Do you have a physical shop and don’t know how to start selling your products online? Would you like to open an online shop and don’t know where to start? In this page we will try to explain what you need to do to view online, starting with the basics.

Opening an online shop (eCommerce) is becoming a real trend in recent times, both because today’s consumer is increasingly getting more and more information online (on blogs, forums, price comparison sites) before deciding what to buy, and because the running costs are lower than in a traditional shop.

To open a shop and sell online, it is not enough to have a website and showcase your products, you also need to know the digital world, create a specific strategy, monitor the progress of your online business (to understand what to improve) and so on.

how to start selling online step by step

Opening an online shop is certainly a useful and fast way to earn money on the web, but not the only one. Know what options available to you!


What does it take to sell online?

The first step to understanding what is required to sell on the internet is to choose between the two::

  • Sell via major marketplaces such as Ebay and Amazon
  • Open your own e-commerce. Let us evaluate these two options together.

Marketplaces are online platforms dedicated to buying and selling a product or service. They connect sellers and buyers, enabling them to carry out a commercial transaction under the best conditions, thus playing the role of guarantor.

In this way, companies can test an online sales activity (e-commerce) with a specific indexed catalog, a service for managing orders, returns and transactions.

There are now many marketplaces, more or less successful, where it is possible to sell products online very quickly, such as Amazon.

This option has the advantage of being able to reach a very large number of potential customers, since these are sites with a high volume of traffic.

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Top 10 Marketplaces

  • Ebay: is one of the oldest and most respected online marketplaces. It allows you to view individual items and create a customised space as required;
  • Amazon: is the largest and most important online buying and selling site. The seller pays a commission for each transaction but has no fixed monthly cost;
  • Facebook: a section of Facebook where you can place selling and buying advertisements with private negotiations. It is a well-structured, easy and intuitive platform, so you can sell and buy in your area by choosing among many categories;
  • Etsy: is an e-commerce site where members can sell handicrafts and vintage items. It has the benefit of being intuitive and user-friendly;
  • DaWanda: is the online marketplace for handmade products. It offers free boutique creation that you can freely manage and free widgets for promoting your shop on your website and blog with a 10% commission on sales;
  • Rakuten: a very popular site in Japan but growing globally. It offers free listings and a lower commission than the others;
  • Vinted: e-commerce to see second-hand and vintage items. Vinted also offers free listings and low commissions;
  • Catawiki: they are online auction sales for special items. Auction sales are free and you only pay commission when you sell;
  • Ezebee: you can create personal ads or an online store. You have a built-in chat system to help you with your transactions and you don’t pay sales commission;

Although these sites certainly represent an opportunity to sell online, the ability to build your own e-commerce site has its own advantages. Opening your own site means having the opportunity to customize it and stand out from the competition, using your own visual in line with the brand, making the site itself a brand tool.
If you already have an established physical store, e-commerce can be (for customers) a means of having 24/7 products availability. Of course, it works best if it is a niche market and if you already have a good group of loyal clients who will help the online market take off.
If, on the other hand, services are sold, it is even easier to manage the online shop, perhaps even being able to sell only online, ensuring a wider geographical spread of the offer and an improvement in brand reputation.

Learn how to sell your products successfully on Amazon!


Choose what you can sell on the internet

Books, clothing, toys, jewelry, shoes, food or services, coupons, tickets, videos, films, e-books, everything is sold online, but how do you choose what to sell online?

  • First, let’s look at the scenario. What sells the most online? Products or intangibles? A typical mistake is entering saturated markets without proper preparation or without first choosing a niche to enter.
  • Find ideas, new ideas but also ideas for renewal. One good tactic is to move away from the PC and look into the real world for those products that do well and are not yet sold on the web.
  • Find out what’s selling the most on Amazon and ebay, the two e-commerce giants.
  • Study on Google Trends which are the most sought after words on Google to intercept new user requirements.
  • Identify a niche industry (e.g. used objects online) and specialize.
  • Make a list of ideas so as not to forget them and then analyze a few of them

If you have identified one or more tangible products, this is the time to research those products. Start imagining them in the real market. Calculate costs, fixed costs and variable costs, marketing costs, calculate a profit margin, analyze sales prices, build a budget for long-term promotion and marketing costs, and so on.

