Tips on how to sell products online

Small Business Advice 8 May 2019
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Tips on how to sell products online

This guide is designed for those who want to start selling products online and those who have just started. Also called eCommerce (particularly in the US), in the UK we just refer to it as online shopping.

If you’ve just started selling online, skip the bits you already know, but take a closer look if you come across something new, or that you haven’t yet tried.

Like most people in business these days, you’re probably busy, so we’ve kept it as short as possible and have added links if you want more in-depth info.

 

On your Marks, get set…

News that the mighty Marks & Sparks are selling online means that no-one can now afford to ignore online shopping.

Whether you already have a bricks-and-mortar shop and want to start selling online (known as bricks and clicks retailing), or want to start trading exclusively online, we can help.

There’s never been a better time to start an online business. It’s so much easier, needs less investment and is less risky than a bricks-and-mortar business.

If you do have a bricks-and-mortar business, you can sell products online to take your business to the next level. The investment and risks are low – and you’ll reach potential new customers, not only outside your town or city, but around the country and even internationally.

Not sure how to start an online store? As always, we’re here for you.. In this guide, we’ll touch on everything you need to know. Basically, there are three ways, or channels, in which you can sell your products online. They are:

  • Your own online shop.
  • Online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay.
  • Social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

You don’t have to choose just one of these channels;  you can use two, or sell online across all three.

 

Your own online shop

Running your own shop is the best way to sell online because you’re in complete control and don’t have to compete with hundreds of others on third-party sites.

It also gives you credibility and makes you look professional and trustworthy. Would you be more likely to buy from someone  who just had an Etsy, or Amazon account? Or someone who (maybe also) had their own branded website?

To sell products successfully online, take a few important steps before starting your online store:

 

What products do you want to sell?

Where do you start? Selling what you have a passion for, or an interest in, doesn’t guarantee success, but selling a product you believe in is much easier and people respond well to enthusiasm. Do some research and find out if there’s a market for them. Here are a few tips on how you can do a little research on your own, And they won’t cost a penny.

  • Google Trends is a great tool for finding out which products are hot and which are not. The results are based on the popularity of your chosen search term on Google.
  • Google’s Keyword Analysis tool. Find out how many people search for that product each month. You’ll discover how popular a product is and how many other businesses are selling it.
  • Check online stores and find out as much as you can about that product, or similar ones. Check the product pages of the biggest names in your sector to see what’s selling at the moment. Use Amazon, Etsy and eBay’s own sales data by checking their ‘Best Sellers’ pages.

Okay so you’ve done the research and you’re sure there will be a demand for your product, or products, the next thing to do, is start sourcing.

The three most popular ways to source products to sell online are:

  • Purchasing from a wholesaler or manufacturer

You buy the products you want at a discounted price and then add your mark-up. Major costs include buying the product (usually in bulk), storing it in a warehouse, upkeep, shipping, adding your own branding – if needed – and marketing. A big benefit is that it’s easy to scale up – if you choose the right supplier.

  • Making the product yourself

This is usually the route chosen by those who make art, jewellery, and crafts themselves. The main costs are materials and the time needed to make the product. You have freedom over pricing and stock control. It’s ideal for selling small to medium quantities. It can be difficult to scale up without hiring staff and perhaps getting bigger premises.

  • Sourcing the product from a dropshipper

This popular option lets you fulfil orders to your customers without ever stocking or handling the product yourself. You include their products in your shop and add your margin. When the customer orders and pays, you pass the order onto the dropship supplier. They then deliver the product straight to the customer.  It’s also easy to scale up.

 

Define your target buyers

If you don’t already have a bricks and mortar shop, working out who your best prospects are is really important. The list below is not definitive, but may help you define the profile of your target buyers:

  • What are the features of your products?
  • What are the benefits of these features?
  • How do the benefits help users?
  • How old are your target buyers? Or what age group do they fall into?
  • What is their gender?
  • What is their marital status?
  • Do they have children?  If so, roughly how old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What is their income level/net worth?
  • What hobbies, sports or other interests might they have?
  • If  you’re selling to business, what’s the title of your prime prospect?
  • If you’re selling to business, is more than one person involved? Title?

