How to sell online: guide to platforms, costs and strategies

How to sell online is one of the hottest topics of this period: it will be due to the solicitations we suffer from the media on the business opportunities offered by the internet, or due to the economic crisis of many traditional businesses, which pushes many to dust off the famous “plan B”. Perhaps it is for both reasons, in any case, the demand for the development of new e-commerce sites is rampant.

They range from the company that wants to add online to its physical channels, to the small shop that intends to expand its presence on the Internet, ending with individuals who want to become e-commerce entrepreneurs.

In this article, you will discover:

  • How to sell products online as a private individual;
  • What are the best platforms to create e-commerce;
  • What strategies determine the success of an e-commerce site.

If you would like to further explore the topic, Digital Coach’s E-Commerce Course could be for you.

Thanks to the video you just watched, you were able to discover the digital marketing strategies at the basis of every successful online store. By continuing to read, you will be able to learn more about the topics covered by the video, in particular, you will understand:

  • How to create an online sales strategy;
  • Which channels to choose;
  • How to define a funnel;
  • How to make your e-commerce evolve.

How to start selling online

To start selling on the internet you will first need to choose the platform that best suits your needs. In the following paragraphs, I will show you the various options that the web makes available to you and I will take stock of how much money it takes to open an online site.

Own site on platforms like Shopify

A first solution for selling online as a private individual by paying a monthly expense and avoiding initial investments is to turn to ‘turnkey’ services such as Shopify.

When you choose to sell on Shopify – but also on other services of this kind such as Volusion and BigCommerce – you can develop an e-commerce site using a ready and complete infrastructure, without having to deal with the technical aspects.

how to start selling online internet

These platforms are owned by private companies that “lease” their technological solution, do not share the source code with external developers, and only intervene directly in the customizations.

In my opinion, this solution has several limitations including:

  • Lack of bargaining power vis-à-vis the supplier/developer;
  • Potential difficulty in obtaining the requested customizations and related high costs;
  • Vulnerability in the event of a tariff increase unilaterally decided by the supplier;
  • Obstacles in case there was the will to migrate to another platform.

How much does it cost to sell online using these services? Prices vary according to the type of plan chosen, starting from around 30$ per month for small e-commerce and reaching around 300$ per month for the creation of a store with a very high number of sales.

Own site on the open-source platform

The best platforms to sell online have limitations. If you want to get around them, I recommend building your store using an open-source system. Numerous expert technicians on the market can help you improve the website you have decided to create with one of these software and you will not be exposed to risks if, for any reason, the relationship with the original supplier should be interrupted.

best platforms to sell online

All you have to do is download a free CMS, or free software to create and manage e-commerce. With it, even without technical programming skills, you can build and customize your online store.

Open Source means that the source code of the software used is freely available to anyone and can be integrated and customized without any limits.

There are several open-source technology solutions like Magento, Prestashop, and others.

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Marketplaces

If your problem, on the other hand, is how to sell online without e-commerce, marketplaces could be the right solution for you. These platforms are real online, multi-product, and multi-brand shopping centers. They certainly represent an excellent opportunity to start minimizing risks, as they do not require initial investments for the creation of a website, but allow you to sell using the e-commerce infrastructure of the marketplace itself. They are also probably the ideal choice when you want to check the actual commercial potential of a product before investing in a proprietary online store.

Marketplaces also offer:

  • A pool of buyers much larger than what a ‘do-it-yourself’ seller could aspire to;
  • An ‘implicit’ guarantee to the end customer who trusts more to buy from a shopkeeper present on an already known platform.

However, relying on a third party such as eBay marketplace means the shopkeeper, is subject to the constraints imposed by the platform:

  • It requires a percentage of the turnover as a commission (this, in itself, can be considered a relative problem since even with a proprietary e-commerce site there are costs to be incurred for obtaining and managing traffic);
  • It could change the rules of the game at any time (eg by suddenly modifying contractual conditions);
  • Maintains the relationship with the end customer by not allowing the trader to implement loyalty strategies.

There are numerous marketplaces where you can start selling online: from the most famous such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay, ePrice, Pixmania, Etsy, Blomming, Facebook Marketplace, etc.

Outsourced site

The last option I want to present to you is how to open an online store from scratch, that is, without using open-source platforms or services of any kind.

Unless you are a developer, you will have to contact an outsourcer (a company or an external professional with the skills and means to create e-commerce) for both site development and management. This means that a company will create the e-commerce for you and in some cases, will also take care of its logistics management online promotion.

But in which situations does it make sense to contact an outsourcer? For example when:

  1. The company fails to focus on e-commerce due to a lack of time/people (they are e.g. focused on offline business) or digital skills;
  2. The company prefers to rely on the expertise and resources of the outsourcer, taking advantage of the opportunity to be able to access functions and services (e.g. loyalty cards) whose development cost would be huge if faced alone, while it becomes sustainable if offered by the outsourcer (who can spread the development costs of new features across multiple customers);
  3. The company in the first phase of e-commerce start-up wants to gain experience in digital marketing issues and sales strategies by postponing the internalization of the site to a later moment.

Let’s see what services an outsourcer typically provides:

  • A store manager who manages the site once it is online;
  • Marketing and business consultancy (such as an e-commerce consultancy);
  • Front-end update;
  • Management of orders and shipments (possibly also of the warehouse).

The initial cost is around 20-40K, depending on the complexity of the project, to which must be added around 1.5K/month for management (a figure that includes licenses for using the platform and fees related to the payment method).

