Preparing to sell your products online
Tips for selling your products in an online marketplace.
E-Commerce retail sales increased an estimated 15.1% from 2015 to 2016 compared with just a 2.9% increase across all retail sales, according to a recent U.S. Census report. In order to capitalize on this growing market, you'll need a solid plan for selling your products online.
When you're starting out, an online marketplace, such as Amazon, eBay, craigslist, or Etsy, can be a low-risk opportunity to sell your products around the country or even the world. These online shopping hubs offer plenty of benefits, including the ability to work from home, ease of accessibility, and the potential to reach an unlimited, already-engaged audience.
"Taking a business from a local level to a worldly level is the biggest opportunity," says Danna Crawford, eBay PowerSeller and founder of PowerSellingMom.com.
"So what are the steps to building sales online?" Here are some options to explore.
Choose one online marketplace to start
While you have the option to operate your business in multiple marketplaces at the same time, it may be beneficial to choose one to target as your business gets off the ground. Begin deciding which one suits your needs by researching the different online marketplaces. There are hundreds of sites to choose from, but you can start narrowing down the list by evaluating which sites are typically better for your business's products. For instance, Etsy is popular for handmade items, while Amazon is known for selling almost anything.
Search for items that are similar to yours on the sites you're considering: How do other sellers' prices compare to your costs? How long do products generally take to sell? Is the marketplace already saturated with your product? How can you be competitive? What is your unique value proposition? Crawford suggests enticing customers with extras like free shipping, so consider how you could work that into your pricing strategy.
Consider operational costs
Next, consider the fees associated with selling and shipping your items. For example, on Amazon, you can sell items for $0.99 per listing plus a varying percentage of the sale price of the item. The per-item fee is waived, however, if you pay $39.99 a month for their Professional selling plan.
However, shipping can also cost you. Depending on how delicately you need to package your items and where you're sending them, shipping costs can creep up.
"Shipping costs can be more than the value of the item sold," says Frances Greenspan, an eBay consultant. "If you're not careful, you may be paying the customer to take your item."
If you're new to selling online, Greenspan recommends that you know your shipping costs, the carrier you're going to use, and the size of the package. Incorporating accurate shipping and handling costs into your pricing structure or charging a separate fee for shipping should enable you to send your product to any location.
Brand your shop
Even when you're operating from an online marketplace, branding and marketing are key to your selling strategy, Crawford says. Create a unique name for your business that represents you and your products. When you ship products, make sure that you include branded material such as business cards, fliers, or product tags so your customers remember you.
While you're deciding which platform to use, Crawford recommends developing a branded presence on social media. Having an online community behind your business will help when you want to create buzz about a product launch, she explains. You may also want to consider reserving a web domain with your brand name, in case you decide to migrate your marketplace business to an e-commerce website.
Expand your selling space
Once you've achieved your selling goals and set a regular cadence of business, you may want to consider seeking out additional marketplaces. Many sellers offer their products in more than one place for additional exposure, though other sellers find managing multiple platforms to be too time-consuming. The right approach will vary from business to business, so find the balance that works for you.
"A business can test the market at any time to make the decision if and when it's time to sell on online," Crawford says. "But it's a lot like real estate — when the market's hot, sell, sell, sell."
If your business continues on a successful trajectory, you may also consider growing your online business. Find out if you're ready to expand to an e-commerce website now.