Things to know before you start
The world of eCommerce is an incredibly exciting space for entrepreneurs who are interested in selling products online. The market has been growing at an incredible rate of 20% every year — not to mention the impact of COVID-19 has led to massively accelerated growth in the eCommerce sphere.
Supply chain and audience
Entrepreneurs know they can sell almost anything online as demand to shop online is always on the rise. However, to build a viable eCommerce business, you need to master both your supply chain and your audience. Once that’s been evaluated, you need to estimate the potential risks as well as how much time and capital you’ll be investing.
A solid place to begin evaluating your potential in the eCommerce market is by identifying the opportunity. This is the potential magnitude of your success. This doesn’t necessarily have to be measured in a dollar amount, either. It can include opportunities to create something new, generate additional revenue streams or achieve a personal goal.
On the other hand, however, is the magnitude of the hit you will take if things fail. Understanding and researching potential risks can give you the knowledge that comes from learning what others in the market are doing. That way, you can understand your competition better and gain insight from their successes and failures.
How to Sell Online in 7 Steps
It can seem challenging, but this step-by-step guide is here to help you. Here’s how to start:
Find Products to Sell Online
Build your eCommerce Brand
Create an Online Store
Market Your Store and Products
Set up Secure Payments and Get Paid
Set up Shipping
Grow Your Business
1. Find Products to Sell Online
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 with dropshipping. Then, choose an eCommerce platform that gives you professional business tools and full design customization.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a method in which merchants don't keep the products they sell in stock—rather, they purchase products from a third party who then ships them directly to the customer. Perhaps the biggest advantage to this process is that unlike the standard retail model, the merchant doesn’t have to keep inventory in stock or handle products or fulfillment directly. This approach makes it easier for merchants to break into the world of eCommerce without the overwhelming task of manufacturing products to sell.
If you decide to go the route of dropshipping, there’s a few key aspects to consider. First, research and select products to sell by looking at market trends and research to determine the demand for particular items. Then, look into reputable suppliers who can provide you with high quality inventory. In order to simulate the shopping experience that your customers will eventually have, order the products yourself and observe every aspect — from shipping times, packaging, fulfillment processes and unboxing. If the experience meets your expectations, connect with the supplier to start building a relationship. Ensuring they are reliable will be especially important as you grow and the risks of fulfillment increase. Lastly, consider white labeling your products. White labeling is the process labeling generic products produced by third-party manufacturers with your branding to make it appear as though you’ve produced it.
Tell a story
Now that you have a product to sell, either your own or with dropshipping, it’s time to come up with a plan to sell it. If you have a brick and mortar store, then chances are local shoppers are familiar with your brand. However, now that you’re moving online, you need to rethink your offering and expand it through niche use cases and added value to appeal to an online audience.
Niche use cases refer to situations in which your products can solve a unique problem. You can also consider bundling a few of your products to sell for a higher order value. For example, if you’re selling home improvement appliances, bundle existing products together for a specific use. For example, a “Moving Box” can contain boxes for packaging, hammer, nails and a box cutter. Now you can focus on a new audience of people who are moving and need an affordable and convenient solution.
To create added value, tell the entire story behind your collection and how it applies to everything you do. This will help you establish a well defined market. For instance, a sustainable fashion brand doesn’t just sell clothing—their core values of environmentalism cater to all kinds of eco-minded shoppers. Rather than focusing on a niche market, this angle adds an emotional layer to the shopping experience, helping to expand your audience.
The most important thing in determining what types of trending products you should sell online is to listen to your customers. Understand your target market’s motivations, gender, age, interests and what motivates them to buy.
Once you’ve stepped into the shoes of your customers, it’s time to find trending products with sales potential. The key here is to do your research to get ahead of upcoming trends. Select products that will make a statement and remain profitable, rather than viral trends that don’t have long term earning or staying power.
Another key element in selling trending products is to stay dynamic and learn about trends as they form. Keep an eye on social media and check Google Trends to see what people are searching and posting. For even more insights, explore large eCommerce sites like Amazon and eBay. Don’t forget to browse their top selling and promoted products lists. This research will help you find trends that will also make a profit online.
