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How to Sell Online

10/12/2023
Girl packing product with a bill in a box

In recent years, the landscape of commerce has evolved dramatically, and the significance of online sales has never been more apparent. In 2023, the number of digital buyers surpassed an impressive 2.64 billion, which is approximately one-third of the world's population. This figure underscores the global reach and accessibility of online selling. If you want to learn how to sell online so you can get your piece of the e-commerce pie, you're at the right place!

In this article, we unveil the pathways to establishing an online store and diversifying strategies for those who prefer not to host a dedicated webshop. We'll explore how to sell online through various platforms, as well as share invaluable tips and tricks to upgrade your online selling skills. When you read our piece, you'll be empowered to navigate this expansive digital marketplace with confidence and efficacy.

Let's unlock the potential of online sales and chart a course toward successful ventures in the e-commerce realm!

Table of Contents

What to sell online - choosing the right product

It's natural that we begin our guide on how to sell online with a central question - what should you actually sell? This question, although simple, can be a bit tricky, and not necessarily so easy to answer. Simply having a product you're passionate about or skilled in making doesn't really guarantee a successful business.

If you really want to start a sustainable online sales business, there are several factors you have to take into consideration at the very beginning of a journey.

Man holding a credit card and a tablet

Market research

Market research is the very first thing you should do when starting any business, and online sale is no exception. For instance, if you're considering selling electronic gadgets, you might reveal there's a surge in demand for eco-friendly charging solutions.

In your research, you can rely on tools like Google Trends, but you can do other stuff as well, such as keyword analysis. Try to get a grip on market trends, since the dynamic of the market can change, sometimes even rapidly. Besides that, do your best to align your offering with your interests and expertise. Aim for the balance between consumer demand and your own passion and fulfillment.

Google Trends graphs

Understand your audience

To put it simply, if you want to sell, you have to speak your buyers' language. Imagine you run a local shop - you would probably know your regular customers by name, and you would understand their needs and preferences. In the online world, you probably don't get to know people by their names, but you can still identify their demographics, values, interests, and behaviors.

When it comes to audience research, a bunch of tools are at your disposal, from Google Analytics to analytical tools of different social media platforms, such as Facebook Audience Insights or Instagram Insights. Moreover, you can use other popular methods, like surveys and questionnaires, and tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can make your life easier.

How to sell online with your online store?

Let's now dive into the core of online selling - establishing your own online store. We'll guide you through the most important steps, from defining a brand and selecting the ideal platform to crafting seamless payment and shipping strategies.

Defining a brand and design

Defining a brand and design is important for every business, and not just if you want to sell online. Once you've done the initial research and become familiar with your audience, ask yourself what appeals to them.

It's well-known that colors evoke emotions, so they are kind of crucial when it comes to the way your brand will be perceived. Whenever someone says Coca-Cola, a lot of people will imagine the color red. When T-Mobile is mentioned, magenta immediately pops into mind. If we write Amazon, you imagine orange, and so on. If you're interested in doing further research, check out this interesting article.

Besides colors, be careful when it comes to your logo. Its job is to represent your brand and to capture its essence in a simple and memorable way. As for the imagery, choose only high-quality images that showcase your products in the best light.

Creating a webshop

Once your brand has a story behind it, supported by a specific and appealing visual identity, it's time for you to create a webshop. First of all, choose the appropriate platform to build your webshop. You can choose between several popular options, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or Adobe Commerce (previously Magento).

If you're not an expert in web design, worry not, since most webshop-build platforms offer some themes and templates you can choose from (don't worry, they all look at least decent, and some of them are just fabulous!). If you want to do this part by yourself, we suggest exploring tools like Canva, which is user-friendly and enables you to do nice things on your own. Create a web design that takes user experience as a prerogative - make clear product categorization, provide easy navigation, and do your best to make it visually appealing.

Woman working in Canva

Payment

Handling payment is a meaningful part of your business, but it's also a vital part of the customer's journey. That's why it's probably a good idea to integrate some secure payment gateway that's commonly used in the industry, something like PayPal, Stripe, or credit card options.

Shipping

Shipping is another big aspect of the online shopping experience. You have to choose a shipping strategy that works for you. It can be free shipping, flat-rate shipping, or real-time carrier rates. Define shipping zones and regions and streamline the process by integrating your platform with shipping management tools. Don't forget to provide customers with tracking information, since it plays an important role in the overall user experience.

If you can't decide what courier companies to work with, you can check out this helpful article.

Smiling delivery guy

How to sell online without an online store?