For more information click here: https://www.bigcommerce.co.uk/blog/target-market-analysis/

 

Register a domain name

Go for a name that is easy to type, short, memorable and maybe one that includes a relevant keyword. Try it out on a few friends and family to see what they think.

The most popular domain extensions ending is  ‘.com’. So, unless you come up with something really unusual, it may already have gone.

There are now new domain extensions such as ‘.shop’ and ‘.store’ that tell people that your website is a shop. There are lots of other options too.

You’ll need to register your name with a domain name registrar before you can use it online.  And be warned, there are lots out there.

For a list of the top 10 in 2019, click here: https://hostingfacts.com/domain-registrars/

 

Get a website

Ok. Now that you’ve got a domain name, you’ll need a website. As you want to sell stuff online, these are some of the things you must have:

  • High-resolution (really good quality) product photos.
  • Easy-to-use checkout and payment process and navigation.
  • A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) – the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link for online credit card transactions or other online payments. To do this you have to install an SSL Certificate.
  • Multiple payment options.
  • Clear, easy-to-understand returns policy.
  • Easy shipping methods
  • A mobile-friendly option that allows for mobile payment, even if it means using third-party services.
  • A contact page and frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Customer testimonials help
  • Links to social profiles

You could do the whole thing yourself, but it’s not easy, even if you can write code and know the complexities of eCommerce. So, to make your life easier, choose what is called a ‘website building platform’.

It does everything for you, from processing payments and shipments, to helping with cart abandonment (this allows you to email customers who have reached the checkout page but didn’t finish their order) and much more…

Before you start, first decide what type of website you want. If you want a small-to medium-sized website to sell a limited range of products, then builders such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly are for you.

If, on the other hand you want a big shop that has the capacity and tools to help you grow, you’ll need big-scale building platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and GoDaddy.

Whichever route you opt for, they’re all really easy-to-use, let you customise the design and make selling online a doddle.

 

Use an easy navigation and checkout process

Keep it simple. Make your customer’s shopping experience as easy as possible. Don’t go for clever, flashy designs, or cluttered layouts. Here are some tips that may help you to design a site with shoppers in mind:

  • Group similar products together as in a bricks and mortar shop.
  • Make the checkout button easy to find.
  • Ensure your shopping cart is easy-to-use and edit.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. 62% of smartphone users reach for their phones to buy online.

Both WordPress and GoCentral make it easy to design a site. So when you’re customising your layout, incorporating pictures, and crafting compelling content, it’s also important to consider how you’ll convert visitors to shoppers.

 

Take high-quality product photos

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words – and they’re definitely not wrong when it comes to selling products online. Your photos should be sharp, detailed, and convey true colour, form and scale. Your customers can’t see, or touch the product and rely entirely on your images (and words – we’ll come to them next) to sell them the product.

If you consider what’s at stake, it makes sense to use a professional photographer, or hire some good equipment and do it yourself.

If you want to take the DIY route here are some useful tips from Shopify: https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/12206313-the-ultimate-diy-guide-to-beautiful-product-photography

 

Create compelling words

Once you know who you’re writing for, you can tailor your words to suit your target audience. So, for example you wouldn’t use long words, when selling toys to kids. And you wouldn’t use humour when selling funeral plans.

When it comes to product descriptions, you need a balance of features and benefits. Features are the physical things that describe a product. For example, colours, sizes, materials, weights.

Benefits answer questions like: “What does this product do for me?” and “Why should I buy it?” In other words, does it: Save time? Make you look slimmer? Save money? This is vitally important, as any good salesperson will tell you.

Writing for the web isn’t easy; you have to work at it. Talk the consumer’s language, use relevant keywords when needed, and try to see your shop from the consumer’s point-of-view.

 

Add your contact information

If you’re in a brick and mortar shop and have a problem, you can usually ask an assistant then and there, or go to the help desk or till.

The same thing should apply when shopping online. If your customers have a problem, they’ll want to get help straight away. So it makes sense to display contact details such as a phone number on each page and on a dedicated contact page. If you don’t, they may give up and abandon their cart.

