social media, online app distribution and collaborative marketplaces), who act as gateways to businesses' access to markets and consumers.
The new Platform to Business (P2B) Regulation provides solutions to problems encountered by businesses using platforms as part of their work, such as:
- lack of predictability and justifications in the platforms' terms and conditions
- unjustified suspension and termination of businesses' accounts
- unclear policies and ranking rules
- discrimination in favour of platforms' own products or services
- limitation of businesses' freedom to offer better conditions outside the platform
- platforms' ineffective complaint handling and redress mechanisms
The Observatory on the Online Platform Economy was created to monitor the evolution of the online platform economy and the implementation of the P2B Regulation.