Learn how to sell online. Whether you are planning to sell physical products, services, or digital products online, this eCommerce guide will help you to understand the underlying concepts, tools, and strategies to start a successful eCommerce business. This is strictly a no BS guide, meaning that I will straight away get to the point and discuss how to sell online.
First, take a look at this graphic that illustrates the global eCommerce market share of retail sales from 2017 to 2023. As you can see, every 1 out of 5 retail sales (Business to customer sales) is made online by 2022. And it continues to grow further.
What does that mean? It means you should have started selling online “YESTERDAY.”
Online selling space is getting crowded and competitive day by day, and you are losing money by not starting to sell online right now. So, let us find out how to get online and sell online.
How to sell online?
Here are the steps to sell your products or services online. We will discuss all these steps in detail.
- Find what products/services are in higher demand online
- Plan your online selling strategy
- Decide whether to start a website or sell on online marketplaces
- Launch a robust digital marketing strategy
- Analyze data and tweak your online selling process for the best results
FAQs about how to sell online
What is the best site to sell stuff?
Here are the best sites to sell stuff online. However, creating your very own online store is the best method in the long run.
- Your very own online store
Is online selling profitable?
Yes, but if done right. Online selling eliminates many overhead costs of running a physical business. However, it also adds many other costs to your profit formula. Therefore, online selling becomes profitable only if you manage to develop and run it in a proper way. Refer to the second topic of this guide for more details.
Legal disclaimer (Our lawyer asked us to say this)
As the author, I am providing free information, tips, and the best practices about how to sell online, which are derived from my practical knowledge running online businesses for quite some time now. However, you should understand that this information alone won’t guarantee the success of your online business. So, I am not responsible if you incur any damages or losses by starting an online business.
To be fair, I have started selling many things online, and some were utter failures. However, now with my experience in product selection and marketing, I am doing pretty well compared to my past. And, I am glad that I have started selling online at some point in the past, so now I can make money online from my experiences.
Without further ado, let us get into the details.
What are the most profitable products or services to sell online
Not every product or service is “suitable” to sell online. There are some products and services that can be sold only in a physical outlet or an office (yet). For example, even though you can sell food online, you cannot provide a dine-in experience in an online store. The same goes for the automobile dealers or most of the high-ticket products. I am not saying that it is impossible to sell those online, but “not yet.”
Even though you found a “suitable” product to sell online, you still would experience that some products are more profitable than the others. And, why is that?
Selling “Wow, I should buy this now” products in the beginning
Remember, there is no restriction on selling boring products online. However, when you are starting to sell online, and when you don’t have a brand authority yet, you need to have something special to bring in the customers to your website or the product listing.
Now tell me the last thing you bought online from a previously unknown seller, by clicking on an advertisement?
I am pretty sure that it is not something boring like a box of tissues. We don’t buy stuff online from a previously unknown seller unless that product triggers the “impulse buyer” in us.
Let us say that I saw an advertisement for a cute phone case, a funny pair of socks, a cozy looking scented candle, or something that cannot be found easily on Amazon; I would click on that ad and see if that product is a good deal.
That is why you should sell “wow, I should buy this now” products or services online. That is what makes it an excellent online business idea for a beginner.
Plan your online selling strategy
I know many sellers who had started online businesses for the sake of selling online. It doesn’t work that way. Once you start an online store, you have to fight tooth and nail to make it work. Otherwise, you are going to waste your hard-earned money and time.
So, before you start, plan how you are going to sell online. Then you can set clear KPIs and adjust your process if something doesn’t go as planned.
Start by planning your business budget
Setting a clear budget makes it easy to make decisions. For example, then you know how much you can spend on the advertisements, other tools, and services of running an online business. Therefore, plan your finances and decide how much money you can spend on your new venture.
Read more on How much money do you need to start a business.
Set clear goals
It is alright to copy the process of another business. Having a focused competitor is a great way to plan your online business. However, when you do so, do it with a sense. I know some unsuccessful online sellers, who are just trying to be “this” business today and “that” business the next day. If you do the same, you are going to lose money. Having a clear and definite plan is essential to avoid losing your concentration when selling online.
Here is how I set goals when I start selling something online. Click on the tabs to expand.
Find a competitor
Do plenty of online research and see who you want to be. It is excellent if you have a unique business idea. But, I prefer to start a tried and tested idea to play safe.
Identify their strengths
Find out what makes your competitor the best in their business niche. Why customers love them? And what are their best selling products and advertisements?
When you sell stuff online, usually 80% of your income will be generated through 20% of the products or services that you sell. This 80/20 rule applies almost everywhere. So, decide which products have the highest potential of making up to the top 20% and add more weight to those.
