When it comes to managing a business, the only constant thing is change. To stand out and be competent in the market, it is very important that you know your customer’s needs and be innovative. Every firm has its system of executing things that worked for years. Still, these strategies may not continue to work for you in the future because, in this ever-changing environment, consumer demands are constantly changing as well. The strongest way to know it’s time to make a change is before it’s too late. If you wait for your customers to tell you to move online, you’ve probably lost them.
In this era of digitalization, consumer shopping habits are evolving, making it necessary for companies to go online to access more consumers and improve their brand exposure in the market. Therefore, I want to share with you the most important ways to sell your products online.
Why should offline businesses sell products online?
It is the digital era, customers expect faster innovations, 24/7 customer support, and instant access to products and services. Yet, according to studies, about 35% of teenage shoppers and 35% of adult online consumers choose to shop at least once a week. With all of the above facts, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are switching to online selling. Compared to traditional (offline) selling styles, it simply allows businesses to sell to global customers by increasing brand recognition in a fraction of a second and investments. In addition, setting up an e-commerce website/store, showcasing the products and the services you offer, and marketing online takes lesser time and monetary investments when compared to running an offline method of selling.
Ecommerce, retail apps, marketing automation systems, deep-learning algorithms, chat-bots, and other innovative emerging technology can help you shape your business operational skills and deliver the best customer experiences. The advantages of selling products and services online extend beyond time and monetary savings. This online selling method will greatly assist you in competing with large-scale companies and positioning your products to the world’s audience. You can also use consumer data to enhance your services and initiatives. Google Ad Words, Facebook Ads, and other common marketing platforms can help you gain deep insights into your consumers’ behavior, likes, shopping preferences, purchasing power.
Your customers and even potential customers expect to see you online even if your company does not conduct business online. If you are not there, you could be missing out on an opportunity to grow your customer base and expanding your business. Therefore, your company must have an online presence in this modern age. Whether it’s through a website, an e-commerce portal, a social media page, or a combination of all three, having your business online would yield huge benefits. Here are reasons why your business needs to establish its online presence.
Benefits of selling products online
- Create Brand Awareness
The majority of the present-day customers search online for products or services they require, well before deciding what to purchase and where to order them. Having a solid online presence helps potential online customers find your store and go through the products you have listed upon searching. An online customer who finds your store while searching has higher chances of becoming your customer. Online customers who do not find your e-commerce store while searching will most likely buy the products or services from your competitors.
- Sell Online Day and Night
One of the most important advantages of selling online is the ability to continue selling products regardless of the time or hour. Once you open your online store, there’s no closing up on customers. And your expenditures in paying employees’ salaries will not increase. You won’t need any or much staff in managing the online transactions that occur around the clock. Your online store will always be open to customers 24/7 without the need for a graveyard shift or additional staff. This ensures that your potential customers will be able to purchase from you any time of the day. Furthermore, by implementing various services, you can gain more of these present-day customers who tend to shop from the comfort of their beds at odd hours after finishing their daily jobs.
- Make it Easier to Showcase Your Products and Services.
The internet offers businesses an effective platform for showcasing their products and services. It’s never been easier to let the public see what you have to share, whether it’s a webpage with a portfolio of your client’s testimonials or a Facebook page of pictures of your newest products. Your clients will see what you’re all about with a few simple clicks. This is what they can do even outside working hours! Your online presence is an expansion of your company that never sleeps.
- It is Easier for Potential Customers to Come to You
If anyone wishes to learn more about a brand, they are more than likely to do their research online. Getting an online presence would give you a competitive edge and great advantage, whether they’re actually searching for your business or simply looking for some company that provides the goods or services that your company does. Potential clients won’t go to great lengths to reach you because they shouldn’t have to. They should be able to find all of the details they need with a simple Google search.
For example, if your business sells seafood, meats, fine wines, and other alcoholic beverages. A prospective buyer is hosting an impromptu family gathering and needs a couple of Cabernet Sauvignon and shrimp bottles. He searches for “wine and seafood in Canada” on his mobile, your company appears in the search results, and he is confident that you can supply him with what he needs after going through your company’s details. That way, you’ve just gained a new client.
- Reduce Operational Costs
A single task can make a huge difference in saving you much money. Receiving orders online, for example, decreases the need for a customer support staff. In addition, with detailed sales and product information of your business online, you’ll simply receive order purchases and payments via email or into your database. As a result, staff numbers and office space and related expenses will be reduced.
