Depending on your personality, experience, and tech-savviness, learning how to sell online could seem like the easiest or most daunting task you can think of. We're here to tell you that although it's not as simple as some bloggers make it seem, all you need is a little guidance, and the right tools, to ensure that you have the capabilities to look professional and build a respectable business online.
It all starts by following a few steps:
- Identifying your niche.
- Deciding which products to sell online.
- Choosing the right platform for selling.
- Promoting your online store.
That's a four-step process that anyone can handle, especially considering how simple and intuitive ecommerce platforms are in today's market.
Anyone can sell online, so join us in our guide on learning how to sell online, even if you're an absolute beginner.
Identifying Your Niche and Deciding What Products to Sell
Before building a store or trying to promote an idea, you actually need to identify a niche that sells well. After that, your goal becomes deciding on the right products to fill up your online store.
Here's a guide on finding your niche market. It's filled with essential information and research strategies, such as:
- Following your passion.
- Formulating a list of potential products.
- Finding trending products.
- Honing in on a realistic niche.
- Finding keywords to establish demand.
Once you establish a niche (use our list of potential niches here) it's time to think about the right products to sell. Part of learning how to sell online is realizing that not every product in an industry does well. You may think that you always see something on shelves, but that could be a gross misrepresentation of how well they perform.
In short, the goal is to utilize statistics and trends, only opting for the products that are bound to sell and bring in a healthy profit margin.
We recommend reading this article on how to choose the absolute best products in your niche.
Here are some tips to pull from that article:
- Stop thinking about your experiences and go straight to the data.
- Tap into the Amazon sales data to find the best-selling products in an industry.
- Browse through Google products, like the Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends, to establish what products people are currently looking for.
- Follow a certain set of rules to eliminate bad niche products choices. There are more rules in the linked article, but some include not selling products that are less than $15, and only selling items that don't lose value as they sit on the shelves.
Which Platform to Use When Selling Online
You've identified your niche and decided on the types of products you want to sell. Now it's time to explore the expansive world of ecommerce platforms. Essentially, these platforms perform two main functions: website building and payment processing. They have all the tools you would expect from a visual ecommerce website builder (like themes, visual designers, and plugins) and you gain access to a full shopping cart and checkout system to send your potential customers through the process of buying and collecting payments at the end.
Luckily, you don't have to be a developer or previous retailer to launch an ecommerce store, mainly because the top e-commerce platforms make it easy for even absolute beginners to make a professional store.
Although the market for ecommerce platforms includes thousands of choices, we've cut it down to the three absolute best, with our favorite at the top of the list, another one that's extremely easy to use, and yet another if you're on a budget. Keep reading to learn all about these platforms and how they make the process of selling online so much easier.
Best Overall Solution: Shopify
Shopify is not only the best ecommerce platform, but it's one of the most popular. We like it most because it offers an all-in-one solution to building an online shop, finding a domain name, and processing payments. You typically don't have to go out and find any third-party tools like payment gateways or page builders. Having said that, Shopify does have an app store for integrating with pre-approved apps, so you at least know they're reputable when trying to expand your store.
Other than that, Shopify has affordable pricing plans with all web design and hosting features packed into that price. The design tools also make it simple to get a site launched within a matter of minutes. Just take a theme, add some products, choose a payment gateway and start selling.
How to Launch Your Shopify Store
Start by going to the Shopify website. Click on the Start Free Trial button after you type in your email address. The Shopify free trial goes for 14-days, during which you can play around with all Shopify tools and configure most of your store prior to paying a dime.
The dashboard includes several menu items to look at orders, design your store, add your own products, and much more.
Walk through the step-by-step instructions to add a product, customize your theme, and add a domain. The final step (although you can absolutely customize further) is to set up your payments.
Therefore, go to the Add Product tab and click on the Add Product button. This allows you to generate a product from scratch and add as many products as you want to an online store.
The great part about a Shopify product page is that it provides an incredible list of options to customize your product, from the design of the product page to the actual details, such as the title, description, and product images.
Fill in all this information to give your new customers the most amount of information possible, therefore increasing their knowledge on the product and improving your chance of a sale.
After all that, click on the Save or Publish button to place it in your shop. Make sure you change the status to Active and include the product in the Homepage collection if you want it to appear on the homepage. There are also options to add product categories.
All product pages get published directly to the Shop section of your website. You can view them on the frontend of the ecommerce site or go to the Shopify Customizer to edit the design.
The way your product pages look depends on your theme as well. So, you should move onto the next steps to look into which types of themes make the most sense for you.
A Shopify theme offers a complete website and online store design so you don't have to work with a web designer or know anything about coding yourself.
Go to Online Store > Themes in the Shopify dashboard. This shows you the current active theme on your site and allows you to look at other themes or customize what you already have configured.
We highly recommend going to the Free and Premium Shopify Theme Libraries to decide upon the overall style of your website. It's best to locate a theme that matches your desired brand image. This way, you don't have to customize the theme too much. Instead, get right to adding your own content and selling products.
