How to sell online – that’s the question. And whatever you heard about starting an online business, it’s probably true. It’s a competitive playground that challenges even the savviest entrepreneurs, yet the overwhelming consensus is that setting up an online store is a life-changing experience.
One of the most liberating facts is that you can grow your business way beyond the borders of your city or your country without ever leaving your work desk! Once you’re online, virtually anyone from anywhere in the world can become your customer.
But where do you start?
There are simple tactics to figuring out how to sell online and they all stem from the answers to three basic questions – why, what and how?
Well, duh, right?
But here’s a neat summary of everything you need to know about how to sell online. Couldn’t get any easier.
- Why selling online is the new black?
- #1 Your business goes where you go
- #2 Zero savings? Start a business with no money in the bank!
- #3 Making money 24/7
- What you can sell online: sourcing ideas when you’re stuck
- #1 Piggybacking on trends
- #2 Aim for healthy margins
- #3 Follow in the footsteps of eCommerce winners
- How to sell online: forging your way to success
- #1 Using existing sales gateways
- #2 A simple way how to sell online without inventory
- How to sell online – final thoughts
Why selling online is the new black?
Can you imagine your life without the Internet? No emails, no late-night last-minute shopping, no cat videos… It’s like the banishment from Heaven all over again!
And that’s precisely why the eCommerce industry is living its golden age. Everyone is connected and cozily nestled in their own little online bubbles with no intention of going back to the old ways. Plugging into this trend is beginning to look like the smartest way to start an online business.
Here’s more on why.
#1 Your business goes where you go
Let’s get this one out of the way first — forget about *real* vacations without a laptop, at least for the first year or so.
When you run an online business, any place in the world can become your office, and more often than not, you’ll end up working weekends, nights and holidays. The only difference being that you’ll do it with a smile on your face.
Work from the beach or your grandma’s garden — wherever you go, you’re just a tap (and a wifi connection) away from accessing your business. Everything you do must be geared towards success.
#2 Zero savings? Start a business with no money in the bank!
The beauty of the online world is that you can get the business off the ground with very little initial investment. It depends, of course, on what kind of business you’re plotting to start, but for the sake of this article I’m assuming you have your mind set on running an online shop. And when it comes to selling online, dropshipping seems to be the go-to strategy.
With minimum overheads, such as paying for the hosting of your e-shop and running some online ads, you can build a profitable and sustainable business in just a few months. And it’s not some kind of fantasy, there are real success stories to prove it.
#3 Making money 24/7
Whereas physical shops are restricted to opening and closing times, online stores run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All the time. It doesn’t take a genius to see the potential in this business model — if you have a constant stream of traffic coming to your store and your conversions are optimised to a good standard, you’re basically making money in your sleep.
This touches on another solid benefit of selling online – if done right, it can be a sweet source of passive income. It is less time-intensive than, say, running a brick-and-mortar boutique because you don’t need to be present at all times. With automated inventory management and robust online marketing plan, your store can generate a sufficient amount of money with very little extra input from your side.
Now, that sounds like a dream come true.
Until you hit the next cornerstone of this process. What will I sell?
What you can sell online: sourcing ideas when you’re stuck
Let’s leave the question of how to sell online for a moment and focus on WHAT to sell instead. Finding the million dollar idea is not an easy task. But sometimes, the answer might be hiding in plain sight. So if you know where to look, inspiration is available in high doses.
#1 Piggybacking on trends
Who doesn’t want to be a trendsetter? A pioneering genius with a ground-breaking idea? It’s a blazing dream of many entrepreneurs. Yet, the eCommerce world isn’t always kind to unique ideas. To get the sales engine turning, an e-store needs to serve a high demand in a market, tap into a growing niche or trend that will define its profits.
When you’re on the hunt for a money-making idea, it pays off to put your ear to the ground and listen to what the customers want. Yes, I’m talking about the top selling and bestselling lists, trend reports and product curation lists.
