Selling online is the new reality of the world. In the year 2019, online sales are expected to reach 13.7% of retail sales worldwide. Similarly, the statistics about mobile and internet usage would reveal the future potential of online selling word. With such statistics and analysis at hand, one of the things that you must do is to sell your products online. After reading this, if you are wondering how to sell online, then this article has been specially written for this purpose. We are going to guide you about the ways to sell online and some of the dos and donts that you should look for while engaging in such a practice.
What do we mean by online selling?
Before we move forward, it is highly important that we should know what is online selling. Online selling is just like normal selling that we do in the physical world. The only difference here is the medium through which the sales are made. In this mode, everything is shifted from the physical world to the virtual one, but the process and transactions remain more or less the same.
Importance of online selling:
The marketplace for most of the products is facing a shift from the traditional mode to the online one. You would have observed the online stores of all the leading brands. Even the local brands that can afford the online platforms are also trying to be in the race to acquire the market share. Moreover, the rising internet usage and smartphone availability have made it easier to shop online from the user’s end too, thus increasing the trend of shopping from the virtual market. Furthermore, it also creates an opportunity for the business to reduce the intermediaries of the supply chain and get in direct contact with the customers.
From the point of view of new entrants, the cost of entering the market is minimal as compared to the traditional market. You can even find opportunities to sell the products without keeping an inventory. Similarly, you won’t have to compete with strong brands based on budgetary restrictions. Designing effective campaigns can give you an edge over the large competitors of your niche and you can make profits easily. Even the online forums allow you to communicate with your buyers in an efficient way, thus making it easier to know them and their needs along with building strong relationships with them.
Because of all such reasons, online sales are facing the boost. Now is the time for you to make the decision and become part of this marketplace unless it gets too saturated to enter. This is why we are highlighting “how to sell online” here.
A. Ways to sell online:
In this section, we are going to highlight the ways to sell your products online. You have a number of options when it comes to online selling but be ready to make decisions, as you’ll have to choose one of them, to initiate your e-commerce business. We have divvied this section on the basis of the platform choice that you have and the type of business that you are willing to adopt.
1. Platform options:
There are a few different types of platforms that can allow you to sell your products online. Each of the types of marketplace or platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. Have a look at them and find the one that is most suitable for you.
· Hosted E-commerce solutions:
The first optional that you can have for selling your products online is the hosted e-commerce solution. This option is feasible for the sellers who are just entering the online world and don’t have much information about how things work. If you choose to enter this form of online selling, you’ll need to choose one of the hosted e-commerce solutions.
If you are looking for the examples of such forum, then Shopify and Bigcommerce are the two famous platforms. Apart from the advantages and disadvantages of the hosted e-commerce mode of entering the online world, there are certain pros and cons associated with the specific type of platform that you are going to choose. So, make sure you have done your homework well before choosing a particular type of hosted e-commerce store.
Advantages and Disadvantages of hosted e-commerce solution:
Here we are discussing the advantages and disadvantages of hosted e-commerce solution:
- With a hosted platform, you don’t have to bear the cost of setting up the complete website. These costs include buying themes and hosting, which can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
- You can start your store just by entering products on the platform.
- You need to follow the rules of the platform
- You don’t have any guarantee for the store. The platform can ask you to leave your store anytime.
- In case you want to move your platform to any other mode of selling, you won’t be allowed to take your data. So, you’ll lose everything that you have put on your store.
Shopify is one of the leading hosted platform based in Canada. More than 120000 merchants are the part of the platform already, indicating the success of this platform.
- As Shopify has been discussed as one of the examples of this platform, so we’ll be highlighting a few of its advantages and disadvantages too to facilitate your decision-making process.
- You can get a number of pre-designed themes.
- Starting a Shopify store can be easier as compared to creating the entire store on your own.
- You need to pay the forum fee.
- Shopify does not allow you to carry your data along if you need to switch the platforms. So, you’ll end with zero standing if you go with this e-commerce store.
