How to sell online in 6 steps: A full guide
This post was last updated on September 12, 2023.
So, you want to start an eCommerce business? You’ve picked a good time to start.
These days, eCommerce is permeating nearly every industry, from furniture to groceries, and cars to CBD. Opportunities abound for every type of business and seller—whether you’re building a business from the ground up or taking an existing store online.
But no matter what you plan to sell online, there are several steps you’ll want to take to set yourself up for success. Keep reading for expert tips on how to get your online store set up and start accepting your first online orders, and use this guide as your resource for everything you need to know about selling online.
How to sell online in six steps:
01. Create your online store
At the heart of any successful eCommerce business is its online store. While you can sell on third-party marketplaces like Amazon, it pays to create an online store that serves as a flagship destination for your brand. An online store grants you total control over the user experience, as well as the branding and customer data.
Start off on the right foot by picking a suitable eCommerce platform for you. Consider a platform that grants enough flexibility, alongside features to scale and manage your business.
Wix eCommerce, for example, offers a code-free website builder that lets you:
Build a site from scratch - You can choose from a variety of professionally designed online store templates. Easily create everything from your category pages to your product pages, and spruce up your site with animations and multimedia—all without coding.
Create a mobile-friendly experience - Mobile sales typically make up about 73% of eCommerce sales, according to Statista, so it’s essential that your site is mobile-friendly. Wix sites are mobile responsive by default and can be customized however you'd like.
Import and organize your product data - Wix serves as the single source of truth for all of your product data. Manage your pricing strategies, product listings, and shipping policies from one place—and ensure consistency throughout your store and other third-party channels.
Accept and manage secure payments - Wix’s native payment solution, Wix Payments, allows you to accept all major credit/debit cards, Apple Pay, PayPal, and more. For U.S. and Canadian users, there's a snazzy mobile POS that even lets you take payments on the go. Then, control all your transactions, payouts, and chargebacks, right from your dashboard.
Track and manage your business seamlessly - Track and process all store orders from purchase to delivery. Wix includes features to simplify inventory management, multichannel expansion, analytics, dropshipping, and taxes (among other things). You can additionally run your business from anywhere with the Wix Owner app.
Tip: Just starting your new venture? Before you jump online, use our store name generator to craft the perfect title for your brand.
02. Decide what to sell
It goes without saying that you need a well-designed product catalog in order to develop a strong brand. If you’re starting an online store from scratch, do your research and factor in profit-potential, sourcing methods, and your personal passions when evaluating product ideas. More specifically, follow the steps below.
Related: A list of the most profitable eCommerce business ideas
Start with something you need yourself
When it comes to starting a business and selling online, oftentimes the best place to start is starting with what you know. For instance, are you a young parent looking for a toy that will ease your child’s anxiety at night? Or, are you an avid cook looking for one place to find moderately priced, yet high-quality kitchenware?
Whatever the case may be, think of the problem that you face and any existing solutions. Where do those solutions fall short? What can you provide in convenience, price, or quality (as examples) that others can’t?
Determine your audience
Next, put your personal biases outside and look to outside sources to learn more about the consumers you plan to target with your products. What do those consumers look like? Where do they live? What do they care about most when researching products or brands like yours?
Utilize social media, forums, surveys, and everyday conversations to get insights into your target audience’s preference. Go through the process of developing buyer personas, which will force you to think about primary plus secondary users of your products and their unique needs.
Personas will also come in handy as you make decisions regarding messaging, website design, and marketing strategies in the future.
Research your competition
Competition is inevitable. Even if you have yet to sell a single product, you’ll want to know who your potential competitors are and what they’re doing to get ahead.
Search for your product ideas on marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy, and view the top sellers in your category. Follow relevant hashtags on Instagram, TikTok, and other channels. You could even leverage keyword tools like Semrush or JungleScout to understand what products are being searched on Google, Amazon, and other popular sales channels.
Pay attention to your competitors’ pricing, messaging, and customer reviews. Not only will this give you a better idea of how you need to position your products, but will also help you identify gaps in the market.
Pro tip: If possible, talk to the people in your competition’s supply chain—the ones who actually manufacture, store, and ship these products. They could provide interesting insights on production costs, customer behaviors, return rates, and other considerations.
Track trending products
Trends come and go like the wind, so it’s important to avoid depending entirely on viral products that don’t have long-term earning or staying power (Do you remember the waffle maker that went viral on TikTok? The one that supposedly yielded the best cheesy waffles? Nope? Exactly).
So, while it’s always good to keep up-to-date with trends, make sure to anchor trending products with more “evergreen” items. That said, you can use social media and free tools like Google Trends to see what products are gaining momentum online. Keep an eye out for trending brands, product types, and collaborations that might be useful for your catalog planning.
03. Decide how to source your products
As you consider which products are worth selling, you’ll want to think about the costs and steps involved in sourcing them. There are various product sourcing strategies that you can choose from, including:
Manufacture or hand-make products on your own
Work with a third-party manufacturer
Purchase from a wholesaler
Among these, dropshipping is one of the fastest and easiest to leverage. Dropshipping is a method in which you sell products from a third-party supplier, who then ships items directly to your customer once an order comes in.
