What to Sell Online, and Where and How to Sell it
Selling online is relatively simple- if you have the right products to sell that is!
Determining what to sell online when you haven’t chosen any stock requires lots of planning.
If you have an ecommerce website or online store and are looking for products to sell, this ecommerce guide packs in tips and resources.
Even those just getting started will find plenty of helpful ideas we’ve assembled from other sources and from our experiences to use as a reference.
This article is a beginner’s guide, but even those with experience are likely to find some valuable nuggets of information.
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Optimise Your E-commerce Site Without SEO
What to Sell Online
The internet is great.
Not only does it educate you, but it also entertains and helps you make money too!
With the right mindset, you can begin with little or no capital to becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur- and all from the comfort of your living room (to start with at least!).
Yes, we know it doesn’t happen overnight, but oh, what fun you will have along the way!
Think of the web as a beginners guide to success, and your attitude is on the right track!
The first step in deciding what to sell online is to research into what is trending.
- Look online for free keyword and keyphrase planning tools.
Keyword planning tools indicate what is driving traffic towards specific ecommerce sites.
Use Google’s Keyword planning
Alternatively, you could try Ubersuggest
Another excellent phrase search tool is from Answer The Public
- Think ‘outside of the box’.
Let us assume that you have absolutely no idea about what products to sell.
If you have no concrete business ideas, it makes sense to see what products are popular right now.
You probably understand the use of keywords and their method in search engine optimisation, but keywords and phrases can be used a different way.
Instead of optimising your site for ranking, use the power of keyword searches to find your next product to sell!
How keyword searching works for finding products
Suppose you are searching for niche products to sell for your online business.
You have no idea what you are looking for, but you have to start somewhere.
The first thing to do is grab yourself a drink, sit yourself down, and consider what sells!
- Products tend to fall into just two categories;
- Things that are mainly used every day, by almost everyone, or needed to sustain a way of life.
- Niche; products that appeal to a subsection of the marketplace.
- What to do next
- Take a pencil and paper, (or computer, or use whatever medium you prefer to save information on), and outline your typical day.
- Try to picture everything and anything you did the previous week that caused you to remember it. Recall things that you feel you could improve upon in some way to make your life a little more comfortable.
Wiring a plug socket or putting batteries into a toy are examples of things that could be improved.
- Attempt to find five products that everyone tends to use every day.
- Now look for five that you used, but feel are more niche to you than other people.
- Of these ten products, write down three that you think may have selling potential
- Do this every weekend for three weeks until you have nine or ten products
- Now use those ideas to search for niche products online
- Another way to determine a niche target product
We came across an informative ‘youtube’ video on how demand and competition determine which niche products to sell to make your online business a success.
The teacher, Seth Kneip, expresses his theory so well that we felt we’d leave it to him to explain.
‘Bigcommerce.com’ also give their take on how to find niche products to sell here.
‘Printful’.com wrote a blog with a list of 115 categories of products for you to consider, so that you can narrow down your choices.
‘Shopify’ tell of building ‘mind maps’ (a little like tree charts) which help you realise a niche product linked to another favourite selling product.
Kyozou.com gives a step by step, and actionable search strategy for products you might like to sell.
Find out what products are trending at present.
According to Shopify, some of the top products selling online at present are;
- Shapewear (Tight underwear used to appear to tone a person’s figure)
- Phone accessories. (Who knew, right?)
- Athleisure. (Clothing usually worn for fitness but utilised for leisure)
- Maternity wear. (The population boom is booming?)
- Backpacks (A little more seasonal as Summer seems best)
Don’t just take their word for it. Check it out for yourself for the country in which you live, via software like Google Trends.
- ‘Google Trends’ is a useful bit of kit.
If you feel like purchasing what is reckoned to be ‘the next best thing’ (and it’s been selling over a measurable period), you can see how the product is trending worldwide.
Google Trends is simple to use.
- Go to the site.
- Write in the term for an item that interests you.
- If nothing comes up, rephrase your search term and try again.
- Indicate which country you want the search to concentrate.
- Press ‘return’- and you have actionable results.
Almost all of the primary search engine providers have some form of ‘trending products’ information.