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5 key factors to successfully selling online

Now that you have created your e-commerce and you have complied with the laws you might think that the most difficult and expensive part is over, but you are only at the beginning. The real challenge starts when you launch your store. At this point, you’ll find that the time and resources needed to get your online business off the ground are greater than those invested to create the site itself.

So let’s see some golden rules to keep in mind if you want to understand how to start selling online and be successful. Keep in mind that Digital Coach offers dedicated courses to become a specialist in this field.

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1. Outline your strategy

The first thing you’ll need to be successful in selling products online is a strategy. You can create one in several ways, but I recommend starting with these three steps:

  • Study your buyer persona or the typical customer you want to address;
  • Identify the customer journeys traveled by your buyer personas, i.e. how potential customers of your business behave online, which sites they frequent, and what they do before making a purchasing decision;
  • Evaluate which aspects of your product or service attract buyers the most and turn them into your differentiating characteristics.

Only after thinking about these three points will you be able to decide which business model to monetize your business with. This means that you will have to choose whether:

  • Create e-commerce for your articles;
  • Selling other people’s products online using dropshipping ;
  • Selling on Amazon ;
  • Use assisted selling, i.e. supporting each of your customers with an employee who helps them in their purchasing decisions.

What is the best model? It depends on your company and your progress as an online entrepreneur. If you’re just starting, your best options might be Amazon or drop shipping. The latter model is particularly convenient if you are interested in selling online without a warehouse because to work you will only need e-commerce and you won’t have to worry about logistics.

Instead, if you have a structured company, products, history, and other sales channels, adding a website is certainly an excellent idea. In general, ad hoc reasoning must be made for each case and the skills you can acquire thanks to our e-commerce courses will help you.

2. Sell the right products

What to sell on the internet to make money? What are the products that sell the most online? Is it better to have an extremely large catalog, or is it enough to sell just one product? These are just some of the questions you may be asking yourself and the answers may not always be so obvious.

how to sell online right products

In general, these are considerations to be made on a case-by-case basis, based on the situation of the online store you are about to create. However, there are some macro options:

  • Starting from the sale of only one unique and special product. By doing so, you can focus your budget, energy, and effort on a single item to maximize your chances of success.
  • Working on a niche market. For example, you could deal exclusively with hair removal items. Again, all your efforts would end up going in one direction, making your job a little easier.
  • Focus on short-term tactical actions, which means selling only the hottest items of the moment. This choice leads to the construction of a business that changes over time.

The latter option, in particular, is not advisable, because what rewards true entrepreneurs on average is building long-lasting businesses. Having a stable company will allow you to set pricing strategies that can reduce costs and make customers happier with the consequence of increasing their loyalty.

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3. Choose the best channels to generate traffic

The steps I have illustrated so far are essential but would be useless without the commitment to promote your e-commerce through online traffic channels. There are many, but the alternatives available to you can be divided into two categories:

  • Google, which offers you the ability to leverage SEO, Google Ads, YouTube, and Google Shopping;
  • Social networks, from which you can get excellent results in different ways, for example, you could use your posts to create advertising campaigns.

Based on what you decide to sell online, you will have to think about which of the alternatives I have indicated to you are the most effective. My advice is to do a test to figure out which ones produce the best results. In particular, you will need to note the quantity, quality, relevance, and spending power of customers that the various channels can bring to your e-commerce.

Generally, the best choice you can make is to develop a strategy where you combine the options offered by Google together with social. However, using more than one channel well is not easy, so the right balance must be found.

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4. Create custom funnels

I’d like to tell you that to sell online you just need to choose the right channels and attract people to your e-commerce, but that’s not the case. No user enters a website and buys immediately. To convert visitors into customers, you will need to make them follow particular online paths called funnels.

create custom funnels

Research says that funnels of at least seven touch points are needed before a customer makes a purchase, meaning that the user will need to have some form of contact with your brand at least seven times before deciding to choose you. In reality, in my experience, the higher the cost of your product or service, the higher the number of touch points before the sale will be.

All this happens because, if you sell on the internet, people need to see you recurringly and continuously to trust you and consider you a high-level supplier. To achieve this, you need to develop a strategy that takes into account the customer journey, i.e. what users do online, and you need to define specific funnels for your business.

In other words, you will need to be present on Google, on social networks, and the blogs most frequented by your potential customers. Once you have made yourself known, you will be able to attract users to your e-commerce. Later, you’ll want to make sure that when they visit again, they have an interaction with you of even greater value, for example, you could offer them some of your free products. Only finally, if you have created a good funnel, will the journey end with a sale.

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5. Analyze the results

The tips I’ve given you so far are general indications valid for any digital store, but if you want to able to understand how to sell your products online, you’ll have to start with an analysis of your results. This means that you will have to organize yourself to track, cross-reference, and read data from tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insight, and Google Ads.

analyze the results

Your investments can’t go to waste, so you need to be able to understand how they work and what kind of results every single strategy, funnel, or channel brings. Being able to do all of this will allow you to understand which of the marketing actions you have implemented make sense to continue and which ones should be suspended.

It is important to remember that no online sales strategy produces immediate positive results. The only way to be successful is to continuously optimize and improve by keeping up with the constant changes that characterize the digital world. I realize it’s not easy, but that’s exactly why there are different professionals, such as e-commerce specialists who study and make a real job out of everything.

Conclusions and free coaching

There are many more things to know to sell online than I can explain to you in an article. It is not enough to ask yourself what is the best-selling product in the world and create a store thinking of making big profits.

If I’ve managed to pique your curiosity, you may consider requesting a free consultation to get additional valuable tips that may help you in the future.

Now all you have to do is open your shop on the web and whether you choose to sell food, clothing, or handicraft products online, following my advice your success is guaranteed!

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