This process is popular because of the perks that it offers, like minimal upfront costs or storage costs. This approach makes it easier for new merchants to break into eCommerce (see our guide on what is eCommerce) without the overwhelming task of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping products. Wix’s dropshipping solution allows you to instantly access millions of high-quality products from trusted, highly vetted suppliers.
04. Build your eCommerce plan and brand
Now that you’re ready to bring your product to market, it is time to create your eCommerce business plan. A solid business plan is foundational for any online brand, helping you document how you plan to structure, operate, and manage your business.
Within here, you’ll also start to piece together the different components of your branding. This includes:
Picking a strong business name. Naming your business wisely is an absolute must. Think of something easy to read, say and spell, as your brand name will appear everywhere. Get your ideal name with Wix's Business Name Generator.
Choosing the right domain name. Try to match your store name exactly. This will help your customers find and remember your brand online. Note: your domain name affects your store’s ranking on search results.
Creating a memorable logo. Your logo is at the heart of your branding efforts and will represent the essence of your store’s personality. Follow this guide on how to create a logo or start with the Wix Logo Maker.
Setting up a business email. Feature your website’s domain name in your email address (e.g. email@example.com) rather than the one that’s generated from the platform (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). This makes it easier for customers to identify where the emails are coming from.
05. Choose where to sell
Your customers are a moving target. Apart from visiting your online store, many of them will be hopping between channels like Amazon, eBay, and social media to research, compare, and purchase products.
You’d therefore benefit from establishing a strong multichannel selling strategy. Online marketplaces not only allow you to reach larger, established audiences, but to also access customers all around the world.
That said, every business has different needs and thus requires a unique strategy. Identify sales channels that best suit your target audience. Take the time to understand what makes each channel so popular, and study the type of products and content that perform well on them.
You’ll additionally want to understand what it means to participate as a seller. Every sales channel has a unique algorithm and rules of engagement. Plus, operations can get messy if you’re not prepared. (Shameless plug: Wix eCommerce allows you to easily add or remove integrated sales channels, so you can experiment with what's right for your business. And enjoy a single dashboard for managing your multichannel inventory, orders, and product listings to avoid costly mistakes.)
Learn more about how to manage multichannel sales with Wix eCommerce.
06. Market your store and products
Once you’ve got your sales channels sorted, it’s time to market your products. The last thing you’ll want to do is be a sitting duck, waiting for customers to notice you. Rather, lean into clever eCommerce marketing strategies, along with marketing tools, to proactively drive more traffic and sales for your business.
Consider these eCommerce marketing tactics:
Master Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - When shoppers use search engines such as Google to look for products like yours, ranking high on the results pages is the ultimate goal. Build a solid eCommerce SEO plan that factors in your meta tags, URLs, structured data markup, and more. (Stay at the forefront of SEO by exploring Wix's SEO Learning Hub.)
Launch ad campaigns - There are a number of ad platforms worth experimenting with. Google, for one, offers SEM and Shopping ads that help you reach the 40% of consumers who start their product searches on search engines. Meanwhile, Facebook focuses on triggering interest through strong visual ads. See what channels are offered natively through your eCommerce platform, and expand your reach with the help of paid campaigns.
Chat with customers - In our experience, sending products to customers via live chat has helped to generate up to 71% more sales. Sellers who’ve answered chat messages from users have also seen conversion rise by 65%.
Offer coupons - Coupons are a very common way to offer discounts to your audience that are redeemable at checkout. Most stores use them regularly, but especially to get shoppers to buy for the very first time.
Run flash sales - Flash sales, or limited-time discounts, have proven to be incredibly effective. It can help you unload old inventory and, according to Wix data, has helped online stores increase monthly gross merchandise value (GMV) by a whopping 64,000%.
Recover abandoned carts - Nearly 70% of your shoppers will abandon their cart at checkout, according to Baymard Institute. One of the most popular (and effective) ways to recover an abandoned cart is through a triggered email. These small reminders can convince customers who are on the fence to complete a sale.
Engage customers via email marketing - Email remains a concrete way to build lasting relationships with your shoppers. The best eCommerce platforms offer built-in email solutions, including pre-made templates and editors so your newsletters will look on-point right from the start.
Retarget customers - Retargeting (aka remarketing) is when you remind your audience about your products via ads that follow them across the web. These ads are typically managed on channels like Facebook or Google; they require adding a pixel to your site—that is, a specific code snippet that allows you to track your audience once they leave your store.
Which products are most profitable to sell online?
The most profitable products to sell online vary depending on a number of factors, such as the target market, the competition and the overall demand for the product. However, some of the most profitable products to sell online include:
Apparel and accessories: This is a large and diverse category that includes clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. Apparel is a popular choice for online sellers because it is relatively easy to source and ship, and there is a large market for it.
Electronics: This category includes products such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and cameras. Electronics are often high-ticket items, which can lead to higher profit margins. However, they can also be more competitive to sell online.
Home and garden: This includes furniture, home décor, and gardening supplies. Home and garden products are often in high demand, and they can be a good option for sellers who want to target a specific niche market.