There are so many search engines to utilise. Do not overlook one because it has a smaller percentage. 1% of search engine users could be 2 million people!
If you do not intend to use Google as your primary search engine, note that according to Netmarketshare.com, over 72% of the world does not agree with you!
Find trending products that sell
For those with a budget to spend on finding products, sites like Semrush, Moz, and Serpstat, show trending products and a host of other useful information -and most have a ‘start your free trial’ offer.
If you are not sure of the best search terms for your product online, try Soovle.com.
Entering your potential product in the search term area throws up a whole host of further terms on which to do your market research.
Amazon has their method of displaying the hottest products to sell.
With their site, you will find the best deals in every department, and the new ‘movers and shakers’ within the online marketplace.
There is also a useful Amazon specific software called Product Discovery, which filters products into categories for targeted results.
Once up and running, it is time to determine a strategy for selling your products.
At some point, you have to begin getting started on an ecommerce website to sell your products online.
There is no correct time to begin building your store, though it makes sense to have an idea of what products you want to sell beforehand, as it sets the tone of your site.
You may want to concentrate on a particular style of product. For instance, Etsy.com has handmade and vintage items as their speciality.
Vintage items and antiques are among the things offered through Preloved.co.uk.
‘Must Haves’ for an Ecommerce Site.
Logos, Domain names, and Corporate Branding Advice
For those just starting, using these proven logical methods will give you a head start on most of your competition.
Some will have already wasted money setting up their businesses with confusing logos, domain names, or poor brand strategies.
This section focuses on company branding for your ecommerce success.
How you promote your company name, and the public’s perception of your brand, is often all that stands in the way of success and failure.
Even if your products are brilliant, if you cannot steer an audience to them, you are destined to fail.
There you are, brainstorming about the image of your site that you want to convey, and you arrive at a ‘catchy name’,- one that you feel is a winner.
Sorry to burst your bubble- all too often that catchy name is wrong!
It may be evident to you what emotions you are trying to evoke with your company brand, but others may see it differently.
Take a look at this website for examples of brand names that were not right for the market.
Company names, coupled with domain names, are ultra important.
Do not assume that the company name you have decided upon has the same domain name available.
Organisations have been created merely to buy sought-after domain names for profit, and others are already owned and are dormant but will not sell them.
Enlist in the help of others to help you decide on your final choice.
Take a look at the advice given by experts who have written an article for Forbes.com on choosing logos.
Thenextweb.com go so far as to insist that you read their article before naming your company!
Marketingmo.com has some great hints and tips on choosing a brand name.
Companies such as Squadhelp.com use hundreds of experts to vote on chosen names and give suggestions.
A fine straight talking article by Shannon Willoby of Linkdein.com explains how logos make your brand more identifiable.
Be aware that spelling issues can also confuse with searching for your site online.
Site domain names, company names, and logos are with you for a long time; make sure that you get them right.
From marketing throughout the ages, we have been programmed to expect a better deal, and if we don’t get it, we feel cheated.
The subconscious mind is always looking for deals- for offers that make them feel that they have saved on something.
Using offers and discounts in the right way will help draw potential customers to your site.
- In the main, people are driven to decide to purchase by images. Ensure that when you sell products online, they are represented in their best light.
- A well-placed banner promoting a discounted item can do wonders for sales.
- Consider offering bulk purchases for better discounts
- If costs allow, factor in free sample costs when attempting to promote items you want to start selling online.
- Study how other ecommerce platforms promote their discounts and sales.
- When able to soak up the costs of delivery within your overall running budget, free delivery contributes significantly to pulling in buyers.
- Place your most popular products to the forefront of your site- preferably your homepage. It pays to do this rather than forcing your customer to look at items they are in which they are less interested.
- In general, buyers prefer branded items over non branded as they feel they ‘know’ the quality. If you sell branded products, make sure these stand out on your site.
There are many features we feel necessary in the shopping cart area before clicking a buy button.
- The products for sale should be represented in a clear digital photographic form. Ideally, there should be an ability to zoom in and out without loss of clarity.
Stock photos may not be of sufficient quality to allow this, so consider adding your own where possible, or enlist a specialist in product photography.
- Price, size (if applicable), and quantity must be included.
