How to Sell Products Online: A Step-by-Step Guide

Selling products online can feel overwhelming. But if you take it step by step, you’ll find that building a successful online business isn’t as challenging as you might expect.

Updated August 17, 2020

The idea of starting an online store can seem overwhelming. There’s so much to think about, plan, and execute.

Fortunately, if you take the process one step at a time, selling products online isn’t as challenging as you might expect.

From finding the right products, choosing a place to sell them, and promoting your offerings to the world, here’s how to build your online business step-by-step.

These steps focus on a product business model, so browse our complete guide to e-commerce business models if you’re considering other types of online stores.


1. Choose the product(s)

The obvious first step to selling items online is finding a product to sell. If you want to create and sell your own products, the process is more complex. You’ll need to conduct product research, develop and design your products, and manufacture them.

Alternatively, your online store can sell existing products. When considering what to sell, think about your passions. If you’re more interested and informed about what you’re selling, you’re more likely to succeed.

You also want to narrow your focus down to a specific niche. It’s easier to focus on one type of product, market yourself as an expert, and eliminate competition if you “niche down.”

For instance, instead of selling fitness gear, you might sell only exercise bikes. Rather than selling clothes online, you might focus specifically on business attire, cute dresses, or quirky socks.

Then, do your research. Is there demand for the products you want to sell? Look into trending products in your niche to get a feel for what consumers need and want.

Investigate your competition. Read their reviews to determine strengths and weaknesses. What unique selling proposition (USP) can you offer to stand out from the crowd?


2. Select an e-commerce platform

Once you have a product, you need a place to sell it. That means choosing the best e-commerce software solution for your online marketplace. You have plenty of online selling platforms to choose from, but it’s essential to find one that meets your needs.

Set your budget, read reviews, and look for a platform that you find easy to navigate. Ensure that you have access to quality integrations and add-ons, as well as helpful tools for inventory and analytics.


3. Register a domain name

Next, you need to register a unique domain name. The domain name identifies your website to customers and allows you to set up payment systems. You may find this service within your e-commerce software, or you can purchase a domain name from a domain registrar or hosting provider.

Choose a domain name that’s simple and easy to type. After all, you want potential customers to find your store easily. You’ll pay for your domain name annually, usually no more than $20/year.


4. Design the site

Top e-commerce systems make site design relatively easy and intuitive for users. Take advantage of ready-made templates, so you aren’t building your store from scratch, then customize it as desired. You can upload your logo, play with colors and fonts, and populate your site with pages and content.

Focus on your store, but don’t neglect the home page, “About” section, FAQs, etc. Including a blog can help drive more traffic to your site and build relationships with consumers interested in your niche.

Write — or hire someone to write — engaging site copy that aligns with your brand voice and vision. Consider search engine optimization as well. What search terms do people use when looking for products similar to yours?

What questions do people type into Google that your products can answer? Sprinkle keywords throughout your copy and content to attract quality traffic to your site.


5. Describe your products

Speaking of writing and SEO, don’t make the mistake of neglecting product descriptions. With an online store, shoppers can’t touch, carefully examine, or try out your products. Replicate this experience as closely as possible with thorough, enticing descriptions.

Include information about special features, weight, dimensions, and anything else a buyer might like to know. High-resolution photos help too. And if you want to get fancy, feature video demos or tutorials of your products.


6. Market your online store

Even the most beautifully designed online store won’t sell products if nobody knows where to find it. Promoting and marketing your online products generates buzz and drives visitors to your site.

Use strategies like email, social media, content marketing, and paid advertising. Remember to link back to your website and include a call to action. Run discounts, coupons, giveaways, or contests. Online store marketing can be varied, creative, and fun. Balance product promotions with customer interaction and connection.

You can also utilize a variety of social commerce strategies to harness the power of social interactions and recommendations. For instance, ask or compensate influencers or businesses to post about your brand and products.


7. Grow your online business

Once you’ve established your online business, you want to continue growing it. Keep up with your marketing strategy, and use analytics to track what works and what doesn’t. Adjust accordingly. Provide excellent customer service, and solicit customer feedback so you can continuously improve.

As your customer base expands, you may struggle to balance customer service and other business tasks with quickly fulfilling orders. Automate as many processes as possible, and know when it’s time to hire more help. Set and reassess your strategic goals often.


Frequently asked questions about selling products online

How do I decide which products to sell?

Follow your passions. Choose products that you love and know about, and selling them will come to you much more easily. In addition, niche down so that you can establish yourself as an expert and stand out from the competition.

And don’t forget product research. Investigate demand, competition, and trending products in your niche. Give the people what they want!

What if I’m not very tech-savvy?

Most e-commerce platforms are relatively intuitive, and basic features require little to no coding. You’ll mostly install templates, drag and drop content, and follow simple on-screen instructions. Demo a few store builders to see which comes most easily to you.

If you need extra help, you can find tutorials and how-to videos online. Or, you can hire a web developer on a contract basis.

How can I make my online store stand out in a crowded market?

Researching your competition can help you effectively answer this question. Check out their websites, products, marketing campaigns, and reviews.

What are their strengths and weaknesses? What complaints do they frequently receive? What else are customers asking for, and how can you be the one to supply it?

Branding is another way to set yourself apart. Think about your target audience, as well as their needs, wants, interests, and pain points. Your values and mission should resonate with them.

Develop a brand voice that will speak to your audience as well. Use the brand voice consistently across your site, social media channels, and marketing materials.


Sell your products online one step at a time

If selling products online seems like a huge headache, slow down, and take it one step at a time. Use these steps as a helpful guide or checklist, and take your time to land each step of the process thoroughly.

With the right product, platform, and marketing, you’ll find success in the online marketplace in no time.

LOTS TO CONSIDER, LET US HELP

Get The Blueprint’s latest recommendations by signing up to our free newsletter.

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.