Do you want to start a business to sell online? Or are you looking for ways to bring your existing business online? Whatever your reason might be, if you want to sell your products or services online, this guide is for you.
The rise of eCommerce has revolutionized the way businesses sell their products and services. You have unlimited potential to sell anything online to anyone from anywhere in the world. It gives you access to billions of internet users worldwide to generate more sales and grow your business.
Selling online is usually perceived as techy, challenging, and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Thanks to some of the popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce, selling online has become easier than ever – you don’t have to be a designer, developer, or business wizard to start an eCommerce business.
In this guide, I will walk you step-by-step from finding a product idea to selling online from scratch.
Advantages of Selling Online
Selling online has become a trend these days, many people and businesses are turning to the internet to sell their products and services. But, you shouldn’t sell online because everyone is doing it.
Instead, you should sell your products online because it’s a necessity to grow your business. Here are a few more reasons why you should sell online –
1. Reach – By selling online, you can reach a much wider audience than you would through a brick-and-mortar store. For example, a small jewelry store in a town might only attract local customers, but if they create an online store they can reach customers all over the world.
2. Convenience – Customers can purchase your products from the comfort of their own homes, at any time, without having to leave the house. For example, a customer who wants to buy a book can order it online and have it delivered to their doorstep, without having to physically visit a bookstore.
3. Cost savings – Selling online can be less expensive than running a traditional retail store, as you don’t have to pay for rent, utilities, and other overhead costs associated with running a physical storefront. For example, an online clothing store doesn’t have to pay for a physical storefront, which can save you thousands of dollars in rent and utilities each month.
4. Data collection – Online sales platforms provide valuable data about your customers, such as purchase history, demographics, and buying habits. This information can be used to improve your business and better target your marketing efforts. For example, an online store might use customer data to offer personalized product recommendations or email marketing campaigns.
5. Increased efficiency – Automated processes and systems can streamline many aspects of your business, from order fulfillment to inventory management, making it easier and more efficient to run your online store. For example, an online store can use an automated system to process orders, track inventory, and update pricing, which saves time and reduces the risk of errors compared to manual processes.
6. Flexibility – An online store is much more flexible than a traditional brick-and-mortar store, allowing you to quickly adjust to changes in the market, update your product offerings, and respond to customer demand. For example, an online store can quickly update its product offerings in response to changes in customer demand, whereas a brick-and-mortar store might have to wait weeks or months to make changes to its physical inventory.
7. Multi-channel Sale – Selling online gives you access to a global marketplace, allowing you to reach customers all over the world and expand your business beyond your local area. For example, a seller of handmade goods can reach customers in countries all over the world through their online store, whereas a brick-and-mortar store might only be able to reach local customers.
8 Steps to Start Selling Online
By now you know how selling products and services online can benefit your business and help you make more money.
In this section, I will walk you through the following 8 steps you need to successfully sell online-
- Find your product niche
- Choose your sales platforms
- Build your storefront
- Establish your brand
- Optimize for search engines
- Market your products
- Provide excellent customer support
- Analyze & Optimize
Ready? Let’s get started.
Step 1: Find Your Product Niche
Before you start, you need to find the right product to sell online. It can be a physical product, a digital product, or a service, which is in high demand with a high profit margin.
You can follow the following steps to choose the right product ideas to sell online –
- Identify your area of expertise: Think about what you are knowledgeable or passionate about and consider offering a product or service in that area.
- Conduct market research: Look at what products or services are in high demand, and what competitors are offering, and identify any gaps in the market that you could fill.
- Consider your target audience: Who do you want to sell to? What do they need or want? What are their pain points and how can you solve them with your product or service?
- Consider profitability: Can you make a profit by selling the product or service? What will your costs be and what price point will you need to set to ensure profitability?
- Validate your idea: Try to validate your idea by reaching out to potential customers and gauging their interest in your product or service. You can also consider running a small-scale test to see if there is a market for what you want to sell.
- Decide on your niche: Based on your research and validation, decide on a specific niche for your product or service within the market. This will help you differentiate yourself from competitors and better target your audience.
Many people take this step lightly and choose any trending product to sell, and that’s why they fail. So, spend time choosing the right product which has a high demand and you are skilled enough to scale it.
