How to Sell Online – The Ultimate Guide to Go From 0 to $$$

How to Sell Online - The 20-Step Guide
Figuring out how to sell online all on your own can be intimidating. I mean, there's just so many questions; Where do you sell? How to convince people to buy? Where to market your products? How to actually receive money from people and process payments? How to handle credit card info? And so on.

Don't worry, though, we're here to answer these questions for you, and help you learn how to sell online in an effective manner – aka in a way that convinces people to buy!

Here's everything you need to know about how to sell online. What follows is a 20-step beginner's guide to online selling.

 

How to sell online – your beginner's guide in 20 steps

1. Choose the right ecommerce platform

If you want to sell online, the first thing on your to-do list is picking an ecommerce platform.

An ecommerce platform is simply a special type of website that allows people to buy your products or services and complete their purchases without leaving your site. It also lets you know that a new order has come in.

In short, it's your all-in-one online selling solution.

If you want to learn how to sell online, you really can't do it without a quality ecommerce solution at your disposal.

Choosing the right ecommerce platform can be the difference between success and failure of your entire online store.

After all, you don't want to have to deal with transaction problems, customers' orders vanishing, wrongly set shipping details; and don't even get me started on security vulnerabilities.

Here at ecommerce-platforms.com, examining and testing the top ecommerce solutions in the market is literally all we do. Each week, we test what's new in the ecommerce space and then let our readers know the results.

One of the ongoing experiments that we've been running is our comparison chart of the top 10 ecommerce platforms in the market. We take a number of factors into account when deciding which platform is on top.

Here's the current lineup:

Comparison chart

Details
Features Ease of Use Pricing Templates & Design Inventory SEO & Marketing Payments Security Customer Support
  1. Shopify logo

    Free Trial
    From $29
    SEO Friendly
    Offline Store
    App Store
    24/7 Support

    9989899910
  2. Bigcommerce logo

    Free Trial
    From $29.95
    Built-In Blog
    SEO Friendly
    App store

    878878897
  3. Volusion logo

    Free Trial
    From $15
    Social Media Tools
    Mobile Commerce

    986576668
  4. LemonStand logo

    Free Trial
    From $19
    Mobile Friendly
    Customizable Themes
    Coupon Codes
    Social Integration

    778557568
  5. WooCommerce logo

    Free SEO Friendly Analytics Discount CodesDigital Products

    646767765
  6. WIX logo

    Free Trial
    From $8.08
    simple dashboard
    SEO Friendly

    676456567
  7. 3dcart logo

    Free Trial
    Social Integration
    Custom Designs
    Gift Certificates
    App Store

    666755656
  8. Ecwid logo

    Free Trial Social Integration 24/7 support

    765455866
  9. PinnacleCart logo

    From $29.95
    Mobile Friendly
    Free Doba integration
    Free shopping cart migration
    24/7 Support

    765647474
  10. Big Cartel logo

    Free Trial
    From $24.99
    SEO Friendly
    Analytics
    Discount Codes
    Digital Products

    377345467
TL;DR: Taking every aspect into account, Shopify comes on top as the best way to sell online today – according to our research and expertise. If you want to compare the available platforms more in depth, read this resource.

2. Don't neglect mobile users

Actually, this is not merely about *not neglecting* mobile users…

In fact, you should start with mobile in the first place!

This might be surprising but mobile is actually the be-all and end-all of learning how to sell online. The fact of the matter is that more people access the web using mobile devices than desktop computers and laptops combined. Here's how the 2017 data plays out:

But that's not all there is to the mobile story.

These days, Google also takes mobile more seriously than desktop. In one of the recent updates to their algorithm, Google decided to make their “mobile index” the main index for the whole search engine. What this means in plain English is that Google now uses the mobile content of your site when determining your search engine position.

In other words, if your store fails to display properly on mobile, you're basically screwed. Excuse the bluntness.

Luckily, the platform that we always recommend every new ecommerce store owner to use – Shopify – is as mobile optimized as it gets, so you don't need to worry about this aspect at all. If you're on something else, like a self-hosted tandem of WordPress and WooCommerce (which is also a popular solution), you need to make sure that things look good on mobile on your own.

