As a small California business owner, figuring out online sales is just one of the many hats you wear. With limited time and resources available, you might find yourself in a position of having to choose between building your own ecommerce website or selling your products in an established online marketplace.

Each of these options has pros and cons, and the right answer will depend on your business goals and capacity to add online sales to your workload.

Here are some things to consider as you weigh which path to choose:

Online Marketplaces

Amazon, Shopify, and eBay are all examples of online marketplaces where consumers go when they are looking to buy particular types of products. You have the opportunity to sell your product to a very large audience, but you’re also competing with many, many other brands for those potential customers.

An online marketplace requires much less setup than building a website. Platforms have established processes for listing products, connecting with customers, and receiving payment. There’s a reason why so many sellers choose this option!

However, that ease of use brings a ton of competition to marketplaces, which could lead to lower sales or reduced profit if you need to lower your price to remain competitive. 

You also have less control over your brand on marketplaces, as sellers are usually forced to adopt a template for displaying products and other information to ensure that everything remains consistent for the site’s users.

Platforms also have policies around customer service and communication that you’ll need to adhere to. However, they also have protections in place to protect you if a customer has payment issues or other problems arise.

Marketplaces also do not allow you to build your customer base. Customer data remains on the platform, and customers might not even know they’re buying from you vs. another seller.

Your Own Website

On the flip side, setting up your own ecommerce website gives you full control over how your brand is displayed, how much you charge for your products, and how you interact with customers. 

As you might expect, creating and maintaining a website requires time and money — likely more than you’ll pay to be part of a platform. There are templates and services available to help with these things, but again they can be costly and might not be exactly what you’re looking for for your website layout.

Once you do set up your site, however, you have access to valuable data about who your customers are and what they’re purchasing. You can use this information to target them in campaigns to buy other products and create a network of ambassadors to spread the word about your business on their social networks. 

You’ll also take home a bigger chunk of the profit made on your own website because you do not have to pay fees to an online marketplace. However, you’ll also need to do all the work to attract customers to your site, in some cases pulling them away from an online marketplace. 

Search engine optimization and social media advertising can help build awareness and drive traffic to your website, but require time and money to set up and maintain.

Which Option to Choose?

Again, the decision will largely depend on what resources you have available and what your goals are for your business. 

If you are looking to make a profit quickly with minimal setup time, then an online marketplace is likely the way to go.

If you have additional resources available and are interested in building a long-term relationship with your customers, then setting up your own site probably makes more sense.

There’s also nothing to say that you can’t do both. You can keep your presence on the marketplace, but also build your own site and start attracting a new stream of customers there. It’s the best of both worlds and allows you to gain maximum exposure — and hopefully maximum profit — for your California business.