The choice between building your own ecommerce website or using a selling platform such as Amazon, eBay or Walmart has plagued ecommerce merchants since the creation of the buy now button.

However, it is not always a question of one or the other. Listen into the latest episode of Conversations with Karen to hear her expert advice on making this decision. Or you can read the full transcript.

Phaedra Perkins: Welcome to conversations with Karen. I’m Phaedra Perkins, CMO and I am here with Karen Locker, CEO of Solutions4Ecommerce. Karen is a highly regarded e-commerce industry expert. She built her first eBay and Amazon store back in 2008. No one knows e-commerce like Karen does. We are here to answer your burning questions. Today’s question, should you use your own website or that rented real estate of eBay and Amazon? Karen, what are the pros and cons? What do we choose?

Karen Locker: Everybody always says “You need to have your own website. You need to have your own website” It’s probably good to have your own website, if nothing else, but to show suppliers that you have you on website. Especially if you’re buying wholesale, they like to see your website. There’s some things to consider. Having the platforms, eBay, Amazon, Etsy, I don’t even know who else there is anymore, Walmart, waizbuy.com. Some people sell on Wayfair, there’s a whole bunch.
The pros for that is they bring you traffic, they have eyeballs, people search on Amazon and eBay for what they want. That’s what they do. One of the biggest cons is, it’s their playground. You just can’t get mad, take your toys and go home because they don’t care. They run the rules, you have to play by their rules, you don’t like their rules, there’s not a lot of chance you’re going to get it changed. You could have been on there for a long time, a short time, five minutes doesn’t matter. They’re a huge company, they have the way they’re doing things and you have to play by it.

That’s the biggest negative for both Amazon and eBay is they basically, they own your business as long as you’re on their platform and if that’s the only thing you do. If you only sell on eBay and Amazon, they own you, you have to play by their rules. The problem with having your own website is you’ve got to drive your own traffic. If you’re anybody like me, who thinks marketing is a four-letter word, because I don’t do it, never have, never will, that’s why I have a CMO. If I don’t do it and I finally realized if I’m not going to I need to hire somebody that will.
You’ve got to drive your own traffic to them. Field of Dreams, it is not, build it and they will come does not happen. If you have a unique product, then maybe you can use some Google AdWords and really get it out there and build. If you have a Facebook tribe, you can maybe do unboxings and coming attractions and they’ll come, but you’ve got to do something to build those traffic.

I will tell you my challenge coins, I have a website for them. I am the only one that sells the ones I have. I sold four in the last year because I don’t do any marketing and I don’t pay any ads. Whatever you are paying eBay and Amazon that you figure out their outrageous fees, you’re going to have to turn that and pay that out to the other behemoths, the Googles and the Bings and all of those types of places, so that they will hand your website to other people and say “Here she is. You can find it here.”
The nice things about having your own website is you design it how you want, you make your own look, you make your own feel, you decide what the important features are, you have your functions, all of that is up to you. It is not the case on eBay and Amazon. You can have a unique space that you rent on your website where people will come and they will find your information, but you’ve got to do things that will draw them there, whether it’s articles, blog posts, Facebook, because just doing a Facebook ad is not always the be all and end all. There’s a whole lot of marketing that has to go into it with building them.

You want to make your descriptions unique for your own website because Google will feed Amazons and eBays because they have that connection. You want yours to stand out and really have those words that the people are looking for, those keywords without keyword stuffing. If you’re doing your website, one of the biggest problems with it, one of the biggest cons is it can cost a lot of money to have a website professionally developed, depending upon who your market is. You want to make sure that user experience and there are people that will do heat maps and see where people go and a whole lot of other useful stuff.

Phaedra Perkins: Yes we do.

Karen Locker: You got to have the SEO on the page. Me, SEO is Voodoo. I don’t play with SEO to me, it’s just Voodoo it does what it does and as soon as you think you figured it out, Google will change the algorithm. Anyways-

Phaedra Perkins: I see that.

Karen Locker: -they brought their cute little black and white animals like zebras, pandas and theres-

Phaedra Perkins: Penguin, panda.

Karen Locker: They’ll start [inaudible 00:05:41] too. No, they don’t. Zebra didn’t. You still don’t have 100% control, but you can send out snail mail marketing, you can send out e-mail marketing. There’s so many ways you can drive traffic, but you have to be willing to put in the money. I’m not talking $50. That’s the difference. You can get a custom store design for three, $4,000. Get that done. I use the simple template because I know my buyers. Again, like I’ve talked about in another episode, they’re not fruitful. I didn’t need all this big, fancy, epic store, I just needed something that said what it was, what it does, and what it has. You’re selling to higher-income women who want the trends, then you definitely had– Sorry about this, I completely lost it.

Phaedra Perkins: I think we’ll take a second and let Karen catch us up and we will recap. We have so much fun on conversations with Karen, I’m not stopping this recording, and we’re not going to change it. We are human and we are having a conversation and in natural human conversations these things happen. I’m going to put in just a disclaimer here that what Karen actually meant was higher-priced items to women, such as higher-priced jewelry or higher priced–

Karen Locker: You want to appeal to the upper-middle class with these higher-priced items. Somehow that all got moosh-mashed in my head tonight, but that’s okay. You’ll want to make it all look so pretty.

Phaedra Perkins: Oh, my goodness. Quick recap there, because there was just a ton of information. There are pros and cons, regardless of choosing your own website, or choosing channels. When we say channels, eBay, Amazon, Walmart, that’s a selling channel. With your own website, you have to have your branding, and you have to have a story to tell, and then you can build it and it can be gorgeous, but then you have to attract buyers to that site. You’re going to need some Google some SEO and all those, Voodoo four-letter words that Karen doesn’t like. You’re going to need to do some marketing in other words.
With Amazon and eBay, your channels, they’re going to bring buyers into the platform for you, they already have those eyeballs. However, it’s not your real estate, it’s rented, and they can take it away from you at any time. That’s one big key. Then there’s the restrictions that you have to function under within those channels. Does that about summon up Karen?

Karen Locker: That does indeed. Then the other thing too, is even on eBay and Amazon, you’ve got to throw a little extra advertising money their way. With their promoted listings so you get above the 4,365 other sellers selling your exact same widget. There’s always extra costs that you have to consider when you’re doing it. When you have your own website, at least it’s yours.

Phaedra Perkins: I think maybe it depends a lot on who you are, what you want to accomplish. We’re not saying you have to choose one or the other either are we?

Karen Locker: No. It’s always good to have both because, again, proverbial putting your eggs in one basket. You don’t want to do that. The risks are too great. I get really scared when I know a seller is doing huge dollar value on Amazon only and doesn’t have any secondary channels because they could be in a world of hurt if Amazon changes a rule and Amazon changes rules frequently. eBay changes the rules frequently.

Phaedra Perkins: It’s their real estate. They get to make the rules because it is theirs. As a channel seller for any of them, you have to operate within those rules. Karen mentioned that we just discussed some of these things in a previous episode and we did. We discussed using eBay as a channel and when and where that might be a good fit for you.

If you miss that one, head over to solutions4 ecommerce.com and it will be posted on our blog. You can catch all the past episodes of conversations with Karen there. Also, don’t forget schedule your consultation with Karen. You get 15 minutes to tell your life story. No, to pick her brain talk to her about your business and now she might be able to help you take it to the next level. Thank you so much for joining us today. Join us on solutions4ecommerce.com and find us on Facebook. Until next time.