Selling online can be an incredibly rewarding business with its unlimited potential. You can sell your products or services to anyone, anywhere, without geographical limitations and the level of involvement you have in the business is up to you. You can take an active role in managing and growing your business, or taking a more hands-off approach and let it run on autopilot.
As nice as it sounds, there is a lot to plan and execute before you can successfully sell online. And to help you get started, here are six steps you need to follow in order to sell online and convert your idea into a full-time income.
1. Find a business niche to your advantage
To stand out in an already crowded ecommerce landscape, you need to first identify a niche market and sell products that are high in demand and at a competitive price point. Choosing a business niche that you’re interested in will be a good starting point.
Conduct competitive research
In order to position your online selling business effectively, find out your competitors that are capturing your target audience’s attention. Analyse their marketing techniques and pricing strategies to adopt the insights into your own ecommerce strategy.
Figuring out your online business idea
One of the most challenging aspects of selling online is choosing an idea that resonates with you and your target market. Given the flexibility of an online business, having a clear concept in mind is crucial before you can move forward. This includes deciding what to sell online and how you want to operate the business.
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Formulate a business plan
With a solid understanding of the product or service you’ll be selling online and the competition you’ll be facing, it’s important to put this information in a comprehensive business plan. This document will outline your company’s identity, mission, competitive analysis and marketing approach. It will serve as a roadmap to help guide your decision making or assist in funding if needed.
2. Selecting the right products to sell online
Let’s be real, you simply can’t just jump into the world of online business without anything to sell. The product you choose will play a pivotal role in how successful your online selling business will be. The chosen product or service can either make or break your online business, so make sure to conduct your research thoroughly before jumping into it.
Pick a business model
Think of a business model as a framework for selling online. There are different business models to choose from, and picking one is largely dependent on factors such as your capital investment, the type of products or services you’re selling online and handling inventory and order fulfilment is part of the scope.
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Identify sellable products
When selling online, picking the right products to sell is important. By identifying a product or service that people are already searching for, you’re increasing your chance of success. So spend some time identifying products that are in high demand, and not waste time in promoting a product that is not going to sell.
Determine the price
Making serious dough is pretty much the ultimate goal of your online selling business. To achieve that, you need a high profit margin – buying stuff for super cheap and then selling it online for a whole lot more. But it’s not that straightforward and definitely not all about randomly picking a number for your product or service because the price you set can make or break your sales.
Most of the time, customers are heavily influenced by price so do your due diligence with research to avoid scaring them away with your price.
Storing of inventory
You might require renting a space to store your inventory physically. Alternatively, some business models such as dropshipping do not require you to have inventory on hand to run the online selling business.
3. Define your ideal customer
Your ideal customer will be the type of person you sell to online. Understand the demographics, buying behaviours, and their needs through surveys and competitive research. Create a buyer persona to guide your marketing efforts and tailor your products to their specific needs.
Collect customer insights through surveys
Customer surveys can give you a better understanding of your ideal customers’ preferences, pain points and needs. Conduct different types of surveys such as quizzes, usability tests and group feedback sessions to get a holistic view of their needs and wants.
Assess your competitors’ target market
Being new to the online selling market, it’s essential to understand your competitors’ target audience so that you can convince them to buy from your online store instead. Conduct competitive analysis to gain insights to their customer persona. By doing this, you can position your brand and product in a unique way that can differentiate from your competitors by showcasing your unique value proposition.
Creating buyer personas
Create buyer personas from the competitive research you conducted in the previous step. Buyer personas are like fictional characters that represent your ideal customer. Understand their pain points, hobbies, interests, demographics and job title so that you have a better idea and understanding to ensure that you are targeting the right audience, those who are most likely to buy, through your marketing campaigns.
4. Build an online store
Use a platform to sell online, allowing shoppers to buy directly from your online store. And if you have a limited budget and like to validate your business plan before committing to it fully, check out Shopboxo. You can create an online store easily without having to use any coding knowledge, and the best part, it’s free.
Plan your site architecture
Selling online is not all about creating product pages only. You need to include informational pages such as FAQs, contact us, terms and conditions, about us pages. This is especially important for a brand new online store since the majority of customers tend to lookout for specific information but they will commit to buy.
Handling product inventory
Inventory management can be a tricky issue if you have tons of products to sell online. Just keeping track of your inventory alone can be very time consuming, So it is important to find a platform that has an inventory management system or is able to integrate one. It will help to improve your operational efficiency and update your inventory status in real-time.
