Looking to sell online for your business or maybe as a side job? That’s not a bad idea at all considering that 96% of consumers have shopped online in the past year. However, figuring out how to capture a slice of this pie may be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with selling online. Here are five starting points that may help simplify this process.
Start off by analyzing whether selling online is right for you
Before you jump the gun and commit your resources to selling online, take a step back to evaluate the situation. Would people understand your item without needing to see it or physically inspect it? If close inspection is required, is it feasible to send your product out as a sample? If you said yes to either of those questions, selling online becomes a serious consideration.
Once you’ve made the decision to sell online, you will have to consider the following:
- The shipping methods that you will offer (ie: First Class, Express, International) and the average rates of each method based off the items you are selling. A good calculator is ShipGooder
- What will your return policy be? Will you charge a restocking fee?
- What your pricing strategy will be
- Who is your target audience
Determine your strategy for getting exposure online
So you’ve decided that you want to sell online and looked into creating an online store. The next step now is to build a following. In order to stand out among all the other online stores available, you have to think strategically and consider the latest e-commerce trends.
A good starting point would be to learn about search engine optimization (SEO), which focuses on getting your website to the top of the Google search. SEO would be a long term strategy that requires a constant stream of content and updates that adhere to Google’s algorithm. You can learn more about SEO here.
Additionally, you can look into advertising your store with tools such as Google Adwords or Facebook Ads. Both tools provide plenty of options to narrow your focus and optimize your budget for the best ROI. Keep in mind that the cost will come from all clicks so it is important to consider how to drive conversions from those clicks. If you’re worried about spending too much on advertising, you can set a daily budget restriction as seen fit.
Connecting your store to social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest is another useful piece to the strategy. An increasing number of online purchases are made after visiting a company’s social media page. The pages also serve as an avenue for staying connected with your existing customers.
Deciding whether to host an online store or use e-commerce software
The headache begins when you have to decide whether you want to use a hosting service or e-commerce software to create your online store.
Hosted services is a popular option for those with little to no technical background. It provides everything that you would need in an online store, such as a SSL secure domain and a sandbox that provides a wide range of templates to customize your page. Common e-commerce platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion. To maintain the hosting service, users have to pay a monthly subscription that ranges based on the level of features needed.
Although hosted services are popular, it lacks the versatility that you would have if you decided to use e-commerce software to create your own online store. If you are tech savvy and are willing to learn how to program, using e-commerce software is the better alternative. It is less expensive in the long run since most software are one time license fee based and you can maintain your site on your own. There are no template restrictions since you can add your own codes to modify the layouts. Examples of e-commerce software include Magento, WordPress and Zencart.
Setting up an account for online payments processing
Credit card transactions may seem very simple on the consumer’s end but as a seller, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to payments processing. Payment gateways need to be set up so that transactions can be validated in real time. While there are numerous payment gateway providers, the fees involved are not straightforward so be sure to conduct due diligence before settling on a gateway.
PayPal is also a must for online transactions, but by no means a solution to payment gateways because there are still people out there that do not use PayPal. Additionally, PayPal skeptics still exist and without a payment gateway, you would miss out on sales from those customers.
Functionality and design
You can have the best products on the market, but it will never sell if it becomes a task to complete the order. Your goal is to have a website that is user-friendly so that your items will actually sell. Examples of user-friendliness include:
- Functioning mobile compatibility
- Webpages with load times under 3 seconds
- Quick and simple checkout process
- Clear item descriptions that aren’t overloaded with information
- Video demonstrations for specialized items
By sustaining these practices, you will be able to convert more of your visitors into customers. This upkeep will require some basic competency so that even if you were getting help from a hosting service, you understand the effects of each change on your website.
Starting a store is easy but can quickly spiral out of control if there is no long term plan driving your actions. Remember to do your homework and stay adaptive to changes in trends to ensure that your store will be successful.