A great promotional video, sales letter, or online webinar session can fill the role of a full-time salesperson. You can also take all aspects of your business online, including purchasing, billing, order delivery, by using various online service providers. Other functions can include preemptive customer support, such as answering client questions from a FAQ page or a customer forum.
Where/ Ways to sell products online
The art of selling online is unique because of the large scale of consumers you can reach. In some ways, this helps to level the playing field, but remember, Thousands of competitors out there are also vying for the millions of potential customer’s attention you are reaching out to get. If e-commerce is a field you’ve never explored, trying to get the hang of it can feel a little overwhelming. However, there are lots of benefits. Perhaps you’ve started out with a local offline shop but want to take it online. There are various ways to start selling products online. For example, you can use a marketplace, an e-commerce platform, or add a shopping cart to an existing website.
Talking about e-commerce, I’d like to talk about Hosted and Self hosted e-commerce platforms. But, first, you must choose between a hosted or self-hosted e-commerce platform if you want to create a complete website where people can come to see your products and your products only. To assist you in making this critical decision and understanding the differences between the two, we’ve compiled an explanatory list of the advantages, disadvantages, and a quick brief on the most popular platforms of both hosting choices.
- Hosted platforms
Hosted platforms are often referred to as a Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model. An all-in-one buy solution provides the hosting (the servers that house all your website files) and the software to build your website, and extensive technical support. You don’t have to think about setting up your server for hosting an eCommerce site. Businesses all run on their cloud, where all of their files and records are stored. Your information is stored with a host platform for you, which relieves you of the burden of doing so. In addition, the cost of operating through a hosted eCommerce platform is generally fixed depending on the size of your company and store as a whole.
The advantages that hosted eCommerce platforms can provide for businesses includes Paying monthly for only what you need. Any business owner aims to keep costs as low as possible, and hosted eCommerce helps you to do just that. In addition, hosted eCommerce platforms are well-known for being easy to manage. Start-up is fast and stress-free; their proven web templates are user-friendly, even for the most inexperienced tech novice. The host has already set up frameworks, so all you have to do now is change and personalize your store to your taste.
The disadvantages of hosted eCommerce platforms are the inherent restrictions on customization. However, you can only use their tools and templates, and you have limited, if any, access to the code if you want to make personal customization as the framework is already set in place. Therefore, the scope for customization is somewhat reduced. This means you’re limited on how much of your style you can inject into customizing your store.
It’s also important to keep in mind that with a hosted website if you’re dissatisfied with the hosting company at some point, you’ll have to leave your site and start from scratch elsewhere. In addition, if the hosting provider goes out of service, your website goes down along.
Most popular hosted platforms include:
- Shopify: Shopify is a Canadian online e-commerce company with over 120,000 merchants and traders who use it for their online stores, making it one of the biggest platforms to sell products online. With a wide variety of designs available for you to choose from and a solid technical framework to operate on, the Shopify platform makes it relatively easy to set up a professional online shop.
Shopify’s basic bundle starts at $29 (a lower-tiered plan that is much less expensive, but it does not allow you to create a full-fledged online store, just a Facebook page or button).
- BigCommerce: BigCommerce is a well-known online shopping platform for small to medium-sized businesses. It emerged as self-hosted e-commerce software but has since developed into a hosted shopping platform. BigCommerce’s basic storefront package starts at $29.95 a month, comparable to most e-commerce stores. The Standard affordable plan, costing $29.95 a month. The mid-level coverage costs $79.95 a month, while the highest package costs $299.95. The advantage of BigCommerce is that it offers much more features for free with its basic package than other sites such as Shopify.
- Self-hosted platforms
Self-hosted platforms are the eCommerce sites you develop by yourself rather than using a hosted server to host your site. This means you are entirely responsible for the development, hosting, and storage of all data. Businesses using a self-hosted eCommerce site must set up their server, usually hosted in the cloud. The most expensive aspect of self-hosting is the server implementation.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, self-hosting can be very difficult. As a result, you’ll need professional guidance to ensure that you’re doing it correctly. Fortunately for you, several agencies and professionals can help you with the assistance you need. And it is for a minimal price.
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms provide many advantages to businesses, including the privilege of retailers having more control and flexibility of what appears in their store. Plus, there’s no limited customization, and retailers can include anything they like on their site.
The major disadvantage of self-hosted platforms is that They’re harder to set up. To set up, you will need to go through various processes. These include sourcing a hosting provider, deciding on an eCommerce platform, and experiencing an installation setup process. In addition, If you’re having trouble with your platform, you’re left to try and solve the issues on your own.