To check if your website works on mobile, use Google's own Mobile Friendliness tool. Just input your web address and see the results.

mobile friendly

If what you see there is not optimistic, you should think of changing your store design if possible (here's some more info on the topic). If the design cannot be changed easily, consider switching to a different ecommerce platform altogether.

Example of a failed mobile friendliness test
failed mobile test

3. Make an amazing first impression

In order to master how to sell online, first of all, you need to keep your users engaged and clicking through. It takes about 50 milliseconds for users to decide if they like your site or not.

You want – and need – to be as creative as possible. It can be something as simple as the header or your store's name. These tips will help you choose the right name and domain for your store. What's also important is to invest in the best design possible, so choose the right design template and deliver a unique experience for your users.

A first impression can last for years, so you really want to be as memorable and unique as possible while still being in tune with the purpose of your site and how you want to sell online.

Example: BarCamp OMAHA
A previous edition of BarCamp OMAHA decided to focus on the area above the fold and went for a kick-ass vibe:

Do you want to keep on scrolling? Of course, you do. The rest of the page is even more exciting. Think about your niche and note down two or three design approaches that would work for you and then talk them out with your website designer. Go big and bold if you think this approach will work for your visitors.

Example: Noble Isle
The second example is more stylish and minimal, but it works very well, considering Noble Isle sells luxurious bath products.

nobleisle

What was the first thing that captured your attention? The rich color palette and the ingenious logo are very clever as they infuse a sense of opulence without being over the top. Gold fonts can look extremely good if used properly.

Example: Brunch Box
Another example, Brunch Box delivers a chic brunch for two with a very obvious French touch.

Brunch BOX

The moment you land on their website you know exactly what they're selling: a brunch in a box. They have a simple logo and choose to display the products in an Instagram style look that is more than suited for their users. All other info, like contact or social profiles, are displayed in the footer to keep the design clean and simple.

4. Why photos matter

Your customers will remember 80% of what they see and a staggering 20% of what they read.

Big product photos along with great design are the two main areas you should focus on if you want to have an eye-candy ecommerce site.

Cool photos checklist:

  • ✅ use an all white background to let your product stand out
  • ✅ go big in size to catch your user's interest and to let them know exactly what they're buying
  • ✅ enable zooming so your customers can see every little detail
  • ✅ provide product photos from all angles
  • ✅ if you don't want to or don't have the right equipment, rely on a professional photographer (not cost-effective if you sell hundreds of items)
Example: Free People
Free People is the perfect example. They have very cool and modern product photos – you will get lost on the website, clicking product after product. It's addictive. On the main page, they always have a lot of offers and products grouped by category, but they constantly change the pictures so you get a whole new vibe with every revamp they do.

freepeople pullover

Example: Minted
In a totally different niche, Minted has a very fancy and colorful look. They almost always use decor to accompany their products, thus making them Pinterest-friendly.

minted art

Some data on good product photography that might convince you to invest in this aspect of your path to learning how to sell online:

  • 66% of customers would like to see alternative angles of a product
  • for 75% of people, the quality of photos is the most important factor
  • 61% of people want to be able to zoom in on the product photo

Need free images for your blog or to highlight your photos? Bookmark some of these 40 sites that offer free photos for further reference. Most of them have super-modern and captivating photos.

You want to offer stress-free navigation, allowing visitors to easily find what they're looking for because if they can't find it, they can't buy it.

The following strategies are easy to apply and proved to be very effective:

a) Add a “What's new” category

Your returning customers will want to see your latest collection. They don't want to browse through the old stuff while searching for new products. Include a ‘New products' tab in your main navigation to make it more visible and also to tempt new visitors to stay on your site.

Example: H&M
H&M has a ‘New Arrivals' subcategory for each of their main categories: ladies, men, kids and home. From there on, you can filter the products based on category, size, color, or trend. With just a few clicks, the customers find exactly what they want. Useful and time effective.