- Payment options need to be clear.
- Separate billing and shipping information.
- An intelligent search bar is important.
- A discount or coupon code link.
- Product import and export to allow for the adjustment of quantities and other options.
- The ability of a buyer to save their shopping cart for a later purchase.
- Built-in sales reporting. The ability to track abandoned carts or quantify sales.
- Customer reviews relating to the products.
- Built-in SSL website security
- A distinct ‘buy button’.
A login box (or information panel), is a quick system which allows your buyer’s details to be stored online and return to without having to input personal information from scratch.
- The search box or bar needs to be a definitive guide for your products. The easier it is to find an item, you more opportunity there is to purchase!
- Some search boxes allow for misspelt words, or close matches while others will give negative results for the same search.
We see websites promoting products but asking you to contact them for prices?
The main reason for this we feel is because their prices change too often to display.
Another explanation for the omission of prices may be the company insists that input your details beforehand.
- Any ecommerce store ought to accept payments in some form or another.
Without payment facilities, you risk losing your customer.
- Payment systems should be as simple as possible, easy to find, and the type of credit card accepted should be clear.
Social Media links
Using social media in the right way will tap into your customer’s passions.
You learn about their perception of your business from their feedback and interactions as you read each comment.
A constructive attitude to their input could help you with product ideas, trending products to sell, and prevent problems within your site before they become a more pressing issue.
Even successful online ecommerce giants realise the importance of social media, utilising in researching shopping patterns and strategising their advertising to maximise sales.
Bigcommerce.co.uk make some interesting points in their short post regarding the importance of social media in ecommerce.
Optimise your website for mobile phones
It is no accident that websites are designed more specifically nowadays for mobile phones than desktop computers. The ecommerce industry then can target buyers wherever they are, whether at work or out socialising.
Business contact details, live chat, email address
Your ecommerce site should provide at least one method of contact for you or your representatives.
Most buyers will expect a business address as after all they are parting with their hard earned cash to purchase from you.
Without a business address, you risk losing customers who may feel that you have something to hide!
Take a look at this post from Entrepreneur.com for another take on this subject.
If you have the workforce and time, a live chat option is becoming a reasonable expectation on an ecommerce website.
Live chat helps immensely to quickly resolve a customer issue if at all possible.
Provision to take customer details information
Provision has to be made for a prospective customer to leave their contact details.
The methods adopted for getting a customer’s email address or phone number varies, as some businesses insist on these before allowing entry to their site.
Other websites take a more moderate approach, offering some useful information or a discount to take away in return.
A softer approach is taken by other websites who only ask for a customer’s details once they make a purchase.
Decide on which tactic you want to adopt based on your research and experience.
How to guides, FAQ and blogs
If the purposes of your How to guides are related to your products, blog posts are a perfect outlet.
Bath.ac.uk have a pretty comprehensive guide on how to build guides!
Blog topics may include your ecommerce news or events, or merely to create followers to your site.
Favourite blog topics are often posts such as ‘How to Guides’.
Often, ecommerce blogs revolve around their products as a way of promotion and advertising.
Occasionally this ploy misses the point of why someone reads the blog topic.
Consequently, the reader may be cynical and abandon the topic and your site altogether.
We have found through our trials that truth and authority work better for an ecommerce site. Trust is paramount and induces greater sales- whether you supply the products in the subject matter or not.
Some better ecommerce blogs are dealt with in this post by Ecommerce training academy.
There are perhaps fewer areas of a site that cause as much frustration as the FAQ section.
A lack of structure and organisation leads to time lost attending disgruntled customers using alternative methods to contact to get their questions answered.
This article from Herothemes goes some way in assisting with FAQ organisation through topic structuring.
Trustmarks, seals and logos
Trustmarks (or trust seals as a more accurate description are badges of authority from trusted companies that in general, are claimed to gain customers assurance.
Trustmarks such as seals from Symantec Verisign or Norton Internet Security are in place in a strategic attempt to improve the confidence in a site.
In a survey carried out (from what we can gather, 2011), as many as 64% of customers who abandoned a shopping cart did so because of the lack of a trust seal.
The difficulty we had with these findings (which may be accurate), is that they seem to base them on one flawed study, highlighted by reviews from their readers.
