How to sell online

How to sell online

If you've been thinking about opening an online store, you're definitely onto something great. When you operate out of a brick and mortar storefront you limit the amount of people that can buy your product. However, with a website, you make your products or services available to people all over the globe. And this in return will bring you tremendous profits. According to industry experts, by 2014, US ecommerce sales are projected to increase by 66%. So, you need to join in on the online store goodness.

Now how do you start selling online? It ultimately depends on your situation – if you're looking to clean out your garage or sell a couple of products as a one-time occurrence, you should consider using an online auction site like ebay, craigslist or local listing service. But if you want to sell products or services on an ongoing basis, your best bet is to open your own online store.

Before starting the online business of your dreams, listed below are the things you'll need to know before launch. Keep in mind that you won't need to do everything all at once, but in order to run a successful business online, you should definitely think about how to fit each of these elements into your game plan.

1. Choose the right product to sell

Do you have an amazing product that you'd like to offer to the rest of the world? How about an exciting new wristwatch that everyone should be wearing? Whatever the case, the first step in successfully selling online is deciding what you want to sell. As a general rule, whatever sells in print catalogs will also sell on the Internet. So, sell things the customer does not necessarily have to see in person before buying. It's also important to work with products or services that you are passionate about. After all, you will be spending alot of your time dealing with this product. Also, make sure you have a way to acquiring your inventory, whether you're getting it from a supplier or creating it on your own.

2. Secure your domain name

A domain name is the web address where customers can find your online store. Selecting the perfect domain name for your business is very important – it's a long-term decision that can make or break your success. Try to pick a domain name that is short, simple to remember and describes what you're selling online.

3. Decide which ecommerce solution is best

An ecommerce solution, or shopping cart software, is the platform you'll use to sell your products and manage your online business. There are three main types for you to choose from:

  • Hosted Ecommerce Solutions: Hosted solutions provide web-hosting and shopping cart software as one. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about securing servers or maintaining them on your own, which creates a severe drop in initial start-up costs. Hosted solutions also provide continuous software updates. The drawback is that you don't have full control over every fine detail of your store, but the functionality is typically there.
  • Licensed Ecommerce Solutions: Licensed solutions are out of the box solutions that you install onto your computer, meaning you have to find hosting in addition to acquiring and maintaining servers. Software features are also built in, but you won't receive updates. The benefit of licensed solutions is the increased control you receive over your online store.
  • Ecommerce Solutions Open Source Ecommerce Solutions: Open source solutions are typically free ecommerce software that you install on your server. This requires technical knowledge - so you may need a Developer to setup and customize your store for you. If you have the knowledge or resources to develop your store this way, there is a higher degree of flexibility. With open source solutions, you're responsible for finding technical support, hosting and server maintenance.

4. Building your online store

Now comes the fun part – building your online store.

Design: It's important to begin thinking about the design of your ecommerce site, as it's critical to your success. Even if you're selling the most amazing product, if a customer comes to your site and is underwhelmed and confused, they won't trust your business or purchase from you. So, you need to pay attention to the look and feel of your online store in addition to navigation and ease of use. Regardless of what design ideas you have, always have your customer in mind when creating the aesthetic of your store. The average visitor to a Web site looks at only three or four pages before going somewhere else. Visitors will leave at the slightest obstacle. So if you want people to visit and order from your site, don't put any obstacles in their way. This is where simplicity comes in. Don't confuse your users. In fact, the more important the site, the simpler the design. Also, whatever you do, don't force visitors to register!

Content: As you become familiar with your chosen shopping cart software, you'll start setting up your product categories and entering your inventory. You'll also want to start thinking about adding different pages to your new website, including information about your business, contact details, and more. You can easily launch your new online store without having everything on your website perfected – you'll quickly learn that selling online is a dynamic work in progress.

5. Determine how you'll get paid

No matter what type of product you're selling, everyone's in the game for one reason – to make money! Your next decision is how to receive payment from your customers. There are a multitude of options out there depending on your business needs.

