Selling your products or services online can be a good idea for several reason:
- Allowing customers to purchase from you without having to visit a physical location can make your business accessible to a much wider audience
- Purchasing online may be more convenient for your customers
- Selling online could lower costs for you if you no longer have to pay for a physical location
- Customers may want to look at your goods online before purchasing in person
If you don't yet have a website, learn how to set one up before you can start selling online. Many people make online purchases on the go, so you’ll need to make sure that your site is optimized for mobile phones. Plus, having a web presence is important even if you cannot sell your products online to ensure that customers can get crucial information about your business, like your location and hours.
Setting up an online store may sound intimidating, but the task can be accomplished fairly simply in just a few steps.
Building an online store
You can use an e-commerce platform to establish your online store. These tools, which you can easily find on the internet, enable you to set up the back-end and front-end of your store. You will want to choose an e-commerce platform that you can integrate into your current website. When choosing an e-commerce platform, you should also consider the features available, such as the ability to offer refunds and returns, the capability to notify customers when a product is sold out, and the functionality to update the website quickly. Security is also another feature to take into consideration: has this e-commerce platform been hacked recently, and what does the platform do to ensure the security of customers’ personal information?
After choosing your e-commerce platform, you will need to pick a look, or “theme” for the front-end of your store. Try to ensure that it matches the look and feel of your existing website and brand. Then, input photos and descriptions of your products. If you have a physical product, make sure that the photos are high-definition, taken from several different angles and show the product on a plain background unobstructed by other objects. If your product is not physical, choose photos that will show the customers what the experience is like.
It is also important to write compelling descriptions of your products and services. Keep the descriptions concise, but be sure to outline all of the product’s features and benefits. If the product is physical, it’s a good idea to include its dimensions and weight. Be sure to include other relevant information as well, like shipping times or how to use the product.
You can help your customers navigate your online store by putting your products in categories. For example, grouping clothing items into men’s, women’s and children’s categories and then into subcategories such as blouses, pants and shoes can help people find what they are looking for more quickly.
Your online store should also have a return policy. This can be an important consideration for customers, so be sure to spend time thinking about your policy. Learn more about return policies and other aspects of digital customer experience.
Often, the e-commerce platform that you used to build your online store will provide a way to receive payments online. If not, you’ll need to create a way for customers to provide their payment information (like a credit or debit card number) as well as a way for your company to securely store that information. To improve security, you can get an SSL certificate for your site to encrypt cardholder data. Learn more about digital payments.
Selling through an online marketplace
If setting up an online store sounds like too much for you right now, consider selling your products through an online marketplace. Many marketplaces are designed so that individuals and small businesses can easily set up their web stores and begin selling quickly. There are different types of marketplaces that may fit your business model:
- eCommerce: Sell products through a third-party website that sells a variety of brands
- Social Commerce: Sell products through social media channels via posts, comments, chatbots, forums or any other means
- Super App: Sell products through aggregator app so customers have a one-stop-shop experience and can perform multiple functions without leaving the app
Even if you have an established webstore, selling through a marketplace can increase your sales and help more people learn about your business. Selling through multiple marketplaces can also be good for your business. Often, these marketplaces will provide guidance on shipping and handle payments.
Shipping and fulfillment
Regardless of whether you sell through your own store or a marketplace, fulfilling orders in a timely fashion will be very important for your business. Be clear to customers when they can expect their orders to arrive, and be sure to charge a reasonable price for shipping. Or, offer free shipping to customers that spend above a certain threshold to encourage larger orders. There are several major shipping companies that you can utilize to fulfill orders. Determine which company will be the most convenient, fast, affordable and dependable for your shipping needs.
Consider whether you will ship internationally, and if you will, determine how you will send orders to other countries.
Managing your business digitally
In addition to selling online and interacting with customers and employees digitally, you can use digital tools to help you manage your business more efficiently. Which tools you use will depend largely on what type of business you have. For example, if you sell consumer goods, forecasting demand and product manufacturing go hand in hand. Deploying digital tools that automate interactions between these critical business operations reduces the chance of ordering too much, or too little from your manufacturer.
Digital Supply Chain
A digital supply chain takes over where a traditional supply chain leaves off: helping you predict needs and take action. A digital supply chain may be a good option for you to connect all the different online programs you use to manage your business. For example, making sure your inventory management system and accounting system reflect the same sales information from your website or online store will help you avoid accounting or inventory errors.
Is setting up a digital supply chain right for your business?
According to research, digital supply chains can reduce costs 10-20% and increase revenue 4-6% if integrated across an organization. Does this mean forgetting your traditional supply chain? No. Your traditional supply chain should complement the digital supply chain. Avoiding human and technology error means incorporating both digital and traditional supply chains.
Be aware of international regulations
Globally, countries have adopted different supply chain regulations to set sustainability, human rights and other standards for business.
Refer to the Bureau of International Labor Affairs to become familiar with a specific country’s policies and ensure you are in compliance with international supply chain laws.