Once you decide on a theme, you can click on the Customize button to reveal the Shopify Customizer. It's a visual page builder with some drag-and-drop section elements on the left side.
It lets you open each section one-by-one and either move them to other locations or change specific settings meant for each unique section. For instead, the Header section has options to upload a logo, change the height of the header, and more.
Next up, you must configure the payment settings to process online sales and collect money from those you order items from your website. Go to Settings > Payments in the Shopify dashboard.
The Shopify Payments option makes the most sense for most brands using Shopify in the first place. It saves you money on monthly fees and transaction fees, and it has the potential to cut down on your credit card fees (depending on the monthly pricing plan you choose from Shopify).
You can also accept payments through PayPal, Amazon Pay, and hundreds of other payment gateways.
We recommend completing your research on the best payment gateways to figure out which of them make things cheaper and easier for your particular business.
Although there's quite a bit more to do with Shopify, a domain name is one of the more important things to obtain. As with everything in Shopify, you can complete the domain purchase or transfer process within the Shopify dashboard.
Go to Online Store > Domains, then click on one of the domain buttons depending on your situation. For example, you can choose to connect an existing domain name, transfer a domain from another location, or buy a new domain right from Shopify.
Overall, Shopify comes in huge for online stores owners who want to minimize costs yet still provide a beautiful website to sell online. In addition, it's more of a DIY platform when compared to the likes of WooCommerce and Magento, making it much easier for non-coders to launch their products and begin selling today.
Easiest Solution: Ecwid
If you're looking for simplicity, Ecwid has you covered. Shopify definitely makes the process of selling online easy, but we also enjoy the intuitive nature of Ecwid, especially if you plan on adding a shopping cart to a previously built website.
With Shopify, you technically have to start a completely new website. Yes, you can transfer over some of your data, but the design starts from scratch. However, Ecwid serves as a plugin to integrate with your current content management system or website builder. As an example, you may already have a functioning WordPress site for your business. If that's the case, it becomes tedious trying to convert that into a Shopify storefront. However, Ecwid lets you keep your current website and add the online shopping cart tools as well.
Get started for free on the Ecwid website.
Once signed up, the Ecwid dashboard contains a significant amount of information for building your store, integrating it with your current website, and selling through channels like Facebook and your website.
As you can see, the sidebar menu includes tabs for marketing, your catalog, reports, sales channels, design, and much more. It also provides a beautiful step-by-step guide for activating all the essentials for your store.
As mentioned, Ecwid functions like an add-on to your current blog or business website. The dashboard is where you add all the products and make changes to your shopping cart design. Everything on your primary website stays the same, unless you want to change up the design a bit to make it more suitable for an online store.
Regardless, the Website Sales Channel section in Ecwid has options to integrate with your website and even manage some of the design elements, like with the Ecwid WordPress plugin. Therefore, you technically must manage two dashboards: the website builder (like WordPress) and the Ecwid store manager.
Adding a product is rather simple on Ecwid, where you click on Catalog > Products and go to the list of products you have in the system. Click to Add New Product or browse through your current collection to modify item prices, pictures, and descriptions. Once Ecwid is connected to your website, all of these products appear in the shop gallery.
Other than that, Ecwid does a wonderful job of making it easy to sell online. It also provides the option to take your Ecwid store and shopping cart and integrate it with other sales channels. For example, you may find that many of your customers are on Facebook or Instagram. Ecwid helps you implement an online store on most social networks, and you continue to manage the same product collection you have linked to your website.
In addition, you might want to sell on online marketplaces like Walmart, eBay, Etsy, or Amazon. Again, Ecwid takes the reins to ensure your products get synced with all the right sales channels, helping you bring in more money from all channels without having to worry about separate inventory lists.
Cheapest Solution: Wix
When learning how to sell online, the cheapest way to launch an online store is through Wix. Shopify has some cheaper options, but a true online store starts at $29 per month. Ecwid, on the other hand, does have a free plan, but the best ecommerce features come in the $35 per month plan. Not to mention, you usually run a completely separate site where you may have to pay for hosting.
However, Wix lets you start accepting online payments under the Business Basic plan for $23 per month. Even the Business Unlimited plan (with tools for subscriptions and dropshipping) sells for cheaper than Shopify at $27 per month.
So, it's safe to say that Wix comes in as the leader for budget ecommerce platforms. However, that doesn't mean it's lacking in features. In fact, many people argue that Wix has some of the easiest design tools on the market, with a true drag-and-drop builder, wonderful apps, and a payment processing configuration that only takes a few steps.
Promoting Your Store
A completed online store doesn't automatically attract a customer base. However, you usually have the option to market your ecommerce shop from the convenience of your ecommerce platform. There are dozens of ways to promote your store and make the public aware of your offerings. You could go to trade or craft shows, take out a billboard, or pay for a TV ad. Those may work in some situations, but they are typically expensive and less targeted than modern promotional techniques, all of which come with your ecommerce platform.
It depends on your platform, but we'll outline a few promotional tactics below by using Shopify. Options like Ecwid and Wix offer their own unique promotional features, but the main ones can be found on all of them.