If you already have an established physical store, e-commerce can be (for customers) a means of having 24/7 products availability. Of course, it works best if it is a niche market and if you already have a good group of loyal clients who will help the online market take off. If, on the other hand, services are sold, it is even easier to manage the online shop, perhaps even being able to sell only online, ensuring a wider geographical spread of the offer and an improvement in brand reputation.

Knowing the techincal aspects

When asking what it takes to sell online, we surely have to consider all the technical aspects involved.

The types of platforms

If you decide to open your own e-commerce to view online, you can rely on different types of platforms:

  • Open source systems: these are platforms with a GNU (General Public License), characterized by free and fully editable source code. Prestashop or Magento, are just a of the main open source software around and are free of charge. The weakness of free platforms is that they are unsupported and may not be able to handle large amounts of traffic.
  • Rented platforms: with this system, it is possible to get an e-commerce site by paying a periodical rental, usually monthly. Often, the site is offered with a package of services, so going far with overly personalized requests can be too expensive. These platforms provide support and handle traffic effectively.
  • Proprietary website: it is the solution which requires the most greatest economic investment, because the site is fully developed by one or more programmers who build it from scratch based on the needs of the company.

Payment system

What is needed to sell online? In the nascent phase of our sales project, if we decide to open an e-commerce store, we need to choose a payment system (also known as a payment gateway). This is very important in order to provide users with good security during purchases and to ensure that purchases go smoothly.

A payment gateway is a service that processes all payments that occur online through the site. There are two types of payment gateway integration:

  • an external payment system that redirects the customer to a page with another domain and url, then an independent website. This option is fast and secure as it reduces the risk of storing credit card information and facilitates transactions. However, the customer must take several measures to confirm their order. In general, it’s a good option for small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • an internal payment system that allows clients to enter their data without leaving the website where they are located. This option makes the payment process much easier as it skips an additional login or registration step. However, implementation requires more time and effort. This approach is commonly used by bigger companies.

Payment method

There are 3 main methods of online payment that users usually expect to find on an e-commerce:

  1. Credit card: over the years, the major banks have adopted various payment systems for selling via the web, which can be activated on demand. A virtual POS can be requested that is built into the website, with a series of rather simple steps: the bank will retain a percentage of the payment, for the use of the service. It is important to choose the virtual POS on the basis of compatibility with the main circuits (VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, PostePay) but also that it is a reliable provider, with readily available technical support;
  2. Paypal: regarded by most as one of the easiest and most immediate payment methods, over the years, it has become synonymous with safety and speed of transaction. The suggestion is to also activate the quick check-out, the button that the platform makes available to process the payment even more immediately. In addition, Paypal has a dedicated business plan for for digital transactions called Paypal for Business. By creating this type of account, a range of additional services and features are available.
  3. Cash on delivery: this payment method is widely used across the globe. A courier must be selected to provide this service. This will definitely result in an online supplement (3 to 7 euros, as a general rule), given the additional payment that the seller owes to the courier.

Assessing costs

This leads me to the question: how much does it cost me to open an e-commerce? How to start selling online while minimizing expenses? Depending on the type of platform chosen (open source, rental or web owner) the cost to be allocated will be different.

Generally speaking, costs can be broken down as follows:

  • technical costs related to the necessary technological infrastructure and include the cost of the platform, domain, certificates and support, etc.
  • production costs including texts, layout, photos, etc.
  • graphic costs for the layout, desktop and mobile version and all images on the site
  • advertising and/or marketing costs, which include all actions to generate traffic on the site

The factors affecting the total cost are:

  1. The type of e-commerce site you want to set up;
  2. The e-commerce platform to be used and the hosting, if any;
  3. The graphic customisation
  4. The level of knowledge of the e-commerce reality and the time to spend on your training;
  5. The number and type of customisations you wish to make;
  6. The integrations you need
  7. The time you are willing to wait for it;
  8. The experience of the web agency or freelancer;
  9.  The skills and people needed to make it happen;
  10. The ancillary costs.