But what if setting up an online store isn't your preferred method? Fear not, for there are many alternative pathways to online says. We'll uncover the secrets of selling on giants like Amazon and eBay. Furthermore, we'll say something about selling your unique creations with Etsy. We didn't forget that social media platforms are powerful sales channels, so you can read about how to sell on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

But first of all, let's say something about how to sell online with Recommend.

Recommend

Recommend stands as an innovative platform empowering influencers to share their fashion, lifestyle, and shopping inspiration through Trends, incorporating shoppable images and videos. It offers a way to not only engage and inspire your community but also cleverly repurpose existing content, all while generating substantial income.

Beyond Trends, Recommend allows you to craft a personalized online store right within the platform. This store comes with a shareable link that can be easily distributed across your social media channels. With each purchase made from your virtual boutique, you earn a commission, making it a lucrative avenue for influencers to connect with their followers and financially benefit from their online presence.

Trends from Recommend

Amazon

Amazon is a player in the e-commerce world that needs no special presentation. As you can read in this article, Amazon's numbers are just staggering. For example, in 2020. 3rd party sellers sold 3.4 billion products on this platform.

When setting up the account, you'll have 2 plans (or account types) to choose from: a Professional and an Individual. An Individual plan is designed for sellers who sell less than 40 units per month, while a Professional plan is for sellers who sell more than 40 units per month. When it comes to prices, a Professional plan has a subscription fee of 39.99 $. An Individual plan doesn't have a monthly fee, but you pay a 0.99 $ fee per sold item. If you choose a Professional plan, you'll have perks such as managing inventory with feeds, spreadsheets, and reports, as well as promotions, gift services, and other special listing features. For a more detailed comparison check out the table on this page.

If you wonder how much money you can make if you sell online on Amazon, the potential earnings are based on the selection of products, pricing strategies, marketing, and other factors. As for the product categories that usually perform very well on Amazon, we'd like to underline electronics and tech accessories, beauty and personal care, home and kitchen, health and wellness, books, and toys.

Offer of tech items on Amazon

eBay

eBay is another popular option for online sales. This platform offers a Personal Account and a Business Account. A Personal Account is great for occasional sellers, but if you aim for higher volumes, it'd be better if you open a Professional Account, which comes with different tools for easier management. Furthermore, you can open eBay Stores, which have some cool customization options and various subscription levels.

When it comes to best-performing categories, it's good to know that eBay does boast a quite diverse market. Electronics, fashion items like clothing and accessories, and home and garden products have pretty much consistent demand. We'd also like to emphasize that eBay is great for collectibles, vintage and rare items, toys, and hobbies.

Etsy

Etsy is the go-to virtual place for handmade and unique products. If you'd like to sell your handmade items on Etsy, you will first need to create an account. Then you'll have to establish a shop. That means that you'll have to choose a name, but also outline your shop's policies (payments, shipping, returns…). Finally, customize your shop by adding a profile picture and a cover photo.

When you're done, it's time to list the products you're going to sell. High-quality images and carefully written descriptions will, besides detailing the specifications, tell the story about your brand

Necklaces on Etsy

Social media

TikTok

Besides being a megapopular social platform, especially among younger people, TikTok has recently introduced a special feature for sales called TikTok Shop. That's the strategy TikTok uses to encourage brands to sell their products. The great thing about TikTok Shop is that enables a complete in-app experience. In other words, users can complete purchases within the application, without having to go to other sites.

Instagram

In a similar vein to TikTok, Instagram offers an opportunity to sell stuff through its Instagram Shopping feature. This feature enables businesses to showcase and sell their products directly on the platform. If you decide to sell on Instagram, you can tag your products in posts and stories, giving your followers pricing information, as well as other relevant details. When users tap on a tagged product, they will be redirected to a specific product page within the app, where they will find additional images, comprehensive descriptions, and an option to buy the product.

Instagram Shopping

Facebook

Transitioning from the visually appealing Instagram universe and the short, engaging videos of TikTok, Facebook Marketplace introduces a different dimension of online selling. Unlike the focus on aesthetics or brief, captivating videos, Facebook Marketplace emphasizes local commerce and community connections.

From second-hand electronics and furniture to hand-made crafts, there's really nothing you can't sell on Facebook Marketplace.

Pinterest

The last social media platform we'd like to go through is Pinterest. Incorporating product tags on Pinterest entails attaching labels to distinct items within an image on a Pin. When users interact with a tag, they gain access to vital product information like its name, pricing details, and a direct link to make a purchase. This functionality significantly streamlines the shopping process, facilitating effortless product exploration and driving sales directly on Pinterest.

