According to research, retail sales from eCommerce websites amounts to $1,713,971 mln in 2018. When you consider revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2018-2022) of 9.6 % resulting in a market volume of US $2,472,788 mln in 2022, there’s no better time to get into selling products in your own online shop.
Online competition grows tougher every day. That’s why many people never bother pursuing an eCommerce store or business. Despite the stiff competition, you can still get your piece of the pie. It lies in the strategy you use to figure out what to sell online.
Mobile sessions account for 34.5% of all retail sales on eCommerce sites. By 2021, it’s expected to reach 53.9%. There is potential for your customers to come to you while on the go. You need to be prepared with a mobile-friendly option that allows for mobile payment, even if it means using third-party services.
In this definitive guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to successfully sell products online. Nothing will matter more than the products you choose to sell.
Your company name, the themes you use when building your store, and other elements like the shipping options you offer may have an impact. But, they won’t affect it as strongly.
We’ll cover everything from what to sell online to how to sell online.
We’ll address building your online store — which hosted eCommerce options are the best, other eCommerce solutions, digital marketing and inventory, and other important stuff you need to know to start selling products online for profit, even if you’ve never owned a physical store.
There are tons of things you can sell online. And if you don’t take the time to research options ahead of time, you’ll fail.
You can sell commodities or things everyone needs. Or, you can sell niche products — those that only have a specific audience.
Ecommerce stores like Amazon sell commodities. Etsy focuses on handmade, one-of-a-kind, unique items. These are niche products.
Your brand can sell a combination of the two if you plan for it and market correctly. If you’re only selling commodities like those you can find on major marketplaces, you’ll have a hard time gaining traction. You won’t be able to compete on price since giants can buy items in large quantity.
Coming up with unique products of your own can be difficult. That doesn’t mean you can’t find other people’s products to sell, though.
What products you should you start selling:
- Look for or create products that solve problems. It doesn’t have to be a brand new product, but it could be an improvement on another feature. On the flip side, launch products that allow people to indulge in guilty pleasures.
- If you can’t do that, find products you’re passionate about. Take, for instance, the story of Highway Robery. It launched after two friends found a pair of robes in an outpost while on vacation, and discovered they didn’t want to take them off. They came home and launched the business because they were so passionate about their experience.
- Look for products with branding potential. This means you’ll focus on crafting a brand people remember and fall in love with. That means taking time to really get to know your target audience. Buyer personas allow you to create a picture of who your ideal buyer is, so you know how to structure everything for them.
- Get on trends early and launch before the craze. There’s risk involved here, but it can pay off. Timing matters. If you’re early, it may not take off right away. But, if you’re already visible when something becomes a trend, you’re way ahead of people who wait to come into the game once something is already trending.
You can sell your products online through your own branded store, Amazon, eBay, social media channels, email, Google shopping, Craigslist, affiliate websites, and more. Starting an online branded store is easier than ever now that there are hosted services to handle things like your SSL certificate, credit card processing, PCI compliance, and shopping cart.
You can choose from any number of payment gateways. Many of them also provide business tools, SEO tools to help your store appear higher in the search engines, and everything you need to get your website design looking professional.
Each hosted service also offers an eCommerce blog with information to help business owners sell online successfully. You’ll find success stories, and other resources to help grow your business.
Selling a product means you’ve taken the time to do market research. If you don’t know who you’re selling to, it doesn’t really matter what you’re selling.
When you know who you’re selling to and what you’re selling, you’ll then need to figure out the eCommerce platforms you want to sell on. You can start your own online store and use other marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to help you, too.
You may even skip the pains of starting your own online business and instead buy an already profitable business on Flippa, the largest marketplace for buying and selling online businesses, including (but not limited to!) Amazon FBA, eBay storefronts and more.
Successfully selling products online means you focus on finding products to serve a target market. It means researching your ideal buyer and crafting everything about your strategy around who they are. It means creating a strategy that will help you reach potential customers, but keeping things flexible enough to make changes as needed.
Selling on Amazon is a great way to get started.
You can rely on the popularity of Amazon to help people find your store. Amazon is the most popular online store in the United States, with 189 million monthly unique visitors as of December 2016.
Once you know what you’re going to sell, you’ll choose a plan. You can pay $39.99/month to sell an unlimited number of products, or pay $0.99 for each item you sell.
If you’re just starting out, it may be a good idea to use the individual plan as this means you’re only paying transaction fees when you make a sale. Otherwise, you’re paying a flat fee regardless of what you sell. If you don’t expect to sell 40 items, you’ll waste money.
Then, register and list your products. Use Amazon SEO techniques to improve your product visibility on Amazon. It is a search engine just like Google or Bing, that will help you drive traffic to your products. After they’re listed, people will be able to buy them. But, if they can’t find them with Amazon’s search, you’ll have zero sales.
eBay says shoppers are performing more than 250 million searches every day. That’s 3,000 searches per second!
Your buyers are there, too. They just need help finding you. And if you think you’ll only reach buyers in your country, you are wrong. eBay also says approximately 20% of sales are cross-border, so people are shopping globally for what they want and need.
Selling on eBay is simple. Take a few pictures of your products. List them using the selling format you think is best for you. Then, drive traffic to your listing. When the item sells, ship it, or deliver it via email. You can get shipping discounts for any physical product orders and print labels with eBay. Then, get paid.
A quick note about your product photos: they need to be good. Since people can’t touch or feel your products like they can in your physical store, your images need to be enticing. You don’t have to hire a professional photographer if you’re on a budget. But you do need to make more effort than snapping a quick pic with your smartphone.
