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How to sell online in 9 steps: A full guide

the ultimate guide for how to sell online

This post was last updated on February 12, 2024.

Do you have a product or idea you’d like to turn into an online business? In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to launch an eCommerce website. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or a budding entrepreneur, the online world offers unlimited opportunities to showcase and sell your products to a diverse and ever-growing customer base. 

The key to your success is learning how to sell and market your ideas online. This article is your guide, providing step-by-step instructions to transform your online selling dream into reality. From defining your niche to optimizing your online store, we've got every angle covered to ensure you're equipped with the knowledge to thrive in the world of eCommerce.

Ready to start selling? Create an online store with Wix.

button to launch your Wix eCommerce store

How to sell online in nine steps:

01. Define your niche

online storefront for a clothing designer

One of the first and most crucial steps to online selling is finding your sweet spot in the online marketplace – your niche. A well-defined niche helps you focus your business strategy, cater to a specific audience, and stand out in a crowded marketplace. But how do you find a niche that is not only profitable but also resonates with your interests and expertise?

  • Focus on your passion: Start with what you know and love. Your passion can be a key indicator of your niche. This alignment keeps you motivated and lends authenticity to your brand.

  • Perform market research: Dive deep into understanding potential customers' needs and pain points. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit can be goldmines for this kind of insight. Join groups and follow discussions to learn what your target audience is looking for and the problems they face.

  • Analyze competitors: Understanding what your competitors are doing right (or wrong) can offer valuable lessons. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to identify market gaps and low-competition areas that align with your interests. (Note: A Google Ads account is required to access the Google Keyword Planner.)

  • Gauge profitability: The ultimate goal is to make a profit, so it's crucial to assess the financial viability of your niche. Look for keywords with significant search volumes but lower competition, indicating a profitable niche with room for growth.

Using tools to help identify your niche

Several tools can aid your market research by providing valuable insights into market trends, consumer behaviors, and competitive landscapes. As a result, you can make better informed decisions about your niche and target audience. 

  • Google Trends: This free tool provides insights into the popularity of search queries across various regions and languages. It can help you understand consumer search behavior and trends over time, which, in turn, helps identify emerging niches.

  • SEMrush: A comprehensive tool for SEO and market analysis. SEMrush offers features like keyword research, site audit, and competitor analysis, enabling you to understand what keywords your competitors are ranking for and where there might be opportunities for you. Plans start at $108.33/month. However, limited features are available for free.

  • SurveyMonkey: Conduct surveys to gather direct feedback from potential customers. This can be an effective way to understand customer needs and preferences. Individual plans start at $25/month or their Basic plan includes limited features for free.

  • Social media analytics: Facebook Insights (included in the Meta Business Suite) and Twitter Analytics (enabled via provide valuable data about your followers and the broader audience on these platforms. This information can help you tailor your products and marketing strategies to match audience interests and behaviors.

  • BuzzSumo: This tool analyzes what content performs best for any topic or competitor. It can help you understand what kind of content your target audience engages with most. Plans start at $159/month.

  • Ahrefs: Great for competitive analysis. Ahrefs lets you see where your competitors are getting traffic from and the keywords they rank for. Plans start at $99/month.

02. Choose your products

dropshipping product examples

Choosing which products to sell online can significantly impact the success of your eCommerce business venture. It's not just about what you want to sell but what your customers want to buy. Here are some steps to guide you in making the best product choices:

  • Align with your niche: Your products should naturally fit your niche. This alignment ensures your offerings are relevant and appealing to your target audience.

  • Research market demand: Research the market demand for potential products. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush can help you understand search trends and consumer interest in different products.

  • Forecast profit potential: Consider the profitability of the products. This includes understanding the cost of goods, shipping expenses, and the potential retail price. Use tools like Ahrefs to analyze the profitability of similar products in your niche.

  • Develop a unique selling proposition (USP): What makes your products stand out? Whether you focus on quality, price, uniqueness, or customization options, your USP should resonate with your target market and be an important factor in your product selection.