Health and beauty: This category includes products such as cosmetics, skincare products and vitamins. Health and beauty products are often high-margin items, and they can be a good option for sellers who want to target a female audience.
Pet supplies: This category includes products such as food, toys and accessories for dogs, cats and other pets. Pet supplies are often in high demand, and they can be a good option for sellers who want to target a niche market.
Pros and cons of selling online
It's always worth weighing both the benefits and disadvantages of potential business endeavors (or any endeavor in general). Although selling online can be a great way to make money, there are possible pitfalls too.
Benefits of selling online:
Global reach: With an online store, you can reach customers all over the world, 24/7. This means that your business is not limited by geography and you can potentially tap into a much larger market.
Low overhead: When you sell online, you don't need to rent a physical store or hire employees. This can save you a lot of money, especially in the early stages of your business.
Efficient operations: You can automate many tasks, such as order processing and shipping, which often saves time and money. This also helps you improve the efficiency of your business.
Data-driven insights: You can collect data on your customers and use it to improve your marketing and product offerings. This data can help you to understand what your customers are looking for and how to better reach them.
Scalability: You can easily scale your business as you grow. This means that you can add new products, increase your marketing efforts, and hire more employees as your business grows.
Disadvantages of selling online:
Competition: There is a lot of competition in the online marketplace. This means that you need to make sure that your products are unique and that you offer excellent customer service to stand out from the competition.
Security risks: When you collect and store customer data, you need to take steps to protect it from fraud and theft. This can be a challenge, especially if you are not familiar with security best practices.
Customer service challenges: It can be difficult to provide excellent customer service when you're not interacting with customers in person. This is because you may not be able to answer their questions as quickly or as easily as you would if you were in a physical store.
Shipping costs: Shipping costs can be high, especially for international shipments. This is something that you need to factor into your pricing when you sell online.
Returns and refunds: Online returns and refunds can be more complicated than in-store returns. This is because you may need to pay for the shipping costs of the return and you may also need to issue a refund.
10 tips for selling online
Learning how to sell online can feel overwhelming, but keeping these tips in mind can remind you of the basics and help you get started with confidence:
Do your research: Before you start selling online, it's important to do your research and understand the market you're entering. This includes understanding your target audience, the competition and the best way to reach your customers.
Set realistic goals: It takes time to build a successful online business. Don't expect to become an overnight success. Set realistic goals for yourself and track your progress over time.
Be patient and persistent: Entrepreneurship isn't easy, and there will be challenges along the way. But if you're patient and persistent, you can achieve your goals.
Provide excellent customer service: Customer service is essential for any online business. Make sure to respond to customer inquiries promptly and to resolve any problems quickly and efficiently.
Market your products effectively: To be successful, you need to market your products effectively. This includes using search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and email marketing. You should also build a strong online presence with a website or online store.
Use high-quality photos and videos: Visuals are important for online selling. Make sure to use high-quality photos and videos of your products to attract customers.
Write clear and concise product descriptions: Your product descriptions should be clear and concise. They should accurately describe your products and highlight their benefits.
Set competitive prices: Make sure to set competitive prices for your products and that your prices are in line with the prices of your competitors.
Offer shipping options: Not all customers will be able to pick up their purchases in person. So, you need to offer shipping options to make it easy for customers to get their products.
Track your results: It's important to track your results so that you can see what's working and what's not. This will help you to improve your marketing strategies and make more sales.
Start selling today
So, are you feeling excited to start selling online? Excellent. You’re well on your way now and you can always refer back to this blog as you go. Make sure to follow our guide on how to grow your eCommerce business. Enjoy the wonderful experience of transforming your ideas into a business, and even better—a profit.
Ready to start selling online? Create your eCommerce website today.
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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?
The best platform for selling online depends on the specific market and products you choose to sell. When choosing a platform, it's important to look for one that offers a full suite of eCommerce solutions, such as automation, newsletter, marketing, integration and security. These features can help you maximize your sales online.
Where can I sell things online for free?
You can sell your products for free on a variety of places online, including an online store or other channels like Instagram, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, and more.
How can I legally sell products online?
There are a few things you need to do to legally sell products online:
Register your business: If you are selling products online, you will need to register your business with the state in which you reside. This will give you the legal right to sell products and collect sales tax.
Obtain a seller's permit: A seller's permit is a license that allows you to collect sales tax from your customers. You can obtain a seller's permit from your state's Department of Revenue.
Comply with all applicable laws and regulations: There are a number of laws and regulations that govern the sale of products online. These laws vary from state to state, so it is important to research the laws in your state.
Do I have to pay taxes on items I sell online?
Yes, you may have to pay taxes on items you sell online. The amount of tax you owe will depend on your location and the type of products you sell. You may also need to pay income tax on the profits you make from selling products online.
What is the most profitable thing to sell online?
The most profitable thing to sell online will vary depending on your niche and target market. Once you know who you are selling to and what they want, you can start to identify products or services that are in high demand. Some of the most profitable products to sell online include digital products (because they have low overhead costs), physical products, and services.
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.