How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (2024)

Start selling with Shopify today

Start your free trial with Shopify today—then use these resources to guide you through every step of the process.

Start free trialLearn more

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (1)
How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (2)
How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (3)

blog|Sell Online

There’s a lot to do between finding an idea and making a full-time income from your online business. Here are the nine steps you need to follow to sell online.

by Elise Dopson

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (4)

Selling online has unlimited potential. You sell products or services to anyone, anywhere, and grow a profitable business with as much (or as little) involvement as you wish.

But you can't just snap your fingers to get there: You’ll need to find an idea for your online business, make a website, and plenty more before you’re ready to bring in a steady income. Luckily, that’s where this guide comes in. Ahead, find the nine steps you need to follow in order to sell online.

9 simple steps to start selling online

  1. Find a niche or competitive angle
  2. Establish your target audience
  3. Decide which products to sell
  4. Create an online store
  5. Choose your sales channels
  6. Set up payment processing
  7. Choose your shipping methods
  8. Promote your products
  9. Continuously improve your services

1. Find a niche or competitive angle

With so many entrepreneurs operating their own online stores, you need something to set your new business apart. Choose a niche you’re interested in, thenfind products in high demandyou can sell within it at a high price point.

Research your competition

Who are your competitors for your target audience’s attention? Find them through competitive research. Look at their marketing strategy, audience, and price points. Use what they’re doing well to inspire your own ecommerce business.

Evaluate your idea

Arguably the hardest part of selling online is deciding on a business idea. Whether you operate your store from home,on the side of a day job, or as a creative outlet, find an idea before progressing to the next stage of selling online.

Write a business plan

You know what you’re selling and who you’re competing against. Put this information in abusiness plan. It’s a document that outlines what your company is, and itsmission statement, competitive analysis, and marketing strategy.

Resource: Free Business Plan Template: A Practical Framework for Creating Your Business Plan

2. Establish your target audience

Your target audience is the type of person you sell to online. Discover them through surveys and competitor analysis, and build a buyer persona to target them.

Run customer surveys

Customer surveys allow you to get inside the mind of your ideal customer. Run quizzes, one-to-one usability tests, and group feedback sessions to figure out the wants and needs of your target audience.

Evaluate a competitor’s audience

When you start selling products online, you’ll have to convince a competitor’s audience to buy from you instead. Uncover thecustomer personathey sell and market to through competitive analysis. Play on the unique value proposition that sets you apart.

Build buyer personas

Buyer personasare characters that detail who your ideal customer is. In yours, include their pain points, interests, hobbies, demographics, and job title. Refer to them to make sure you’re targeting the right people (those most likely to buy) through your marketing campaigns.

3. Decide which products to sell

Once you’ve landed on your niche idea and the audience you plan to sell it to, it’s time to figure out what product, exactly, you’ll sell. Will you need to find a manufacturer for this product, or go the private label route? Will you launch with a single product, or a product line?Your choices here will have a large impact on how successful your ecommerce store will be.

Abusiness modelis the framework you use to sell products online. There are various models to choose from, depending on how much cash you have to invest, the type of product you’re selling online, and whether you want to handle inventory storage and fulfillment.

Find an in-demand product

The more in-demand your product is, the easier it will be to find prospective customers looking to buy it. Whether you’redropshippingor selling directly to consumers, an in-demand product makes sure you’re not wasting time promoting products people won’t buy.

Price your products

A high profit margin means you buy items for much cheaper than you sell them online for. But there’s more to sticking an arbitrary figure on your products. Your customer base is heavily influenced by price. Get it right through research and analysis to avoid scaring them away.

Learn more: How to Price Your Products in 3 Simple Steps

4. Create an online store

An online store allows shoppers to buy products from you over the Internet using a web browser or a mobile app. If you’re tight on budget and plan to validate your product idea before committing to an ecommerce store, try a more entry-level offering such asShopify’s Starter plan, where you can access all the tools you need to sellfor a monthly fee of $5.