Further reading –
- Best products to sell on Shopify
- High-demand dropshipping products to sell
- Best print-on-demand products to sell
Step 2: Choose Your Sales Platform
Once you have determined what you will be selling online, you need to choose a platform to sell through. You can sell on popular marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy or use eCommerce platforms like Shopify to start your own online store.
In fact, you can also start selling online via social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You just have to figure out where your ideal customers prefer to shop.
Choosing the right online sales platform is an important decision as it will impact the success of your business. So, here are a few things you must consider while choosing a platform to sell online –
- Fees: Different platforms charge different fees for using their services. Some platforms charge a monthly fee, while others take a percentage of each sale. Make sure you understand the fees involved and how they will impact your bottom line.
- Features: Different platforms offer different features, such as the ability to customize your store, accept payments, and manage orders. Consider what features are important to your business and make sure the platform you choose offers them.
- Ease of Use: The platform you choose should be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Consider how easy it will be to set up your store, manage your products, and fulfill orders.
- Customer Service: Good customer service is critical when selling online. Look for a platform that offers robust support, including phone and email support, to help you resolve any issues that may arise.
- Integration with Other Tools: Consider if the platform integrates with other tools you may need, such as shipping and payment providers, email marketing platforms, or accounting software.
- Mobile Optimization: With more and more customers shopping on mobile devices, it’s important to choose a platform that is mobile optimized. Make sure your store looks and functions well on both desktop and mobile devices.
- Customization: Consider how much customization the platform allows, such as the ability to change the look and feel of your store, and add custom functionality.
By considering these factors, you can choose the right sales platform for your online business and set yourself up for success. However, there are hundreds of platforms, and analyzing each one to find the right one can be overwhelming.
So, here are a few hand-picked articles that you can consider using –
- Best eCommerce platform for clothing stores
- Best eCommerce platforms for dropshipping
- Best platforms to sell online courses
- Best eCommerce platforms to sell arts
Step 3: Create Your Storefront
Once you’ve chosen your sales platform, it’s time to set up your storefront where you can display your products and allows customers to place orders.
Depending on your sales platform, the process to create a storefront can be different. However, here are the common steps that you will have to follow to set up your store –
- Register your business: Before you can start selling, you’ll need to register your business and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.
- Add your products: Next, you’ll need to add your products to your store. This may involve creating product listings, adding product descriptions and photos, and setting prices.
- Customize your store: Customize the look and feel of your store to reflect your brand and make it appealing to customers. This may include adding your logo, choosing a color scheme, and selecting a layout.
- Set up payment options: Choose a payment gateway and set up your payment options, such as credit card, PayPal, or bank transfer. Make sure your payment options are secure and easy for customers to use.
- Configure shipping options: Choose a shipping carrier and set up your shipping options. This may include offering free shipping, flat rate shipping, or calculating shipping based on weight and destination.
- Test your store: Before you start selling, make sure to thoroughly test your store to ensure everything is functioning properly. This may include testing the checkout process, payment options, and shipping options.
If you are creating your own website, then make sure that the store is user-friendly and easy to navigate for users.
Further Reading –
- How to create a free online store
- Beginner’s tutorial to create a Shopify store
- How to create an eCommerce website with WooCommerce
Step 4: Establish Your Brand
By now you should have a fully-functioning storefront. However, before you start selling, you need to establish your brand to establish trust with your target audience and stand out from the competition.
You can follow these steps to establish your brand –
- Define your brand identity: Consider what your brand stands for and what sets it apart from others. This may include your mission statement, values, and unique selling points.
- Develop your brand’s look and feel: Choose a color scheme, logo, and font that represents your brand and use them consistently across all your marketing materials.
- Create a brand voice: Develop a tone of voice for your brand that is consistent across all your communication channels, including your website, product descriptions, and customer service interactions.
Normally, business owners ignore this step and go direct with selling, which is why most businesses fail to build a loyal customer base and always rely on paid ads to generate sales.
I highly recommend investing some time in defining your brand guideline and make sure that it is followed across all your marketing materials and communication channels.
Step 5: Optimize for Search Engines
Whether you created your storefront on marketplaces or build your own website, you must optimize it for search engines. It is critical to ensure that potential customers can find your products when they search for them on Google or other search engines.
