Business owners who sell many products or services can become confused as to whether building one large website or several smaller websites is the way to proceed. The debate has been going on for years. Here are points to consider about each of these scenarios.

One Large Store

Shows You Mean Business: The beauty of having one large online store is that customers can see you mean business by all the products that are available. Internet giants such as have certainly taken advantage of this idea. On the other hand, building and growing a large e-commerce website takes an enormous amount of time. Imagine having to get photos, specifications, and other important information for a very large website. It certainly requires a lot of resources (financial, time, etc).

Easy Cross-selling and Upselling: One of the main benefits of a single large store is that someone may find the site and plan to purchase one product but ends up leaving with several related products. For example, an electronics-type store that focuses on cell phones may do well on its own but if it sold extra batteries, the customer may purchase those as well. On the other hand, a store that only sells batteries may attract a unique clientele such that customers expect to purchase their cell phone batteries from that specialty store alone (especially if the website is persuasive).

Makes Financial Sense: Having a large store is more cost effective financially because the fees for development and marketing remain focused on one site. It is also less time consuming to get off the ground because you do not have to worry about the fine details of design for each site, for example.

You Look Too General: If you sell a broad array of products, it can make your site look to all-encompassing and trying to serve everyone is not a good idea for most businesses.

Several Niche Stores

People Like Specialty Shops: Be-all stores are effective but niche markets are a smart approach as well. If a customer believes that your company offers a product as a specialty, they may be more inclined to buy from you. I think that the more fancy, expensive, luxurious, or unique the product, the more people like to buy from a niche store.

Branding: If you have several websites, you can custom brand each of them so they can better compete in their niche markets. Several niche stores that are marketed completely independent of one another is probably better than having several stores for different products with the same brand name. For example, developing one store for shampoo and another for soap but both with the same brand name is sure to cause confusion and annoy the visitor as they go from store to store.

SEO: It takes a lot more financial and time-related resources to build a series of niche stores. Building a search engine friendly website is a must but it’s going to cost you. Real search engine optimization isn’t cheap and you’ll have to have an SEO approach for each site. For example, link building will have to be multiplied by the number of sites you plan to develop. Also, if you recently purchased the new domain names, each store will lack a “history” which is a point against them. On the other hand, if your main keywords are highly competitive a niche store may help you in many ways from an SEO perspective.

Social Media Marketing: Multiple niche stores means having multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages, and so on. As fads come and go, you’ll be expected to set up and maintain a social media profile page on new services that arise.

Content & Design: Sites with more limited niche content may be more easy to develop as  an aesthetically pleasing marketing tool. Always remember that it’s not just about getting visitors to the site. The key is to inspire confidence in the target market end user which will get them to buy what you are selling. This includes having an attractive Internet presence, making the site easy to navigate, providing detailed descriptions, designing clear “buy now” buttons and many other methods to call attention to various offerings.

Depends on the Theme: Whether the niche websites are related or unrelated may make a difference.  If you want to become an online sports equipment retailer, should you sell all of your equipment in one large store or have hockey equipment website, football equipment website, and so on? What if you sell unrelated products?

No Easy Answers

As you can see, businesses selling many products and services online have a big decision to make. There are no easy answers but I suggest starting with at least one search engine friendly shopping cart and seeing where it goes. You can always build more stores later. Besides, more stores means more effort but also potentially more market share.