HM

b) Have a “Recently viewed” feature

It's beyond annoying to shop around for something and to decide you want to revisit a product you saw a few clicks backs, but finding it isn't that easy. The user has options: use the back button, navigate to that category again or check the browsing history.

Example: Pottery Barn
Pottery Barn makes this very easy. Whenever the users find themselves on a product page, they have on the right a ‘Recently Viewed' tab, so they can navigate through the latest browsed products.

potterybarn recent

Use drop-down menus

The navigation process is a lot smoother and it requires fewer clicks, thus making your visitors happy and less stressed. However, you have to be absolutely sure that your website won't have to face the dreaded hover tunnels issues – when you have to follow a certain path, so the menu won't close. A great strategy is to make the menu open on click, thus ensuring that all your customers can navigate easily.

Example: John Lewis and Amazon
John Lewis and a little company called Amazon are just two examples using this to their advantage.

johnlewis drop

Amazon

Example: IKEA
IKEA – someone you would imagine knows a thing or two about how to sell online – also employs a similar concept on their site, but this time, they try to incorporate both the drop-down menus and good category pages. This makes navigating through the different products even more user-friendly.

ikea category

ikea drop

If you want to know more about site navigation, check this study. It shows exactly how menus have changed between 2011 and 2014 for 23 websites.

6. Have a unique idea

When entering the ecommerce space, you're joining a highly competitive market where it's easy to drown among thousands of other stores that all look kind of the same. That is why it's so important to build a unique presence and offer something that your competition either doesn't have or doesn't present the same way you do.

To make this easier on yourself, get inspired by browsing sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon, or Etsy, and see what's new, what gets a lot of buzz, etc. Ponder what you can do to create a similar vibe and use it to present your business effectively.

Visit these sites to find what's trending:

Example: BeardBrand
BeardBrand – style for the urban beards man – initially had no idea there's a market for what they wanted to sell. Apparently, their thousands of Facebook and Instagram followers beg to differ. These guys sell a lot of stuff, from mustache combs to beard oils and they seem to keep on going.

beardbrand

Example: Boxed
Boxed identified a huge issue – massive shipping fees for bulk, heavy goods – and fixed it. A lot of their products have free shipping, which is almost impossible to find elsewhere, and a wide variety of products, from household stuff to beauty care.

One of their biggest selling points? This one:

Did you know an average trip to a local warehouse club takes over 180 minutes? Boxed gives you back 179 of them.

boxed

Example: Suck UK
Suck UK sells “The greatest gifts on earth!” Would you like to get a customizable cookie stamper or a tongue-shaped bookmark? Yeah, you don't need them, but it would be cool to have them, right? They also have retail stores to cater to those who like to walk around town in search of the funkiest gift ever.

suckuk

7. Craft a strong USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Why do you need a unique selling proposition? There are around 10 million ecommerce websites! Yes, you read that right: 10 million. You don't just need to, you *MUST* have an awesome unique selling proposition if you want to make those sales.

Every successful business has that “something” that sets it apart from others, you just have to sit down and figure out what it is. Another option is to do your own research and look closer at your competitors. What are they focusing on? What are they missing? Could you bring that to your customers?

Example: FiftyThree
FiftyThree is all about helping people express their creativity and helping the “set their ideas free”. That is why they created a cool iPad app for graphical note taking.

fiftythree

Example: TOMS
Changing the focus, we have TOMS. Each time they sell a pair of shoes, they give one pair to a child in need, and when they sell their eye wear, they donate an undisclosed amount to save the eyesight of those in developing countries. Their unique selling proposition couldn't be more suited: “One for One!”

toms

Don't know where to start with your USP when figuring out how to sell online? Sam Horn, author of the popular book “POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything” developed this W9 questionnaire to help you break down the core of your business and craft the perfect USP:

  • W1. What am I offering?
  • W2. What problem does my idea or offering solve?
  • W3. Why is it worth trying and buying?
  • W4. Who is my target audience?
  • W5. Who am I and what are my credentials?
  • W6. Who are my competitors and how am I different from them?
  • W7. What resistance or objections will people have to this?
  • W8. What is the purpose of my pitch?
  • W9. When, where, and how do I want people to take action?

