How to Start Selling Online

To start selling online you need a clear action plan.

  1. Identify a gap in the market. Seek out solutions to the problems faced by your customers.
  2. Research selling platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy or assess the cost of hosting your own site and managing your own logistics.
  3. Define your brand’s look and feel as well as the vision and mission.
  4. Craft and test effective sales copy and marketing incentives.
  5. Create a social media strategy and invest in customer retention.

To get yourself off to the best start, we’ve pulled together some tips from the pros. You may be surprised by how easy it can be to start your online business.

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First, Decide Upon What Products You Want to Sell

Before launching your e-commerce shop, you’ll need to figure out what types of products will populate your online store. It may best to stick with a niche that you’re passionate about and that you’ve learned a lot about. Love pets? Selling pet foods and toys could be a great idea, if you know of a customer need that’s being ignored. Adore fashion? Selling accessories and the latest trends could be a great business choice, if you’ve already got a blog that could boost traffic to your shop.  

When producing your own handmade products for sale, you will be your own supplier, so you’ll have to figure out how many items you need to make in order to meet demand. When creating bespoke items, always keep in mind the scalability of your operations and how you might be able to meet increasing demand while maintaining quality standards. If you’re reselling items from other producers, you will need to do your research to find suppliers who can sell you the items in bulk at a discounted rate. It’s important to do a market analysis of your competitors, so you can see if you can price your items competitively.

Choose Your E-Commerce Platform

Once you have determined what niche you will cater to, you need to figure out where you will host your online store.

Setting Up Your Own Website

If you decide to create your own website, you may need to hire a professional web designer who can build your site according to your specifications. The great thing about taking this route is that you can completely customise your site and really create a memorable brand, especially if you are producing your own items for sale.

Other perks that come with making your own e-commerce site include: no listing fees, having the ability to interact directly with your customers, and designing the entire user experience from start to finish.

However, if you take this route, you will need to choose a domain name and spend the money on its purchase and registration, and you will need to pay a fee annually in order to maintain ownership of that domain.

On top of that, you need to find a hosting plan that will keep your site up and running at all times. The right web host will ensure you have enough space and speed available for consistently fast load times and the smooth operation of your online store. There are many different web hosting providers available, and they all offer varying packages, so you will have to figure out which host is the most reliable, secure, and affordable for your particular needs.

Overall, setting up your own online store is a much more time-consuming and expensive process when compared to selling on marketplaces. Additionally, you will be responsible for driving traffic to your site, which means you will also need to have a strong marketing plan in place. On top of that, you’ll be on the hook for the logistics of packing and shipping. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up to it, it allows you to retain more control over your business and more of your profits.

Use an Established Online Marketplace

There are already a few global online marketplaces that you can choose from if you want to become an online business owner. These include Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, and they already have millions of shoppers from around the world who purchase products from a wide array of categories every day.

Opting to start your online business on an established marketplace will make the process a lot faster and easier. You can simply read through the instructions to get your seller account up and running in a matter of minutes. Then you can write your product listings, post your product images, and let the online marketplace do the work of making your products show up in relevant search results, especially when you optimise your listings.

If you want to generate even more traffic to your storefront on an established e-commerce platform, you may want to implement other marketing strategies, such as pay-per-click ads, email marketing, and social media marketing.   

The problem with using an online marketplace is that you are inhibited in terms of how creative you can be with your shop and your brand. There is also a ton of competition that you will have to worry about overcoming, especially when it comes to how you price your products. And because you will only be interacting with your customers minimally, if at all, you won’t always have the chance to get people on your mailing list, learn more about their needs, and entice them to make repeat purchases from your shop.

When you use an online marketplace, you will need to share your profits with the platform that you’re using. You may need to pay listing fees or subscription fees, and you might be limited on the number of products that you can list each month. But the upside of marketplaces like Amazon is the simplification of your logistics through programs like FBA. FBA can be a great way to test your market strategy and expand to international markets. Don’t forget that starting your online business is an iterative process; you’ll adapt and grow as you learn over time. Don’t expect to get everything right the first time; just be sure you constantly seek out better ways of working and celebrate small improvements.

Maintain and Ship Your Inventory

One of the reasons why many online business owners choose to sell their products on established platforms like Amazon is because they can use services like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to manage and ship their inventory. Rather than having to worry about having your own warehouse space to store your inventory, you can ship your products to Amazon and then let them take care of the picking, packing and shipping once your items sell. If you are going to be handling all of your inventory and shipping on your own, you will want to assess your landed cost and review your supply chain. After all, you don’t want to keep customers waiting weeks for their package to arrive, so preparation and research will be the keys to your success.

Don’t Forget About Customer Service

When running your own e-commerce website, you will need to set up a system by which you can provide outstanding customer service. Establish the hours during which you will be reading and replying to emails, social media comments and messages, and phone calls from customers, so your business maintains a professional standard of operations. You can also set up an online chat option that will allow customers to interact with you in real time whenever they have questions or concerns.

Even if you are using a platform like Amazon to sell your products, you might receive messages from customers who have concerns or complaints about their orders. Always have a plan in place to address their enquiries and keep them happy. After all, reviews and word of mouth matter just as much online as they do offline.

Increase Your Odds of Online Business Success

Whether you choose to go your own way by building your own site or you’re planning on relying upon the power of global online marketplaces, keep the following pointers in mind to boost your odds of long-term success: 

  • Perform market research to find out what customers want and need. Filling that need will allow you to stand out against the competition by offering something unique and useful.
  • Spend time writing stellar product descriptions that are easy to understand and really bring out the best features of every item in your shop. Hire a professional writer if you have trouble in this area.
  • In addition to the right product copy, invest in the services of a professional photographer who can take high quality images of every item. Let customers zoom in and rotate the items so they can see just how sturdy and beautiful your products really are.
  • Use responsive design when building your website so your customers will be able to shop while they are on their mobile devices and on the go.
  • Market your shop by establishing yourself as an authority in your niche. Write blog posts and share your content on social media. Become a guest blogger so your work will be found on other sites that link back to your store. Post instructional and promotional videos on YouTube. Use the power of social media to connect with your customer base by delivering valuable content, helpful advice, and discounts.
  • Dive into the international market to expand your reach and take advantage of shopping trends throughout the year. Use a service like OFX’s online seller account to save when you bring home your international revenue.

Make Your Dreams of Being Your Own Boss a Reality

Online shoppers are always looking for unique finds and great deals, so there are loads of opportunities to become your own boss by starting your online business in e-commerce. With the right money-saving and marketing strategies in place, you can start making sales and continue growing your company, whether you’re reselling popular items or setting up a shop where you can sell your own creations to the masses.

*Average savings based on a sample of published transaction fees for cross border payments provided by Amazon and PayPal dated 8.24.16. Quoted savings are not indicative of future savings. Third party intermediary fees may apply.


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