In the meantime, here’s a list of a few of the most popular products to consider
1. Fashion, Apparel & Accessories
3. Food & Groceries
4. Pet & Animal Care
5. Games and Leisure
If you are already selling trending products, now is your time to shine, as you have the expertise and authority to capitalize on the increase in demand. Be smart and move quickly, as the level of competition is bound to increase significantly. Ramp up your catalog and offerings quickly using dropshipping or print-on-demand to create and sell custom designed products online under your brand. You can then package these products to the customers who already trust you.
Knowing your competition and supply chain
Face it: your competitors are out there and they want your customers' business. This is why it’s crucial to keep a close eye on their activity so you can stay ahead.
Search for your idea on Google, Amazon, eBay, Etsy or other marketplaces. Start following related hashtags on Instagram and LinkedIn. Go over the product and store reviews, and monitor how shoppers comment on social media. You can also look for positive or negative reviews from their customers to see where you can improve their experience with your product. The key is to follow your competition closely—order their products and see what they offer. Observe everything from the delivery time to the packaging and unboxing experience.
In addition, talk to the people in your competition’s supply chain—the ones who actually manufacture, store and ship these products. They will have very interesting insights on the validity of the business, the customers, return rates, and other key eCommerce ingredients.
Once you’ve gathered knowledge about your competition and the supply chain, you can begin determining the best options for selling your products.
Selling dropship products
Selling dropship products is the process of moving goods directly from the manufacturer to the shopper. This method offers a great low-risk starting point, as you won’t have to deal with manufacturing, supply or fulfilment. But your profit, also known as the markup, is going to be dramatically lower.
Selling on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay offers massive traffic opportunities, but these companies take a big cut of your turnover, sometimes upwards of 30% like on Amazon.
Selling private labels means another manufacturer is producing products for you, however, they place your brand’s label on it. This offers higher potential for profits, but also increased involvement and risk, as anything that happens with the manufacturer can directly impact your brand.
Selling through your online store offers the highest profitability on each sale, but you will
need to drive the audience there.
As you evolve and master your audience and supply chain, you will expand into more than just a single place to sell, and order fulfillment will become a bigger everyday challenge. This is where eCommerce platforms offer the biggest advantage.
2. Create Your eCommerce Brand
Building a cohesive brand establishes a unified voice for your business and increases customer recognition. By strategizing your branding efforts, you’ll shape your customers’ perception of what you stand for. While branding is an ongoing process that will evolve throughout the life of your business, here’s how to get started from the beginning.
Choose your business name
Naming your business is the first choice you should make. This name will appear everywhere—on your logo, your website’s domain, marketing materials, social media and everywhere in between. If your business already has a name, you’re off to a great start. If not, try using a business name generator to get the perfect name for your brand.
Buy a domain
Your website’s domain name plays a very important role in your store’s brandability and credibility. Not only does your domain name affect your store’s ranking on search results, but it can also attract or repel potential shoppers—after all, it serves as your business’s online address. When choosing a domain name, remember that a clear, customized domain will contribute to your store’s appeal and authoritativeness, making your brand appear more professional and trustworthy.
Make a logo
Your logo is at the heart of your branding efforts and will represent the essence of your store’s personality. Designing your logo on your own or having a professional do it for you can be time consuming and expensive. The good news is that you don’t need to be a designer or spend hundreds of dollars to make a logo that’s eye-catching, memorable and unique. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to create a logo or start with a free logo maker. Simply answer a few quick questions about your business and personal style and get a logo design that’s right for you.
Set up a business email
A business email features your website’s domain name in your email address (hailey@haileyfashion. com) rather than the one that’s generated from the platform being used (haileyfashion@gmail. com). As a store owner, you’ll be sending a lot of emails to your customers—from promotions to shipping updates and more. Therefore, a business email is essential so that customers can identify who these emails are coming from. Once you’ve registered your domain, you can create your business email.
3. Create an Online Store
At the heart of any successful eCommerce business is the online store. If you’re just starting out, your online store is a great way to test out products and get quick feedback. If you're already selling on marketplaces, try this new channel that’s even more profitable. Finally, if you have a retail store, explore selling anywhere at anytime.
