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How to sell online: getting started in the digital space

11 October 2017

If you're thinking of introducing your products to the digital space, you'll need to know a bit about how to sell online. There's no doubt that the internet presents an amazing opportunity to reach more customers and new markets. While there are some correlations between how to get your products into stores and how to get them onto websites, if this is your first foray into ecommerce it's a good idea to do some research.

So where should you start? Consider if you will put the work into developing your own ecommerce website and build an online following, or if you're going to list your products on a third-party website. Whatever you choose to do will determine the skills you'll need to learn.

Selling through an online marketplace

The ability to sell online is made especially simple with the available array of online marketplaces, designed for small business owners to easily list their products without having to manage a website. You can even find niche, product-specific online marketplaces for selling clothing second-hand products, skincare and more.

To get started selling your products online, just create an account on one of these websites and you can start uploading products straight away. You will pay a monthly fee to be able to host your product listings on the site and the hosting company will also usually take a percentage of your sales.

Putting your products on a site like this could be a great way to start making use of the online space before you set up your own website. There will be a bit of administration involved in managing accounts, uploading images and product descriptions and responding to customer enquiries, but you can get set up quickly and start making sales immediately.

Selling through your own website

If your goal is to create an online platform and presence for your brand, then making a website is definitely a great first step. Not only can you sell online from your own website, you can provide other useful content for your customers here. Just keep in mind that a huge online following doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, patience and persistence to build a successful online brand – but it's worth it!

Create a website that reflects your brand's look and feel, is optimised to rank in search engines and focuses on creating a good user experience by making it easy for customers to make purchases. You may choose to do this yourself, or if you don't have the time, employ a digital team to do it for you.

Once your website is up and running, the next step is to ensure people can find it. A bit of digital marketing can go a long way when it comes to how to sell online. Consider paid search engine marketing, display ads, and social media ads. These techniques will position your brand and products in front of potential customers to drive them to visit your site. If you don't have the funds for paid marketing, there are also ways you can reach audiences for free, but they involve a lot more time and effort. Setting up social media accounts and posting regularly about your products is a great way to market for free. Or, you can help users discover and interact with your business by creating valuable content for your website, optimised to increase your search engine results page (SERP) ranking. It may take a while, but if you continue to promote your website people will start recognising your brand and you'll build a strong online following that results in sales.

Things to consider when selling online

You've got 8 (or so) seconds

Online users have an attention span of only about 8 seconds. Browsing online is not the same as browsing in a store. Your customers are looking at dozens of webpages every minute, and you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. For this reason, you need to make your products accessible, engaging and attractive, keeping in mind a customer can't actually pick it up to look at it. Upload plenty of good quality images and include exciting, compelling product descriptions.

You're worldwide now

If you're currently only stocking your products in Australia, you've now got easy access to international customers, as anyone all over the world can access your products online. Put some thought into the logistics of how to sell online to an international audience and if this is something you can manage. Think about shipping, potential taxes and language barriers that may complicate the process. At the same time… rejoice in how many overseas customers you can sell to!

Your image is everything

While word of mouth is still as strong a marketing tool as ever, mouths don't always necessarily say nice things – especially online. Lots of people take the time to review and rate their online experiences for other potential customers to see, so don't drop the ball on your customer service when dealing with online customers… people might hear about it if you do!

It can take some time to work out how to sell online effectively, but when done right your return on investment is often worth the effort. If you need support in taking your business to the next level, you can talk to a Suncorp Business Banking Manager on 13 11 55 Monday – Friday 8.00am – 5.30pm about business loans and finance options.

Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs. You should make your own enquiries, consider whether advice is appropriate for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Product Information Document before making any decisions about whether to acquire a product.