Self-hosted e-commerce solution:
The second option that you can use is to create a self-hosted e-commerce platform. In the self-hosted forum, you will be responsible for all the activities on your own. There won’t be any third party interference, but at the same time, some of the benefits as access to a large number of forum buyers won’t be available. Word Press and Magneto allow you to create specific self-hosted platforms. Similar to the last section, in this section as well, we are going to share the advantages associated with the type of e-commerce platform and WordPress, both.
Advantages of a self-hosted e-commerce platform:
Following are the main advantages of self-hosting forums:
- You have all the control over your website
- You won’t have to pay a fixed fee to the platform. The money you’ll earn will be yours.
- You can develop your store as a brand.
Disadvantages of a self-hosted e-commerce platform:
The disadvantages of self-hosted e-commerce platform include:
- You’ll have to invest money to initiate the online store. The main costs would include the cost for the domain name and hosting.
- Moreover, you’ll have to build the traffic to your domain on your own.
WordPress is a content management system that allows you to create the content in whatever shape and form you like. The creation of e-commerce stores on this content management system is going to be one of the types of websites that can be made on WordPress. You can use the Woocommerce plugin for creating the entire store and handling all the payment issues. By using this plugin, managing the website would not be difficult.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using WordPress as an E-commerce Store:
- You can easily create your own brand
- The outlook of your store can be customized according to your requirements.
- All the earning through the store would be yours. You don’t need to share it with the platform.
- Building up the traffic for your store would require a lot of your effort, and you’ll have to start with low domain authority and other ranking factors.
- You’ll have to pay for hosting on your own, which can vary depending upon the servers and the plan chosen.
- Extensive content would be required (ideally) to generate traffic to WordPress store
- Speed optimization and loading time for the page are going to be your issues.
Online Marketplaces as E-commerce solution:
The third way to makes sales in the online world is through the online marketplaces. These marketplaces allow you to sell goods online but do not support the creation of brands. The database and customer flow of the platform can be of great help to you when using this type of online selling mode. Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are some of the common marketplaces that we know today. You can visit them and have a general look at the storefront that these forums provide so that you’ll be in a better position to know which forum is right for you.
Advantages and disadvantages of online marketplaces:
Following are the advantages and disadvantages of the online market places:
- You don’t have to worry about the traffic while working on these platforms. As these platforms have their own audience, which searches for products, so you can get the advantage of that.
- You can quickly add your product catalog and start selling your products.
- Full-time customer support is provided to you.
- No background knowledge of using the platform or selling the products is required to start selling on these platforms.
- You are bound by the rules that these market places provide and cannot change them.
- You cannot establish your own reputation on these platforms. Moreover, exporting data from one of the platforms to the other won’t be possible.
- Competition is a lot higher on these marketplaces as compared to the other platforms.
- Lower profit margin must be expected in most of the cases.
- High costs of the platforms are an addition, making your advantage from the entire process lower.
Although, there are a number of online marketplaces, in order to give you an idea about the basics, we are only going to cover Amazon here. Apart from the famous online market places that we have discussed here, there are a lot more of them. You should explore them and find the pros and cons of each before finalizing your decision.
Amazon started as an online bookstore but not has all the possible products that you can think of. With millions of customers and suppliers available on Amazon, it can be considered as the topmost platforms.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Amazon:
The advantages associated with choosing Amazon as the online marketplace to sell your products has been given below:
- The largest marketplace has its own traffic, and if you do everything right, then you can easily attract the customer to your products, resulting in a higher sales volume for you
- You get support from the representative in everything, thus reducing the number of tensions with the business.
- You’ll need to provide a fixed fee to the platform along with the charges on every product sold, which can reduce the overall profit margin of your business.
- The policies on Amazon can be strict but you’ll have to bear them.
Apart from marketing, you can also sell your products on social media as well. Facebook provides the shop option for the businesses or create their catalog and sell the product.
Even if you don’t go for the integrative feature, you can still advertise the products on social media, provide the contact or order details, and generate orders directly. In this case, online payment modes or the Cash on delivery (COD) mode can be used.
Similarly, those practices can easily be pursued on other social media platforms too. It can be a side mode for selling your products or can be used as the online platform for selling the goods and services.
2. Mode of business:
Based on the business mode, you have a few options and you can decide to sell products by employing any one of them.
