Selling products has never been easier, yet it’s getting harder with each day. Thanks to the internet!
Large businesses, small businesses, freelancers – everyone seems to be trying their hands at eCommerce to earn more. Aren’t you too?
Whether you own a storefront or not, even if you have no prior experience selling a product, you can still sell products online and make money. Isn’t it great? But, imagine the competition at hand.
Not to mention, you can reach your potential customers in all corners of the world, but you also need to constantly prove why you are worth their time and money.
Furthermore, from displaying your products to receiving payments, you get many options, which also leads to a lot of dilemmas.
The spread of the web and its efficient means of running an online business brings many complexities.
Needless to say, to set your eCommerce venture up for success, you’ll have to figure out different aspects, make some crucial decisions, and strategize your every move.
We are here to prepare you better for your eCommerce endeavor. Here’s the list of things that you must know before you start selling products online.
Already selling products online? Read on to see if you tick every checkbox. If not, learn which area requires an action.
- 1. Types of products that you can sell
- 2. The product demand
- 3. Your supply chain
- 4. Your business model
- 5. Pricing your products
- 6. Naming your store
- 7. Legal formalities for selling online
- 8. Platforms where you can sell
- 9. Setting up your store
- 10. Your terms of service and other policies
- 11. Managing your orders
- 12. Managing product packaging and shipping
- 13. Communicating with your customers
- 14. Building a customer support system
- 15. Following SEO strategy
- 16. Developing marketing strategy
- 17. Engaging and re-engaging your customers
- 18. Measuring your performance
- 19. Learn, experiment, and iterate
- 20. There’s no one size that fits all
1. Types of products that you can sell
From food items to software, you can sell almost every type of product online. Broadly, you’ll find two main categories – physical products and digital products.
Understanding the difference between the two is essential to decide the approach to take to establish your eCommerce business.
Anything that acquires a physical space and can touch and feel can be termed a physical product. Food items, clothing, electronics, stationery, cosmetics – all these are physical goods.
If you are going to sell a physical product, you’ll have to store it somewhere and deliver it from one place to another.
Moreover, physical commodities dominate the market due to their utility and a higher perceived value. You can easily start a store on Shopify to sell your products online. Shopify is great because, from shipping to payment processing, they handle everything.
Products that are accessed and consumed over digital devices are called digital products. Intangible products such as e-books, software, online courses, and music are examples of digital products.
Unlike physical products, digital products do not occupy a physical space, can be delivered instantly, and scaled quickly. However, building a useful digital product can be painstaking.
Although digital products’ market size is lower compared to physical goods, it has a huge potential. We recommend Thinkific for selling online courses and Sellfy for selling digital download products.
2. The product demand
A business essentially attempts to supply demand and make some profit out of it. The fundamentals remain the same for eCommerce.
First things first, you need to ascertain if there is a demand for the product you wish to sell online. You can either leverage an existing market demand or create new demand in the market.
An existing demand is a sought-after solution by the customers to their pain points and needs. On the other hand, demand creation is a process through which a business attempts to provide a solution to a problem that customers didn’t know existed.
Compared to identifying an existing demand, creating a new demand is difficult. Your product has to be unique and revolutionary to generate an unsought demand. Apple Inc. is great at creating demand with every product they launch.
Whether you have selected the products or are looking for product ideas, it is good to do some market research to evaluate the product’s potential and target audience.
The following methods can assist you in choosing the right products to sell:
- Keywords search volumes – Search data and competition related to your product’s keywords can give you a good insight into what the demand looks like. You can determine the search volume using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Keyword Anywhere, Moz, KWFinder, and Keyword Tool.
- Keeping up with the trends – Staying up-to-date with trends can help you predict demands and capitalize on them at an early stage. Tools like Google Trends and BuzzSumo to analyze the trending topics and plan potential products around the same.
- Social listening – What your potential customers have to say can provide some great data points to tailor your products as per their needs. Peeking into customers’ reviews, social media pages, discussion forums can reveal their pain points, expectations, satisfaction criteria, and much more.
3. Your supply chain
Once you have narrowed down your products, it’s time to map out your supply chain. A supply chain is an end-to-end system of producing and delivering a product.
A clear picture of your supply chain is crucial to plan your infrastructure efficiently.