Compare ecommerce platforms

  • Shopify vs. BigCommerce
  • Shopify vs. Commerce Cloud
  • Shopify vs. Lightspeed
  • Shopify vs. Magento
  • Shopify vs. Prestashop
  • Shopify vs. Squarespace
  • Shopify vs. Webflow
  • Shopify vs. Wix
  • Shopify vs. WooCommerce
  • Shopify vs. WordPress

Create essential pages

Once you have a domain name, you’ll want to start building your store pages.

People look for specific information before trusting an online retailer with their money. That includes your product page, category, about page, contact page, and FAQ. Make sure you have them ready to go before online shoppers are able to look for them.

Optimize the checkout process

People abandon theironline cartfor several reasons. Dig deep into the most common reasons and fix them through checkout optimization. When customers buy through aShop Pay–optimized checkout ecommerce website, retailers see conversion rates lift by as much as 50%. And, because it only takes one click to complete the transaction, it’s a superior customer experience.

Manage inventory

Do you know how much inventory you haveavailable to sell? Masteringinventory managementis one of the biggest struggles for retailers, especially if you sellthings online across several channels. Find an inventory management system that merges data from all channels and preventstockoutsfrom driving customers toward a competitor.

5. Choose your sales channels

Asales channelis the platform you use to sell products to online shoppers. Here’s how to identify those you should be using.

An online store

Your own website is a direct way for people to buy your products. Not only will you maintain high profit margins since you’re minimizing middlemen taking a cut, but you’ll collect customer data so you can deepen the relationship and set the foundation for future personalization. Know exactly who’s buying what when the order comes through your own online store.

Online marketplaces

If your online store is like a standalone brick-and-mortar, selling in an online marketplace is like setting up a kiosk in a mall—a way to gain exposure to new audiences in addition to your own direct channels. These include online selling sites like:

  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • Craigslist
  • Poshmark
  • Ruby Lane
  • Facebook marketplace

Reach those shoppers by listing your products for sale there. Just bear in mind that each selling platform charges a transaction fee when you make a sale. Some may also charge a listing fee. Mitigate risk by adding an online marketplace as a secondary sales channel—not your primary one.

Resources:

  • Is Dropshipping on Walmart Marketplace Worth It?
  • How To Make Money on Amazon (8 Proven Ways)
  • How To Sell on Etsy Successfully
  • The Beginner's Guide to Selling on eBay: List, Manage, and Sell Your Products Through Shopify

Social commerce

Social media users rely on their favorite platforms to buy products, engage with brands, and share product recommendations. Get active on your customer’s favorite platforms to drive sales for your ecommerce business.You can sell your product everywhere from Instagram to TikTok to Pinterest.

B2B or wholesale

Wholesale commerce happens when you sell items to another retailer, usually in bulk and at a lower price. It’s a good strategy toincrease saleswithout upping marketing spend, enter new markets with less risk, and leverage other brands to sell your products online. Here's how to find a wholesale marketplace where you can sell your product.

6. Set up payment processing

Apayment processorallows you to take payment when selling online. It moves funds from your customer’s account to your merchant account, keeping sensitive information secure and encrypted throughout the process.

Debit or credit card is themost popularpayment method for online shoppers. Accept credit cards on your online storefront to capture those people. Your ecommerce platform requests authorization from the customer’s bank, which approves (or denies) the transaction and releases funds into your merchant account.

Digital wallets

Customers can pay for online purchases without entering their entire credit card number each time. Digital wallets, such asShop Pay, store a customer’s credit card information. They can make purchases with just a few clicks, minimizing friction and increasing conversion rates.

7. Choose your shipping methods

Modern customers demand free, fast shipping; many would abandon an online purchase if the delivery didn’t meet their expectations. They also want brands to be more sustainable. With thePlanet app, customers can choose a carbon-neutral shipping option for between 3.5¢ and 15¢ per order.

Domestic shipping

Shipping online orders to a customer in the same country is cheaper than shipping internationally. That said, evaluating different couriers, packaging materials, and shipping zones can bring costs down—and therefore increase your profit margins while improving customer satisfaction.

