Taking the step to sell online is an ambitious yet rewarding move. However, starting the process can be a little daunting. For example, you’ll need to choose how to sell online, what to sell, and a way to attract customers.
Once you figure out the above, selling online can be a very successful step to take.
In the U.K., in 2018, eCommerce sales were £688.4 billion. You could be part of that figure, making hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pounds. If you want to know how to start selling online and making money today, this helpful guide will cover:
- Figuring out where to sell online (which platform to use)
- Choosing how to sell online
- Finding which products to sell
- How to attract customers and grow your business
Whilst that might sound overwhelming, rest assured this guide isn’t all technical jargon. I’m going to show you how to sell online step-by-step in the most cost-effective ways. In 2020, we’re very lucky to be able to turn to website builders and online store builders. Selling online can be achieved in a few simple steps.
So, let’s get started!
1. Where to sell online
There are various different ways to sell online. Whilst there are a lot of choices, the great thing is that you don’t have to choose. You can use them all if you really want to.
The three main places that you can use to sell online (which we’re going to discuss) are:
- Building your own eCommerce store (using a website builder)
- Making use of existing marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon
- Using social media tools like Facebook Shop
One of the great benefits of using an online store builder like Shopify is that you can integrate your social media. If you’ve already built your online store and listed all your products, you can easily link these with the Facebook shop without any extra effort.
Using an eCommerce builder to sell online
Building your own eCommerce store is a great way for you to be in control. You’ll decide how your store looks, which products you sell, and which tools to use to market your products.
It’s an extremely cost-effective way of creating a website, as most website builders like SquareSpace will provide your web hosting and give you a free domain.
Plenty of people around the world are using eCommerce and website builders on a daily basis. For example, over 1.2 million people actively use Shopify.
When you sign up for a website builder, you’ll have lots of help. This is why it’s a great service to use, especially if you don’t understand code.
There will be plenty of templates and themes to choose from meaning you can start selling online straight away. If you do have a creative design flair or want to add your own personal touch, this is also very possible and easy to do.
I’ve put together a small overview of my favourite eCommerce builders. Of course, you can choose whichever platform you like, but in my experience, these are the best:
Awesome template design
Very easy to use
Plenty of features
$29 (£22) per month
Modern, responsive templates
Incredibly easy to use
Wide choice of plans
£13 per month
Popular with large businesses
Lots of tools and features
No transaction fees
$29.95 (£22) per month
Why I love online store builders:
Complete control of your store
No waiting on algorithms to update to sell online
Make changes as and when you need to
Start selling online fast
Hosting and domain usually included
Using a marketplace to sell online
Using a marketplace like Amazon is a great way to sell online. As of 2019, Amazon had over 2.5 million active sellers on the Amazon marketplace.
Selling on an online marketplace is incredibly easy to get into. It’s no wonder so many people are doing it! The entry requirements for selling using a marketplace are pretty easy to achieve.
If we’re talking about basic selling, it’s as simple as creating an account, listing your products, and choosing how your products will be delivered. Starting off is simple, but gaining traction is another thing entirely.
Amazon has a good reputation
Very popular marketplace
Convenient delivery options
Great for starting out
From £0.75 per item sold + additional fees
Good for creative, arts & crafts
More personal feel
Good platform to build a brand
From $0.20 (£0.15) per listing + other fees
Sell almost anything
Very accessible marketplace
Bidding and buy it now options
10% of the final transaction
Creating a business page
Can link to other platforms
Interact with consumers
5% per shipment
It can be quite difficult to stand out using a marketplace. Marketplace selling is insanely competitive, so it’s important not to rely solely on them. As a shopper, you’re often looking for the best product at the cheapest price. If you go onto eBay and find the product you want for £5 and £2, most will likely choose the £2 option.
However, creating a brand for yourself can be a way to win a shopper’s trust. If we revisit the example above, would you rather buy from a seller, selling your desired product at £5 who has excellent reviews, or the £2 option with very poor reviews? A seller with good reviews is more likely to sell their products.
2. How to sell online
Once you’ve established where you’d like to sell online, it’s time to decide how to sell online. By this, I mean figuring out your business strategy. I’m not suggesting that you’re going to have a full-blown business plan in place, but a general idea is always good to start with.
Don’t worry though, I’ve got your back. I promised I would show you step-by-step how to start selling online, and that’s what we’re doing today.
The ideas that I’m going to walk you through aren’t the be-all and end-all. However, it should give you enough ammunition to start your journey. Let’s start with some questions to figure out your business strategy.
What do you want to achieve?
You’ll want to have a think about some short-term goals, to begin with. For example, how many products do you hope to sell and how much profit do you want to make. Although it’s hard to forecast your finances, it’s important to have a rough idea to keep you on track.
Profit vs spend
Before diving in, you’ll need to work out what your profit margin is going to be. If you’re making items from scratch, how much will it cost to source your materials and make each product? If you’re buying your products to resell, how much will it cost to do this and how much profit will you make by selling to your customers.
If you have absolutely no idea what you should be charging, it’s worth doing some research. It’s important to look at your competition to see how much they’re charging. I’m not suggesting you should undercut them, but it’s good to understand the current market.
