Five Steps to Start Selling Your Products Online 

As the coronavirus continues to take its toll, many businesses have been closed for weeks and have seen the need to adapt to online sales. The transition from a traditional brick-and-mortar business model to a web-based platform can seem daunting, but we’ve helped our clients facilitate a smooth transition.   

With consumers and customers encouraged to avoid crowds and #StayHome, many restaurants, stores and other businesses are having to explore e-commerce solutions and utilize digital marketing efforts to lessen the financial impact COVID-19 will have on their bottom line.

If you haven’t made the change yet, here are five steps to start selling your products and services online! 

1) Determine which products you would like to sell online.

This may sound like a simple step, but there are many factors that must be considered for online sales. Here is a short list:

  • Determine which of your products lend themselves to online shipping. For example, if you own a sandwich shop you probably should reconsider shipping sandwiches across the country. Although perishable goods have long been shipped to customers, it does present a whole new set of complications that new online store owners should avoid, if possible.
  • Consider the coordination of logistics. This could include such things as shipping dimensions, weight or other restrictions. Sending chemicals, flammable items, or explosives through traditional carriers may prove impossible and require much more strict requirements. MSDS or (Material Safety Data Sheets) would also be required.
  • The demand for products should also be taken into consideration. If you have couture items, branded items or items that are in high demand, start selling them. On the other hand, you might think twice if you’re trying to sell common everyday items that customers can pick up locally.

2) Choose an e-commerce platform that is right for you.

For many, this step causes the most stress. There are hundreds of platforms that offer online sales capabilities, but we’ll cover some of the biggest (and in our humble opinion the best) platforms. 

  • WordPress and WooCommerce have been around for a long time and both have very active online communities. While WordPress is an open source platform that is totally free, there’s a big difference between wordpress.com (best suited for blogging) and wordpress.org (which is completely customizable and e-commerce compatible). One of the biggest draws to WordPress is their freemium strategy. Nearly any functionality you can imagine has a free version available. Like WordPress, WooCommerce is also open source and completely free to download, use and modify despite its premium feel. 
  • Shopify is another popular option. Unlike WordPress and WooCommerce, Shopify is a subscription-based software service that allows you to use their shopping cart system. Normally, Shopify does have a free trial period to determine if this option is right for you and offers three plans ranging from $29 to $299 per month once that trial ends. While it’s not an open source platform or free, it does have a large developer community who create different themes and apps that allow you to customize your new site. Note: most apps have a free trial period, but will require payment for continued use. 

3) Select a payment processor.

This is important as you’ll want to determine how you’ll accept payment online before shipping any products. Once again, there are many payment processing options available, but we’ll discuss a few of the most common ones we use. 

  • PayPal is an excellent payment processing service that is quick and easy to set up. As with any payment processor, it does come with associated fees. PayPal currently charges a base rate of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.  
  • Stripe is another common payment processing service that is often used not only for e-commerce sites, but also for software application paywalls. Stripe also charges a base rate of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.
  • Authorize.net is also a payment gateway that allows merchants to process credit cards online and charges users 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. International transactions have an additional 1.5% added on top of each transaction. On top of this, Authorize.net will charge you a $49 setup fee as well as a $25 monthly gateway fee.

4) Decide what shipping service or services you will use.

Now that you have products ready to be sold and a payment processor selected, your next step is to decide which shipping service(s) will work best for your business. Let’s discuss a few common carriers (and important factors to consider) to help you decide.

  • The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers much better rates when shipping smaller packages (less than 2 lbs). Items that weigh 13 oz. or less that qualify for First Class Postage are even cheaper to ship.
  • UPS is generally more expensive than USPS on smaller packages (under 2 lbs.) and is usually more than FedEx (marginally).
  • FEDEX may be a great choice if you’re shipping items that weigh more than 3 lbs. FedEx is usually cheaper than either USPS or UPS when it comes to larger packages. Keep in mind that FedEx attaches a $3.80 surcharge to all FedEx Home Delivery shipments.

5) Determine how you’re going to market and advertise your online products.

While this is the last step, it may be the most crucial for your success. There’s many options to help your business shift to a digital platform, but a perfect execution plan will require you to focus the lion’s share of your attention on marketing and advertising. There are already billions of online businesses you’re competing with for your customer’s attention, so it’s easy to get lost in the mix. 

The good news is that many online business owners don’t understand the importance of this step or lack the knowledge of the best way to get in front of their target audience. Here are a few steps to help you be successful: 

  • Google AdWords is probably the fastest way to send potential customers to your site. However depending on your industry, it can cost a small fortune and if set up incorrectly, it can be easy to waste money.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is by far the best traffic you can get to your site. If your potential customer is searching for your specific product and you attract them organically, odds are your site and products are exactly what they’re looking for. You can set your business apart with unique content and offers and by determining your unique selling point (USP). Then make sure your USP is clearly conveyed to your customer from the moment they arrive on your site.
  • Lastly, let’s not forget the power of social media. It’s a misconception that social media is the best place to sell your products. The potential customers you reach on social media are higher up on the conversion funnel and as a result are less likely to make an impulse purchase. That being said, social media is excellent for brand recognition and a great option for marketing (although it has a slower conversion capture, there are still conversions that come directly from social media). 

While this may be a lot of information to take in, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. If you’d like our help getting started with online sales or want to know how to boost your online presence, fill out the form below and we’ll set up a free 30-minute virtual consultation.