Examples of self-hosted eCommerce websites are as follows:
- WooCommerce: WooCommerce is relatively new in the e-commerce industry, but it is popular due to its ease of integration with the blog content management system WordPress, which you might already be familiar with. According to the channel’s homepage, they now power 28% of all e-commerce pages, which is amazing for such a new platform.
WooCommerce is a popular open-source platform, which means it can be used for free. In addition, there are no transaction fees on the platform. However, this does not imply that you can set up a WooCommerce shop and sell online for free. You’ll need to find a suitable hosting option for your WordPress page to maintain your online store. You’ll still need to buy add-ons and plugins to make your online store fully functional.
- Magneto: Magento is undoubtedly the leading website for self-hosted e-commerce solutions, and it was acquired by eBay in 2011, proving its success in the online community. Magento is also an open-source platform, which implies that it is free to download. Clients will, however, pay for web hosting, payment processing, and a domain name. They will also need to buy an SSL certificate and payment processing functionality.
- osCommerce: osCommerce is another popular e-commerce website, with a large community of developers and other users offering free help and support for the platform. Clients will also need to spend extra cash on a well-designed theme because osCommerce themes are now out of date.
Do you know that marketplaces like Amazon and eBay contributed to 58% of all the global sales revenue from 2019 to 2020? With over £2.03 trillion spent on online marketplaces in 2019, it is clear that the growth in marketplace e-commerce revenue is far from stopping.
- Amazon: Selling on Amazon gives your product a standard quality and authenticity that many store owners spent years to achieve. This is because the goods look and seem like ‘Amazon products’ to the buyer, even though they are sold by a third party such as yourself. Amazon offers FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), allowing traders to ship their products in bulk to any of Amazon’s global fulfillment centers. Amazon charges a commission on every product sold. However, fees for retailers that prefer the FBA option are increasing.
- Etsy: Etsy is a dedicated platform tailored to a particular group of customers, mostly those interested in purchasing vintage or handmade products. It has recently extended its service to include digital products such as website designs and custom-design services. Compared to competitors, Etsy’s fees are lower. The disadvantage of Etsy is that, in addition to listing and final sale fees (as seen in all marketplaces), you must also pay PayPal fees, which will deduct money from your total profit.
- eBay: eBay is an open-ended platform where you can find everything from vintage tables to hair extensions. If you can sell it, you can list it on eBay. This makes it an open marketplace for any online business, but it makes cutting through the noise and reaching a specific audience somewhat more challenging. eBay will also enable you to sell across the world, allowing your business to reach tens of millions of people. However, selling can be highly competitive. eBay can take 10% of all sales you make, significantly reducing profit margins for most companies.
Social Media Platforms
Over the years, there a remarkable change in the way people interact with each other and with the businesses they love. A few years ago, a small business would be content to have a nice website, a smooth checkout process, and great search engine optimization and marketing. This worked because it correlates to how people shopped and order. Even if they’ve been stunned with some prospect on discoveries, they still shop on the internet.
The above are still highly powerful tools, and they’re practically essential for a successful e-commerce presence. But a lot has changed. For example, people now spend a significant amount of time on social networks built around their interests and relationships.
Here are three platforms for any small business looking to integrate social media into their selling process:
- Facebook: Facebook is undoubtedly one of the most popular social media platforms on the web, with a whopping 2.32 billion monthly active users, which’s about one-third of the world’s population. You should create a Facebook business page to help bolster your brand and increase sales. Whatever field you’re in, there’s a high chance you’ll find your target market on Facebook. You also have added options where you can make direct sales on Facebook than just your creating a business page; there’s also a Facebook store, Facebook Messenger Chatbots, and Facebook Ads.
- Instagram: Instagram is yet another popular social media network! Having over 1 billion monthly active users, it’s a wonderful platform that’s the best fit for promoting your business. There are many but very effective ways to sell on Instagram, such as Instagram Stories, Instagram Shopping, Instagram Live, IGTV, Instagram Ads.
- Pinterest: Pinterest has over 250 million monthly active users, and as the majority of the social media sites I’ve mentioned here, there’s a good chance you’ve already used it for fun or business. For those who are not familiar it Pinterest, it works just like a digital pinboard. It enables you to curate and share all forms of visual content, including photographs, infographics, GIFs, and videos, in various formats. Pinterest users are searching for visually appealing content that will inspire them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for new ideas, fitness tips, or business hacks—Pinterest has it all. The effective ways you can sell your products on Pinterest are Promoted Pins, Rich Pins, Shop the Look Pins.