Some USPs to get you inspired:

 
A diamond is forever.DeBeers
Ideas worth spreading.TED
The ultimate driving machine.BMW
Gives you wings.Red Bull
Open your world.Heineken
When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.FedEx
 

8. Start blogging

When you blog, you can increase your number of visitors by even as much as 50%, plus also have more leads per month. These are huge numbers that can bring in a lot of extra revenue!

Here's how to get these sort of benefits; first of all:

Publish often!

Ideally, you would have around 2-3 new articles published each week, but not everyone has that much free time, so start slow. You can come up with at least one article a week, right? If possible, you can consider drafting 5-7 posts and schedule them so you don't have to deal with blogging for the next couple of weeks.

Example: Hershel Supply
Hershel Supply are publishing quite often on their blog. The articles are short and have pictures worthy of their own Pinterest board. This strategy works best in niches relying heavily on design and visual cues.

herschell blog

Example: Deliciously Ella and You Make Do
Deliciously Ella and You Make Do had a different approach. They had their blogs first and then decided to have their own stores. Having a lot of visitors/followers helped them build a more powerful and relevant ecommerce site as they already knew their audience.

deliciouslyella blog

you make do blog

What to publish:

  • ✅ personal experiences/opinions, so your customers get to know you and your business
  • ✅ products you recommend
  • ✅ tips from your niche
  • ✅ contests
  • ✅ something about your store's history

As an added bonus, read my 19 explosive content marketing tips and see what advice you can implement in your blogging activity.

9. Create a mind-blowing “About Us” page

Your About Us page is a window into your business, and you want it to be appealing and fresh. Around 7% of visitors coming to a homepage click to see the About page. Those who do see it convert 30% more than those who don't. They also spend on average 22.5% more. This alone should be enough to get you started drafting this page!

An honest, updated and well-designed About Us page can spark curiosity and, who knows, generate some unexpected sales from people who were just browsing.

Example: Yellow Leaf Hammocks
Yellow Leaf Hammocks sells 100% hand-woven, customizable hammocks, and they have a kick-ass About page that certainly helps them solve their puzzle of how to sell online. The visitor gets all their questions answered and the graphic design and photos keep them engaged and interested to see more. Motivating, touching, life-changing and a very noble cause, Yellow Leaf Hammocks proves what an About Us page is all about.

yellowleafhammocks

Example: Mujjo
Mujjo sells leather Apple accessories and touchscreen gloves. On the About page, they share their story, how they started designing the popular knitted gloves that are touchscreen friendly, and how then they expanded to making sleeves for Apple products. They also decided to use this page to promote some of their products in order to keep the visitor longer on the site.

mujjo about

What to share on your About page:

  • ✅ the story of your brand
  • ✅ a video or several captivating photos that portray your brand
  • ✅ your partners, if you're not alone
  • ✅ one or two testimonials
  • ✅ links to some of your best or most popular products

10. Develop a successful SEO strategy

If you want to learn SEO, you'll quickly find out that the topic can be really intimidating. There are hundreds of different SEO factors – simply speaking: things that impact your site's SEO – and mastering them all is near impossible.

To start with, you should know that there are more than 2.2 trillion Google searches per year, and that 90% of users click only on the first three results.

First order of business:

a) Optimize your product page.

This means using keywords, but not to the extent where you end up over-stuffing your content. Relevant product keywords in your headers and image alt tags should be enough to help your rankings and thus help you with how to sell online.

b) Use friendly URLs.

The visitor doesn't want to see a trillion characters, so, again, you should use the keyword you're trying to rank for and very little of anything else. Keep it clean and user-friendly!

friendly urls

c) Make the most of user-generated content.

This isn't costing you anything and it also provides fresh and unique content for search engines. Add social media plugins and allow users to quickly review the products they just bought.

d) Avoid duplicate content.

Archives, tags, incorrect pagination and even basic product filtering generate duplicate content and drag your site down.

You can avoid issues like these by looking into the settings of your ecommerce platform. If you're on WooCommerce, you can adjust most duplicate content issues via the Yoast SEO plugin. If you're on Shopify, you should have this issue taken care of by the platform itself.

