5 Best Opportunities for Small Businesses to Break Into Ecommerce
Utilizing one or more eCommerce platforms for your business can give you the ability to sell your products worldwide and increase your sales dramatically.
Although there are many eCommerce platforms, a select few provide the most opportunity for small businesses. Here are the top 5 best opportunities for small businesses to break into eCommerce today:
Amazon is the largest opportunity for small businesses to get started with eCommerce based on the numbers. Many eCommerce platforms offer many valuable services and features, but if you look at the raw data, Amazon is helping more small businesses succeed than any other eCommerce company. Here are some stats around small businesses using Amazon to reach more customers:
- Over 140,000 small businesses on Amazon gross over $100,000 in sales annually
- 43% of all Amazon sellers have reached $100,000 in lifetime sales
- 8% of all Amazon sellers generate over $1,000,000 in sales annually
It’s clear from the numbers alone that succeeding on Amazon’s platform can be life-changing for most small businesses. To succeed on Amazon’s platform, you will have to learn how to do product research to see which products are in demand. Once you do that, you can source products and ship them directly to Amazon. Sellers that sell on the platform for many years branch into different business models like retail arbitrage, online arbitrage, wholesale, private label products, and Amazon B2B.
*Selling point: 200 million Amazon Prime members and the best distribution *
Amazon has the single most successful subscription program in modern history: Amazon Prime. By getting the opportunity to sell on Amazon, you have your products in front of millions of customers ready to purchase. As great as Amazon Prime is for customers, Amazon has an even better program for businesses: Amazon FBA.
Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program allows businesses to send products to Amazon’s warehouses. Once your products get sent to the warehouse, Amazon takes care of the rest, including customer support, shipping, returns, and more. Businesses that use Amazon’s FBA program get the chance to sell to Amazon Prime customers. This demographic of customers are willing to spend more money on products for the added convenience of 2-day shipping. This is a huge sales channel for small businesses to get into for increased sales.
Many businesses today have a physical location and are unaware of the opportunity that lies in eCommerce. Shopify has democratized eCommerce and has made it extremely easy for anyone to start an online business. You can sell your products anywhere in the world with an online store, point of sale tools, and additional sales channels supported by Shopify.
Shopify allows businesses to build their store and brand from the ground up. Beginners can easily make stores in minutes with drag and drop features, theme builders, and custom domains. Once your store is set up, you can start advertising to customers worldwide and increase your business’ reach.
Selling point: Best eCommerce platform to build your store
Many eCommerce opportunities for businesses require using another business’ distribution (ex. Amazon or Walmart). Although those businesses are amazing launchpads for small businesses, there’s still a risk of losing your business if Walmart or Amazon decides to suspend or deactivate your account.
Shopify acts as a technology partner for your business and helps you create your store from the ground up. They have 24/7 support, provide you with the best themes and apps, and no coding or technical work is needed. The technical support from Shopify allows your business to do anything that a larger business can do. You can sell internationally, run promotional campaigns, perform multiple platform-selling, and use Amazon, eBay, etc.
There’s virtually no limit to how much Shopify can support the growth of your business. Many stores on Shopify do hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. If you’re looking for autonomy in your business along with the best technical support, Shopify is the best platform to choose.
Walmart is the largest omnichannel retailer globally, but many businesses are unaware of the opportunity to sell on Walmart Marketplace. Walmart Marketplace is a community of businesses that are allowed to sell to Walmart’s 100 million customers. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses because the Walmart Marketplace is still relatively untapped.
What makes Walmart such an excellent opportunity for businesses to break into eCommerce is that it’s still in its early stages. Competitors like Amazon have had sellers on their platform for decades, and now there are millions of sellers on Amazon. In contrast, Walmart has recently let businesses start selling on their platform, and the competition isn’t nearly as fierce.
*Selling point: Sell your products to 100 million customers *
Businesses approved to sell on Walmart have reported an exponential increase in sales just from getting the exposure of millions of Walmart customers. Getting your products into Walmart stores is incredibly difficult due to the sales and volume requirements. By selling on Walmart Marketplace, businesses can bypass all of these stringent requirements and immediately access millions of customers for their business.