This feature proves highly beneficial, especially for brands in the fashion and home decor domains, enabling them to showcase their products effectively and engage potential customers seamlessly.

Product Pin examples

Dropshipping

If you're looking for a way how to sell online with low risk and low capital, you should consider nowadays really popular method - dropshipping. In dropshipping you basically act as a middleman - you sell products, but you don't actually have any inventory. You wait until someone places an order, and then you order it from a third-party supplier who ships it directly to the customer.

To start a dropshipping business you have to first select a niche and do the research on suppliers. Then you will probably need to build an online store and, of course, market your products. To find a reliable dropshipping supplier, conduct thorough market research and identify potential suppliers specializing in your product niche. Contact multiple suppliers to assess their responsiveness, communication, and willingness to work with dropshippers. Inquire about their product range, shipping times, policies, and fees.

To ensure reliability, request product samples to assess quality, packaging, and shipping times firsthand before committing to a partnership. Consider testing their customer service responsiveness and consistency, which can be essential for a smooth dropshipping experience.

Affiliate marketing

To use affiliate marketing for online selling, you partner with others (affiliates) who promote your stuff. They get a reward for each sale they bring in through a special link. Start by setting up a plan and deciding how much you'll reward them. Find affiliates on affiliate networks or directly, making sure they're a good match for your brand. Give them tools to promote your products and unique links. They'll share these links on their websites, social media, or emails. Keep an eye on how well they're doing, learn from it, and keep building good relationships to sell more.

Andrew Scotch profile on Facebook.png

Importance of marketing in online sales

Effective marketing is the keystone of successful online sales. Marketing serves as the bridge between your products and your future customers. In this section of our How to Sell Online article we'll give a brief explanation of the key marketing strategies that can seriously impact your online presence and sales: SEO, social media marketing, pay-per-click campaigns, email marketing, and content marketing.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): with SEO your website will appear higher on search engine results like Google. Use relevant keywords and phrases related to your products or services on your website to attract more visitors.
  • Social media marketing: social media are powerful, and you should definitely use them to your advantage. We've already explained how you can use social media for sales, but they can be extremely useful as a marketing tool.
  • Email marketing: send regular emails to your customers about new products, or just send them some cool content. We won't lie - it can be hard to build a marketing list, but if you're consistent and you provide people with good content, it will definitely pay off.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC): on Google or social media you can run targeted ads. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, making it a cost-effective way to reach potential buyers.
  • Content marketing: blog posts, videos, infographics, or analysis can be valuable content that can help your marketing and consequently boost your sales.
  • Other useful marketing strategies: influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, customer reviews and testimonials, retargeting ads.

Girl doing a video about a lipstick

Other tips for how to sell online

Lastly, we'll provide additional tips and tricks to enhance your online selling strategies for a thriving e-commerce journey.

  • Competitor analysis: study your competitors to understand their strategies, products, pricing, and customer engagement. Learn from their strengths, but also from their weaknesses.
  • Customer reviews and feedback: encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews and provide feedback. Positive reviews build trust with potential customers, and constructive feedback helps you improve.
  • Customer support: offer customer support so people can address their queries and concerns. A positive support experience can turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer and boost your reputation through word-of-mouth.
  • Optimizing webshop for mobile: a lot of people nowadays research and shop on smartphones or tablets, so you want to provide them with the best user experience possible.
  • Website security and data privacy: prioritize the security of your website and customer data. Use secure payment gateways, SSL certificates, and follow best practices to protect your customers' information.
  • Referral programs: encourage your existing customers to refer friends or family by creating referral programs. Reward them with discounts or other incentives for successful referrals. Satisfied customers are the best way to expand your customer base!

Smiling guy with sunglasses taking a selfie

Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide, we've unraveled the broad domain of online sales, from establishing your own online store to leveraging e-commerce giants and social platforms for sales. We've emphasized the crucial role of marketing, the power of dropshipping, and innovative avenues like Recommend. Now, armed with knowledge and strategies, it's your turn to step into the thriving realm of e-commerce.

Start your online selling journey today, utilizing the plethora of strategies and platforms we've discussed. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an established business, the digital marketplace offers endless opportunities for growth and success. Stay attuned to future trends and emerging technologies, for the e-commerce landscape is ever-evolving, promising exciting prospects and innovative ways to connect with a global audience. Embrace this digital era, and let your entrepreneurial spirit flourish in the vast online marketplace.

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