If you're on another solution, you might need to use your robots.txt file and do the needed adjustments manually.

Apart from that, writing your own unique product description instead of using the one provided by the manufacturer is the smart way to go. Google will notice and set you apart from your competitors who use the same product text.

e) Keep pages with out of stock items.

Don't delete those pages, especially if you rank high with them; instead, show related products or your newest collection.

f) Have a well thought-through internal linking system.

This will reduce your bounce rates – as people have something to click on. Recent studies show that 69% of people base their browsing on these links. Don't over-complicate it, try to think from your visitor's point of view. What would be relevant to them?

g) Link to other sites.

Despite random rumors you might have heard, linking won't ruin your rankings. Instead, it will show the visitors that you want to provide helpful content and you don't mind linking to outside sources. This will paint you as genuine and reliable.

h) Use Analytics.

This is kind of a no-brainer. You simply can't afford to skip on using Analytics to have a deeper knowledge of everything that happens in your online store.

Don't know where to start? Check out this roundup of 10 Google Analytics resources for ecommerce. It will help you keep track of everything that happens in your store.

Who does SEO well?

When it comes to high-class SEO in relation to how to sell online, Zappos is the perfect example.

Example: Zappos
They have highly optimized product pages:

Try-Shopify
  • they use simple and more targeted product keywords
  • instead of adding a product description that is forced and stuffed with keywords, they list the product's features in a bullet point list
  • they also have a related product featured to keep the user engaged and increase the chances of an upsell
  • the slider with products viewed by customers who viewed the same item has the same purpose

zappos products

They use friendly URLs:

  • Zappos uses the keyword in the URL
  • always include the brand or collection as well, it helps your rankings

zappos url

  • Further reading: The SEO specialist, Brian Dean, put together an awesome guide on ecommerce SEO. Check it out here.

11. Target the right visitor with the right product

Product recommendations deliver a personalized shopping experience and can increase your order value by as much as 40%. In other words, you can't afford not to use this strategy. Out of 1000 UK online shoppers, 53% like seeing products that are recommended based on their previous buying history.

Amazon was among the first retailers to successfully implement this and eventually, everyone jumped on it too. This infographic is an illustrated history of the first 20 years of Amazon and it shows some of the strategies Jeff Bezos used to make the client hit the “Add to cart” button more eagerly.

See infographic
amazon infographic

They use an “item-to-item collaborative filtering” that surrounds the user with products they didn't even know they needed. This algorithm is based on what the customer has in the cart, their previous Amazon browsing history, products they like or have already bought.

How many times have you found yourself looking for a stapler and ending up buying a stapler … and some office supplies, and some printer paper … and a printer, etc? The power of suggestion does wonders and Amazon knows that, perhaps that's why they're the absolute masters of how to sell online.

Around 70% of online shoppers prefer stores that use personal information to provide a more relevant shopping experience. Bottom line, any ecommerce site that wants to stay in the game has to come up with a personalized shopping experience for its customers.

What features to implement:

  • ✅ “recommended for you”
  • ✅ “similar products”
  • ✅ “complimentary products”

If you're using an ecommerce solution such as Shopify then you can configure these kinds of features right through your user panel. If you're on WooCommerce + WordPress then you might need a plugin to have some of them implemented.

12. Use Live Chat to help potential customers make faster decisions

While the ecommerce space might be stronger than ever, still nothing beats that human interaction you have in a store. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the data. For instance:

What percentage of online shoppers do you think agree with this statement:

Having my questions answered by a live person while I am in the process of my online shopping is one of the most important features on a website.

The answer is 44%.

If you want to benefit from that, there's no better way to do it than to get a “live chat” functionality installed on your site. Here's our comparison of the best live chat solutions for ecommerce.

At the same time, you do want your live chat to be proactive and to invite the visitor to interact with it.

