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Selling through an online shopping mall

An online shopping mall can be a good alternative if:

* You're looking for an online route to customers as an optional extra to your normal sales channels
* You want to extend the number of online outlets your customers can use

An online mall brings together a number of online shops on the same website, often from the same sector. It hosts your online shop and processes payments for you.

Malls will often provide software to help you set up your shop and receive card payments on your behalf. You maintain and update your own shop within the mall, but most of the administration is done for you.

Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer online mall facilities, as do specialist companies. If you sell to a particular trade or industry, the relevant trade association may be able to put you in touch with a dedicated mall - see a list of trade associations on the Trade Association Forum (TAF) website.

Advantages

* Online shopping malls give an immediate online presence.
* They're easy to set up for people with moderate IT skills.
* You don't need to go through the process of setting up a merchant account.
* You often get help and support in getting your store operational.

Disadvantages

* Online shopping malls are often the most expensive way to sell online.
* Generally you'll have to pay a joining fee and a percentage of each transaction made through the mall - charges per transaction can be higher than processing payments yourself.
* You may also have to pay a monthly or annual fee - charges vary substantially.
* Your shop is often tied into a standard format.