How to Sell your Products Online
In this article, we look into the three best ways of selling your products online. From owning an e-commerce website to joining a marketplace, to chat tools on social media, there are many different ways to venture into e-commerce. Each of these alternatives has its own advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find the right one for your product and your audience.
E-commerce refers to the act of buying and selling online. Contrary to popular belief, selling goods on the web does not require you to develop and build your own complex platform. In fact, you could pretty much build an entire online business by selling only on already existing platforms.
1. Owning Your Own E-commerce Platform
Marketing experts, who are often weary of how their brand is communicated, particularly like this option. Developing your own e-commerce platform means you have complete control, and can customize the website to your liking, with a visual language and tone of voice that is in line with your brand guidelines.
However, running an e-commerce platform is not as simple as one might think. Not only do you have to build it, host it and make sure it’s secure, but you will also need people to man it. Running a website takes a village, from developers, to designers, to content creators and data entry specialists, you will require significant staff. Additionally you need a team to manage your logistics, including warehouse inventory, picking and packing. If you run a bigger company, you will also need to connect your e-commerce to existing softwares like your accounting system for example, which will allow you to collect payments, and keep your inventory up to date.
It’s natural to think that because websites are dematerialized, and e-commerce plugins can be installed with just a few clicks, this do not require the same maintenance and investment that a physical store does. That is sadly untrue. Just like a store requires business owners to pay rent, a website requires you to pay for hosting, and depending on how much traffic your platform accumulates that could become quite expensive. Plus, similarly to maintaining your store’s upkeep, like making sure it stays clean and gets a fresh coat of paint from time to time, a website needs the same care.
So before jumping into developing your own e-commerce platform, make sure to you are surrounded by the the right team and have the sufficient funds to take on such an endeavour.
If you’re wondering if an e-commerce website is the right solution for you, make sure to check out our articles on How Much Does E-commerce Really Cost? and 4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making the Leap into E-Commerce, for a complete rundown on what to look out for.
2. Joining an Online Marketplace
An online marketplace is a type of e-commerce website, where multiple third parties provide products and services, but the transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. Basically the marketplace handles payment and (sometimes) customer service on behalf of the platform, and all the sellers have to do is complete the order fulfillment.
Such a service allows businesses and startups to experiment with selling online while minimizing their investment. A marketplace already has an established consumer base. So unlike developing your own e-commerce from scratch, you do not have to spend money on customer acquisition and building an online infrastructure. In addition, joining an online marketplace allows you to test your product and see if there is an appetite for it.
Selecting the right marketplace is obviously essential, which is why it’s important to look at the products offered, consumers types, reach and profit division. With many marketplaces to choose from, you need to make sure that your choice reaches your target consumers, and that its users are familiar with buying similar products to yours. For instance, if you wish to sell hand-knitted scarves, you might want to consider selling on Etsy, which is a marketplace specialized in fashion, arts and crafts. On the other hand, if your target consumers are primarily located in China, you might want to sell your products or services on Chinese marketplaces Alibaba or Tmall.
3. Adopting Chat Tools
Another great way to test out e-commerce is using the chat features available through various applications, like Facebook or WhatsApp. While you cannot sell large amounts via chat tools, this allows you to directly engage with consumers. Your customers can ask you questions, while you have the ability to send them pictures of your products, suggest alternative products, and plan the delivery. Short of taking payment on a chat tool, you can pretty much conclude the entire transaction via a simple chat box.
Lebanese based fashion startup, Raghunter used WhatsApp as their first foray into e-commerce. The founders wanted to see if e-commerce was a viable option for them. So rather than invest a hefty sum into the infrastructure of an e-commerce platform, they created a PDF product catalogue, and completed all of their sales transactions via WhatsApp. Raghunter customers simply whatsapps the picture or item code of a product that they like. In response, Raghunter replies with the item price, or suggests similar products in case the costumer's choice is out of stock. Once the transaction is confirmed, the item is then delivered to the buyer, who has the possibility to pay by cash or card on delivery. The entire system is simple, and cost the startup next to nothing.
People spend a considerable amount of time on chat platforms, talking to friends, family and co-workers. As a result, they are familiar with the interface which makes it is simple for businesses to reach them there. Chatbot integration is still in its infancy, so it will be interesting to see how companies and startups will put it to use in the near future.
There are many ways to start selling your products online, but the key is to choose the one that best suits your business. If you have a strong brand, sufficient budget, a big enough team and a solid customer base then owning an e-commerce platform might be the way to go. However, if you are a new business, or only have experience with selling in physical stores, you will want to test out e-commerce through a marketplace or chat tools first.
Nevertheless it is important to have an online presence. Almost half of people browse online before purchasing an item from a store. This does not necessarily mean that you have to sell online, but you do need online visibility in order to maximise your reach.