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Starting an Online Store: How to Sell Things Online

Justyna Polaczyk
8 min read
Oct 11, 2016
Ecommerce website ipad how to sell things online

Winter is coming.

Temperatures go down; fall is changing the colors of the trees from green to yellow and red. We pull out warm sweaters and scarfs out of the closet; the first snow has already fallen.

As we spend more time in our homes, we start to think about the upcoming holidays. We start to look for Christmas presents, hoping to find some nice deals. It shouldn’t be hard as there are plenty of fish in the sea; lots of online stores we can choose from!

A there’s you: an e-commerce rookie, starting an online store just at the beginning of the holiday season.

You’re probably asking yourself: is it a good time to open a business? How shall I stand out from my competitors and will I be able to participate in the market share?

Don’t worry! Even if you don’t have any experience with selling online, from this post, you’ll learn how to sell things online.

#1 Know your customers

Everything starts from here. If you don’t know your customers, it’s like you’re trying to sell your products to your imaginary friend. The purchase might be successful, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get real money from it.

I already wrote about how to do market research, but let me remind it once again:

Spy on your competitors to know what they are up to

Do they have any discounts or promotions? What are the available payment methods? Do they have social media channels? If so, which ones? Do they have a company blog? Do they talk to their customers via social media channels? Do they send newsletters to their clients?

Talk to your potential customers

There are so many ways you can speak to your potential clients! You can chat with them on social media channels, approach them via email, ask them to take surveys, giving them your product and asking them to send you their feedback. You can also live chat with them (you can give it a try with our free trial) and gather feedback through the chat app.

But that’s not all. You also need to know what your customer’s favorite payment methods are, whether they’d like to pay more to get the present wrapped up nicely, do they want you to ship the products to different countries. Don’t focus on your product only!

#2 Write a killer copy

Easier said than done, I know. However, it’s not that difficult to make a copy. All you have to remember about is to speak about benefits, not about a product. You need to create your unique value proposition.

What does it mean?

Let’s imagine, you want to start to sell books. At first, you’ll probably be tempted to advertise your website with something like “only best books” or “we have all bestsellers.” But in fact, your not only sell books; it’s about the value your books are going to give to your customers.

For example, you don't sell a book only; you're also selling everything your customer will be able to learn from it. Maybe that book will also make your customer join the book club, where they will meet like-minded people. They will be a part of a community and will be able to share their ideas and thoughts! This is what you sell.

When I spoke about value proposition with Jonny Everett in my Business Sidekick podcast, he said:

I think when you’re going to launch a new business, it’s crucial that you try and understand not just the product you’re selling, kind of the key features, but also what it’s going to bring to customers' life. So, if you’re going to sell a bed, they might be able to sleep better, which means that they’re going to be able to be more productive and so forth.

Another thing you need to remember about is writing good product descriptions.

Let’s take another example. Imagine that you’re going to start selling mattresses for beds and bed frames. You’re going to need to have detailed information on what mattress fits what frame, how big the frame is, how hard the mattress is, whether it’s double or single and what the measurements for each of those are.

People aren’t going to be able to buy if they can’t be sure that it’s going to fit, so you have to make sure you provide all the details.

Online Store Website How to Sell Things Online

#3 High-quality visuals

People buy with their eyes. Even if you have two products and they’re the same, people will rather buy the one in a lovely package. The same rule applies to product pictures. People would rather buy a pair of trousers that have a good picture or looks nice on a model.

Making professional photos might seem to be too expensive, but they can be a huge asset. If you invest in high-quality product photography, it will help you to stand out from the crowd. It will also help you to draw the attention of your future customers on social media. This pictures also have an additional value, they easily can be used for marketing . You can share these pictures on Instagram, Pinterest or other social media channels to attract new customers!

#4 A good e-commerce platform

When you’re building your website, you have two choices: to hire a developer who will create a website for you or to use one of the pre-built e-commerce platforms. Probably the last option sounds more appealing to you, so let’s take a closer look at the below options:

There are plenty of options you can choose from. You can check Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, or any of the others platforms. Depending on your needs, you’ll have to take a closer look to below options:

A good thing about e-commerce platform is that your website is ready to start to sell from the day one!

#5 Be in touch with your customers from the start

Now, when you have your website published, let’s focus on the core of your business: on your customers.

The most important part of your promotional machine will be probably email marketing. That’s why every time your customer buys something from you, you need to ask them for their email address and ask them if it’s fine with them if you send them promotional newsletters.

But the point is that you have to give the something in exchange. Your customers trust you; they agree that you send them your newsletter, reward them! Another thing is that more customers will be willing to be with you in touch if they know that you will inform them about sales, discounts and you’ll send them promotional codes.

Build your customer list right from the start and remember to add value to your newsletters. Don’t send it too often, but send it regularly. Every time you’re sending it, think about your customers and what are they going to learn or get from it.

You can give them pieces of advice on how to use your products, or you can send them vouchers. It’s up to you, but you have to remember about giving them value with your emails.

It will help you to build relationships with customers and winning their trust will benefit your company. Loyal customers are equal to repeated sales and the awesome word of mouth marketing.

Man reading ipad coffee

How to sell things online

Online selling is not only about gaining customers and making them pay for your products - it’s about creating a long lasting relationship.

At the start, you have to give your customers much more than just a product. You need to give them benefits. Remember about creating unique value proposition! You’ll also need to remember that you need to give some functional information about your product.

The next thing you need to focus on is a good quality of product pictures. People won’t be able to get to a physical store to check if they like what they see, so it’s very important to make good pictures that show different angles of your product.

And don’t you think about using stock photos!

Once you have your website prepared, you need to have an e-commerce platform so customers can purchase your products and be able to pay for them. Shopify, Magento or Bigcommerce can come in handy here.

Remember to gather information about your customers from day one. In the beginning, you can ask them to provide you shipping address and their email. Later you can ask them for more information that will be relevant for you.

Last but not least, remember to think about your customers first. Don’t send them emails with information what kind of new stuff you have, think about what value you can give them, so they look forward to your newsletters. You can give them discounts and vouchers; maybe you can give them tips and tricks that will be useful for them.

Just make sure that your customers see that you want to give them value as it will help you to build a bond of trust between them and your brand.