Having a strong online presence has become essential for anyone looking to make some decent sales, with the online retail market in the UK estimated at £78 billion in 2012 . The question then is not whether to be online, but whether to rely on a shared e-commerce platform (such as ebay) or to set up your own online store.

First of all you have to think about your business and what it means to you. Ask yourself: “Where am I going with it? Where do I see myself in the market and what is my target? Am in it for the long run or am I just trying to make some cash on the side?”

If you are looking for a quick way to get online and be exposed to a wide audience, then ebay or Amazon Marketplace could well be the right choice for you. You will be supported and your products will be easy to find. This is minimal maintenance for a great amount of exposure and visibility.

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However, this also applies to all other sellers offering similar products to yours. A shared e-commerce platform focuses on the products, rather than on the individual brands. You will be one of the many options available on screen, and potential customers will be on the lookout for what suits them best (as well as the lowest possible price), regardless of who is selling it.

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On the other hand, having your own online shop is about building your name and a brand by having a unique online presence. You are effectively making a long-term investment, building up a loyal client base who time after time will search specifically for your name.

Building your own online store has also become much easier thanks to online website builders such as Jimdo, featuring fully integrated product and payment options. Full control means you can easily tailor your website and optimise it to the type of business you run, letting you focus your time and energy on marketing and PR.

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Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer, it’s a simple a question of choosing the best model for your business’ needs. In the end, nothing stops you from having both an online shop and a profile on a shared e-commerce platform – at least to start with. This maximises your initial sales, while building up your brand image at the same time. Sales are important, but as Henry Ford once said: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business”.