We would like to see a more scientific approach to a newer study before advising either way.
PCI Compliance and GDPR
PCI DSS or Payment Card Industry Security Standard has been adopted as a worldwide standard to aid secure online credit card payments, and reduce fraud.
Most ecommerce sites need PCI DSS compliance to some degree.
For detailed information regarding PCI compliance, Theukcardsassociation.org.uk have dedicated articles for clarity.
General Data Protection Regulations, or its abbreviation GDPR, is a ruling that came into force in May of 2018 from the European Union.
The regulations are an attempt to protect EU citizens’ data.
- Primary identity (for example name and address and identification numbers)
- Web data (A citizen’s location, Internet provider address, Cookie storage, and RFID tags)
- Health and Genetics
- Race or Ethnicity
- Political Leanings
- Sexual Orientation
Every business, whether employing one person or thousands, need to comply with GDPR.
No company is exempt if you sell in the EU.
We looked for simple explanations of GDPR and Oberlo.co.uk makes a valiant attempt at explaining, but the regulations are 88 pages long and 50,000 words!
Distance Selling Regulations
The Distance Selling Act was replaced by ‘Consumer Contract Regulations’ in 2014.
Still, people often refer to the new regulations as ‘distance selling’.
All ecommerce platforms need to be aware of CCR, and Which.co.uk give clear advice on this subject.
Your choice of hosted ecommerce solutions depends on many factors.
- The budget you have in mind: Less is usually less in this instance.
- The calibre of the hosting provider for your given budget: Storage space is vital.
- How it performs when under load: Reliability is the issue here.
- The speed of the system: This is customer related as slow generally equals lost sale.
- How much time you need to apply to its maintenance: Losses due to downtime mena losing profits.
- What supports the provider gives (within your budget) and a typical time frame to resolve issues.
- Feedback from other users: Take note of their feedback and reviews.
Where and How to Sell
Once you have your products, to get a head start in this competitive world of online business, you need to study where and how to sell them.
Where to Sell Online
Consider Drop Shipping
Drop shipping is a method of selling your purchased products and having them delivered directly from the manufacturer or distributor.
You never need to handle the goods physically!
There are, however, disadvantages to this way of selling.
- Profits tend to be smaller than by conventional selling methods.
- Competition for selling your products are generally high.
- Sourcing reliable drop shipping companies are a difficult task.
- You cannot always rely on product quality.
- It is easy to oversell as you are not in control of the amount of stock available.
- Shipping costs are usually high.
If this still interests you, Oberlo.com is one site that takes you through the stages of drop shipping through ‘Shopify’.
‘Shopify’ too have a free trial set up for dropship purposes. Take advantage of the 14-day trial to decide if it is right for you.
Do not rule out selling via social media on platforms such as facebook messenger, or the often forgotten Google shopping which links to other ecommerce sites.
What is Google Shopping? It’s a service run by Google allowing users to search for products from different ecommerce platforms.
Download Facebook Messenger from the app store on any mobile device.
This platform is widely recognised as one of the fastest growing areas for ecommerce business.
Selling on Amazon
Once you have the correct stock, you could decide that an ecommerce website is not for you and sell on already established selling sites for a commission to them.
The first site is, of course, the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.
Indeed, Amazon’s strategies encourage you to sell via their site. They try to make it as simple to do so by offering schemes like FBA, which is similar to a drop shipping business through them.
Be aware that there are downsides to operating under the wings of the world’s largest retailers too.
Their fees are often high, and their administrative control over you is dictatorial at times.
If you want to know more, take a look at the advice given by shopify.co.uk here.
Other Sites to Sell Products Online
How to Sell Online
Do your market research – know your customer
It pays to know your potential customers’ buying habits and to target a specific audience.
Competitive online retailers worth their salt will be doing the same, as it is a logical strategy.
One of the first steps is to view the most prominent online marketplaces and see how they sell.
With the money, they invest in surveys surrounding customer journeys and experiences, and the selling practices they implement, imitating their systems can’t be far wrong!
Take a look at the eight largest ecommerce companies in the world (according to Axiomq).
In no time at all, you will recognise that online selling is a psychological art.