Look at your competition
Following on from the point I made above, you’re going to need to look at your competition. If someone is already successfully doing what you intend to do, learn from them. See what people are buying, where they’re buying from, and how much.
If the same sellers are appearing on eBay, Amazon, etc. then they’re probably doing something right! There’s absolutely no harm in sussing out the competition and looking at their product descriptions, images, and prices.
Whilst you may think they’re a waste of time, signing up for your competition’s newsletters is a great way to remain updated. Products and pricing change very often depending on the climate of your market. You may even pick up a few tips on how you should (or shouldn’t) be doing things.
By knowing your customers you’ll understand their needs. If you can meet their needs, there’s more chance they’ll buy from you again and again. Customers like variety; whether this is product variety, shipping options or payment methods. Offering choice to your customers is important.
In order to sell products, you’re going to have to do some marketing to attract customers. There are a variety of ways you can do this. For example, you could set up a blog related to your products/services. People like to read interesting and unique content.
3. Which products should you sell
This is an interesting question; which products should you sell? I imagine you already have an idea of what you want to sell online. However, have you thought about what your customers want? If you don’t sell the products your customers want, they won’t buy them.
Whilst I understand that concept might seem a bit strange, it’s true.
Remember, eCommerce store builders like Shopify let you sell physical and digital products. You don’t have to make something or buy items to sell on. Maybe you have a great idea for an online course that’s in high demand by people.
Here are a few things you can do, and tools you can do to understand which products to sell online:
Google Trends: Google Trends can show you what people are searching for. If you have a search term in mind, the results will display based on that term’s popularity. For example, if you want to sell swimwear online, you may want to see whether particular swimwear is more popular. Perhaps swimsuits are more popular than bikinis, but tankinis are making a come back.
With Google Trends you can compare multiple search terms.
Using Google’s tool, I’ve input three keywords: bikini, swimsuit, and tankini. I can see that the term bikini is more popular than the others and had a spike in popularity during the summer. This not only gives you an idea of what is popular but also when it is popular.
Google Keywords: When you’ve nailed your product idea, it’s worth seeing in more detail how it performs. Google Keyword Planner can show you lots of data including how competitive your keyword is. It will also make other suggestions for keywords and average monthly searches.
From the above, we can see that the keyword “bikini” is very popular with high competition. However, other variations have less competition and may be worth investigating. Saying this, you don’t want to sell products that have absolutely no demand, so find a middle ground.
Learn from others: We spoke about it before, but I’ll say it again. Checking out what your competition is doing is crucial. Especially if your competition is making it big. Try and find the biggest sellers of your product and see what’s working for them.
Dos and Don’ts of selling products
Now that you know what you’re selling, the time has come to actually sell your products/services.
Imagine, as a customer, you have a product that you want to purchase. You visit a website but the product images are blurry. Maybe you’re ordering a takeaway and the food looks tantalising, but the description doesn’t tell you what the ingredients are.
The two main elements of selling online (successfully) are:
- Product image
- Product description
Your product images must display what your product is. Aside from this, there are a few crucial tips for ensuring success:
Consistent image sizes
Multiple views of the same image
Display each product variant
When it comes to describing your product, you may want to consider the following for your product descriptions:
Create your own description (not copied from elsewhere)
Highlight the benefits of your product
Write original content that has a personal touch
Write in a way in which your customers can relate
Always tell the truth
4. How to attract customers
Although this may be the part that takes the most effort, for me, attracting customers is the fun part.
Gone are the days of having to create a design that fits on a leaflet. The online world makes marketing easy without having a degree in the subject!
These tips and tricks all cost zero money. Starting up your own business is costly, so being able to save some of your budget is crucial. Marketing can be quite simple. For example, if you were a customer wanting to buy one of your products, where would you look for them?
Social media: This is one of the biggest marketing tools that you’ll have in your pocket. At the end of 2019, there were 2.4 billion Facebook users. That’s a huge market for you to explore. I would definitely recommend experimenting with Facebook and Instagram to start with. Social media allows you to connect with your customers, follow trends, and even create adverts at a very low cost.
Blog: Blogging is a great way to increase your SEO and reach out to your customers. Regardless of the products you’re selling, you can write about related content. People love reading interesting things. Once you’ve got their attention, you can link to your products within your blog posts, hitting two birds with one stone.
SEO: This is how you’re going to reach customers through search engines like Google. Remember the trends and keywords we talked about earlier? It’s really important that your online store’s content relates to the products you’re selling. Many eCommerce builders have built-in SEO tools. It’s worth exploring those to get you started.
Understanding how to sell online and make money can be overwhelming. However, I hope I’ve covered all the basics for you in this guide. Whilst there are many more options to uncover, we’ve looked at the most popular ways to get you started.
Whether you want to use a store builder like Shopify, a marketplace like Amazon, or social media, there’s a world out there waiting for you.
I highly recommend experimenting with various options and doing your research. If you already know what products you want to sell, there may be a specific platform or tool that’s just right for your needs.
However, it is crucial (in my experience) to have an eCommerce website or at least a website to represent your brand. This is a real key to success, allowing you to integrate with other channels, interact with your customers, and share ideas via a blog.
All three of the eCommerce store builders I’ve mentioned are free to try:
I wish you the best of luck in your selling journey!