Small businesses with popular products to sell online will find this brief guide useful. Selling online can help your business tremendously as it helps you reach out to new markets and increase your sales and revenue gains. So if you are considering an online selling business or even thinking of selling products online from home then use the following easy ways to get going.
1. Write a business plan
A business plan is a written document with overview concept of your business, the market analysis, your sales and marketing strategy, financial projections and an overview of how you plan to handle customer support, credit card security, logistics, refunds and returns. You may also want to approach a bank or financial institution that may conduct a credit risk assessment in the early stages.
2. Plan and forecast
This is very important to sell online. Are your products popular enough to sell online? Is there a demand for these products? In what numbers are the products being sold? What are the competitors’ prices like? Are they charging less than yours? You can visit online selling sites to get an idea about prices. All these insights are necessary to help you assess whether your e-commerce website will be popular.
3. Create an e-commerce website
You do not have to get it right straight away- just get it going. Once you have decided to delve into the world of online selling, the first thing to do is have a website of your own. Push yourself to get it live in the first 7 days after conception of the plan. There are many ways to build a website for free. You can get great tips for that on my guide here. The reason you should get your website up and running is so that you get to test it live and also have Google/search engine spiders crawl to index it. Implement some basic SEO strategy. Sure there will be no customers in the beginning, but at least you can test it out and even make some mistakes in the early stages. Pay great deal of attention to website security. Get a digital certificate for the site through Verisign.com. Ensure adding SSL encryption technology for customer transactions.
4. Use a good e-commerce software
As far as e-commerce online selling website packages are concerned, you have several options like bundled e-commerce hosting, licensed software application, e-commerce open source templates, and complete customized e-commerce packages. Do not let money be a deciding factor here. Cheap or poor quality software might save you money but it is bound to affect usability for you as well as for your customers. Slow loading times could make your customers leave the site. With a good e-commerce software, the sites load faster and your products are easier to access. Search engines also find it easier to index your website. So do some research and invest in the best e-commerce selling online software. This will help automate many laborious processes and free up valuable time that you can spend on managing other aspects of your business.
5. Set up logistics and inventory
The key to making profits selling products online is to think of the 5 S’s of selling online: source, stock, sell, ship, and support. Your initial market research will help you decide the number of products you can comfortably stock and sell. Will you be okay with selling 100 products? 1000? Or more? It’s your decision but weigh it up carefully. Accordingly start stocking products. You might want to contact several manufacturers or distributors. Alternatively, you may be selling products online from home. In this case, you’d need to consider hiring someone to help manage the manufacturing, distribution and even marketing. Note that many businesses do not start making profits immediately. It is a good idea to talk to retailers’ first-many retailers might not like the idea of you cutting them out and selling products directly-particularly if they are not getting their dues. You certainly do not want to burn bridges with any of your retailers and distributors.
6. Enhance and refine
Successful selling online or offline requires constant improvement. Tweak your website from time to time and add pages to it. The more pages your website has, the better it is for SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Perhaps you might want to have different websites for different products. This, in turn, can help focus optimization for each product and increase customer trust. Also synch your offline and online operations. If needed, train your staff to answer questions about your website. Do think about customers who buy online but want to return stuff offline. Review the security features offered by your website hosting from time to time. Regularly install spyware and virus protection, always install updates and backup your system and customer information.
7. Offer value
Over time, you will be able to set rules and boundaries in your online selling business. Always run a tight ship and stick to your principles. You are here to make money and not friends. So offer value for money but do not become a slave to your customers. Many online selling sites ask you to offer heavy discounts. In such a case, profits may be difficult but in the beginning, this might however be the best thing to do in the beginning as you create awareness about your brand. After your product or service has received good reviews, you can easily hike prices and even out profit margins.
8. Keep realistic expectations
Many people think that once they have popular products to sell online, their business will become an instant success. This is not the case. While there are many products consumers want to buy online; many customers are skeptical about purchasing stuff like groceries, jewelry, lawn products etc over the Internet. Same is true with services. Never neglect your regular business activities in an effort to move online. Selling online is definitely not a low-overhead business model and can be expensive. Be cautiously optimistic. Plan, prepare, develop, execute and refine. Keep a backup plan-it is important that you do not place all eggs in one basket. Always diversify. Many entrepreneurs have erroneously spent their life savings on their online businesses without thinking about what they will do if it fails.
9. Be different
There are literally 10s of 1000s of ecommerce stores on the Internet. Think about how you will differentiate from your competitors. Product selection? Prices? Customer experience? You have to think of an USP or unique value proposition to offer to customers. Do not be afraid to outsource some aspects of the store to third party. For example, you could consider outsourcing marketing or shipping to another company. This can make your life a lot easier and help you focus on other aspects of selling online and offline.
Selling online requires many skills: customer service, website management and design, fulfillment, accounting, marketing, inventory management and so on. Identify the areas you are and aren’t good at. Never try to do everything yourself. We hope the above easy ways to sell online help you.