Invest in a few studio lights and a white backdrop. Lighting makes or breaks your photos. Watch for shadows and flares. This keeps your photos clean. Take photos from multiple angles to provide as much of a view as you can. If possible, take some lifestyle shots, putting the product in the hands of those who use it. If there are unique details, take photos of all angles, and then create a 3D rotating slideshow for your customers to use.
When listing your item, you’ll need to describe what you’re selling. Use keywords wherever possible to help boost visibility in searches. You can choose between an auction listing format and a buy it now format.
Next, choose your shipping options and you’re ready to list. eBay has tools that help you calculate postage, add tracking information, and create and pay for your labels. This makes running your eBay store even easier.
If you are a crafter, Etsy can be a wonderful platform. Etsy only allows handmade or vintage items, and craft supplies to be sold.
Reselling items you did not make is not allowed on the Etsy platform itself. Craft supplies can either be handmade, vintage, or commercial. They must have a primary purpose of crafting.
Selling on Etsy is as easy as creating a shop account, listing your products, and promoting your shop. You’ll pay a $0.20 listing fee per item and a 3.5% transaction fee.
There are tools to help you manage and grow your business. You’ll also find a variety of support and education materials to help, too.
- How to create a Pinterest account
- How to build a follower base
- How to implement buyable Pins
- How to promote your Buyable Pins with Pinterest ads
- How to test Pins with secret boards
- How to sell on Pinterest [13 actionable tips]
- How to sell art, crafts & jewelry on Pinterest
A report from KPCB shows Pinterest is U.S. shoppers’ social media platform of choice, with 55% of users turning to it to find or shop for products in 2016. For Facebook and Instagram? It’s just 12%.
People are already there looking for your products and services. So make sure you’re there to be found.
Selling on Pinterest is a bit different because you’ll need a business account with followers to advertise your products to. But even if you don’t have a massive follower base yet, you can use Promoted Pins to advertise your products. This way you have a chance to get someone to follow your boards and buy your products.
You’ll create your business account. Then, populate it with boards and content. Find people to follow. Encourage your fans to follow you on Pinterest by sharing your account information on social media and on your eCommerce website. Add a Pin it button to your photos on your eCommerce website.
When you have a Pin for your products, you’ll follow a series of steps to activate buyable pins. Then, whenever you create a Pin that points to a product detail page URL, the Pin will automatically activate as Buyable.
It’s a good idea to make multiple Pins for the same product so you can show it from different angles, or change the description. When a pin is buyable, it adds a buy button so users can purchase your products without ever leaving Pinterest.
- How to integrate your online store with your Facebook Page
- How to promote products or campaigns with Timeline Cover Photo
- How to share product links in your Facebook updates without being an annoying broken record
- How to build a bigger audience on Facebook
When it comes to selling on Facebook, you have a few options:
- You can integrate your online store from another platform with your Facebook page.
- You can use Facebook Ads to drive traffic back to your store hosted elsewhere.
- You can post product links on your timeline, and more.
- You can also use the Facebook Marketplace — a mobile-only buy-and-sell tab to list your products for sale.
- You’ll be connected with buyers via Messenger, which also supports payments. Though it’s targeted primarily at person-to-person transactions like those you see on eBay or Craigslist, it can work for your business, too.
Mobile users are spending more than 50 minutes per day on Facebook’s platforms. Facebook data shows 30% of U.S retail shoppers have discovered a new product on Facebook, and 20% of them said Facebook led them to buy a new product or service online.
In 2016, Facebook saw more mobile conversions than desktop conversions for the entire Holiday season. It began with Black Friday with mobile transactions growing 55% year over year. By the end of the season, mobile made up 51% of the total online transactions, more than a 10% increase than what they saw in 2015.
Though Facebook is the largest social media network with more than a billion users all over the globe, it’s also one of the most competitive.
Instagram has grown 357% from 2014-2018, compared to 57% growth for Facebook and 50% for YouTube in the same period. Not selling there is a missed opportunity.
There are several ways to sell on Instagram:
- You can create an Instagram store with a third-party application like Shopseen. This turns your accounts into a digital storefront. It syncs your inventory directly. Then, upload your images to Instagram.
- Alternatively, you can make your Instagram shoppable with product tags. This allows you to treat your Instagram like a lookbook, rather than a store.
You can only have one link on Instagram, in your bio. You can change this link based on the campaigns you’re running. It’s a good idea to make sure it points to your store.
- How to plan and execute an omni-channel marketing strategy
- What are the four biggest challenges of omni-channel
- What pushes businesses to jump into omni-channel marketing pool
- How to become an ‘omnichannel’ superhero
- How to see which channels you should focus more of your effort on
- How to ensure your customers experience a seamless shopping trip regardless of which channel they choose
Many online retailers use omni channel marketing, especially those at the enterprise eCommerce level. You don’t need to have a large online business to benefit from this approach. It allows you to market to customers from all angles.
Your customers get a seamless shopping experience whether they are shopping with you from your own eCommerce site, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, or any other platform.
Before you start implementing omni-channel techniques, you’d better have a clear understanding what kind of eCommerce SaaS options are available on the market, what kind of web hosting you need to manage your own store, whether to use a website builder or to hire a web designer, and how you will manage your inventory and pricing across all your stores from a central location.
When you’re finished with this comprehensive guide, you’ll have everything you need to know to get started building your eCommerce business.
You’ll learn valuable information you won’t get elsewhere you can use to grow your eCommerce business.
Selling online won’t turn you into a millionaire overnight. But with consistent effort, you can become quite successful.