 

Testimonials

How important are online reviews? According to research by Invesp, 9 in 10 consumers, regard an online review is as important as a personal recommendation. Customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with “excellent” reviews.

That’s how important good reviews are. This is what you can do about it.

Take control of reviews on your site by sending your customers questionnaires with product deliveries, or using your mailing list. You can ask them questions such as:

  • Why did you buy this product?
  • Has this product solved a problem for you?
  • How do you use this product?
  • How often/when do you use this product?
  • How do you feel about the business?

 

How to respond to a negative review

This is what you should do if you get a negative review:

  • Respond quickly
  • Be real and admit your mistakes
  • Correct inaccuracies
  • Highlight your strengths
  • Write like a person, not a corporation
  • Take it offline
  • If it’s warranted, give their money back, or send a gift voucher
  • Ask loyal customers to share their experiences
  • Be consistent”

 

Marketing your online shop

Unlike bricks and mortar shops, your online high street doesn’t have a few dozen or even a few hundred shops. According to research from Ecommerce News, there are over 800,000 online stores in Europe alone. And estimates range from 12 to 24 million online stores selling products on the internet around the world today.

So, if you want to sell stuff online, you have to stand out and actively persuade customers to come through your ‘doors’. Here are some useful tips on how you can do this:

 

Email marketing

Email is still one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. According to a Campaign Monitor report in December 2018,  email marketing achieves a whopping $44 for every $1 spent. Whether it’s expressed in dollars, pounds, or Yen, that’s a great return on investment. There’s no better bang for your buck.

The Direct Marketing Association reported that, “When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail and more.”

According to world-wide management consultancy, McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

Find out how to create beautiful newsletters, integrate your marketing efforts with your online store, and track your success.

Check it out here: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/getting-started-with-email-marketing/

And here: https://uk.godaddy.com/email/professional-business-email?isc=goemuk12  

And here: https://mailchimp.com/resources/email-marketing-field-guide/

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

So much nonsense has been written about SEO, that many people don’t know what it really means. Skip this bit if you know all about it, but if not, read on. It won’t take long.

Think of the internet as the biggest library ever and its shelves don’t contain books, but billions of individual pages. Like every library, it has an index to help you find the book you want. The internet has a number of different ‘indexes’, called ‘search engines’.

Search engines are basically websites that have indexed billions of pages to make it easy for you to find a website or topic in an instant. The most popular include Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Unlike conventional libraries, with billions of ‘books’ to display, space is at a premium online, so websites are arranged, not alphabetically, but on their search engine pages in rank order.

Each engine wants internet users to choose them and therefore rank websites, based mainly on the quality of the content as well as the trustworthiness and reliability they are perceived to have.

It’s very difficult for engines such as Google to measure quality,trustworthiness and reliability. So, in terms of quality they look for subtle clues such as how interesting they seem to be for people.

When it comes to trust, they don’t want to show any sites that consistently have poor reviews. So, if you have many poor reviews, eventually they’ll slip you down the ranking or simply stop showing your site at all.

And finally, authority. They want to show popular sites. Demonstrate that by building a fan base. Get people talking about you – sharing your pages on their social network, leaving testimonials.

So, SEO is a way of demonstrating to search engines that you’re the most unique, interesting, trusted and authoritative site that they can offer to their customers.

To find out more go to https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/

Or check google’s webmaster forums.

 

Paid advertising

You can throw money into the equation and pay for ad space to appear higher on search engine rankings when certain terms are queried. Or, you could try social media advertising, such as Facebook.

 

Link to social media

Linking to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram gives you access to millions of users who share content with their followers. You could tap into some serious sales.

Running and updating social media accounts takes a lot of time and effort. As you’re just starting out, you’ll be hard-pressed to keep up with them all. So, what do they offer?

 

Twitter

Twitter’s a good, simple way of finding potential customers by searching for people who tweet about your industry. Don’t pitch or even mention your products; just reach out to them in a helpful way.

A famous example of this is of multi-millionaire Gary Vaynerchuk who ran Wine Library. He would search “Chardonnay” and other wines on Twitter and give helpful advice to people asking related questions. All he did was offer advice; he never pitched.