Optimise user experience
You do not want all the hard work you did from the start to go to waste when your ideal customer exits your online store, or abandons their online cart because of poor online browsing and shopping experience. To prevent this from happening, always add clear descriptions to each product coupled with actual product shots so your customers know what they are buying exactly. Analyse the user flow for improvements in the checkout process, or how to improve the website speed.
Configure your payment methods
A payment system enables your customers to pay directly online, while your online store is able to receive the payments securely, and more importantly, stay encrypted throughout the entire payment process. There are different payment methods that you can use.
- Credit/debit card payments: The most popular payment method for online shoppers.
- Digital wallets: Customers make payments without keying in their credit card details.
- Buy now, pay later: Instalment plans for shoppers, which can help to drive conversions
Set up your shipping method
Shipping is also another important aspect of selling online. Customers expect express delivery, or at least several shipping options for them to choose from. They tend to buy from another online store that is selling the same product but offering better shipping rates. So apart from pricing your product competitively, shipping rates is another area to think about.
Generally for selling online, there are two types of shipping methods.
- Domestic shipping: Local delivery that sends orders within the country.
- International shipping: Sending orders to other parts of the world.
Both shipping methods should include various shipping options for your customers to choose. If they want express shipping, the shipping cost will be higher. On the other hand, if they are seeking free shipping, you can offer a standard shipping method to minimise cost on your end.
Integrate delivery system
In order to enable shipping options for your customers to select in your online store, you need to integrate a delivery system. With a delivery system, you are able to select your preferred delivery partners through the network and set the price you plan to charge for each shipping option. Some online store builders like Shopboxo, have an integrated delivery system in their platform, so you can schedule deliveries and fulfil all orders in one platform.
5. Promote your online store
Once you have successfully created your online store, it’s time to create awareness for it. You should not miss this step if you intend to see growth in your online selling business. There are different ecommerce marketing strategies that you can use to build your online presence.
Social media marketing
Social media platforms are great online marketing tools to broadcast information about your online store. Most of these platforms like Instagram and TikTok are free to download so it is cost effective. All you need to do is to produce high-quality social content that can be engaged with your ideal customers. Adopt native social commerce features (if the platform has the feature) to improve the shopping experience within the social media platform.
Leverage influencer’s followers to promote your online store. They have the ability to attract thousands of traffic to your online store. There are many different types of influencers in the market, so be sure to engage one that best suits your brand identity and products. Also depending on who you engage with, there is a different set of costs tied to each influencer.
Encourage customers to sign up to your email list so that you can send them regular content such as product updates or promotions. Unlike social media marketing where there is a chance that the platform might restrict or block your content, you have full control for email marketing. You can take it a step further and create personalised emails that can help with customer experience.
There are two different types of digital marketing in general.
- Paid advertising (SEM): Use a budget to achieve immediate online presence.
- Organic (SEO): A long term strategy to improve your presence on Search.
There is no fixed rule to run either SEO or SEM first. It all boils down to the budget set aside to run digital marketing. You can also run both concurrently if the situation allows you to do so.
6. Strive for continuous improvement
Staying competitive while scaling your online selling business, continuous improvement is necessary. There is no such thing as a job complete once your online store is set up. Always look for opportunities to improve both back-end operations or front end customer experience.
Automate tasks whenever possible
Once you get the hang of the operational side of things, identify tasks that are time-consuming and explore ways to automate it. One example is to send out automated emails for customer retention.
Selling online can be a rewarding and lucrative business venture if careful planning and execution is taken into consideration. By following the six steps above diligently, you can increase your chances of success in the online selling business. And if you are keen to create an online store for your business, be sure to check out Shopboxo. You can build your ecommerce store in just a few simple steps without any coding knowledge, and it’s free.
Common questions about selling online
How can I find a business niche to my advantage when selling online?
To succeed in the highly competitive ecommerce market, it’s important to find products that are both in high demand and can be priced competitively. Also starting with a niche that aligns with your personal interests can be a good starting point for brainstorming.
What is the importance of conducting competitive research when starting an online business?
In order to position your online selling business effectively, it is important to find out how your competitors are capturing their target audience’s attention. By understanding their marketing techniques and pricing strategies, it can help you to better position your brand and products and stay competitive. These valuable insights will be useful for your own ecommerce strategy.
What is the first step in formulating a business plan for an online business?
The first step in formulating an online selling business plan is to have a solid understanding of the product or service you’ll be selling and who are the competitors you’ll be competing against. With this information, you can then outline your company’s identity, mission, goals and marketing approach where this information will act as guidelines in your decision making process.