There's never been a better time to start selling online! Despite concerns about the economy, online sales are growing at a rate of 17% each year. In Europe, the UK stands as the largest e-retail economy with over 37 million online shoppers, who, on average, spend £1,165 a year online (the highest amount in the world).
As with all things in life, selling online depends on your circumstances. For example, if you just want to sell a few items to help clean out the loft and garage, you should probably use an online auction site or local internet directory. But if you’re looking to sell online regularly, your best bet is to open your own online selling site, or what we call an "ecommerce website".
If you’re wanting to learn more about how to sell online, check out this quick guide to prepare you for a successful launch.
Do you have an amazing product that you'd like to offer to the rest of the world? How about a blossoming fashion line that everyone should be wearing? Whatever the case, the first step in successfully selling online is to decide what you'll be offering for sale. It's important to work with products that you're passionate about. After all, you'll be working with them quite a bit once your online business takes off. Also, make sure you have a way to secure your inventory, whether you're getting it from a third-party supplier or creating it on your own.
Don't have any products? Don't fret. There are multiple vendors and drop shippers that can provide various items to sell on your new online store. Or, if you need some help to get started, check out our guide to selecting products to sell online.
An ecommerce solution, or shopping cart software, is the platform you'll use to sell your products and manage your online business. There are three main types for you to choose from:
Hosted Ecommerce Solutions: Hosted solutions provide web-hosting and shopping cart software as one. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about securing servers or maintaining them on your own, which creates a severe drop in initial start-up costs. Hosted solutions also provide continuous software updates. The drawback is that you don't have full control over every fine detail of your store, but the functionality is typically there.
Licensed Ecommerce Solutions: Licensed solutions are out of the box solutions that you install onto your computer, meaning you have to find hosting in addition to acquiring and maintaining servers. Software features are also built in, but you won't receive updates. The benefit of licensed solutions is the increased control you receive over your online store.
Open Source Ecommerce Solutions: Open source solutions are typically free software downloads that require large amounts of custom coding and technical knowledge. Upon download, you'll begin building your online store and all its features from scratch. If you have the knowledge or resources to develop your store this way, there is a higher degree of flexibility. With open source solutions, you're also responsible for finding technical support, hosting and server maintenance.
Now comes the fun part – building your online store. As you become familiar with your chosen shopping cart software, you'll start setting up your product categories and entering your inventory. You'll also want to start thinking about adding different pages to your new website, including information about your business, contact details, and more. You can easily launch your new online store without having everything on your website perfected – you'll quickly learn that selling online is a dynamic work in progress.
It's also important to begin thinking about the design of your ecommerce site, as it's critical to your success. Even if you're selling the most incredible product, if a customer comes to your site and is underwhelmed, they won't trust your business or purchase from you. Fortunately there are all sorts of design options, including free templates and custom design services. Regardless of what route you take, always have your customer in mind when creating the aesthetic of your store.
A domain name is the web address where customers can find your online store. Selecting the perfect domain name for your business is very important – it's a long-term decision that can make or break your success. Try to pick a domain name that is short, simple to remember and describes what you're selling online.
No matter what type of product you're selling, everyone's in the game for one reason – to make money! Your next decision is how to receive payment from your customers. There are a multitude of options out there depending on your business needs.
Several first-time online business owners opt to use a simpler method of customer payment, such as PayPal or Google Wallet. These options can be utilized in the beginning if you're on a tight budget. The major drawback, however, is that customers are taken away from your website to enter their credit card information. This drastically increases the chance that they will change their minds and abandon their order before it's complete.
Another option for accepting customer payment is to process credit cards directly from your online store. This allows your customers to select from several payment options, and more importantly, keeps them on your site. Credit card processing also creates a higher level of credibility for your online business. Your customers will know that you're a legitimate entity since you've taken the extra step in providing a convenient and secure checkout process.
To truly succeed online, it's not enough to simply have a website. There are millions of other sites out there, all competing for the same shoppers. That's why it's critical to spread the word about what you're selling online.
There are tons of different ways to tell others about your new store. Some of the quickest methods include reaching out to your friends and acquaintances. But to really stand out from the crowd, you'll want to look to search engines for help. Most online purchases begin with a search in a major search engine like Google, so you'll want to make sure that you're getting your piece of the pie.
One quick way to boost traffic to your site is through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. Based on various search terms, an ad for your online store will appear within the search results. Another way to boost your ranking in search engines is with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which is the practice of crafting your site to become search engine friendly.
Regardless of what you decide, make sure you trumpet your online store to anyone that is willing to listen. You've worked hard to sell online – don't be afraid to tell the world about it!
Selling online is a rewarding accomplishment that allows you to continually reap the financial and personal rewards of your efforts. As your online business begins to grow, you'll have more resources and knowledge to make bigger improvements, such as investing in custom design or an SEO plan. Whatever your experience and budget, the most important thing is to have an action plan tohelp build your sales, customer base and overall success.
Fortunately, Volusion offers an all-in-one online shop software that can provide everything from your shopping cart software to your credit card processing. Join over 40,000 business owners who have pursued their dream by opening an online business with us.