Back in the day, starting an online store and selling products was a venture fit only for the bravest and most programming-savvy. However, it’s now easier and faster than ever to get your own online store up and running and making sales. There’s a variety of options to choose from in every avenue when first getting into eCommerce, from product niches and web design to payment gateways and platform software. Depending on how you decide to start an online store, it can even require very little initial investment. So, what are you waiting for? If you want to start your own business and become your own boss thanks to eCommerce, here are the main 5 steps you’ll need to follow.
5 Steps to Sell Products Online
#1. Pick a Product and Manufacturer or Dropshipper
The very first step, before you figure anything else out about starting your online store, is deciding what you’re actually going to be selling. When it comes to stocking your online store with inventory, there’s a few things you need to keep in consideration.
- What are you interested in?
Consider selling products that you have some knowledge or interest in, so that you already have a good understanding of its industry and how to handle customer service in the future. One great way to decide on what product to sell is to think about what would scratch your own itch. If you’d buy your product, you can bet that other’s will too.
- How are you going to get your products?
Once you have an idea of what kind of product you want to sell, you can then figure out how you want to obtain them. One way is by selling your own handmade products, which has advantages in that it makes it easy for your products to be differentiated in the market. Another way is by buying wholesale products directly from the manufacturer that stocks the products you’d like to sell. One of the most increasingly popular ways of getting products is through dropshipping, which is a process where you list products on your store, but they’re stored, fulfilled, and shipped by a dropshipping distributor.
- What’s your niche?
The world of eCommerce is extremely competitive, so it’s vital that you decide on a niche that you’d like your store’s products to focus on. Rather than selling jewelry and competing with huge companies that sell all types, consider focusing on one type of jewelry, like pearls. By capturing a niche market, there’s a better chance of being known as the best online shop for that specific type of product.
#2. Pick an eCommerce Platform
The next step in starting an online store, after you decide what products you’d like to sell, is choosing an eCommerce platform that you’ll build your site with. So, naturally, you may be asking “which is the best for me?” Well, the answer to that question depends on what you need out of the software. Different eCommerce platforms are better at certain things than others, so ask yourself these questions before moving on.
- Are you planning on keeping your business small, or do you want to grow fast?
- Would you rather utilize a variety of third-party apps to get what you want done, or would you rather want all of your features built-in?
- Do you want something that’s good for beginners in eCommerce, or do you prefer something that requires some programming expertise to use?
- How much are you willing to spend on your eCommerce platform?
Ideally, you’d want an eCommerce solution that’s all-inclusive and fits you at any stage of business growth. If you go with a platform like 3dcart, you’ll be getting a software that’s easily scalable, comes with hundreds of features right out of the box, has consistent pricing, and is easy to use to design your store.
#3. Set Up All Shipping and Payment Processes
When it comes to setting up the shipping process for your online store, the first thing you need to do is decide what types of shipping you’d like to offer. The best route to start out with is standard shipping methods, and then, once you know you can handle it, expand out to faster rush deliveries. You’ll also have to decide if your store is going to offer flat-rate shipping, by-weight cost, or both for your products.
Then, you’ll move onto deciding which shipping carriers you’d like to have available. This will depend on the country you’re in and whether or not you intend to ship internationally because there are different shipping services for each variable. In the U.S., the most popular shipping options are USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
Now, obviously setting up your store’s payment processing method is one of the most important things you need to do. Without it, no one will be able to buy any of your products! When it comes to eCommerce, accepting credit card payments is a necessity. Good eCommerce software makes setting this up easy by already being integrated with a payment gateway that processes credit card payments.
However, some customers may prefer to use alternative payment methods. These usually include Paypal, Visa Checkout, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and more. It may be a good idea to enable a few of these payment methods onto your store as well, so as to not lose those potential customers that only feel comfortable paying online that way.
#4. Upload Products to Your Store and Make Design Changes
Now that you’ve set up those details, you can begin uploading your store’s inventory. When adding your products into your online store, there’s usually two ways to approach it: adding each item individually or adding them in bulk. Adding your item catalog into your store in bulk usually involved uploading a correctly formatted CSV file that has all of your products and their details inside it. However, we recommend adding a few products to your inventory manually first so that you can familiarize yourself with the data you’ll need to have in the file.