Learn more: 6 Ways to Reduce Shipping Costs for Small Business

International shipping

How do you get parcels to customers on the other side of the world? With an international shipping strategy, you can decide where you’ll ship to, the rules and regulations of that country, and the costs associated with getting a product into a cross-border customer’s hands.

Omnichannel fulfillment

Ecommerce fulfillmentdescribes how you pick, pack, and ship orders to your customers. Choose to manage fulfillment in-house, work with a dropshipping supplier, or hire a third-party logistics partner.

8. Promote your products

Once you know what you’re selling and how customers will receive it, spread the word about your products with anecommerce marketing strategy.

Promote on social media

Broadcast information about your products on the social media platforms your chosen audience is using. Produce high-quality content, experiment with images and video, and regularly engage with followers. Use native social commerce features to share in-app shopping experiences with users without leaving the platform.

Run paid advertising campaigns

Advertising increases the odds of reaching your target audience. Whether you have a budget to invest or are sticking tofree advertising sites, build an advertising strategy to promote the products you’re selling online.

9. Continuously improve your services

People with anentrepreneurial mindsetalways aim to improve. Once you’re ready to scale, continuously improve back-end operations and product assortment to remain competitive.

Automate time-consuming tasks

Small business owners spend hours working on their business every week. As you grow, automate tasks you spend the most time on. Use that free time on higher-impact activities that will help your business scale.

Experiment with in-person commerce

Take your online business in-person by attending local events. Host a pop-up shop or use your brick-and-mortar store as a way for customers to buy online and pick up items in-store.Shopify POSgives you a single source of truth by merging retail sales data, inventory, and customer profiles between both sales channels.

Tips for selling online

  1. Optimize your website for user experience
  2. Invest in SEO
  3. Partner with influencers
  4. Start an email list
  5. Offer buy now, pay later options
  6. Use high-quality images and descriptions
  7. Offer excellent customer service
  8. Use social proof
  9. Create a content marketing strategy

1. Optimize your website for user experience

Your website is your online storefront, and should be as inviting and user-friendly as a physical shop. Easy navigation, clear product descriptions, high-quality images, quick load times, and a straightforward checkout process are key for selling products online. A great UX design can reduce cart abandonment rates and improve conversions.

Shopify has more than 100 optimized website themes, known asShopify themes.

2. Invest in SEO

Search engine optimization(SEO) is a long-term marketing strategy that increases your chances of appearing in the search results of your target audience. From keyword research to building backlinks, follow SEO practices to attract potential customers already looking for the products you sell online.

3. Partner with influencers

Influencers—even micro influencers—have the power to drive thousands of dollars in online sales to your online store. Find and partner with influencers across your ideal customer’s favorite platform—be that Instagram or TikTok—and leverage theiraudience loyalty to make sales.

Learn more: Shopify Collabs: Get Paid By Brands You Love

4. Start an email list

Email is the only direct line of communication you have with your customers. Encourage people to sign up to your email list and send them regular content, such as educational videos orcart abandonment emails.

Unlike social media platforms that can restrict your content at any time, email marketing means you’ll always reach your customers’ most sacred virtual place: their inbox.

5. Offer buy now, pay later options

Buy now, pay lateris a payment method that allows shoppers to pay for their purchases in installments. Enable this on your online store through a provider likeShop Pay Installments. You’ll capture the millions of people who use BNPL to buy products online.

6. Use high-quality images and descriptions

Customers can't physically touch products online, so you want to provide high-quality photos from different angles and thorough descriptions. This gives customers a clear understanding of what they're buying and can help reduce returns.

7. Offer excellent customer service

Superior customer serviceis a strong differentiator when selling products online. This includes quick response to inquiries, easy returns and exchanges, and resolving any issues that arise quickly.

8. Use social proof

Social proofpoints including customer reviews, testimonials, ratings, and user-generated contentare all critical in online shopping. These are powerful persuasion tools to drive purchases, as people trust the experiences and opinions of others.