  • Consider dropshipping: If you're hesitant to invest in inventory, consider dropshipping. This model allows you to sell products directly from suppliers without stocking them, reducing the initial investment and risk.

  • Get feedback: Before fully committing, poll friends, family, or potential customers within your target market to gauge their interest in your product or service. Social media and customer reviews can provide insights into what products are popular and what improvements or variations could be made. Monitor the responses to refine your offering.

Learn more: What is eCommerce?

03. Identify your target audience

Tailoring your online store and marketing efforts to meet your customer’s needs requires you to identify and understand your target audience. In turn, you can create more effective marketing strategies, enhance customer engagement, and increase the likelihood of successful sales. Here’s how you can pinpoint and connect with your ideal customers:

  • Define demographics: Start by defining the age, gender, location, income level, education level, and occupation of your potential customers. These demographics provide a basic understanding of who your audience is.

  • Create customer profiles: Delve into the lifestyle, interests, values, attitudes, and opinions of your target audience to create ideal customer profiles. This deeper understanding helps in creating more personalized marketing messages.

  • Identify a need: Identify your target audience's specific needs, pain points and preferences. What are they looking for in products or services in your niche? How can you solve their problems or improve their lives?

04. Build your online store

process of building a brand for a winter clothing company

There’s a lot to know about how to start a business, and building your online store is a critical step in your journey toward selling online. The best eCommerce platforms, like Wix, make this process straightforward and accessible, even for those with no technical background. 

Here’s how you can build an engaging and functional online store using Wix:

  • Choose a template: Wix offers a variety of online store templates. Select one that aligns with your brand and niche. These templates are visually appealing and user-friendly.

  • Customize your design: Personalize your chosen template to match your brand identity. Wix's drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to customize layouts, add images, and change color schemes without coding.

  • Add your products: Upload high-quality product images, write detailed descriptions, and add prices. Wix allows you to create a detailed product catalog that is informative and easy to navigate.

  • Optimize for SEO: Use Wix's built-in SEO tools to optimize your store's visibility in search engines. This includes customizing your page titles, meta descriptions, and URLs.

  • Test mobile friendliness: Ensure that your online store is mobile-friendly. Wix templates look great on desktop and mobile devices, providing a seamless shopping experience for customers. Still, testing your website from multiple devices is always good practice to create a consistent and cohesive user experience.

  • Select a business name: As a general rule of thumb, your business name should be memorable, catchy, and easy to spell. If you’re struggling to develop a name for your store, Wix offers a free store name generator to spark your creativity. 

  • Install supportive apps: Enhance your store's functionality by adding apps from the Wix App Market. These can include chat features, email marketing tools, and analytics trackers.

05. Set up how you get paid

product listings on Facebook and Instagram

Once you have set up your online store, it’s time to set up a reliable, efficient, seamless payment system. Wix Payments offers a streamlined solution to handle transactions smoothly no matter where your customers are located or what currency they use.

For detailed setup instructions, read: Completing your Wix Payments account setup.

Wix Payments allows you to manage all transactions directly through your Wix account and can integrate with various accounting software. It supports several payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards and digital wallets, making it easier for customers to complete purchases. 

Your customers' transaction data is protected with Wix's robust security measures, giving you and your customers peace of mind during transactions. Additionally, Wix's built-in fraud protection mechanisms safeguard against unauthorized transactions and reduce the risk of chargebacks.

Track and manage all transactions through the dashboard. This centralized system helps you monitor sales, discounts, refunds and payouts seamlessly.

06. Set up shipping

Each shipping method has different advantages and caters to different types of products and customer experiences. Choose an appropriate shipping strategy based on your type of business model, product types, and the type of customer experience you want to create. 

  • Flat rate shipping: A uniform shipping rate regardless of product size, weight, or quantity. Ideal for similar-sized products.

