Selling Online 101 - Archana Singhania

Selling online can be an intimidating task for even the most experience sellers. This paper will guide you through the steps required to get your business online. We will cover –

  1. How to sell online
  2. Online selling strategy
  3. What products to sell
  4. An online sales checklist
  5. Customer and sales
  6. Conclusion

How to Sell Online?

The below 4 are the most popular choices in setting up online stores. You don’t have to choose between them, you can sell online across different channels.

  1. WordPress Site powered by WooCommerce: Currently supports over 25% of the top 1 million ecommerce stores in the world. WordPress is very high in trust and customer support but requires some coding knowledge so It’s not for beginners. But it does give you creative freedom to code and create whatever functionality and feature you want on your site.
  • Ecommerce Store Builders – Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce: Very powerfultools to create online store with little investment in time. These builders already host over 1 million successful online store. They require no coding experience and can be set up fairly quickly. You have to rely on already existing features and functionalities of the chosen theme and there is little or no scope for modifications. They have 100’s of themes between them with a variety of available options. Having your own store when selling online gives one credibility and more reasons for shoppers to trust you and your brand.
  • Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy: The barrier to sell on an online marketplace is very low. It’s for sellers who want to get online really quick and don’t mind the competition.
    • Amazon: You borrow their reputation and use their platform to reach into their pool of customers. It’s a one-stop-shop for new sellers. Amazon offers some great delivery options for an extra fee. Their fees also varies depending on what you sell.
    • Etsy: Is like a niche Amazon focusing on mostly arts and crafts. It’s more personal and customers tend to splurge more on this site. Their fee structure is softer than Amazon’s but you still have to be careful of their listing and final sale pricing.  
    • eBay: There is no focus or strategy on eBay. It’s a bidding marketplace and buyers aren’t obligated to pay you instantly. It’s also difficult to build a brand on eBay due to the nature of the platform. Surprisingly the fees is quite high and it’s not apt for a long term selling strategy.
  • Social Media like Facebook: To start selling on Facebook, you need to create a business page, add a ‘Buy’’ CTA button and use their catalog manager to upload your products. This is an easy and low investment method to get online. Orders have to manually managed and it can get very time consuming. One can also connect their ecommerce platform directly to Facebook and manage product details and inventory from one place.

Online Selling Strategy

Getting an online business off the ground is tricky work. You need to think of a business strategy. You need to be able to set a series of goals and objectives for your business. Answering the following is a good way to kick things off.

  1. What is your objective? Give a thought to how many products you want to sell and how much money you wish to make in the first 6 months of operations. Researching success stories from your industry and setting up benchmarks will get you started.
  • What should be your profit margin? Your margin is the cost of your product to the customer minus the cost to produce, package and deliver. You also need to factor in your time and effort. A good place to start is by looking at similar products that are being sold by your competition.
  • Who is your competition? It’s perfectly fine to learn and adapt from industry leaders. Run a search on either Google, Facebook or Amazon for your competitor products. Look at their pricing, imagery, product description, messaging and see how you can do it better.
  • How will customers find your products? You can reach out to customers through paid advertising campaigns online, email marketing, social media push and blogs. One can also attract customers to their website by publishing articles and being present in online forums.

What Products to Sell?

How do you know what products will sell online? You can maximize your chance of success if you can work out the demand for your products. A few ways to do this

  1. Using Google Trends – Google maintains a search history for all users. Using its complex algorithms, it populates that data into search and historical trends. This tool gives you an insight of whatever keyword (product name) you put in for that region and the time frame you are looking at.
  • Keyword Research – Google’s keyword analysis tool tells you how many people have searched for that keyword (product name), how many people are selling it and how popular it is.
  • Online Forums – Online forums like reddit, Quora are used by consumers to discuss products or services. Seek out customer pain points and try to address them through your own products and services.
  • Sell what you love – If you are passionate about something and you believe in it, then it’s much easier to write about the product and run marketing campaigns. Do your research first, and if you see a need for the product in the market, then you should go for it. You have to take into account, products that are fragile or have expirations dates can get expensive to ship and have a significant impact on your bottom line.

A Checklist to Sell Online

Here’s a checklist of things you need to action before you can start selling online. Once you have it in place, you’ll be ready to kick start your online business.

  1. Shipping – You need to setup fulfillment and delivery methods. You can partner with Canada Post or any other leading delivery service. Depending on your profit margin, you may cover complete, partial or no cost of delivery to the customer.
  • Payment – For customers to purchase directly from your store, you have to set up payment options. Most of the online store builders already have this integration in place. You can choose to accept payments through Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal etc. There is always a service fee for every transaction. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully to account for this expense in your product costing.
  • Customer Service – It’s 5 times more expensive to get a new customer than servicing existing ones. Have a system in place for your customers to reach out to you. This could either be through chat, email, phone, website or social media.
  • Licenses, Insurance and Taxes – Check ifyour business license allows you to sell online. Depending on the nature of your product you may need insurance. Consult with a CPA to get your taxes right.  
  • Security – Makingsure thatyour online store or website has the right security and SSL certifications, so your consumer data is protected.

Getting Customers and Making Sales

You’ll be introduced to some of the easiest methods to market your brand and products. Trial and error will define what works best for you and your audience, but you don’t have to try all of these. You have to go where your customers spend most of their time online.

  1. Social Media – Between Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest you will have access to billions of potential customers. Create business pages on these sites and experiment with posts, stories, sharing content about your products, running ad promotions etc. The cost to entry is low on social media and it also acts as a channel for your customers to connect with you. 
  • SEO – Ranking high on Google, Yahoo and Bing gives you and your product the best chance to attract customers organically. The content on your online store should directly relate to your product in order for customers to find you. Online store builders are SEO friendly and generally provide great SEO support.
  • Promotions – Running deals and offers is a great way to generate interest in your products. It’s best when done on your own site but you can also run them on other channels like Facebook and Amazon, depending where your products are listed.
  • Email Marketing – One of the most effective tools if done right. To start with, you need to build a database of users and buyers by collecting their email address on your online store, social media or even when they make a purchase. This gives you an opportunity to target them with future offers and deals. Email campaigns work best for already established stores with a customer base in place.
  • Blogging – Blogging is a smart way to boost your SEO while selling your brand and products at the same time. There is always a chance that users read your blog, stumble upon your product page and end up buying from you. Blogs are more educative (informative) and not sales oriented. You can talk about new products, technologies or even tutorials to show how your product works.


You can sell your products and services across multiple marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook or your own online store, you don’t have to choose just one. You may sell across many channels but manage your business from only one place.

For a more sustainable and a stronger business, you should have your own ecommerce website. You can have your own identity and design instead of a cookie-cutter looking page on Amazon or a theme on Shopify. To kick start your business activity you don’t need to be a coder or a web developer, you can get online quickly by using ecommerce platforms or existing marketplaces. They are also free to try so you can test them out to see which one works best for you.