Some vital components of an eCommerce supply chain are:
- Sourcing the product
- Inventory/stock management
- Order management
- Logistics management
- Payment gateway
- Data management
You need to visualize the resources and activities that will lead your products to reach your end customers in time along each of the components. Take the help of a Mind Mapping tool to visualize your ideas.
4. Your business model
Once you’ve figured which products you are going to sell, you need to work out a suitable business model. The business model you zero in on will decide the scopes of product sourcing, inventory management, and order fulfillment.
Here are the proven models for you to choose from for physical products, depending on capital, resources, and capabilities.
Dropshipping is a popular retail fulfillment model, especially among beginners. This model allows you to sell a product without having to keep a stock.
Basically, you purchase items from a third party and they ship the product directly to the customers. You set up an online store, get orders, and track delivery. The job of manufacturing and order fulfillment rests with your supplier.
Although this model requires little investment and saves you the hassle of manufacturing, stocking, and shipping, it comes with many risks.
You have no control over the quality of the product. Profit margins tend to be lower. Plus, there is fierce competition due to the ease of starting to sell via dropshipping. We recommend using Spocket to get started with Dropshipping.
If you have a unique product concept but don’t have the capacity to produce it yourself, you can get it made from other manufacturers in your brand name.
Private labeling gives you exclusive rights to your product. You have more control over the product as the onus of developing the product is on you.
Moreover, if your product is truly unique, it can give you a major competitive edge.
Here, you have an option to stock the product or get it shipped directly to the end customer. But, you will have to manage all aspects of the supply chain.
A caveat in this model is that you have to deal with the intricacies such as vendor management, quality control, and costs minimization.
Similar to private labeling, white labeling allows you to sell products in your name, but here, the product is a generic one. Apart from product packaging, you have a limited scope of customizing the product.
Since any reseller can sell via white labeling, there is hardly any competitive advantage in terms of product features or utility. To differentiate yourself from competitors, you’ll have to rely on robust marketing strategies.
Another challenge with this model is inventory control. White label suppliers only take bulk orders to maximize their profits. Hence, firstly you require a place to keep the stock. Secondly, you should be getting enough orders to avoid the issue of excess stock.
You can set up your own manufacturing unit for your products if you have the means.
This option is especially viable if you want to sell unique, customized, hand-made products such as decorative items, custom-made apparel, or gifting items.
Not to mention, scaling your manufacturing capacities can be slow and resource-intensive. Plus, you’ll have to put a lot of energy and time into it.
If you are looking to sell bulk manufactured goods, this method won’t be feasible unless you have huge capital and resources to set up and manage a factory.
5. Pricing your products
Once you have decided on the products and business model, pricing is another beast to tame. Whichever product you sell, your business’s success will be affected by the pricing. So, you should approach pricing strategically.
As a rule of thumb, the price of your products should be able to cover all your costs and leave you with decent profits. Hence, before you price your products, you must determine all the costs of running your business.
Some of the major cost heads that your business is likely to encounter are:
- Product sourcing
- Shipping and packaging
- Platform fees
- Software fees
- Banking fee and payment processing charges
- Marketing budget
Also, the eCommerce landscape allows you to approach pricing in more than one way. You can set different prices for different customer segments. You can bundle a range of products and sell at a discounted price or go for subscription-based pricing.
6. Naming your store
Your store name gives your business and products a unique identity. A strong name can be your business’s most valuable asset for shaping your brand.
Your store’s name not only makes you stand out in the crowd, but it can also help you attract more customers.
A few things to consider while naming your store:
- It should be short, catchy, and easy to remember
- Reflects your business values
- Differentiates you from other brands
- Helps you find a domain name that reflects your brand
An important thing to note is that your store name and business name can be different. However, a common name can help you execute your marketing and branding strategies in a cohesive manner.
Want an extra hand to help you decide the perfect name for your business? Try one of these brand-name generators.
7. Legal formalities for selling online
Like any other business, an eCommerce business has to have a legal identity. To be able to sell products and carry out transactions, your eCommerce business requires to be registered with a valid tax ID.
Moreover, setting up your store through a third-party service requires documents for screening your business, operating transactions, and fulfilling tax implications.