Several first-time online business owners opt to use a simpler method of customer payment, such as PayPal or Google Checkout. These options can be utilized in the beginning if you're on a tight budget. The major drawback, however, is that customers are taken away from your website to enter their credit card information. This drastically increases the chance that they will change their minds and abandon their order before it's complete.

Another option for accepting customer payment is to process credit cards directly from your online store. This allows your customers to select from several payment options, and more importantly, keeps them on your site. Credit card processing also creates a higher level of credibility for your online business. Your customers will know that you're a legitimate entity since you've taken the extra step in providing a convenient and secure checkout process.

6. Legitimize your business

To successfully run an online business, the following factors are important:

Be Real: Visitors need to be reassured that they are ordering from a real company, and not just a teenager running the site out of his bedroom. Anything you can do to show that you are real will help increase orders. Include your name, phone number, and street address. Toll-free numbers are especially good. If possible, include an image of your catalog or building, customer testimonials, or even a brief company history.

Your Amazing Shopping Site Be Trustworthy: It is important to reassure your visitors explicitly that it is safe to buy from you. If you are determined to provide great customer service, tell your visitors so, right on your site. Guarantee that they will be satisfied with what they buy from you, or you will refund their money with no questions asked. Your site should offer secure online ordering, and you should say so to visitors. When someone places an order a confirmation page thanking them for their order and telling them their order number must be generated immediately. That is a good first start, but you as the Seller should also send them an email thanking them for their order and telling them when it will arrive. And make sure that you ship orders quickly. Internet shoppers want fast results. They don't want to hear that they should expect to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery. Tell them they will get their order in 3 days and stick to your word.

Be Receptive: When a customer does send you mail, respond promptly! Customers who have taken the trouble to send you email are like gold. Talk about qualified prospects. So treat them like gold. If you can, make it a corporate policy to respond to email within an hour or two at most. You have to reply eventually, so why not do it right away? And same goes with Customers that have telephoned you. Pick up eagerly or return their call immediately if you missed the call. Customers will be delighted to see that you care about them. Treat your Web customers as if each one were as important as ten customers. Because if you treat them well, each one will turn into ten customers.

7. Spread the word

To truly succeed online, it's not enough to simply have a website. There are millions of other sites out there, all competing for the same shoppers. That's why it's critical to spread the word about what you're selling online.

There are tons of different ways to tell others about your new store. Some of the quickest methods include reaching out to your friends and acquaintances. But to really stand out from the crowd, you'll want to look to search engines for help. Most online purchases begin with a search in a major search engine like Google, so you'll want to make sure that you're getting your piece of the pie.

One quick way to boost traffic to your site is through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. Based on various search terms, an ad for your online store will appear within the search results. Another way to boost your ranking in search engines is with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is the practice of crafting your site to become search engine friendly.

Regardless of what you decide, make sure you trumpet your online store to anyone that is willing to listen. You've worked hard to sell online – don't be afraid to tell the world about it! Word of Mouth is the most valuable kind of free advertising for you as people love to be able to tell their friends or family about a great experience. So make sure that your customers have good stories to tell.

Opening your online business is an extremely rewarding process that will continue to pay off as time passes. The most successful online stores grow slowly at first. Growth is slow at first for everyone. The winners are the ones who don't give up. If you invest your efforts and energy, selling online can become a big contributor to your income and will fulfill your entrepreneurial spirit. Keep in mind that the above was a comprehensive overview of the major points of selling online. If you can't afford a custom web design or SEO plan out of the gate, that's not a problem. As your business grows, so will your ability to capitalize on different online business tactics.

Fortunately, Viapp offers an all-in-one ecommerce solution that can provide everything from your shopping cart software to customizing and maintenance. Join the smart business owners who have pursued their dream by opening an online business through us. Contact us at for more information.


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