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12 Critical Steps To Start Selling Online

From maximizing your SEO with product descriptions to keeping a narrow focus, here are 12 answers to the question, “What are some critical steps a store owner should take to sell online?”

  • Use Proper SEO With Product Descriptions
  • Research Your Online Competitors Before Starting
  • Place a Shopping Feature on Social Media Accounts
  • Evaluate Your Tech Before Launching Your Online Store
  • Be Well-Prepared for Shipping
  • Conduct Market Research
  • Select the Right Social Media Channel for Your Audience
  • Set Up a Business Plan 
  • Understand Your Numbers
  • Build an Email and SMS Subscriber List
  • Choose Your E-Commerce Platform Wisely
  • Narrow Down Your Focus

Use Proper SEO With Product Descriptions

A crucial, key factor for e-commerce websites is having product descriptions that are optimized for search engines. Effective SEO copywriting for each product offered will get your products indexed high enough on the search engine results page (SERP). It also helps entice the shopper to click on the listing. Once they are on your website, they help convert the visitor into a sale.

Do keyword research for each product to see what other related search terms potential customers are using.

Check out your competition. Who is coming up above you in the SERP for those keywords? What are they doing? Whatever it is, do more of it and better.

You must think like the searcher and determine what they will enter in the search box to find your store and products. Put yourself in their shoes and deliver an excellent customer experience.

Giselle Aguiar, Digital Marketing Consultant, AZ Social Media Wiz

Research Your Online Competitors Before Starting

Before taking drastic action, thoroughly research your current online competitors and analyze what seems to work for them and what you think could be improved. 

That way, you can identify a niche market your competitors are not targeting. Once you have a plan of attack, create a list of realistic goals and objectives for yourself and make sure you have enough capital to get started. Then and only then is your local business ready to officially transition into an e-commerce store.

Michael Fischer, Founder, Elite HRT

Place a Shopping Feature on Social Media Accounts

Besides incorporating an e-commerce store on your website, you should also include a shopping feature on your social media accounts (if applicable). 

For instance, your customers could shop for your products through your Instagram or Facebook pages. Create as many opportunities as possible for your target audience to shop for your products online.

Miles Beckett, Co-Founder & CEO, Flossy

Evaluate Your Tech Before Launching Your Online Store

Ensure your tech stack is in a good place. You can only handle as many orders as your online store will allow, so your e-commerce platform and all associated software must be purposefully configured. 

In the e-commerce industry, site performance is so essential. Research shows that your visitors will bounce if it takes just a few extra seconds for your website to load. 

Besides high-functioning tech, make sure your social media presence is on par with brands you look up to. Visitors will be much more likely to convert, or at the very least offer their email address to you, if you make a professional impression on them.

Stephanie Venn-Watson, Co-Founder, fatty15

Be Well-Prepared for Shipping

Heading online ultimately means opening up your business to a wider range of customers. You’ll need to be sure that you’re ready to handle the labor and cost of moving into an online space if you plan to increase your business’s reach.  

This will mean having the infrastructure to ship your products locally, nationally, and potentially even globally, depending on your immediate goals. As your online business grows, so will the expense of shipping. 

You’ll need to have a game plan that’s several layers deep in order to be prepared for online ordering. Do some research on the best methods to get your products to your customers via shipping and build a plan that you can flexibly upgrade with your needs. 

Having competitive shipping can be critical for a business looking to compete with established competitors in an online space. Don’t wait to plot your course. Make sure you’ve got your shipping plans well sorted before venturing into online sales.

Max Schwartzapfel, CMO, Schwartzapfel Lawyers

Conduct Market Research

If you’re planning on building a new online storefront, one of the first steps is to conduct market research. 

For example, you’ll want to get very familiar with your top competitors’ websites, studying how their online store is structured and the type of information provided in product descriptions. Do they offer sales? Discounts for email sign up? 

This information will help you position your online brand effectively while following industry trends.

Cesar Cruz, Co-Founder, Sebastian Cruz Couture

Select the Right Social Media Channel for Your Audience

Prioritize which social media channels you will use to reach your target audience. If your product is catered to the boomer generation—Facebook; if it’s predominantly for millennials—Instagram. For Gen Z, learn the ins and outs of TikTok. 

It’s always best to have two channels and prioritize one of them. Facebook ads are a very effective way to launch a product and build your audience when you don’t have a community. 

Instagram is good to cultivate, especially for branding and brand awareness, but it will take you more time to build a following there. 

TikTok requires consistency & new accounts have great potential to grow dynamically. Due to the app’s algorithm, apart from creating engaging content, if you use the right hashtags and interact with content related to your niche, you’ll most likely build a following in that space. And you can link other social media accounts, thus creating a funnel and making those grow faster.

Nicole Ostrowska, Career Expert, Zety

Set Up a Business Plan 

One of the most critical steps every store owner should take to sell their product or service online is to always set up a business plan at the start. This may seem like an obvious step to take, but many business owners skip this step due to focusing on expenses or eagerness to sell. 

However, it is essential to take the necessary time to create a business plan and write up for your online store when thinking about how to start. A good plan will force you to think about all the important steps for getting started and continuing success well after the start. 

Writing everything down can also help you get an overview of everything you need and call attention to things you haven’t considered. Analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, and competitors is also key. If you end up consulting a financial advisor or tax consultant for expenses and financial planning, they can use your business plan to understand your project and make more reliable predictions.

David Ring, Senior Marketing Manager, MCT – Trading

Understand Your Numbers

You need to fully understand the makeup of your numbers for selling a product. The cost of the product itself is the obvious one that most people know but add on all the extra expenses such as the box it goes in when you ship, any protective packaging like bubble wrap, the freight cost, any import duties per product, and the transaction fee—these expenses will help you understand the true profitability and therefore means you will know how much you can spend per order on advertising to still make a profit.

Freddie Chatt, Founder, Freddie Chatt

Build an Email and SMS Subscriber List

One step we advise new store owners to take when launching an online brand is to focus on building subscriber lists—both email and SMS—from day one. Many brands wait until they’re more established to do this, however as one of the highest ROI marketing channels, email can be key for new brands wanting to keep costs low and get to profitability as quickly as possible.

Setting up a newsletter email list can be done for under $100 per month for a new store, and once that is in place, then marketing to these people via email newsletters and promotions is almost free, with very few additional costs. 

Ryan Turner, Founder, Ecommerce Intelligence

Choose Your E-Commerce Platform Wisely

There are a few important steps that store owners should take to sell online, but one of the most critical is creating a strong and effective e-commerce platform. 

This means finding an e-commerce provider that offers a comprehensive solution that includes all the features you need to run your business, from product management and order processing to marketing and payments. It’s also important to make sure the provider has an excellent reputation and is well-supported by a knowledgeable team who can help you get up and running quickly.

Another important step is optimizing your site for search engines. This means creating relevant, keyword-rich content that will help your site rank higher in search results.

Jamie Irwin, Director, Straight Up Search

Narrow Down Your Focus

Since the Internet is so vast and so much information is available, the first thing that you should do is narrow down your focus.

Do you sell fitness equipment, electronics, clothing, toys, or one particular brand? Or do you sell a variety of things? 

Once you know what you are going to sell, highlight that area of the store. Make sure your focus is clear and everything is easy to find. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they are looking for.

Sayem Ibn Kashem, Founder, FacileWay

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