· Open an online store for the physical product:
If you are running a physical business already either by manufacturing the product on your own or by reselling the product, you can start selling it online. The use of the above-mentioned platforms can be made for this purpose.
It would be similar to your physical store where the customers come, choose the product, and pay for it. In the online setting, you’ll be creating a product catalog through which the customers would be able to choose the product and as a result, add it to their carts and make payment to confirm the order. In this case, you’ll have to deliver the product to the address mentioned by the customers.
Nearly all of the leading brands are using this mode of business where the physical and the online store coexist. Their sales are generated from both the sources. The main purpose of employing this strategy is to increase the reach of the brand and to facilitate the customers in the best possible way. So, that the brands can get the benefit, in the end, in the form of higher profits.
One of the leading modes of selling online these days is dropshipping. In this business mode, you don’t need any sort of inventory in hand. You just need to establish a store and connect with customers. As soon as the customer’s order your product, the original suppliers would be notified and would deliver the product directly to your client. The profit earned would be based on the difference in the rates that your supplier would offer you and the one that you offer to your client.
In order to carry this business online, you need to establish a storefront, you can choose the marketplace-based platform as it would be the most feasible option. However, the nature of the product and the pros and cons of the specific marketplaces will require you to make your decision.
· Sell online:
In case you don’t have a physical store, but a source through which you can get the products, then you can open an online store. The difference between this mode and dropshipping would be the stock of goods. In dropshipping, you don’t need any sort of stock. But in this case, you’ll be the owner of goods and resell them, as you would have done in the physical store.
This mode of business also allows you to choose any of the platforms that we have discussed. All of them would be able to integrate this business model perfectly well. But you’ll need to put in the effort for success.
· Affiliate marketing:
This is another way to sell products. You can use this technique to earn a commission by helping others’ sell their product. Technically, they would be sold by you and you’ll get a commission as sales agent would get one. You can start a blog for that purpose and create high traffic stream. Once the traffic is built, you can find the people and business who want their product to be sold. One important thing here is to consider products that are related to the niche on which you have been writing. It will help in establishing greater credibility for the product that you’ll be offering to sell. On each product that you’ll sell, you can generate profit in the form of commission.
In the same way, you can also hire affiliate marketers to sell your goods. In this case, you won’t necessarily need a store of your own. You can still keep it if you want. By hiring these affiliate marketers, you’ll be paying the commission for the sales and earn profit as the differential amount between sales and cost of goods sold.
3. How to start online selling?
Up till now, we have highlighted the medium and types of business format that you can use for selling online. In this section of the article, our focus would be to guide you about the complete procedure to start the online business. Here is how you should start.
What to sell?
The first question that needs your attention to selling the goods online is what you should sell. If you already have your products from a physical store or a supplier, then you should be selling those. But in case, you want to start a business or want to get in the dropshipping mode of business then hat to sell must be the crucial question for which you must find an answer to.
The product that you should consider must have some characteristics. We are highlighting those characteristics for you. Firstly, you should try to choose the product that could solve the problems for the customers. It would help you UN capturing the market relatively easily as compared to the normal products. In case, you can’t find or don’t want to go for such a product, then you must choose the niche for which you are passionate about. Choosing a category in which you are not interested in is going to create a lot of problems for you. At the same time, you won’t be able to connect with the target market, thus creating a lot of problems for you.
Some of the other things that you can consider while making this choice include the potential for being a brand and the acceptability of similar nature products in the market. With the presence of marketplaces on the internet, you can find the acceptability of niche and the specific products by conducting in-depth research. Although, it is not the only measure of success being a beginner, you can research the niche and can an instant benefit by targeting the right kind of product.
Where to sell?
The next thing that you should do is to find the appropriate forum where you are going to sell your products. It could be any of the above-discussed ways of selling online. Choosing the right way to sell the product can be a guarantor of your success, so it is essential to consider all the pros and cons before making any decision.
Moreover, long-term perspective must be given consideration as the establishment of a brand reputation within the target market can actually pay you off. But we do realize that the element of the cost could be difficult to handle at an early stage, thus requiring you to focus on the short term gains.
Which mode to use?