The result? Within five years of launching his website, sales from Wine Library increased from $3 million to $60 million a year. Naturally, it wasn’t all down to Twitter, he also used You Tube, but it did help.

For more info: https://business.twitter.com/en/blog/How-to-use-Twitter-social-selling.html

 

LinkedIn

You won’t make many direct sales through LinkedIn, but you’ll be able to connect with people. And you know the old saying, “it’s not what you know but who.”

It’s an easy way to connect with everyone, from online business owners in your industry, to suppliers and even competitors. There are loads of public and private groups you can join, allowing you to post questions and chat with other members.

Click here: https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/

Or here: https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/

 

Pinterest

Pinterest has always been a good channel for businesses, but in 2018 it added a new feature.  

Now you can claim your Instagram account on Pinterest and will get attribution on any Pins that originate from your Instagram account.  Even if someone else did the pinning!

To find out more about Pinterest for business, click here:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/business/create/

 

Instagram

Instagram is a visually-orientated site – perfect for expressing personality and creativity. Show pictures and videos of your products, your people and your manufacturing processes.

To find out how to sell on Instagram check this out: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/selling-on-instagram

For more info: https://later.com/blog/instagram-marketing-trends-2019/

 

Facebook

OK, it isn’t what it once was, but Facebook is still the big boy of social media.

Use your personal Facebook profile and your business page to keep in touch  with friends, family, and acquaintances, public groups and fan pages.

You can also use Facebook Ads to attract Likes, make sales, and promote your brand.

To find out how to sell on Facebook: https://fitsmallbusiness.com/how-to-sell-on-facebook-shop/

Check out Shopify’s 2018 article: https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/facebook-ad-creative

 

Online Marketplaces

You can start selling online on your own eCommerce site and use other online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to help you, too.

Selling on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy or eBay is very popular and it’s not hard to see why:

  • You get access to a large pool of potential customers.
  • They have easy-to-use templates.
  • There’s are no investment or up-front costs involved.
  • They process payments for you.

Here is a very brief outline of third-party eCommerce sites where you can sell your products:

 

Amazon

Amazon is now the largest e-commerce marketplace, search/media platform with Alexa and cloud computing platform in the world, so it has to be worth looking into for your products.

To start, choose a product to sell online with Amazon. And then decide which of their two plans to use. They’re called Professional and Individual.

With Professional you pay £25 (excl. VAT) a month to sell an unlimited number of products online. With Individual, you pay £0.75 for each item you sell.

If you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to choose the individual plan as you’ll only pay transaction fees when you make a sale. Otherwise, if you pay the flat fee and  don’t sell many, you could lose money.

Check this out: https://services.amazon.co.uk/services/sell-online/how-it-works-basic.html

 

eBay

Unlike most other eCommerce sites, such as Amazon and Etsy, eBay is an auction platform for buying and selling products online. Prices can go up high, or way down.

Some retailers love auctions for dynamic pricing, allowing them to sell their products and services online for a higher price. Stats show that around 50% of eBay auctions result in higher sale prices than the “buy it now” price.

Of course, it’s not free. You have to pay four fees: insertion fees for getting your product listed, final value fees, advanced listing upgrade fees, and supplemental services fees.

Click here: https://www.ebay.com/help/selling/selling/start-selling-ebay?id=4081

 

Etsy

Unlike Amazon and eBay, Etsy only allows you to sell handmade or vintage items, and craft supplies. Reselling items you didn’t make is not allowed on the Etsy platform itself. Craft supplies can either be handmade, vintage, or commercial. But they must have a primary purpose of crafting.

Selling on Etsy is as easy as creating a shop account, listing your products, and promoting your store. For a 15p listing fee, you get a listing that’s active. Listings are active for four months, or until they sell. When you sell an item, there’s a 5% commission and a 4 % + 20p fee for payment processing.

To find out more click here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/sell?ref=hdr&from_page=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.etsy.com%2Fmarket%2Funited_kingdom

 

Good luck selling your products online

That’s it. Not quite a little light reading, but hopefully you picked up a few useful ideas. If they’ve helped, please let us know. And if you become a huge success, even better. Best wishes for the future.

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