Example: Theory
For example, here's how Theory does it in a way that's not completely optimal. They have a Live Chat link in the footer of their site, where it's unlikely to be spotted.

theory chat

Example: ahrefs
On the other hand, here we have ahrefs, a company with a much better focus on live chat. Their chat box remains firmly in the bottom right corner of the page and pops up after a couple of seconds of the visitor's activity on the page.

ahrefs chat

Example: Schuh
Schuh went a step further and introduces live chat video. While some customers like this interaction, most will be reluctant to have a video chat with a stranger. However, if users want, they can opt for text instead of video.

schuh chat

Generally, place your live chat button in the most visible spot. You want it to be visible at all times, whether the user is scrolling or reading a product review.

Live chat statistics:

  • 31% of online shoppers are tempted to buy from a site that offers live chat
  • 46% think live chat is the perfect communication medium
  • 62% of buyers who have used live chat are more likely to buy again from the same website

13. To coupon or not to coupon

Pricing is tricky. You have to offer a lower price than your competition while making a profit. This small guide focuses on the best pricing strategies when you're figuring out how to sell online.

After getting the basic pricing covered, you have to determine what coupons and discounts strategy to use. If you have a one of a kind product or handmade items, promotional offers aren't a must. Plus, they can do more harm than good at times. However, for general merchandise and simple products, coupon codes can bring more business.

Data says that around 75% of mobile buyers use coupons.

Most ecommerce platforms support the use of coupons natively. Both Shopify and WooCommerce allow you to enable coupons with a couple of clicks.

Here are some ideas for coupon codes you can use:

  • first time buyer's discount
  • volume discount
  • member discount
  • free shipping
  • returning customer discount

14. Improve your shopping cart experience

Window shopping has never been so popular, which is kind of unfortunate for those of us trying to figure out how to sell online! Your users cram their carts with items they would want/like to buy, but 71% of the carts are abandoned.

Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. High shipping fees, slow website or website time-out, not enough payment options (check this article on how to choose the right payment gateway for your store) or just because they were simply browsing and had no intention to buy anything.

A very good idea is to let customers buy as guests – without the need to create any user accounts. Many stores employ this functionality, and it's also supported by most of the popular ecommerce platforms (Shopify and WooCommerce included).

Apart from that, use your checkout page as the last upsell option.

Example: The Body Shop
For example, The Body Shop displays their best offer on their checkout page to catch those undecided customers who don't know if they should pay or continue shopping. Think smart, but avoid cramming it with a ton of products.

The Body Shop

Example: Wiggle
Wiggle allows their customers to know exactly how many steps they have to go through until the order completion. Show a progress bar and most importantly, don't confuse people with unnecessary steps or questions.

Example: Apple
Apple is often used as an example of a highly optimized ecommerce site, and for a good reason. Their shopping cart is very simple, with no unnecessary elements on the page.

apple cart

Be aware of these shopping cart statistics:

  • 73% of customers are likely to look for free shipping options
  • the highest cart abandonment rate is in consumer electronics, around 74%
  • high shipping costs account for around 44% of abandoned carts and only 6% due to slow shipping

Need more inspiration on how to sell online? Go through these 12 creative checkouts and see if you spot anything that you'd like to emulate.

15. Develop a successful shipping strategy

Customers expect to see the “Free shipping” banner on every online store they visit nowadays and, on top of that, 78% look for the cheapest shipping available.

The most common shipping options right now are:

Free shipping.

We're all bargain hunters and the phrase “Free shipping” makes you want to pay attention instantly, even if you weren't tempted to buy anything initially.

Raw data confirms this; free shipping is the most important factor, plus it also encourages customer loyalty, so choose wisely.

Analyze your costs, and if you can afford to offer free shipping then go ahead. This works best in clothing, beauty, accessories, and other similar industries – since in most cases the packages are small or average sized.

Example: Tattly
Tattly is a temporary tattoo store that decided to implement the free shipping policy. Their products weigh just a few grams, so shipping costs are very low, and this strategy doesn't make a hole in their revenue.

Instead, this has the potential to bring in more customers because they'll most likely be tempted to buy when they see free shipping. A huge flaw is that they don't have a banner that informs about this. You have to visit their FAQ section and check how much they ask for shipping.

tattly

Example: HipVan
The second you land on HipVan you feel tempted to browse around as you see they have free shipping. This is a better strategy compared to the one used by Tattly. If you offer your clients something for free, make this your winning card and display it in the “above the fold” area to increase visibility.

hipvan

Free delivery over a certain order value.