Keep reading to learn all about the best ways to promote your store.
Email marketing comes in many forms, from newsletters sent with new site content to more promotional emails with coupons and information about discounts. Regardless of your approach, email marketing still serves as one of the most effective ways to promote a business, online or offline.
Shopify, and the many other ecommerce platforms, provide email marketing features to send out your promotional emails directly through your dashboard. For instance, the Shopify Email feature helps with sending out emails for updates and promotions.
Several other email marketing programs come in handy as well. Seguno and Omnisend both offer incredible ecommerce email marketing features, email templates, and automated emails for transactional communications.
You'll almost always have to pay for email marketing, but at least you know that it's consolidated into your dashboard.
What's more is that tools like Omnisend also provide SMS marketing for sending out text messages to customers.
Email automations work a little different from regular email marketing tactics. The previous email marketing section talks about more manual communications, like for newsletters and promotional emails. However, Shopify, Ecwid, and Wix all provide automated email marketing options for when you need to send out receipts, abandoned cart emails, welcome messages, and more.
Again, you have to decide which email marketing tool works best for you. You could opt for a built-in tool like Shopify Email, or go for a more advanced email marketing system like Omnisend, which is a leader in the ecommerce email automation market, with an onslaught of actions and rules to configure to send out your emails.
Social Marketing and Selling
It's a must to promote your store, and its products, through social media. You don't have to be on all social networks, but you should complete some research to figure out which social network works the best for your industry. For example, fashion does well on Instagram, and home improvement items perform well on Pinterest.
We particularly enjoy the Shopify Campaign Templates, which combine marketing messages on multiple social sites. These campaign templates also work for email marketing and online advertising.
As an example, you could start with a marketing campaign template that launches ads on Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and a search engine.
This gives you a more automated way to promote your business and bring brand awareness to your site.
Another way to utilize social media is by creating a content calendar. You could post every day or use a tool like Buffer to plan out the content a month or so in advance. Then, the plan goes into affect and gets published to all of your social profiles throughout the month.
The options are endless with social media, but you can share whenever you have a sale, post relevant memes or videos, or post videos you make that highlight the inner workings of your business.
Online advertisements come in multiple forms. You could promote via Facebook or Instagram ads, or consider going through the search engine route, with ads on Bing or Google.
Again, it's possible to design your campaigns through these individual websites, but we typically encourage store owners to find a platform that lets them design ad campaigns within the store dashboard.
In Shopify, you can formulate ad campaigns so they work in tandem with your products and activate based on certain timelines. You can also choose from multiple types of ad campaigns to figure out which social networks and search engines bring the best results.
The following screenshot shows us the setup for up a Microsoft ad campaign (which goes to Microsoft products like Bing), along with ads on Pinterest, Snapchat, and Facebook. You can choose from a wide range of other advertising systems like Instagram and Google.
Overall, the advertising on Shopify makes things simple for everyone, considering you can design an ad and use it for multiple platforms, all within the Shopify dashboard.
Discounts don't promote themselves, but they are definitely something you want to consider tying into your social marketing, email campaigns, and whatever ads you decide to run.
Similar to its competition, Shopify provides a panel to create your own discount codes that only get registered on your website. In addition, you can configure an automated discount for certain customers or those who reach specific cart totals.
What's great about each discount code is that you can set up your own restrictions and regulate how they get used. For example, you may make a discount code that discounts a product by a percentage or a fixed amount. You can also add free shipping with a discount code. Other features include the option to expire a coupon or limit the number of times it can be used.
Content Creation and Distribution
Content creation provides a more organic form of promotion, seeing as how you're generating useful content for your visitors, where they may find that content through social media or a simple Google search.
The whole point of content marketing is to provide the utmost quality within your content, and to make it relevant enough that those people who read or watch your content may want to buy something from your store after.
Blogging is the primary example of content marketing. Shopify, and all other ecommerce platforms, include blogging tools to generate your own articles and share them on your website.
Your own blog posts help bring organic traffic to your site, but you can also share them with other websites to see if they may in turn share it with their own followers or customers. This way, you can use your own content (or guest post on other blogs) to send more customers to your site. A blog is also great for SEO!
Our Conclusion on Learning How to Sell Online
Learning how to sell online isn't so much about having a significant amount of experience or even design knowledge. You're learning, and that's the point. All successful ecommerce business owners were at one point in your position. And luckily, you now have more tools at your disposal for launching an online business and making your own website that's professional and well-functioning.
To begin, it's necessary to decide on a niche and discover which types of products you'd like to sell.
After that, dive into the world of ecommerce platforms to build your wbesite and launch an online store. Finally, it's time to start promoting your products and looking into options like ads, email marketing, and other sales channels.
As you grow your business, you learn so much about the best ways to sell products and how to minimize costs in the process. That's part of the journey. But luckily, you have resources like this article, and a wide variety of ecommerce tools, to ease the pain and cut down on huge mistakes.
If you have any questions about how to start selling online, let us know in the comments section below.
Featured image via Depositphotos.