  • Free shipping: Encourages purchases by offering no shipping cost, often with conditions like minimum order value. Absorbed by the business or included in product pricing.

  • Fixed-rate shipping: Shipping costs vary based on criteria like weight or product type, offering more cost-reflection accuracy.

  • Real-time carrier rates: Shipping charges are based on live rates from carriers (UPS, FedEx, USPS), reflecting actual costs by weight and destination.

  • Local delivery: A cost-effective option for significant local customer bases, using personal delivery or local couriers.

  • International shipping: Covers global reach with higher rates and considerations for customs and import taxes, requiring clear cost and delivery time communication.

Wix allows integration with various shipping providers to automate the eCommerce shipping process, provide real-time shipping rates, and streamline order fulfillment. See our Guide to Setting Up Shipping, Delivery, and Pickup for detailed setup and configuration instructions.

07. Expand your sales channels

Diversify your reach and increase revenue potential by leveraging multiple sales platforms. This  allows you to tap into different customer bases and maximize your online presence allowing customers to shop your products and buy from you no matter where they are. Here are some sales channels to consider:

  • Facebook: With billions of users, Facebook is a vast marketplace. You can use Facebook Shop to sell directly from your page, join Facebook groups related to your niche, or use Facebook ads to target specific demographics. Learn more about how to sell on Facebook.

  • Etsy: Ideal for handmade, vintage, and unique goods, Etsy offers a niche market with a community of engaged customers. It's particularly beneficial if your products cater to a creative or artisanal audience. Learn more about how to sell on Etsy.

  • Amazon: As one of the largest global marketplaces, Amazon can significantly increase your product’s visibility. Utilizing Amazon's fulfillment services can also streamline your shipping and customer service processes. Learn more about how to sell on Amazon.

  • eBay: Known for both auctions and regular sales, eBay is versatile and attracts a diverse audience. It's particularly effective for rare items, collectibles, or products that benefit from a bidding process. Learn more about how to sell on eBay.

  • TikTok: A rapidly growing platform, TikTok is excellent for creative marketing and reaching a younger audience. Utilize TikTok's unique video format to showcase your products engagingly. Learn more about how to make money on TikTok.

  • Instagram: With its visual focus, Instagram is perfect for showcasing products through high-quality images and stories. Instagram Shopping also allows for direct sales through the app.

  • Pinterest: Ideal for lifestyle, decor, fashion, and DIY products, Pinterest helps drive traffic to your website through visually appealing pins linked to your products.

08. Market your products

Once you’ve built your online store, added products, and configured shipping and payment options, it’s time to start driving traffic to your online store. 

A multi-channel marketing approach is an essential step in attracting and engaging customers. In fact, a well-crafted marketing strategy can significantly enhance your online store’s visibility and sales. Let’s take a look at some of the top marketing strategies:

  • Social media marketing: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are potent tools for reaching and engaging with your audience. Share compelling content, interact with your followers, and use targeted ads to reach potential customers.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimize your website for search engines to improve visibility organically. Include relevant keywords, create quality content, and ensure your site is mobile-friendly and fast-loading.

  • Partnerships and collaborations: Collaborate with influencers, bloggers, or other businesses to reach a wider audience. This can include sponsored content, affiliate marketing, or co-branded products.

  • Paid advertising: Invest in paid ads on platforms like Google AdWords, Facebook, and Instagram. Target ads to specific demographics, interests, and behaviors, ensuring potential customers see your products.

  • Email marketing: Build an email list and engage subscribers with regular updates, exclusive offers, and personalized content. Email marketing is a great way to nurture leads and encourage repeat business.

  • Content marketing: Create valuable content related to your products, such as blogs, videos, or infographics. This helps in SEO and establishes your brand as an authority in your niche.

  • Customer reviews and testimonials: Encourage customers to leave reviews and share their experiences. Positive reviews can significantly influence the purchasing decisions of potential customers.