Next to unconditional free delivery, this is the second best thing. It's a very popular option seen on big websites like ASOS, The Hut, or Free People, and it can increase your orders exponentially.

Example: Faucet Face
“FREE SHIPPING! $20 or More. US only.” In just a few words, you know that you get free shipping if you spend at least $20. Faucet Face went for the shortest path and opted for an approach that attracts customers instantly.

faucetface

Flat rates shipping.

A hassle-free method; this allows you to offer a flat fee on every order, which is also a good way to estimate your financials when building your path to how to sell online.

Example: Daniella Draper
Daniella Draper uses this strategy. Before proceeding to billing, customers can see the shipping rates and then decide if they want to complete the order or not.

Daniella Draper

Shipping rates based on weight, order total or distance.

This is more challenging to set up as you need to figure out exactly how much shipping will cost you in order to get some estimates.

If you're selling via Shopify or WooCommerce, you can set different shipping zones or tiers based on the destination, weight and other characteristics of the order. While this is a built-in feature in many ecommerce platforms, configuring it correctly will take you a couple of hours. However, that time investment is well worth it in the end.

One of the things you get as a result when you're done with the setup is a shipping calculator that your customers can use to get the exact rate for their order.

Example: Total Cycling
Total Cycling does this very thing and offers shipping rates based on the customer's address. Customers simply get to select their country to find out what shipping rates they can choose from.

Example: Simple Sugars
Simple Sugars has a nice shipping calculator as well. This increases the transparency and makes customers feel that they have control over their shipping fees.

Simple sugars

Example: Bold and Noble
Bold and Noble went even further in their attempt to how to sell online. After you add a product to your basket, you are redirected to your cart where you find out how much you'll be charged for shipping.

boldandnoble

Some numbers on the importance of shipping rates:

  • increased shipping costs cause 55% of abandoned carts
  • free shipping is more of a reason for people to buy from a store than fast shipping
  • consumers are 82% more likely to use a store if they don't have to pay for shipping
  • you can increase your order value by 30% if you have free shipping

16. Ask for feedback

It's really surprising how many ecommerce stores don't have any way for customers to submit their reviews of the products. This can be a huge obstacle on your path to how to sell online. In fact, 77% of online shoppers read a review of the product they intend to buy and 90% make a decision based on what they read.

All those numbers and statistics apply to the whole web. You might have positive reviews on your site, but you also have to check what your customers say about you on other blogs and forums. Are they satisfied? If not, contact them and see what should be different. You have to keep in mind that people use Google to find your site and they'll use it again to do a “background” check on your product.

Not only that, but reviews also improve your SEO rankings as they provide fresh and unique content, increasing your long tail rankings and bringing in new visitors.

Expedia uses Feefo to display their customer reviews. This strategy outsources your worries regarding approving and providing a platform for those reviews. Users also have the chance to tweet or share a review, thus increasing your exposure.

Example: GraceShip
For example, GraceShip has the review button available at any moment during scrolling, regardless of the page the user visits. They even make the reviews visible on each product page.

graceship

Should you fear bad reviews?

You shouldn't; 68% of consumers trust a site more when they see both positive and negative reviews, and this is normal. No matter how awesome your product/service is, there's always that one person who doesn't like it. As long as you have many more positive reviews than the negative ones, they're not a problem when trying to figure out how to sell online.

Stats on consumer reviews:

  • 73% of customers have more trust a brand after reading positive reviews
  • 67% of consumers say they read up to 6 reviews until they feel they can trust a certain business
  • 68% say they are more inclined to recommend a local business if it was trustworthy and professional
  • consumer reviews can increase your sales by 18%

17. Rethink your newsletter approach

Do you know that the estimated ROI of email is 4,300%? An unbelievable number! Yeah, some statistics say that people tend to get annoyed when their inbox is crammed with tons of emails. However, at the same time, they still end up reading that email and buying something.