If you’re asking yourself what is the best platform to sell online, consider this— a website builder like Wix offers affordable pricing plans, flexible design capabilities, and professional tools to manage your store—all from one platform. Set up your online store with Wix or explore other options for your business.
How to create your own online store:
The main challenge with an online store is to sell to people who you’re never actually able to meet in person. In order for that to happen successfully, you will need to build trust with them. This is far easier in retail, as humans are designed to gather a lot of information quickly from their environments using their senses.
When you’re in a physical store, you can touch the goods, try them on, see them in various angles and lighting and consult with the owner or employees of the store. Fortunately, eCommerce platforms offer great solutions and alternatives.
Add credibility with professional store design.
Shoppers pay more attention to visual aspects of a store than to its content
Remember that shoppers pay more attention to visual aspects of a store than to its content.
Choose an online store template: Search your platform for inspiration and find an online store template that fits with how you want your brand to be recognized.
Visual hierarchy & structure: Make the concept of your store crystal clear to help shoppers understand right away what they are looking at and what they need to do.
Avoid visual overload: Having too many things in front of shoppers leads to confusion and high abandonment rates.
Build trust with quality product images & descriptions.
Use lots of high quality product images and videos taken from various angles to help customers to replace the in store experience. Customers are far more likely to buy a product when the images are top-notch. Even beginners can master the art of product photography thanks to a few simple pieces of equipment like your smartphone, digital camera, tripods and lighting boxes. You can and the finishing touch with editing tools like the Wix Photo Studio.
Show the scale of the product by taking a variety of photos of it next to familiar objects like hands, trees, cars, etc.
Use lifestyle images so customers can feel what using this product is like. For example, a hiking shoe should be displayed as it’s worn by someone in mountain terrain. Videos are a great way to do this.
Product details are often the last thing your customers read before purchasing. Give your customers all the details and specifics they need to know. Write out the product specs as clearly as possible—include all the relevant information, like the product’s dimensions, what it’s made out of and whether it requires installation or assembly.
Write “About Us” pages and blog posts.
Your product or business isn't the only thing you're selling with your online store—you're also selling yourself. An About section is the best place to let people know who you are and what you can offer them, while also telling the story of your brand. A well-written About page is a great way to help customers feel connected with you, your business and your products.
When crafting your About page, don’t be afraid to show your true personality and make sure to avoid generic content at all costs. This is the best opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition. Showcase the people behind your business. Tell the world who is building and crafting your inventory. Also, be visual wherever you can by adding images to your About section. Let shoppers relate to the faces that create what they’re about to buy.
Building trust with contact information.
A contact information section is one of the first things new customers look for when visiting an online store. After all, they want to be sure that, should issues arise with their purchase, they can contact someone easily. Therefore, providing this information and making it easy to find is critical to building customer trust. When adding a contact section, be sure to include all the necessary information such as your business phone number, email address and physical address. Visitors like knowing there’s a real person behind your site, so add chat to instantly engage with them and boost sales. Also, be sure and link to your social media pages and use images and icons to help customers find your contact information section.
Provide answers with FAQ pages
One of the best ways to handle repeating questions that customers ask is by providing a detailed FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page. When organizing your website, be sure to leave some real estate for this section as it can provide automated answers to recurring questions. In addition, it can also help your site’s visibility on Google when customers are searching for stores and products like yours. Make your FAQ section clear and easy to navigate by writing answers in simple language and avoiding technical jargon or unnecessary details.
Ensure the information is accurate and up to date. Review it on a monthly basis or whenever you’re adding new products or catering to a new audience.
Include social proof and testimonials.
Social proofing is when you add reviews or social channels to your site. It helps potential customers see what other customers are saying about your products and services. It’s another great way to add accountability, build trust and boost sales. You can do this by adding a social feed or a reviews app. Another way to social proof is by showcasing shoppers using your products with images and videos.
Where can I sell my products online?
Now that your store is set up, you can sell in multiple places and reach customers on channels they use everyday. Your products can be sold in store, on your website, or on channels like eBay, Instagram, Facebook, Google and Amazon—all for free.