If you’re a solo entrepreneur, you may need to start with one or two of these strategies and add more as you go. Choose the strategies that are feasible for you to maintain consistently and are most likely to reach your target audience.

09. Optimize and grow

Once your online store is up and running, the focus shifts to optimization and growth to expand your online store’s success. Continuous improvement and adaptation is key to meeting the evolving needs of your customers. There are many ways to maintain a competitive edge while keeping your customers engaged and coming back for more. 

  • Monitor performance: Regularly review your store’s performance using Wix analytics tools or third-party tools like GA4. Track metrics, such as website traffic, conversion rates, bounce rates and customer engagement, to understand your store's strengths and areas for improvement. 

  • Get customer feedback: Actively seek and respond to customer feedback. This not only helps in enhancing your products and services but also builds customer loyalty. Consider implementing features like customer surveys or feedback forms on your website.

  • Monitor market trends: Stay abreast of the latest market trends and consumer behaviors. Adapting to these trends can help you remain relevant and appealing to your target audience.

  • Optimize your website: Continuously refine your website for better performance. This includes improving load times, ensuring mobile responsiveness, and updating your site’s design and content.

  • Expand product lines: Consider expanding your product lines or offering complementary products. This can attract new customers and provide more options for existing customers, increasing sales and customer retention.

  • Refine your strategy: Regularly review and adjust your marketing strategy based on performance data and customer feedback. Experiment with different marketing tactics and channels to find what works best for your audience.

  • Use automation: Implement automation tools to streamline operations like inventory management, order processing, and customer service. Efficient operations can reduce costs and improve customer experiences.

  • Explore new markets: Consider expanding into new markets or demographics as your business grows. Research and test these markets before fully committing to ensure they align with your business strategy.

Which products are most profitable to sell online?

Choosing what to sell online can significantly impact your store's profitability. Some product categories consistently perform well due to high demand, good profit margins, or growing market trends. Here are some of the most profitable product categories to sell online:

  • Beauty and personal care products: The U.S. is the revenue leader in this category, with an average profit margin of 40%. With industry revenues of about $97.8 billion in 2023 and expected growth to $110.28 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 2.4%, you could gain significantly in this sector.

  • Apparel: With an average net profit margin of 7.06% and a global industry revenue projection exceeding $1.94 trillion by 2027, your online apparel business could present substantial returns and growth opportunities.

  • Home decor: Thanks to an evolving consumer focus on eco-friendly products and smart home innovations, the global home decor market is poised to reach $1.1 billion by 2032. With an average profit margin of 20%, this sector could result in a potentially lucrative business opportunity​​.

  • Candles: You can tap into the candle industry, valued at $12.88 billion in 2022, with an anticipated CAGR of 5.7% through 2030. High demand among female millennials for aesthetic home applications allows the potential for an average profit margin of 50%.

  • Children’s toys: Reaching $108.29 billion in 2023, the global toy market is projected to grow to $156.96 billion by 2032 at a CAGR of 4.1%. This could be a viable business opportunity with a 30% average profit margin​​.

  • Sunglasses: With an average profit margin of 50%, the global sunglasses market is poised to reach $25.83 billion in 2024, with a projected CAGR of 4.38% from 2023 to 2027. You could tap into this growth, fueled by increasing worldwide demand for functional and fashionable sunglasses, with significant revenue and profitability potential.

  • Collectibles and vintage items: The collectibles market, valued at $458.2 billion in 2022 and expected to surpass $1 trillion by 2033, offers an average profit margin of 30%, with the rarity of items significantly impacting your potential profits.

  • Baby Products: Valued at $320.65 billion in 2023 and an average profit margin of 40%, you can capitalize on the baby products sector’s growth at a CAGR of 5.9% from 2024 to 2030. This growth is largely driven by a demand for high-quality, chemical-free products focused on baby health and hygiene​​.

  • Online courses: If you like to develop courses, you could build a successful business within the online education sector, estimated to reach $185.20 billion in revenue in 2024. The Wix eCommerce platform includes tools to help you create and sell your programs and courses online.