Here are some steps to follow to optimize your online store for search engines –
- Conduct keyword research: Identify keywords related to your products and services that potential customers are searching for. Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner to find the right keywords for your business.
- Optimize your website structure: Make sure your website is structured in a way that makes it easy for search engines to crawl and understand. This includes organizing your content into clear categories, using descriptive and meaningful URLs, and including header tags and meta descriptions.
- Use high-quality content: Create high-quality and relevant content for your website, including product descriptions, blog posts, and landing pages. Make sure to incorporate your keywords into your content and use internal linking to help search engines understand the relevance of your pages.
Further reading –
- How to conduct eCommerce keyword research
- The complete eCommerce SEO checklist
- Tried & tested eCommerce link-building strategies
Step 6: Market Your Products
Marketing is an important part of selling products online, as it helps you reach potential customers and drive sales. There are many different marketing channels you can use to promote your products and sell them online.
Here are some of the most effective marketing channels you can use to promote your products and sell –
- Social media: Utilize social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to reach potential customers and promote your products. You can use paid advertising, share product updates, and engage with your followers to build a community around your brand.
- Paid advertising: Use paid advertising, such as Google Ads, to reach potential customers who are actively searching for products like yours.
- Email marketing: Build an email list of customers and potential customers and use email marketing to keep them informed about new products, promotions, and special offers.
- Influencer marketing: Partner with influencers in your niche to reach a wider audience and promote your products. This can involve paying influencers to promote your products, or offering them free products in exchange for reviews and social media posts.
- Content marketing: Create and share valuable and informative content, such as blog posts, infographics, and videos, to educate potential customers and build trust with your audience.
- Affiliate marketing: Partner with other websites and online platforms to promote your products and receive a commission for each sale.
- Referral marketing: Encourage your customers to refer friends and family to your online store by offering incentives, such as discounts or exclusive offers.
By using a combination of these marketing channels, you can reach a wider audience and drive more sales for your online store. It’s important to regularly monitor and adjust your marketing efforts to see what works best for your business.
Further reading –
- Most effective eCommerce marketing strategies
- The complete guide to eCommerce email marketing
- The complete guide to eCommerce influencer marketing
- Best blog topic ideas for eCommerce sites
- The complete guide to eCommerce affiliate marketing
- How to run successful eCommerce referral marketing program
Step 7: Provide Excellent Customer Service
Once you start attracting visitors and customers to your store, you should ensure that they get excellent customer service. You can start by offering live chat support to help customers with their issues.
The faster you respond on live chat, the better relationship you can build with visitors and turn them into customers. Moreover, it helps you build customer loyalty and trust that goes beyond just one transaction.
When your business starts scaling, you should also consider adding multi-channel customer support that includes email, phone, live chat, and social media, which makes it easy for customers to get in touch.
Also, make sure that someone is always available to respond to customer inquiries and requests as quickly as possible, or use chatbots to automate answers to basic queries such as “where is my order?”
Further reading –
- Best eCommerce customer service tools
- Best live chat software for eCommerce sites
- Best Shopify customer service apps
Step 8: Analyze & Optimize
By now you must be selling your products and generating revenue. But you shouldn’t stop there.
You must track important metrics to analyze your website performance, marketing campaigns, and overall business revenue. Using the insights, you can find where you are possibly losing potential sales and then take the required actions to rectify the issues to generate more sales.
Remember that it is a continuous process of analyzing and optimizing your website, products, marketing, and customer service for better performance and to stay ahead of the competition.
Further reading –
Ready to start selling online?
In today’s digital world, where most customers prefer to shop online, selling online is a great way to start a business or expand an existing one. With the rise of no-code eCommerce platforms and marketplaces, it has become easier than ever for anyone to create a storefront and start selling online.
By following the 8 steps outlined in this article, you can set yourself up for success in online selling. Just remember to pick the right product to sell, build a user-friendly storefront, optimize your listings, and market your products effectively.
Also, don’t forget to keep experimenting with new product ideas and marketing campaigns to test what works for your customers. And, I‘m sure with persistence and dedication, you can grow your online selling business and achieve your goals. Happy selling!