Facebook is the biggest social media platform and will help you engage with both local and global shoppers. You can sell products directly from your Facebook Business Page. Wix makes it easy to upload your entire products catalog to your Facebook Shop tab complete with product images, information, prices, and more, saving you tons of time.
Amazon is the largest marketplace in the western world and sets the bar in terms of shopping experience. Becoming a successful Amazon seller can help you scale your business. With Wix, you can upload your entire product catalog, or just selected products, using an easy setup process. This means you handle all your Amazon sales from your integrated Wix dashboard, keeping the inventory synced at all times.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it requires a Facebook Shop—you can set this up with the Wix Facebook integration. After you connect your Facebook business page to your Instagram business profile, get your Instagram profile approved for shopping so you can turn on product tagging. With this feature, you can highlight your products in every Instagram post you make. Instagram is filled with other visual features to help you highlight your products and promote your brand.
Millions of shoppers visit this marketplace on a daily basis looking for great deals on an endless sea of products. Wix connects to eBay with an easy setup wizard that helps you bypass eBay’s long and rigid process of onboarding new vendors. This way you can upload products directly to eBay while handling sales from your Wix dashboard. You can also customize how your products will look and cost on eBay, plus your inventory remains synced at all times.
4. Marketing Your Store and Products
Once your online store is created, it’s time to market your products. However, expecting the right audience to find your business simply because your site is live isn’t enough. Customers need to know about your store and understand your products. In order to make this happen, you need to know who your customers are and how to reach them.
Step 1: Find new shoppers
These marketing endeavors will help you drive traffic to your online store.
Search Engine Optimization
When shoppers use search engines such as Google to look for products like yours, ranking high on the results pages is the best case scenario. Shoppers have high intent and are looking for solutions (aka products) to fit their needs. That’s why appearing in the search is key.
Maximizing your SEO for eCommerce helps search engines promote your products. Here are some ways you can improve your store's SEO.
Optimize meta tags (snippets of code that display info about your products) to improve product page's ranking in search engines and drive online shoppers to your store.
Create SEO patterns that instantly update across your store’s product pages.
Add structured data so your eCommerce business can appear as a rich snippet, a visually appealing search result with added info displayed alongside the title, description, and URL.
Personalize the info on your store pages for social sharing, including Facebook, Instagram and more.
Advertising online allows you to drive traffic directly to your product pages. Online marketing offers you the best chance to scale your business and many eCommerce platforms offer automated tools and easy set up.
While it may seem a bit intimidating to start, have no fear—you can start advertising on platforms like Google and Facebook for just under $100, both of which offer unique benefits. Google focuses on the shopper intent as people use search engines to gather information and instantly shop for products they want or need. Facebook is more about triggering their interest through strong visual ads. Luckily, you don’t have to be a designer to create a high performing ad or spend a lot of money to get there. Simply use whichever one is offered natively through your eComm platform or through apps such as Facebook Ads or Google shopping.
Influencers play a huge role in today’s eCommerce market. They can help you sell a lot overnight with a single Instagram photo. This is especially beneficial at the initial stages, since getting your first sale is typically the hardest and most time consuming part. Once you work with one influencer, it’s easier to work with more and market your products further. Luckily, you don’t need the Kardashians on your side to start selling. Local influencers, sometimes with a few thousands of followers, can set things in motion for little or no money.
Use tools like Buzzsumo or this Social Bakers to research and find 3-5 local influencers that match your product and can help sell it. Reach out with a direct message and send them your product. Don’t ask for anything in return—influencers need to produce a lot of content, so if they like it, they are very likely to post something about it.
Some influencers will be content to post and showcase your product if they receive it for free. However, most will want to be paid. Make sure you have a contract in place and think of this as a long lasting relationship, as they may post more products in the future, helping to position your brand as trustworthy to their followers.
If the results are good, double down and invest more in this channel. As you evolve, you will have more budget and more responsibilities, meaning you won’t have the time, so hiring an agency is another route you can consider.
Step 2: Increase your sales
These tactics will help you sell more to customers visiting your online store.
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. In return for a 10%-20% discount, businesses will ask for your email, so they can send more offers.
