Heard the siren calls of digital income? No wonder! Selling products or services online is a fantastic way to make money. Versatile, scalable and profitable; an online career is perfect for people with plenty of entrepreneurial drive and spirit. Here are seven crucial things you need to know about selling products online.
Don’t Sell Something You Don’t Care About
Online sales is a pretty 24/7 job, and you will find yourself doing long hours. Initial brand set up and process management means that you will be spending a lot of time getting up close and personal with your products, market, and niche.
Though it is possible to make a career out of selling anything online, people who are passionate and committed about what they sell have a much better chance of success.
Inherent product knowledge will help you succeed and grow faster.
How to find what you should sell?
- Start with brainstorming – look at your interests, strengths and capabilities. What sort of content would you like to create? What type of customer would you find easiest to understand?
- Evaluate your ideas and make sales predictions based on keyword research. Use a tool like Ubersuggest for ideas, and go to Adwords Keyword Planner to validate your ideas commercially. Don’t enter into a market that is either saturated or completely underdeveloped.
Make the Brand About Others
Good branding is a good place to start – it will help you make crucial decisions about sales, design, and marketing.
The whole point about brand storytelling is that good branding allows you to connect with other people – their emotions, fears, and desires. Don’t get caught up in the self-serving ‘me, me, me’ mentality – you’ll create a brand that serves no purpose.
- Invest in some market and brand research before you launch to see whether your ideas are coming across effectively. It doesn’t need to be anything too fancy; but don’t trust friends and family to give you an honest opinion.
- When creating branded content for your ecommerce venture, follow the user-centric inbound methodology. Make it about your customers – not you. Customers will thank you with better engagement levels and more sales.
- Customer service is a huge yardstick for success – make sure that your brand is created with a customer-facing culture from the beginning. Invest money and time into designing a customer service process, and send out great branded emails in order to nurture customer relationships. Social media, live chat, telephones, messaging – give customers plenty of access to you to reassure them. Create connections, not just sales.
Invest in Technology
The tech and software world has made online selling into an increasingly sophisticated numbers game. Don’t get left behind – invest in software and systems to ensure that you remain competitive.
- Use technology to help you collect customer data, manage your inventory, and do better marketing. There are so many ecommerce processes that can be automated and managed with the help of technology. Don’t waste your time (and money) trying to do everything yourself. Technology is there to help and to give you better data so that you can sell better.
- VR will change the face of ecommerce over the next few years. Don’t run off and throw all your money at it – but keep an eye out for how big players are embracing VR technology. These advancements will slowly trickle down to all ecommerce merchants.
Be an Architect
Being a good architect is about designing a framework that is going to stand the test of time. Approach online sales in the same way.
- Understand the importance of designing an online environment that is primed for growth – use a readymade online solution to help you get there fast, or invest in custom ecommerce design to help you build a more complex framework if needed.
- Architects aren’t only concerned with the mechanics – they are aesthetically minded too. Make sure that you don’t invest in backend solutions to the detriment of your front end – if a data management tool throws up horrible pages and errors on the customer side – dump it.
- Recognize the impact of logistics, suppliers, inventory management, data, and invoicing on your online sales. If you don’t set things up the right way from day one, you will be doing painful archeology six months down the line (instead of growing).
- Overwhelmed? Speak to ecommerce experts, listen to podcasts, and trial your processes in small batches. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
Work With the World
Globalisation is a big term, but don’t let an increasingly connected world scare you – use it to your advantage.
- You can hire virtual assistants and manage remote workers for the fraction of the price of setting up a traditional office with staff. It takes a little getting used to, but with the right project management and processes, remote teams can be hugely productive and cost-effective.
- On the other hand, know what tasks you should NOT be outsourcing. Putting too much in the hands of others early on in your brand lifecycle may damage it. Be confident that you know what you’re doing before you let others loose on your brand.
- You can order supplies from anywhere in the world – but don’t just automatically think that you need to buy your products from China to save money. Explore different supplier options, and don’t rule out ones closer to home either.
Get the Right Sort of SEO
Buying links, keyword stuffing, sneaky redirects – stop right there. If you want your online selling career to take off and make you more money (not crash and burn), invest in quality SEO. Make sure you work with a freelancer or agency who you can TRUST.
- Contrary to popular belief, SEO is not just all about content. Technical SEO is still alive and well and as an online merchant, you will want to make sure that your product and category pages are ripe for dynamic indexing. Make sure you have a clear picture of search engine behavior on your site and address any underlying technical issues fast. Prioritize site speed and usability.
- On-page SEO for online stores is a mixture of content and technical elements – cover both elements for a better user (and search engine) experience.
- Content is a fantastic way to get links back to your store. One clever way to use content is to have a good blog on your domain, and use it as PR tool to attract keen bloggers and social media influencers.
Be Prepared for Hard Graft
Online sales don’t just fall out of the sky. Don’t think that selling online is going to be an easy career choice – you will need bags of determination, grit, and motivation to make sure that you keep your store moving in the right direction.
- Build a good team around yourself, or if you’re going at it alone – work with associates and business partners in order to lighten the load.
- You might have to take things in a different direction as the market evolves around you. Selling online is all about being reactive – the most successful merchants know when they need to diversify and open up profiles on new marketplaces, or when they need to focus on their core offering. Don’t get stuck in a rut and miss out on great opportunities.
- You need to stop working all the time and learn how to work better in order to avoid burn out. Learn how to boost your productivity, and get more done in less time.
Online sales come and go, but a brand stays for life. Focus your sales efforts around great branding, stellar customer service, and build yourself a long-lasting ecommerce empire. What do you think is the hardest thing about ecommerce?
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur & writer.
EcommerceTips is my personal blog where I write about the challenges (and joys) of ecommerce.
Connect with me on Twitter.