Start your initial research by casting a wide net. First, review the new and upcoming trends on online retail giants, such as eBay, Amazon or Etsy. What are the month’s top picks, most favourite products or bestselling items? Can you spot any particular trends like colours, shapes, fabrics or patterns? For example, Herschel backpacks are one of the hottest product trends right now, but not everyone’s ready to spend a hundred bucks on a fancy rucksack! Selling a similar-looking product is a smart way to get your cut on this trend.
When you have a rough idea of what you want to sell online, it’s time to find a way to source these products for your online store. And one of the best places to look for dropshipping products is AliExpress. Give its ‘Top products’ and ‘Weekly bestselling’ categories a thorough look and you’re almost guaranteed to find something that meets your needs.
Your next logical step is to choose high-margin products.
#2 Aim for healthy margins
What matters at the end of the day is how much money you get to keep. Healthy margins will determine the future of your eCommerce business, so you should do everything you can to invest your time and effort into products that will yield the best results. The average eCommerce gross margin is approximately 40%. However, every market and every product is different, so you should spend time analysing the competition and the going rate.
Some of the easiest tactics you can use to maximise the profits include ensuring prominent website presence for your high-margin winners, putting them at the front of your marketing initiatives and cross-selling campaigns, and adding variations of the bestselling items (think different colours, sizes and shapes).
Shopify has a very useful tool called Pprofit margin calculator that will give you a better idea of your options.
#3 Follow in the footsteps of eCommerce winners
Again, sometimes the best ideas hide in the plain sight. Why try to reinvent the bicycle? Capitalising on useful resources, such as Oberlo’s 100 Things to Sell in 2017, is the ultimate shortcut to kicking off a successful online store. Don’t be discouraged from investing into a particular idea just because someone else is doing too – the online world is big enough for all hustlers.
How to sell online: forging your way to success
Finally, we get to the actionable part of this article! Here are two effective ideas of how to sell online without as much as breaking a sweat.
#1 Using existing sales gateways
Selling through marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Etsy has its pros and cons. First of all, there’s an established, large community of returning customers that you can access. And for someone who’s just starting out, it’s a big deal to be able to tap into a huge pool of online shoppers that already trust the platform. Another big plus for eCommerce beginners is the opportunity to test the demand for the products they offer. Once they establish a good sense of what’s popular, it’s time to start building an online store.
Why shift the strategy when it starts returning a profit? Many reasons. The big dogs like Amazon, eBay or Etsy will charge you a commission for every sale. And it’s a painful experience to give your hard-earned money just like that! Second, selling through a third party will prevent you from building a personal relationship with your customers – you won’t be able to capture their email addresses, provide useful content or run special campaigns to generate more sales. What’s more, marketplaces can shut your store at any time, which is a costly and damaging process to go through.
#2 A simple way how to sell online without inventory
Thanks to platforms like Shopify, setting up your own webstore is easier than ever. You can take advantage of free trials and endless online resources to get it off the ground in just a few days. Most of the e-stores these days rely on dropshipping for a reason.
It’s is a great business model for online retailers due to its many advantages, but the most profound are, of course, minimum setup costs – since you don’t need to buy the inventory or manage a warehouse. The ability to offer a very wide selection of products, which helps to scale quickly, and the incredible flexibility that comes with the fact that you can run your business from anywhere in the world. It’s the perfect combo of potential and freedom that’s attracting the digital nomads and hustlers.
However, it’s not entirely hassle-free (remember, perfection is a utopian idea). With so many success stories fueling the interest in this market, the competition is high and growing, so it’s crucial you do your homework before jumping on board.
Some of the other most commonly cited problems, such as finding the right suppliers, can be solved by integrating with existing eCommerce tools. With 600+ 5-star reviews and a free starter plan, Oberlo is one of the most popular choices when it comes to easily importing products to your online store and managing online inventory.
How to sell online – final thoughts
Let’s look at it this way – an online store is almost free to set up, no initial investment means there are very few risks involved, and the factors determining your business’s success are entirely in your control. If you have the stomach for going at this alone, then remember – sooner is better than later.