There are several types of coupons:
1. Percentage discount coupon: For example, offering 15% off.
2. Price Discount Coupons : Like offering $10 off.
3. Free Shipping Coupons: A coupon offering free shipping.
4. Sale Price Coupon: A coupon that offers a discounted sale price (e.g. $5 instead of $10).
5. Minimum Order Amount Coupons: Coupons that can be used when a shopper’s subtotal exceeds a certain amount.
When creating coupon codes, make sure they aren’t case sensitive. Frustrating your audience at this point will increase abandonment rates.
Chat with customers
Shoppers love attention. In fact, eComm businesses that send products to customers via chat generate 71% more sales. Not to mention, answering chat messages to users who start a conversation improves conversion by 65%!
Remember that you can use chatbots for basic actions, however since shoppers prefer to speak with a human, make sure you have someone assigned during operating hours.
Recover abandoned carts
More than 70% of your shoppers will abandon their cart at checkout. Reengaging them with abandoned cart offers can bring back up to 10% of them automatically! The most popular way to recover an abandoned cart is a triggered email. Triggered emails are sent automatically upon a specific event, like not completing the checkout process. Most eCommerce platforms offer solutions for it, so invest the time to learn how to set up automatic abandoned cart recovery emails. Be sure to proofread this email thoroughly, make sure links work properly and design it to perfection on mobile, as most shoppers will open it on their phones.
Step 3: Get repeat shoppers
These tips will help you sell more to customers who already shopped at your store.
Connect to customers using email marketing
Email remains a foundational way to build lasting relationships with your shoppers. Many eCommerce platforms offer email solutions that include templates and mail builders so your newsletters will look professional right from the start.
Follow these simple steps to nail your email marketing strategy:
Build your list by offering a coupon for signup to all site visitors and by offering an opt-in registration during checkout.
Only send emails when you have something to offer. Focus on holidays or special offers and stay close to the shoppers intent.
Choose an email template from ready-made designs so your emails look professional.
Send emails from your business email. For example email@example.com. This will help you build brand recognition and trust.
Analyze your performance and understand what worked and what didn’t.
Talk to shoppers and ask them what they think about your emails and how you can make them more relevant and enticing.
Retargeting, also known as remarketing, reminds your audience about your products by showing them custom ads after they have visited your site. Your ad will appear wherever they are on the web, reminding them about your site and encouraging them to come back. This is typically done through Facebook or Google, and requires adding a pixel, a specific code snippet that allows tracking your audience once they leave your store.
5. Start Accepting Payments
There are several ways you can start accepting online payments. Whichever method you choose, make sure the payment methods are secure and trusted.
How to start accepting payments:
The fastest way to start accepting payments is by opening an account with payment processors with low entry barriers, like PayPal, Square, or Stripe. They’re easy to set up and already built into most eCommerce software. It’s highly recommended that you also open a merchant account and properly fill in all the requirements.
How will people pay you?
The best solution for shoppers to purchase smoothly and securely is also the best solution for you. Credit cards are by far the most popular online payment method, but you can also include digital wallet solutions like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and Visa Checkout. These offer a great shopping experience for customers who don't want to enter their credit card number as they pay.
If you already have a brick-and-mortar store, it is critical to keep in-person and online sales synced for a consistent inventory count. This requires working on the same platform, but luckily most eCommerce platforms also offer point of sale (POS) solutions, and vice versa. Make sure your payment solution offers you all that you need for both cases.
Advanced tip: Make sure at least one of your payment providers offers pay-over-time, as this increases the order value by up to 20%, which will in turn allow you to spend more money on your online marketing.
How will you get the money into your bank account?
Accepting payments and getting money into your bank account are two different processes. The latter is called Payouts, and you will need to set it up as you build your store. A viable ecommerce business maintains a steady cash with automatic payouts sent directly to its bank account.
What about sales tax?
Different tax rules apply in different regions. Don’t make any rookie mistakes here as this can have serious legal implications. If you are still in the research stage, tax calculators are good enough to get some perspective on how much will have to pay in taxes, and help you choose whether to absorb all or some of the sales tax or roll it on your shoppers. However, when you get to the point where you are actually selling, you would need to consult with an accountant or with your local tax authority for specific information relevant for your store. You can start by reading How to Simplify Sales Tax Compliance for Your Online Store.
