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How to Sell Online - The Complete Guide

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

So, you have a business and want to sell online? ... before starting you should first have a clear idea of the current digital e-commerce landscape

Blogs, TV, news articles …. everyone wants to convince you that business is increasingly digital. Although this information is partially true, take a moment to think about what you do during the day and answer this ... how many essential activities take place without using a device connected to the internet? Do you go shopping with a grocery list written on paper or with a list on your phone? If you don't know how to get somewhere, do you use a map book or google maps? If you want to choose a restaurant to eat at… what do you do? I think you understood where I'm going with this ...

Even purchases, now, are no longer purely digital or purely physical. The path that will lead your customer to buy in your physical store or on your e-commerce site can start in the store and finish online (show rooming) or vice versa start online and then end in the store (review, analysis and decision-making phase) ... in many cases the customer bounces from digital to physical several times before choosing!

The consequence of this phenomenon is that the first thing to do is to stop thinking of online and offline activities as two distinct and separate things… from today I want you to start thinking about integrated business and cross-marketing.

These are the 4 principle points around this idea:

  • Physical and online sales as a single experience, online sales thanks to simple and intuitive sites and apps and physical in-store sales with automatic checkouts. If you are planning to open an e-commerce start think of collection points that you can collaborate with. Consider the possibility of providing new forms of payment thanks to platforms such as PayPal, Snap Scan, Apple or Samsung Pay or Insert-WhateverMethodComesToMind-Pay.

  • The decision-making phase is more and more evolved ... before we used to talk just with a salesperson, from the beginning of the new millennium we started looking for information from our computers, from 2008 the smartphone explosion meant that people put away their PCs and start looking for product information straight from their phones, sometimes even while standing inside the shop ... in 2017 bots started to take over and now you can ask them almost anything and in some cases even make a purchase ... imagine that! Even, the Starbucks bot allows you to book coffee and notifies you when it's ready!

  • Advertising changes ... marketing has become so personalised and based on customer behaviour that we talk about One2One Marketing, interruption marketing (TV and radio commercials, popups and banners on web sites) and we talk more and more about native advertising and storytelling, in other words, we are talking about advertising that is so integrated in the context in which it is distributed that it is not even perceived as advertising.

  • Word of mouth (WOM) becomes digital thanks to social media and review systems (This is a painful reality that you will have to face, at some point, regardless of what business you're in). WOM maximises the value of a single user who no longer communicates his experience to his friends but to an entire community. You will need to learn how to take blows on the chin and convert them into opportunities!

After this long and vital summary on the current state of the market, let's move on to the practical side ... let's find out HOW to sell online!

How to sell online

How to sell online if you don't have a warehouse or Drop shipping

The first thing to do, obviously, after choosing the products to sell, is to decide if you want to have your own warehouse, or if you want to sell "drop shipping" style, in other words by ordering the product only when the order arrives from the client. An advantage of drop shipping is the low cost. The pros are that you avoid rentals, utilities, unsold stock, etc. ... the disadvantage is that it extends delivery times and does not give you purchasing power in the eyes of your suppliers.

Our advice, unless you already have a physical store with the possibility of stocking the products and you are moving to online sales, is to start

with drop shipping for a while and, once you understand your 20/80 (i.e. the 20% of the products that make you 80% of your turnover), choose to stock only these products in order to sell them at a more competitive price and distribute them with a faster delivery!

Delivery times are essential ... especially if you consider that the big brands like Amazon and Takealot can deliver in 24 hours and are very attentive to their customers, so we recommend that you rely on fast and reliable couriers ... this will also help reduce the percentage of returns!

How to sell online on your own or in a marketplace

Ok ... we've reached a good point so far ... you have your product, you have a warehouse or a list of suppliers for drop shipping and you have a reliable courier ... now all thats left is to sell online ... but how?

This opens up a whole world of options, but the main choices are two to sell on an e-commerce of your own or to sell in a marketplaces (amazon, ebay, etsy, etc.)

Let's compare them a bit ... selling on your site will surely give you higher profit margins and you will be able to manage reviews by removing all those you think don't deserve your attention (but which I suggest you don't do this because it's better to answer bad reviews than to delete them) on the flip side marketplaces will ask you for a commission or a fee to sell your products, Amazon for example asks for both, the advantage is that the marketplaces will give you more visibility that you wouldn't have alone.

Our advice is to sell using both solutions and entice the people who buy on the marketplaces to buy on your own site or in the store using coupons and special offers, for example you could insert a cover letter in the your package offering a bonus coupon for the purchase of your products in store or on your website. Or you can place a product on the marketplace (preferably one that you have exclusivity on) in a single colour option and propose all the other colours / options on your own site!

Don't assume you can do it all yourself… many businesses (especially online) don't start earning until only after their second year!

How to sell online using APPs

Another rapidly increasing trend is In-App sales, more and more e-commerce stores are transforming their businesses into apps just to align with the One2One marketing trend I told you about at the beginning. Leaders in this field are Wish, and Amazon itself. All you need is a simple, easy-to-use app and that's it! We believe in this trend so much that our very own Flox App has its own mobile ordering section where business owners can upload their products and sell them.

The advantage lies in the fact that with your own app you won't have to pay commissions to anyone ... the disadvantage is the cost, having your own app created is not cheap ... That is why with Flox, we have created a fair compromise, a customisable app, for an investment that is definitely within everyone's reach, which allows you to sell online without paying any commissions.

How to sell online without selling

Last but not least, I wanted to include some marketing advice that less about the the tools and more about the strategy.

Today customers are bombarded by advertising everywhere, we are in a war for peoples attention, your competitor is no longer the business who sells a similar product to you but rather the business who manages to attract the attention of your potential client.

Having said that, the advice I want you take with you is to avoid selling, avoid selling, avoid selling! In all your forms of communication always try to give content that is informative, find solutions, entertain your potential customers so that they trust you. Your goal should be to become their point of reference so that when they are ready to buy they will remember you and trusting you, they won't hesitate to choose you ...

The advice we give you is to associate a blog or create a virtual showcase accessible from any device that allows you to provide informative content to your potential customers and that does not always only offer products for sale!

Quality content could go viral on social media giving you incredible visibility, something that a post with a simple product will never be able to do.

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