The dropshipping solution

When one wonders what one has to do to sell online or what costs one has to incur, surely the first investment that comes to mind has to do with the raw material, the product. This investment is among the most significant to make and therefore the most expensive. But there is another way that allows us to sell a product to the end user without physically owning it in our warehouse. It’s called dropshipping. The seller, having made the sale, transmits the order to the supplier, who in this case is called the ‘dropshipper’, who ships the product directly to the end user. With this solution, one has the possibility of creating a sales business without the need to invest capital.

Dropshipping requires perfect synchronization between databases and product availability so that there is no risk of selling a product that is no longer available. Very sophisticated IT integration is therefore required. Those who do it well achieve great results because their catalogs are developing, but it requires great IT integration skills and constant up-to-date availability.

Know the e-commerce regulations

To understand how to start selling online, you should be familiar with the laws on online sales and in particular on e-commerce activity. In order not to make mistakes, you can rely on a good accountant or choose to attend an up-to-date course on e-commerce regulations, such as the Digital sales course offered by Digital Coach, which was created with the aim of bringing order to the regulatory issues related to online sales.

Aspects to be considered include, for example:

  • registration obligations
  • tax communications
  • consumer rights such as the right of withdrawal and honest selling, privacy policy and the use of cookies.

Thinking of a marketing strategy

How to start selling online in terms of the marketing strategy to be successfully implemented right from the start? With regard to marketing for e-commerce, the first thing to keep in mind is that there is no path to follow just guidelines; thus it is important to experiment, test strategies over a period of time and measure their effectiveness.

It’s only in that way that we can define what actually works for our business and what doesn’t. The strategies implemented should also be future-oriented, i.e. make sure that the site gets free or very low cost sales. The first step is to develop a business plan that includes all the marketing measures necessary to launch an e-commerce.

The buyers persona

To start a new business online, it is very important to know exactly who your clients are, get a sense of who your audience is, what are their buying behaviours, their demographics and so on. In other words, you need to identify who your Buyer Personas are.

A Buyer Persona is an example, a set of information that once organized allows us to understand how a potential customer makes his purchasing decisions we want to influence with our marketing activities.

A Buyer Persona tells us about a prospective customer’s expectations and concerns, who wants to find a solution to a problem, who wants to fulfill a need or desire.

It gives us an insight into what the customer thinks and does when making a purchasing decision, what process he goes through, who and what influences him, why he chooses us, one of our competitors or why he decides not to buy at all and to stay with the status quo.

Identify Buyer Personas is one way to maximize the ROI of future marketing activities and ensure short, medium and long term economic success and stability.

To know more about Buyer Personas and the tools are available to identify them, read the dedicated article.

The Marketing Funnel

An equally important step is the creation of your own Marketing Sales Funnel. It is a funnel path consisting of multiple steps through which a person has to go to actually become a customer and make a purchase (called a conversion).

The marketing sales funnel consists of 4 macro phases:

  • Awareness: the first step is to get noticed, the potential customer has to become aware of your product/service. Various tools can be used to attract the customer’s attention, such as advertising on Facebook, organic SEO traffic, Google Adwords, social media and so on.
  • Interest: In the second phase we need to interest those who have heard of us and landed on our website. A good strategy here is to create a landing page where they can find the information they need about our product/service.
  • Consideration: those coming to this point seriously consider purchasing our product/service. This is the time to stimulate them e.g. with offers, retargeting, emails to those who have abandoned the cart.
  • Purchase: only a portion of those who have considered your product will actually buy it. After this phase, it is all about building up the loyalty of the newly acquired customer, perhaps by targeted marketing. A loyal customer can become a fan and promoter of our product either in their own social circle through word of mouth or by talking about it online e.g. on social networks.