Depending on the type of product you’re selling, you may need additional licenses or permits before you start operating. For example, medicinal products require a drug license.
Additionally, compliance with the legal formalities qualifies your business for legal protections and tax benefits.
In case your product idea is unique, you should consider getting a Trademark, Patent, or Copyright to protect your product from infringement.
8. Platforms where you can sell
The most crucial aspect of selling products online is deciding on the online platforms where you can showcase and sell your products.
The internet is flooded with both well-established and emerging options. But, which option will work the best for you?
Well, that depends on a number of factors – the product category, where your potential customers are, how much you can invest, and so on.
Let’s try to explore the alternatives that fit your requirements.
An online or eCommerce marketplace is a website where you can list your business and showcase your products to the customer visiting their sites.
You must be well acquainted with online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, Rakuten, Walmart, or Snapdeal. Besides these retail giants, there are a number of emerging online marketplaces in various niches.
While the job of attracting customers and processing transactions lies with the website, you have to handle product sourcing and shipping. Some marketplaces, like Amazon, also provide storage and shipping services to sellers.
Selling through these platforms incurs charges such as registration fee, commission on sales, shipping fee, return fee, etc.
The main advantage of selling on an established marketplace is their customer base. However, fierce competition can prove to be a major disadvantage on these platforms.
Talking about niche marketplaces, you can opt for a marketplace that fits your product category. For example, Etsy for Arts and Crafts products, Myntra for Fashion, or Houzz for Housewares items. You can even use a platform like Craigslist to sell locally.
Emerging reseller marketplaces like Meesho, Cartlay, OfferUp are some of the platforms with interesting revenue models that you can explore for your products.
Your Own Website
Creating your own eCommerce website is a great option if you want to avoid reseller fees and operate with more freedom. Even if you are selling on different online marketplaces, having a website can give you an additional channel of sales.
However, building a website comes with development and maintenance costs. If you plan on getting your own website, you’ll need:
- Domain name and hosting
- Content management system
- Payment gateway integration
- Shipping and logistics integration
Social Media Marketplaces
Among the myriad of features, popular social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and WhatsApp – all have the business features to sell your products.
You can showcase your products on these platforms and link with your website or directly integrate a payment gateway such as Stripe and PayPal. Or you can use custom checkout software such as Samcart.
9. Setting up your store
Once you have decided the platforms where you are going to sell comes the task of setting up your store.
Getting this part right is important as your storefront is the primary interaction point between you and your customers. You should be ready with:
- High-quality images of your products
- Effective copy for product descriptions
- Terms of services
- Customer review system
- Logo and other creatives
Attractive images, creative copy, and relevant information contribute to a good customer experience and increase your chances of sales.
10. Your terms of service and other policies
Before you start your operations, it is important to get the terms of service and other policies charted out.
Clearly stating the terms and conditions in advance encourages transparency between you and your customers. It can also protect you from legal repercussions in the face of unforeseen events related to your products and service.
You should have explicit documentation of terms related to the product’s condition and use, return policies, replacement policies, delivery expectations, and payment.
11. Managing your orders
Order management will form the major task of your eCommerce business once your online store is up and running.
If you are using platforms like Amazon, you get built-in tools to manage your orders, starting from the order confirmation, customer information, schedules to handling other requests.
In case you are operating through your website, you can manually maintain the order entry, schedules, and other fulfillment information on a spreadsheet. But, it can be a tedious process if the number of orders is large.
Alternatively, you can opt for an Order Management System (OMS) to automate your orders workflow. Quickbook Commerce, Skubana, Odoo, Brightpearl, Zoho, and TradeGecko are some of the options you can look at.
12. Managing product packaging and shipping
Packaging and shipping is an integral step of selling products online. You must pay special attention to this aspect of your supply chain.
The packaging of your product is directly linked to customer satisfaction and your brand reputation. Careful packaging is necessary to prevent any product damage until it is delivered to its destination.
You can either handle packaging yourself or choose a logistics solution that takes care of packaging too. Many of the shipping solution providers manage your inventory as well.
Even if you can handle packaging on your own, you have to partner with a local or global shipment service provider to deliver the orders and fulfill the return requests.
13. Communicating with your customers
Online buying involves a lot of apprehensions on the customer’s end. Timely transactional communication is essential to set the right expectations and win customers’ trust.
