Selling things online is a no-brainer for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of pawnshop haggling or the hard work of hauling things out for a yard sale or to the flea market. But what was once only a handful of online options has turned into a messy cluster of classifieds, bidding sites, and social networks. Choosing the right one can be difficult if you’re serious about getting a good deal or even executing a planned business strategy through one of these options. The following highlights the risks and rewards of each avenue and a general who’s who of online consumer-to-consumer businesses.
CLASSIFIEDS (Craigslist.org, Backpage.com)
If those who have profited from the Internet know one thing it’s that while the technology changes, old habits die hard. Online classifieds operate in nearly the same exact fashion as newspaper classifieds, only this time they’re free. If you don’t mind the frustrations of meeting the buyer in person, aren’t interested in paying a third party, and haven’t got the time for a bidding war, sites like Craigslist are probably the most ideal way to sell your stuff.
The loss of that third-party commission means there’s no guarantee that the transaction can be reversed in the event of a problem. That’s probably less your risk and more the buyer’s, but it’s worth mentioning that these sites have webpages dedicated to informing you about the fraud that’s possible. You don’t want to get involved with shipping anything to anyone so stick to local offers. The more expensive the items, the riskier it gets dealing with anything but cash. Most classified sites advise to stick to cash.
ONLINE AUCTIONS/FIXED PRICE WITH COMISSION (Ebay.com, Amazon.com)
Agreeing to sell your items online with the ultimate intent of shipping them means your market reach explodes in size. The online auction, pioneered by Ebay, is still a great way to maximize the profit on high demand rarities and other valuables, though the margins are volatile if you’re planning on doing it large scale. Ebay is encouraging its users to shift towards the fixed style model of C2C commerce that Amazon has been successfully doing for years now. This kind of online selling through a third party cuts out the stressful bidding process and allows products to remain available for sale almost indefinitely. Unlike free classifieds, credit card payments and shipping risks are at elast in some ways covered in the event of a problem.
SOCIAL NETWORKS AKA YOU (Facebook, Twitter, Etc)
For some reason sites like Facebook and Twitter haven’t done a great job in harnessing the power of C2C commerce through their massive following. Currently if you’re caught committing acts of commerce through Facebook your profile may be deleted. But that shouldn’t necessarily stop you (what do you really have to lose after all?) For example if it’s just a matter of selling off the few valuable pieces of an estate sometimes working through a network of close friends and relatives is the best way to go about the sale. There are all sorts of reasons why you’d prefer to stick to people you know and their associates. While I wouldn’t encourage launching an antique business through Twitter, it’s worth thinking about if maybe, perhaps, you wanted to start the next big thing: a Twitter/Ebay combo? I’d call it Twitbay…just kidding.
Hopefully this gets you thinking about the ups and downs of the options you have in front of you. Always be wary of the risks and be cautiously optimistic about the rewards. Knowing the best way to sell your particular item or items can ensure less of the former and more of the latter.