If you’re considering selling a product online, you’re in good company. E-commerce is expected to make up 10% of all Canadian retail sales by 2020, and 17% of all US retail sales by 2022. These numbers are hardly surprising given the convenience of online shopping. But the advantages associated with e-commerce don’t extend to the customer alone.
Selling a product online, rather than from a physical retail location, allows your business to benefit from:
- significantly lower start-up costs,
- the ability to quickly update inventory and pricing changes,
- global selling potential, and
- measurable results you can act on with the help of online analytical tools
Before you can ring up that first sale, however, there are a few fundamentals you’ll need to consider.
Your E-Commerce Checklist
To get started in e-commerce, consider this checklist of the four basic elements involved in selling a product online:
- Product sourcing
- Customer purchasing channels
- Payment processing
- Product storage and shipping
There are any number of dedicated e-commerce platforms you can choose from to get your business online. Just be sure the solution you opt for lets you list product descriptions, handle secure payment processing, track orders, and manage inventory.
Online Product Sourcing
If you’ve yet to identify and source the product you intend to sell online, the range of options may surprise you. You can:
- purchase and resell ready-made goods,
- manufacture your own product – or have one made for you,
- drop-ship products directly from suppliers to customers,
- have custom products printed or produced on-demand,
- sell digital products like books or photos as downloads
Just remember that investing in any product before you have a solid understanding of where and how you’re going to sell, store, and ship it is never a good idea. To avoid getting in over your head financially, take time to explore the costs associated with getting your product to market.
E-Commerce Purchasing Channels
To be successful with online selling, you’ll need a multichannel approach. In many cases, that will mean generating sales through your own website, as well as through online markets like Walmart or Amazon.
You should also leverage the tremendous marketing potential of email and social media to broaden your brand visibility, establish trust among potential buyers, and ultimately drive more sales.
It’s particularly important with a multichannel selling approach that you have a fast and accurate order and inventory management system in place. The last thing you want is to market your product so effectively that your fulfilment process can’t keep pace with your orders.
Customer Payment Processing
You can’t sell online without setting up a secure and reliable way to get paid for your product. Some online platforms like Etsy and Amazon take care of the customer payment side of things for you, then transfer the proceeds (less any fees) to your business on a regular basis.
But if you intend to sell your product on your own website, you’ll need a payment processing partner that allows you to accept credit and debit cards online.
Commonly used companies include PayPal and Square. But you should determine which of the many payment gateways out there aligns best with your personal needs.
Product Storage and Shipping
In order to fulfill online orders efficiently, you’ll need to make arrangements for storing your product, packaging your orders, and shipping your goods.
Order fulfillment tends to be the costliest part of an e-commerce business. To keep expenses down, many startups take care of product storage and shipping in-house – then outsource as online sales grow.
Whatever your approach, don’t be tempted to skimp on these services. Cutting corners can lead to stock shortages, order errors, delayed shipments – and the damaging customer reviews that usually go with them.