  • Meal planning: With an average profit margin of 9.28%, your meal planning businesses can address various dietary needs and preferences, gaining popularity due to busy lifestyles and focusing on health and wellness​​.

  • Small electronics and accessories: Tap into the growing market for small electronics like earbuds, Bluetooth speakers, watch and laptop accessories with profit margins ranging from 25% to 80% for sellers.

Pros and cons of selling online

While selling online offers numerous opportunities, it's essential to consider the advantages and challenges involved. Understanding these can help you make informed decisions and strategize effectively for your online business.

Pros of selling online

  • Global reach: Online selling breaks geographical barriers, allowing you to reach customers worldwide.

  • Scalability:  eCommerce platforms allow you to scale and grow your business to handle increased demand without significantly increasing overhead costs.

  • Lower operating costs: Compared to physical stores, online selling typically involves lower startup and operational costs.

  • Convenience: eCommerce allows for 24/7 operations, offering convenience to you and your customers.

  • Personalization and targeting: Online platforms provide data that can be used for personalized marketing and precise targeting of your audience.

Cons of selling online

  • Intense competition: The online marketplace is crowded, making it challenging to stand out and attract customers.

  • Logistical challenges: Managing shipping, handling returns, and ensuring timely delivery can be complex.

  • Customer service demands: Providing effective online customer service requires prompt responses and can be resource-intensive. PRO TIP: Help shoppers find answers by making your return policy easy to find on your website and creating a FAQ to answer commonly asked questions.

  • Technical issues: Running an online store requires dealing with website maintenance, cybersecurity, and potential technical glitches. However, as a Wix user, the security and technical details are managed for you so you can focus on running your business.

  • Dependence on digital marketing: Ecommerce success relies heavily on digital marketing, which can be a steep learning curve for some.

Tips for selling online

To thrive as an online seller, adopting eCommerce strategies that set your business apart and drive business growth is essential. Here are some key tips to help you succeed in the digital marketplace:

  • Careful product selection: Choose products that are in demand and have a good profit margin. Use market trends and customer preferences to guide your selection.

  • Effective marketing: Utilize multiple marketing channels to reach your audience, such as social media, SEO, influencers, email marketing, and paid advertising. Tailor your marketing strategies to align with your target audience's interests and behaviors.

  • Engaging social media presence: Beyond using social media to market your products or services, utilize social media platforms to connect with your audience. Share engaging content regularly, interact with your followers, and build long-term relationships.

  • Excellent customer service: To build trust and encourage repeat business, provide outstanding customer service. Respond promptly to customer queries, handle issues efficiently, and actively seek feedback to improve your services.

  • Diligent use of analytics: Leverage analytics tools to gain insights into your customer behavior, website performance, and the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. Use this data to make informed decisions and adapt your strategy for better results.

  • Optimal website performance: Regularly update and optimize your website for speed, ease-of-use and mobile responsiveness.  A well-optimized website attracts more visitors and improves user experience, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty. 

  • High-quality product images: Use clear, high-resolution images to showcase your products. This cannot be stressed enough. Quality visuals can significantly impact customer perception and decision-making.

How to sell online FAQ

How do you sell products online?

If you’re starting an online store from scratch, choose your products based on your audience. If you’re going to sell your own products, think about what cost-effective items you can produce.

To save space and upfront costs, start your eCommerce business by dropshipping. Then, choose an eCommerce platform that gives you professional business tools and full design customization. There are plenty of website-building platforms to choose from, including Wix.

What's the best platform to sell online?

Where can I sell things online for free?

How can I legally sell products online?

Do I have to pay taxes on items I sell online?

What is the most profitable thing to sell online?

Aisling Arundel headshot

Aisling Arundel

Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce

Aisling is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce, based in Dublin. She enjoys writing content that simplifies the eCommerce world to help Wix Merchants grow their businesses.

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