KPIs (Key Performance Indices) are like continuous goals for your business. For example, you can set a KPI as “Launching the online store in 8 weeks” and “Answering all the Facebook messages on the business page within 30minutes.”
When you set KPIs for your online sales, use only achievable, countable, and timely goals. For example, it would be lovely to set a KPI as “Starting the online store in 2days”, but it is not practical.
Do not be afraid to spend money
You need to spend money to make money. When you start selling online, you will need to purchase some essential tools and services to support your business process. So, do not try to do everything manually or all by yourself to save money. Most of the time, it will slow you down and diminishes the quality of your business.
Decide whether to start a website or sell on online marketplaces
Both websites and popular marketplaces have their own pros and cons. So, rather than talking about the pros and cons of these options, here I will tell you how I sell online.
When I start selling something online, I always start an online store as my main sales channel. Then I list my products on other online marketplaces to piggyback their popularity and to tap their audience for my niche.
Having a website gives you kind of a branding authority. Also, it gives you greater control over your selling process. And, nowadays, everyone can create an online store without any technical knowledge. So, I anyway create an online store for everything I sell online.
However, I do not stop it after creating an online store. There is a saying, “do not put all the eggs in a single basket.” So, I keep opening other sales channels for my products. These include online niche marketplaces and Facebook pages.
Therefore, I strongly advise you to do the same. Create an online store to sell products or services online, and list them on other sales channels as well.
Use Shopify to sell stuff online
You can create a stunning online store on Shopify without any technical knowledge. It is cheap to start, and it has plenty of room to grow. I use Shopify to create online stores for my clients, and it works great for them. Give it a try for free.
Launch a robust digital marketing strategy to sell online
There is no point in coming up with the best product to sell online, the best online store, and everything unless you have the right marketing plan in place. According to data, 90% of the new online businesses fail due to the lack of marketing. So, in this section, we will discuss how to plan and create a successful digital marketing strategy to sell your products and services online.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is not all about dropping your website links all over on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. And, it is not about running advertisements on those platforms either.
People use social media to socialize, not to buy products online. So, when you create your social media marketing strategy, you can to inline it with the user intent to get the best results.
So, my advice is, use social media as an audience building tool. Create your Facebook page to gather potential customers and keep them engaged for whatever you sell online. Once you have the right audience in your reach, you can promote your products and services to them and make sales.
Read these two articles about how to create a strong Facebook marketing strategy and how to sell on Instagram. There we talk about how to leverage certain social media marketing tactics like UGC (user-generated content) to building an keeping your audience engaged on social media.
Running paid advertisements
Running paid ads is like fire. It is a good servant and a bad master. Unless you keep your ad campaigns under control, it can eat up your whole marketing budget without creating any value. However, when you are first starting to sell online, running paid ads is the best way to make quick sales.
Today, everyone can create cheap, yet super effective, ads on Facebook/Instagram and Google to sell stuff online. And, they offer user-friendly dashboards and analytics tools to run and manage your ads all by yourself.
Usually, you have to test and adjust your ads to get the best results. Here we have a good breakdown of the most common reasons for ads not to work. Have a look at that guide, and make sure to adjust your ad campaigns to get the best results.
If you are selling online as a part of your local business, there are some methods to advertise on Google for free. For example, you can list your business on Google my business, and get featured on search snippets for free. Remember, this is in addition to the organic search traffic that you can get from Google with SEO.
Getting traffic from Google
Google is like the front page of the internet. So, imagine if you can feature your business name on the front page of the internet. Even though it is a slow process to rank your website on top of the Google search results, it is a sustainable way to generate traffic in the long run.
Ranking up your content (webpages or products) for your target keywords on Google is called search engine optimization (SEO). And it is a time-consuming process.
So, when you first start your website to sell stuff online, follow the SEO best-practices from the very beginning to make it ready for SEO. Otherwise, once you have an extensive product inventory or blog posts, it will not be practical to go back and change them again.
Analyze data and tweak your online selling process for the best results
After you start selling online, spend time analyzing your online data and making necessary adjustments to keep it on track to match your business goals.
All website building platforms offer an analytics dashboard to view the usage data. Also, you can integrate free services like Google Analytics to your website and get more in-depth data about user demographics and behaviors.
Also, all the advertising platforms and social media business accounts have analytics dashboards as well. So, you can use them to observe the demographics and usage data of your audience. With all this information in hand, you can get a clear picture of what is going on with your online business and what are the areas that need your special attention.
Now you know how to sell online
In this guide, we have discussed a basic overview of how to sell online. We have identified the basics steps and best practices when it comes to selling stuff online. Also, I have shared some advice from my very own experience running a few online businesses over the past several years.
And I believe that this information will help you to understand how online selling works. Of course, there are a lot of things that we need to discuss about the above steps. You can find more informative guides about starting and running an online business from our blog. Take a look.
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