Product information usually includes the following:
- Price and Cost
- Unique Identifier (SKU, part number, ISBN)
- Weight and Dimensions
- Size or Color Variants
Adding high-resolution product images is also a necessity for your online store. Since your customers can’t see the products in real life, you need to get them as close as possible by showcasing the product from multiple angles in its product images. Having high-quality photos for your products can make a huge difference in sales numbers and return frequency because your customers will know exactly what they’re buying. Also, if a product has different variants, be sure to include at least one photo of each in the product’s images.
Next comes your site’s design, which is one of the most effective ways to differentiate your online store and establish strong branding. A good eCommerce platform will have premade website templates that you can use to start designing your site, but there are a few things that you need to make sure of:
- Choose an ecommerce theme that emulates the general style your store is going for.
- Make sure the theme is responsive for mobile devices.
- The design you choose should properly reflect your product’s industry.
- Add your logo, add graphics, and choose consistent colors to give your store individuality.
#5. Start Marketing
Now that you’ve filled out and launched your online store, you need to get the word out. There are a variety of marketing channels that you can utilize for eCommerce marketing, so let’s go over the basics of each one to try and figure out which ones you’d like to utilize (if not all of them).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In order for your online store to get ranked high on Google’s search results, you need to optimize it. There are a few ways to do this, but the main ways are through utilizing relevant keywords, optimized content, and good use of metatags. Every page of your online store, including product and category pages, should include proper usage of relevant and sensible keywords.
The main thing to get right with SEO is to balance keyword optimization with humanity; this basically means that you should use a good amount of keywords and optimized content, but it should make sense to human visitors and not look like spam (which happens with keyword stuffing). Improper usage of keywords can get your site penalized on search engine results, so be smart with this strategy.
By far, one of the most underutilized types of eCommerce marketing is content marketing. By creating content on your site, whether it’s in the form of product descriptions, blog posts, videos, or more, you’re opening yourself up to a ton of new opportunities. For example, the written content is a great way to get a lot of relevant and high-ranking keywords onto your site while also providing useful content to your customers. If a user sees one of your site’s blog posts and reads it because of the industry insights you provide, then you’ve just gained a new lead and a potential new customer.
Using social media to market your online store is a great way to grow your online presence organically. There’s a variety of ways that you can use social media to garner interest and build consumer relationships for your business, so the sky’s the limit. One great way to generate leads and boost conversions with social media is by running exclusive promotions for that audience. However, don’t forget that social media’s main purpose is for connecting with your community. Users can tell if you’re just using social media to make money off of them and will be turned off if all you post is ads for your products. Making valuable and shareable content is the way to go.
If SEO optimization doesn’t get you the ranking results you want, there’s always the option of paid advertising. You can sign up for ad services like Google AdWords and Bing Ads, where you can use required keywords and product images to create ads for specific products with good profit margins. Often, you’ll see products that come from paid ads at the very top of a search engine results page, making it prime real estate for your products to get exposure and boost leads.
No, email marketing is not dead, no matter what you may have heard. Marketing through email is still a viable method that you should definitely consider taking advantage of. The most common forms of email marketing are newsletter campaigns, autoresponders, and abandoned cart emails.
Newsletter campaigns are a great way to continue utilizing any content marketing that you’re already doing, by sending an email to your subscribers a snippet of your newest blog post regularly. Autoresponder emails are a form of eCommerce automation are triggered by certain events, like when a customer makes an account or makes their first purchase. Cart abandonment emails are triggered when a user on your site adds products to their cart, but doesn’t follow through with the purchase. Sending an email to encourage that purchase is a great way to boost conversions.
While starting an online store and selling products is faster than it’s ever been, there’s still a fair amount of decisions that go into it. One of the most important decisions you’re going to make in regards to building your online business is what eCommerce platform you decide to go with. This will determine everything about your business, including how easy it is to stock your online inventory, set up shipping and payment processes, design your website’s theme, and more.