Download the free guide and find out what is the best idea to start selling online

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Traffic acquisition

Once the e-commerce site is open, planning traffic acquisition strategies is vitally important. A beautiful, well-done site won’t get anywhere unless it has visitors. Ideally, various channels should be used so as to reach a range of audiences.
Let us now look at some of the main sources of traffic:

  • direct traffic sources: direct traffic is when the user directly enters the url address of our website. We can only act on this source of traffic through massive campaigns designed to raise brand awareness.
  • SEO: this means all activities designed to optimize the presence of search engines to generate traffic to users interested in e-commerce. Involving SEO professionals from the earliest stages of e-commerce design allows the conversion rate to be optimized to the point of doubling site traffic and sales. Achieving a good position in Google SERPs from the outset is quite difficult. That’s why it’s important to work on SEO in an early stage.

For example, creating a site sitemap (a list that hierarchically contains all the URLs of the site) helps search engines crawl the site more quickly. Enhancing internal links between site pages also plays a significant role in improving SEO.

The effectiveness of internal linking activities lies in the relevance of linking products and categories, linking products and products, and the correct use of anchor text. Inappropriate use of internal linking can generate visitor frustration and penalisation by search engines. It is certainly important to analyze and identify relevant keywords. The initial work involves a careful analysis of the keywords to be indexed. There are many tools that help to understand which words to focus on, such as the word planning tool of Google Analytics.

  • SEM: paid advertising initiated by search terms. To do SEM there are several programs that can be used in the right mix: text ads, Google shopping, display ads, retargeting and so on. SEM allows you to appear on the first page of Google increasing useful contacts, appear with dedicated banners in Google’s Display network increasing brand awareness, and chase users visiting your site with ad-hoc banners increasing conversions.
  • price comparison engines: although historically in decline, the promotion of its e-Commerce shop on price comparison sites is an interesting solution to increase visitor traffic to the site and boost e-commerce sales. A high number of web users in fact carry out searches with price as the relevant theme. In addition, these sites can be used as showcases, offering detailed descriptions of product features and reviews by users who have already purchased the product. Some examples are Kelkoo, TrovaPrezzi and Ciao!
  • affiliation networks: it is possible to rely on affiliate networks that liaise with many small sites or blogs (called publishers) who can distribute our banner advertisements. If a user clicks on our banner, the affiliate platform tracks this click and collects and distributes revenue.
  • social Networks: there are several ways for an e-commerce operator to efficiently use social networks to acquire traffic. The first important tool is certainly display advertising using images and text. To be effective, however, social networks need emotional ‘’touch points’’ to bring the user closer. We are helped by the segmentation tools that Facebook, for example, provides (based on the interests declared by members), to calibrate the message close to the users.
  • email Marketing: another important traffic flow. We can distinguish three main types of email marketing: email marketing on our commercial database, email marketing on external databases or email marketing via transactional communications (in the case of abandoned shopping carts for example). The cost of this activity is quite low, it gives us the opportunity to do A/B testing of graphics, format, promotions and we can target our message.

Acquiring the necessary digital skills

As we have said from the outset, digital skills are required to understand how to sell online, design and coordinate web marketing, social media marketing and e-commerce activities. It is not strictly necessary to have a degree in e-commerce to do so.

Technical skills are essential to define an integrated strategy that includes the use of different tools such as:

Web analysis skills are also relevant in order to monitor the results obtained through individual marketing actions and to identify the most appropriate ones for our business. Discover the web analytics specialist course.

If you want to open your own e-commerce business and are looking for a digital marketing course that can give you all the digital skills you need, Digital Coach offers training courses that you can follow on-demand (or if you prefer to attend on demand whenever you like), and have the opportunity to complete your training with 6 work experiences to choose from 15 teams in our Work Experience (including seo team, analytics, content marketing, visual content & UX, inbound marketing, digital pr, social media marketing).

This formula where you learn by doing and putting into practice what you have learnt is not available in other programs offered by other training organizations, such as a free e-commerce course.  The Course is available for day and evening editions. Are you curious and want to know more about the Digital Coach Courses? Please do not hesitate to ask for further information.