From order confirmation to payment receipts, email and SMS communication at each stage of the order fulfillment is an established norm in the eCommerce landscape.
If you’re selling via marketplaces like Amazon, communication is taken care of by the platform. However, if you’re operating independently, you should make use of email and SMS service providers to automate your communication.
Keap, SendinBlue, Drip, ConvertKit, and GetResponse are some popular options to choose from for automating emails. For automating SMS, you can choose from Texedly, SimpleTexting, EZ Texting, TextMagic, or Salesmsg.
14. Building a customer support system
Customers are the backbone of eCommerce. One customer’s experience is enough to make or break your business. Hence, ensuring each and every customer’s satisfaction is critical for your business success.
Along with providing a great product experience, you should be ready with a robust customer support system to address their queries and complaints promptly.
Moreover, interacting with them over social media platforms, emails, or the review corner can help you facilitate positive experiences and forge better relationships.
Furthermore, you can integrate customer support tools like Whatsapp Business, Intercom, Help Scout, Olark, and Chatra to stay in touch with your customers.
15. Following SEO strategy
Whether you are selling via the online marketplaces, social media, or your own website, getting seen among millions of other products is critical to driving traffic and, consequently the sales.
Having a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will help you rank higher on the search result pages of the online marketplaces, social media platforms, or web browsers.
To rank higher on the search pages, you should follow the best practices such as:
- Including important keywords in product titles and product descriptions
- Breaking information in bullet points
- Adding your brand name in the product title
- Mentioning the product category, price, and other details
- Using high-quality images and alt-tags
- Displaying product reviews
- Backlinking your website pages
- Including keywords on your website’s URLs
16. Developing marketing strategy
Opening your online store is only a start. Regardless of the platform, attracting customers requires consistent efforts.
Building a marketing strategy can help you promote your products and maximize sales. Your marketing strategy should be a mix of organic and paid methods aimed at serving your customers and achieving your goals.
You can employ your marketing tactics through social media, online advertisements, search engine marketing, and inbound methods such as blogs, videos, or newsletters.
The tools that can help you execute your marketing strategy effectively are:
- Canva, Adobe, Figma, Instasize, Affinity, Infogram, Penji for creatives
- Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Youtube Ads, Instagram Ads, etc. for advertisement
- Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, Sendible, Loomly for managing social media content
17. Engaging and re-engaging your customers
Attracting a customer is one thing, converting them and making them return to buy from you is a whole different game. You have to continuously show the value you bring to the table and be ready to listen to your customers.
Engaging and re-engaging your existing and potential customers through loyalty programs, exclusive offers, occasion-based campaigns, or gamification can boost your conversion and retention rates manifold.
In addition, your business’s social pages are a great medium to stay in touch with your customers and add value to their lives in innovative ways.
18. Measuring your performance
It will be an understatement to say data is the most powerful asset of a business. More so for an online business.
An analytics tool can give you deep insights into your customers’ interests, behavior, and product performance. Relevant data makes it possible to analyze your every move online and improve the course of action accordingly.
You can make use of tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, HotJar, Supermetrics, Matomo, Mouseflow, Woopra, Fullstory, and Custora to make data-driven decisions for your eCommerce business growth.
19. Learn, experiment, and iterate
To be realistic, no matter how brilliant your business plan, you are unlikely to get everything right the first time. It may take weeks or even months to start making decent sales.
There are no hard and fast rules for selling online. The key to achieving eCommerce success is perseverance, learning, and continuous improvement.
Firstly, you must keep learning and enhancing your eCommerce business skills.
Secondly, you must not shy away from experiments. Experimenting with different tactics can help you discover new avenues of growth.
Finally, you must keep iterating your approach from time to time based on data, customer feedback, and industry situations.
20. There’s no one size that fits all
Thus far, you must have got a picture of the ingredients you’ll need to start selling online.
To begin, you can take inspiration from what others are doing. However, you must keep in mind that your business is unique. In the sea of options, the best choices are the ones that align most with your capacities and business goals.
You will continue to find different ways, tools, and services at your disposal that scream growth for your business. But, there are no rules set in stone for effectively selling products online. You can always bend the rules if that works for you.
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