As discussed above, you don’t necessarily need to be the owner of goods while selling them online. Similarly, you can even advertise your own stock and sell it. So, the decision about the mode must be amongst the primary decisions that you would have to make before you start selling online.
4. Important Tips for running up an e-commerce business:
Selling online attracts a lot of competition, so you should stand out from the crowd. In order to keep up the competitive advantage, we are sharing a few tips that might help you.
Give importance to niche selection:
The characteristics that we have discussed above for selecting niche are the most important ones. You should evaluate the selected niche on each of those characteristics and if found feasible, it should be continued. The reason we are giving higher importance to niche is that a trending niche would have lower competition but higher searchability, leading you to make more profit.
Design your store aptly:
If you are using the online market places, then designing the store can be of great importance when it comes to attracting the customers. The outlook of your store, the speed of the page, and the convenience of the user interface are some of the things that you should consider while creating your store.
Importance of SEO:
Moreover, if your store is on WordPress, then you would be attracting most of the customers through Search Engine Optimization. The SEO is mostly based on the content, so you’ll have to make sure that you not only manage the content properly but make it SEO optimized and regularly updated in order to get more visitors from the search engines. Even in the case of Amazon and other such forums, the role of SEO is very high in earning customers for you. Like search engines, these marketplaces have their special algorithms to rank the stores, so make sure to get all things right and reach the top slot.
As you would be selling something in the virtual world, the customers would not be able to touch or feel the product. In such a situation, a professional photograph of the product can do wonders. This is why you must go for professional images to be used in the catalog so that the audience would be attracted. Make sure not to include fake pictures or pictures from other stores, as it is not going to help.
Additionally, SEO is also important when considering the images. You need to help the search engines and algorithms of market forums to know what the picture is about. It can be done through the addition of alt-tag, so don’t forget to add it.
Protection of consumer Data:
In most cases, you would be allowing your customers to make payment online. In all such situations, sensitive information like the bank account and other personal details would be required. So, you must make sure that the chances of hacking data are minimized. With the rising use of secured platforms, the customers don’t want to share all these details with an unsecured platform. Thus, you’ll require a secured platform certification. It can be gained through the SSL Certificate in exchange for a little fee. After the incorporation of this certificate into your store, all your information will be encrypted and the chances of loss of data would be minimum. Thus, you can provide a secure environment for your customers to encourage transactions.
This certification is required for self-hosted platforms like, but the stores on marketplaces already have the security feature active and so does not require any such settings.
Building Customer Relationship:
Once a customer has bought products from your store, you can definitely get in touch with them again to up-sell the products. Moreover, highlighting the new offers from the store and the latest products could also be the reason for maintaining contact. Make sure that the communication of all these messages must be in a way that would compel them to come to your store directly whenever they need to buy a product.
Polite tone, best customer service, and looking from the perspective of customers could be some of the ways that you can use for communicating your message. By keeping all these things in mind, there are greater chances that your customers will return to your store and would create a positive word of mouth for you as well.
Take care of the reviews:
If you are making sales on the online marketplaces, then the reviews of the customer about your product, store, and customer service are very important. Make sure to give them the best product and service so that the review exchange at the end of the transaction would be positive, leading to the attraction of more customers. In order to get the best review, make your customer feel that he or she is the ultimate authority, and you want to please him or her in every possible way. With such an attitude, there are higher chances that you’ll be able to convince your customers to give you a positive review.
The time and effort being sent a business must always be accounted for. It will help you to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, showing you the right path regarding the continuation of your business. If after a dedicated effort, you don’t find the desired results, then it is better to switch to a different product or a different platform. Help from the expert through community forums can be taken in this regard as well.
We have tried to cover everything that you must know regarding how to sell online. Majority of the decisions are to be taken at the preliminary stage so that you must set up a clear vision for your e-commerce store. With every option that you have in the platforms or modes of business, there are a few advantages and disadvantages. So, you’ll have to strike a balance in these pros and cons yourself to get the ultimate success. Success would here mean profit and brand development.
If you need to ask something about this topic, post your questions and feedback in the comments section below. So, we will answer them for you and continue the learning journey together.