Before spending any money, the more astute ecommerce platforms have pitched their sales to you more than once!
Make a note of common repetitive features such as layout, page colouring, descriptions, adverts and product details, and make a note of each.
Define what you liked and disliked about each of them and write it down.
Work on who your customers are likely to be
Research defines your customer base!
(We never said this was going to be easy!)
Do you own online marketing, and capitalise on those of your already established competitors!
- Take a look at top competitor sites selling similar products.
- See how they target their audiences to gain vital marketing tips for yourself- for free!
- Make a note of what you feel you could improve upon with your style of selling.
- Look at their reviews and feedback to give you information on what they are doing well- or even what they do poorly! ‘Joe Public’s’ point of view may yield some helpful marketing tips!
- Pay particular attention to the tone of the reviews. Some will have areas where they live, and often from what they write you can determine their ages.
- Read their ecommerce blogs to gain an insight into what is trending for them.
- Note how they set up their selling processes, from product to shopping cart.
- What payment methods do they include? (Credit cards, Paypal and the like).
The basis of online marketing, in this case, is to specialise in selling to those you know will buy.
In our analogy, It is more productive to throw a little net with small holes, than a big one with much larger holes.
Passive Income- Work smarter, not harder
According to a study carried out by John Pencavel, a professor of economics in Stanford University in America, someone who works for 70 hours in a week, produces nothing more than those doing up to 55!
They effectively wasted 15 hours.
Business owners should take heed as, if this study is accurate, their companies are in fact running at a loss due to overheads.
So, what can be done to rev up your revenues without too much effort?
Unfortunately, it seems there is a caveat to this research.
A greater effort needs to be applied initially to allow for less exertion later.
From the research we have discovered, the consensus seems to advise the following;
- Track the time in which you work. Tracking tends to make you more time aware and conscious of time wasting.
- Every ninety minutes or so, take a few minutes to break from the task at hand. You can use this time for brainstorming, but not to anything directly related to what you are presently doing.
If in ecommerce, brainstorm about things like ‘new business ideas’, ‘a new product idea in a product niche’, ‘a theme store’, or something that sparks a new area of your brain.
- If self-employed, (or your employer allows), take a twenty-minute ‘power nap’. If business giants like Google allow it, the idea must have some merit!
- Ensure that you have natural light to work in or simulated natural light.
- Optimise your broadband speed as this will improve productivity.
- Buy office or house plants if you work from home. Plants emit oxygen and studies show that they improve the ambience of a room.
- Plan your day before you begin. Set realistic and achievable goals.
- Ensure a constant room temperature of between 21 and 22-degree Celsius as this is the optimum temperature for productivity.
- Keep your surroundings tidy. ‘Tidy desk, tidy mind,’ is still a relevant quote.
- Concentrate on one task at a time.
Stick to these tips, and soon you’ll be an ecommerce entrepreneur!
Further reading on working smarter, not harder see below.
You want a successful ecommerce business.
Following the advice from the resources within this article makes that all the more likely.
It is not a complete guide by any stretch of the imagination, but we like to think it gives pointers for those who feel the need to reach out for assistance.
Many new businesses look for quick remedies to their issues, and that is fine as long as they work.
In our experience, as in life, you almost always get back what you put into it.
The more research you do and more advice that you act upon will reap the rewards in the end.
Your business, whatever it may be, needs a proactive attitude from you- and you need customers.
This article gets you somewhere nearer that point, but search engine optimisation is a whole new article in itself.
Pat yourself on the back for getting this far and take a breather. You earned it!
Optimising your ecommerce site without SEO
After all the hard work you have put into building your ecommerce business, driving traffic has a whole new set of tasks.
Take a backward step and appraise your site, making notes of changes you feel are necessary now or in the longer term.
For now, just fine tune your item descriptions on your ecommerce site.
Write product descriptions that sell to your targeted audience by imitating sentences used by reviewers or forums.
Learn what will be driving traffic to you by reading blogs from world-renowned entrepreneurs such as this from Neil Patel.
Neil has compiled a definitive guide to online selling without the drudgery of search engine optimisation, (SEO).
His business ideas for online ecommerce are easy to understand and are often backed up by his research statistics.