Selling on Walmart is simple. You list your products on Walmart.com, and you fulfill orders when products are sold on the site. There are no setup or monthly fees, so this is an incredible opportunity for small businesses to add a powerful sales channel to their business.
eBay is another avenue that small businesses can use to break into eCommerce. Since most established businesses go after the big eCommerce platforms like Amazon or Walmart, eBay is an underrated platform for small businesses. With over 170 million buyers each month on the platform, it's a great additional sales channel to add to your business at no extra cost.
On eBay, you can just list all of the products that your business has. Many sellers on the platform engage in online arbitrage. Once a product is sold, you can ship it to the customer with a shipping provider like UPS or USPS. eBay is one of the best eCommerce platforms for niche and unique products. It remains the best eCommerce platform to buy and sell antiques and other valuable goods.
Selling point: Bidding platform and 200 free listings
The bidding platform available on eBay provides a robust eCommerce experience for businesses that sell very valuable products that are limited edition. Your business can use a buy now option for products or let customers bid on the product to net a higher sales price.
eBay is one of the easiest eCommerce platforms to get started with because there are few requirements to get approved. There are no additional or hidden costs, and you can list your first 200 products for free. You can get started now by downloading the eBay app and listing products in your business directly from your phone for free.
Alibaba is an online B2B marketplace that connects businesses to some of the best wholesale suppliers in China. Many small business owners in the U.S. and other developed countries are unaware that they can start sourcing their products directly from manufacturers and distributors in China. There are two main opportunities for small businesses to exploit on Alibaba: sourcing products and selling on Alibaba.
*Selling point: Access to Chinese customers *
For most small businesses, the primary use of Alibaba is to source physical products at a very low rate. Many businesses use Alibaba to create private label products to sell in other markets. Suppliers on Alibaba sell both raw material goods in addition to manufactured goods. Since your business will be working directly with the manufacturer of the products, you can make specifications to personalize your products.
Many businesses in the U.S. use Alibaba for all of their sourcing needs. It’s the best international sourcing platform for businesses because Alibaba has trade assurance for businesses buying on its site. With Alibaba, you can filter by manufacturers to only work with verified suppliers with many positive reviews.
With nearly 800 million active users on Alibaba each month, 176,000 active suppliers on the platform in over 5,000 industries, supplier competition is fierce. You can request quotes from multiple suppliers and negotiate down to get the best possible price for your goods.
U.S.-based businesses have been trying to get access to China’s customers for decades. With over 300 million middle-class consumers, businesses that successfully launch in China can scale their business dramatically. It’s well known that many of America’s tech giants like Facebook and Google are banned in China, which has limited American businesses’ ability to break into China.
In 2019, Alibaba finally opened up the opportunity for American businesses to start selling on their platform. This allows American businesses to sell B2B and B2C products to both American and Chinese customers. Businesses that take advantage of this opportunity can have the chance to add a huge revenue channel to their business. The demand on Alibaba is extremely high, and businesses that learn to use the platform can scale tremendously.
Selling to Chinese customers is a relatively untapped eCommerce opportunity. With a mobile-first and developed eCommerce market, this is a great opportunity for American businesses to break into China and start grabbing market share. Alibaba provides a ripe platform for U.S. businesses to list and promote products while Alibaba takes care of the language barrier and other logistics.
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These five opportunities are some of the most profitable and scalable ways your business can break into eCommerce. To recap, here are the five opportunities and their main selling points:
- Selling on Amazon: access to 200 million Amazon Prime members along with distribution
- Shopify: Best eCommerce platform to build your own store from the ground up
- Walmart Marketplace: Sell your products to 100 million Walmart customers
- eBay: bidding platform and 200 free listings
- Alibaba: access to Chinese customers
Using these pre-built platforms, you can extend your customer reach from your physical location to a global audience with a demand for your products. It’s best to choose one platform out of the five mentioned in this post and focus until it becomes a significant sales avenue for your business. Explore one of the options mentioned above in this post to increase your sales and break into new markets with eCommerce.
Written by our guest writer Ali Ali, a freelance writer and blogger at alisquared.co
He enjoys writing about freelancing, blogging, and scaling online businesses. He is touted as the world’s greatest tic tac toe player.