Check the following approaches and see how you can successfully convince visitors to sign up for your special deals and updates.

Have a more direct approach.

Example: Buru Buru, Dickies and Little Joe Woman
Buru Buru, Dickies and Little Joe Woman greet you with a newsletter popup when you land on their websites. Easy to get rid of, but visible for those who want to get exclusive offers or new product announcements. To increase your chances of getting new subscribers, lure them in, offer promo codes to new subscribers.

Be creative.

Key to how to sell online? Creativity!

Example: Cultivated Wit
Cultivated Wit shows they have a more upbeat attitude, and this is obvious when you scroll down and get to their newsletter signup field. The “Receive our propaganda” line is funny and tempting, it feels like you just have to sign up. If you look left, where they have the social button, you chuckle again as you read “Monitor our private lives.” It's all about being fresh and knowing your audience.

cultivatedwit

18. Show people that your site is secure and trustworthy

Secure shopping-cart systems are essential for maintaining the integrity of the payment process.Ella Nevill

Online data is very sensitive, so more and more customers are extremely careful before placing an order. That's why you have to check off all the bullet points to make sure your site is secure and trustworthy. It's not uncommon for online retailers to lose around $3.5 billion annually as a result of online fraud. While bigger stores may be able to handle loses due to this, a business that sells customized soap will hit rock bottom fast.

These techniques will reduce the risk of online fraud:

  • ✅ pick a secure platform
  • ✅ use strong SSL authentication
  • ✅ track all your orders
  • ✅ use strong passwords

Shopify offers its strong security measures as one of its best features. They have a lot of pages that provide details over their security strategy.

WooCommerce is also quite good at security, plus you get to use special WordPress plugins that improve your site's security even further.

19. Use the power of social media to promote yourself

Social media is simply huge these days. Literally every ecommerce site should have its presence on social media, and especially if they want to maximize their potential in how to sell online.

While Pinterest and Instagram may not be suited for all niches, the two big names – Twitter and Facebook – are a must. Set your profiles and be as active as possible, without spamming your fans.

That being said, you have to avoid constantly trying to sell something. People want to know the story behind your brand too, interesting statistics regarding the niche you're in, how to use/style your products. Heck, you can even throw in one or two cat photos into the mix. The goal here is personal connection.

Here's some more info on how to begin your adventure with social media as an ecommerce store owner.

20. Introduce a referral program

A referral program can be a great “extra” element that convinces people to promote your products more than they would otherwise.

The rules of a referral program are simple:

  1. Someone buys from you
  2. They get invited to your referral program
  3. They get their own unique link that they can use when recommending your store
  4. When anyone buys something after the recommendation, the referring person gets an extra gift, coupon code, or reward points that they can use towards future purchases

What's so attractive about this – from the customer's point of view – is that they not only get to buy something that benefits them (after all, you're not selling anything useless, right?), but they can also then recommend your products to friends/family and get something extra for doing so.

From a technical point of view, launching a referral program is possible with many of the popular ecommerce platforms right out the box. Read more about the best referral software for ecommerce here.

What's next?

This summarizes our list of the 20 steps on your way to learning how to sell online. Since this resource is quite lengthy, we've also prepared a quick in-the-nutshell checklist for you. Treat it as your reference file when you're going through the motions:

  1. Choose the right ecommerce platform
  2. Make sure your store works for mobile users
  3. Make an amazing first impression
  4. Use quality product photos
  5. Improve your site's navigation
  6. Have a unique idea/angle
  7. Craft a strong USP
  8. Start blogging
  9. Create a mind-blowing About Us page
  10. Develop a successful SEO strategy
  11. Target the right visitor with the right product
  12. Use Live Chat to help potential customers buy
  13. Decide whether to offer coupons
  14. Improve your shopping cart experience
  15. Develop a successful shipping strategy
  16. Ask for feedback and reviews
  17. Rethink your newsletter approach
  18. Show people that your site is secure and trustworthy
  19. Use the power of social media to promote yourself
  20. Introduce a referral program

Do you have any questions on how to sell online? Don't hesitate to ask away in the comments section below.

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.