Managing your business’ finances
It is strongly recommended that you manage your eCommerce business from a single integrated payments dashboard. This means you can handle all store orders, transactions, (including refunds and chargebacks) invoices and payouts in one place.
Affordable, fast shipping is the core of successful eCommerce businesses. Selling online means that there are no physical boundaries to your audience. However, the end of the shopping experience is unboxing the goods, and there is only one way to get your products to them: via a shipping carrier. There are many shipping carriers in different countries. Some of the most popular ones in the United States include USPS, FedEx, UPS.
Understanding eCommerce shipping is essential for both the shopping experience and your profitability.
Should I offer free shipping?
Free shipping is incredibly popular and is an excellent motivator for shoppers. However, as the business owner, you'll need to absorb the costs. These can vary substantially according to the distance to the shopper, weight and size of your goods, and delivery time. You can start by using real-time rates which are calculated automatically. This prevents you from overcharging the shopper or losing money by not pricing the shipping properly.
Real-time rates are available on most eCommerce platforms—either natively or through shipping apps such as Shipbob, Shippo, Shipstation and others. They integrate seamlessly with your preferred carrier. Plus, they help you get better rates, display the proper shipping rates on your online store, print shipping labels, and track the order throughout the fulfillment process.
How to set up your shipping:
Choose a carrier
Find a carrier that suits your needs. Does your brand sell mostly domestically or have you already expanded internationally? Only work with professional carriers you trust. If you’re disappointed, try another one. Do not settle for mediocracy or you will pay for that in customer satisfaction.
Include shipping at checkout
Provide shoppers with all the information at checkout including delivery dates, shipping calendar, and alternative options like curbside pickup or local delivery.
Offer shipping promotions
Does free shipping make sense for your business? If not, try offering free shipping by slightly raising the price of your products. For example, a product that costs $25 and comes with free shipping might sell more than a product that costs $22 but includes $3 shipping. You can also consider free or fast shipping only during certain times like holidays or Cyber Monday.
Make packaging a priority
No shopping experience is complete without the unboxing experience. You can easily make a memorable unboxing experience by adding a personal touch with handwritten thank you notes. Avoid the generic packaging and add a specific color to your notes so people remember you!
7. Growing your business
A viable business is always seeking new growth channels, whether by selling on new sales channels, or profifting more by using automations. By expanding into new sales channels, you can meet your audience on the places they go to everyday for shopping or browsing.
Automate your workflow
The biggest challenge you face, no matter how mature your store is, will be time management. Automations address that challenge and will allow you to streamline your workflow, which means you get to do more within the same timeframe.
The most common automation in eCommerce is emails with strategic automations, like abandoned cart recovery and order confirmation emails. Once set up, these automations continue to be sent, growing your sales and saving valuable time.
Connect your productivity apps
There are plenty of productivity apps—from your calendar, to task management tools like Trello or Ascend, Make sure you choose that sync flawlessly with your business tools and connect with your online store.
Successful ecommerce merchants learn to love analytics because it helps them make informed decisions. It is only when you deepdive into your data that you learn about your most profitable audiences, products and campaigns. Armed with this knowledge, you can create a data-driven business plan.
Look at your reports
First and foremost: Where are your sales coming from? Is it the emails you send, Instagram, Google search, eBay or Facebook ads? Get to know your sales numbers inside out so you can focus your marketing efforts on the most profitable and scalable channels.
Tools like Google Analytics are great for understanding how people find your online store. Most eCommerce platforms offer this report. Combine the insights from traffic and sales to tune your offers to the audience your store is generating.
New vs. repeat shoppers:
Only 15% of all online shoppers are repeat customers meaning, they returned to the store and placed another order. However, they make up about 33% of all online shopping revenue. This means that repeat shoppers are your VIP customers—on average they spend some 3x more than one-time shoppers. Make sure you know who they are and that you put enough efforts into making one-time shoppers come back.
Visualize the data:
Visualizing the data helps you quickly identify changes in the trends. Choose how to visualize your stats, either creating a custom report from scratch or editing built-in reports.