9. Create a content marketing strategy

Content marketing can serve multiple purposes:

  • It helps build your brand
  • It establishes you as an expert in your field
  • It drives traffic to your website

You can leverage many different types of content: blogs, videos, podcasts, newsletters. Anything that provides value to your audience beyond just selling your product.

For example, a fitness equipment retailer could create a blog and YouTube channel with workout routines, fitness tips, and nutritional advice.

These resources draw in customers who are interested in fitness, establishing the retailer as a trusted authority. This kind of content marketing strategy increases customer engagement and loyalty, leading to more repeat business and referrals.

Read more

  • How To Brand Your Business: A Guide for Entrepreneurs
  • Tax ID Numbers (TIN): Types of TIN and How To Apply
  • 9 Dropshipping Coffee Suppliers
  • Pre-Orders Add to Your Bottom Line—How Do They Work?
  • The 10 Best Cheap Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses
  • Increase Customer Lifetime Value With These 9 Subscription Apps
  • Open-Source Ecommerce: 6 Open-Source Platforms for Ecommerce Stores
  • Introducing Shopify Forms: Grow Your Marketing List, for Free
  • 12 Top Shopify Ecommerce Apps to Help Grow Your Store
  • Is Selling on Etsy Worth It? When You Outgrow Etsy

How to sellonline FAQ

How can I legally sellthingsonline?

The legalities of selling online vary depending on your ecommerce business’s structure. Consider registering a trademark or patent-protecting your business’s name for legal protection. You’ll also need to adhere to email privacy laws, especially GDPR, if your customers are based in the EU.

What is the best site for selling online?

Shopify is the best site for online selling. From just $5 a month, the Starter Plan gives you the tools you need to sell across the social media channels your target customers are using.

Do I have to pay taxes on items I sell online?

The amount of tax your ecommerce business pays depends on where you’re operating from. In the US, you’ll need to collect sales tax on any products you sell online. Talk to an accountant to make sure you’re paying the right taxes.

What is the most profitable thing to sell online?

  • Digital artwork
  • Handmade goods
  • Water bottles
  • Pens and pencils
  • Custom design clothing

by Elise Dopson

Last updated May 8, 2024

Share article

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

by Elise Dopson

Keep up with the latest from Shopify

Get free ecommerce tips, inspiration, and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.

popular posts

Social Media OptimizationHow To Make Money on Instagram in 2024 (9 Actionable Ideas)Starting UpHow To Start an Ecommerce Business: Guide for 2024GuidesWhat Is Dropshipping and How Does It Work? (2024)Find an Idea

The most intuitive, powerful

unified

Shopify yet

Explore 150+ updates

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (5)

Shopify Editions Summer ’24

popular posts

Sell OnlineHow To Create a Website in 9 Steps (2024)Starting UpHow To Start an Online Store in 2024 (Step-by-Step Guide)Find an IdeaHow To Make and Sell Merch Your Fans Will Love (2024)Sell Online10 Best Ecommerce Website Builders for Your Online Store (2024)

popular posts

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (6)

Social Media Optimization

How To Make Money on Instagram in 2024 (9 Actionable Ideas)

2023-11-08

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (7)

Starting Up

How To Start an Ecommerce Business: Guide for 2024

2023-09-01

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (8)

Guides

What Is Dropshipping and How Does It Work? (2024)

2023-12-05

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (9)

Find an Idea

2023-11-09

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (10)

Sell Online

How To Create a Website in 9 Steps (2024)

2023-09-20

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (11)

Starting Up

How To Start an Online Store in 2024 (Step-by-Step Guide)

2023-11-23

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (12)

Find an Idea

How To Make and Sell Merch Your Fans Will Love (2024)

2023-12-02

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (13)

Sell Online

10 Best Ecommerce Website Builders for Your Online Store (2024)

2023-11-06

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (14)

Keep up with the latest from Shopify

Subscribe to our blog and get free ecommerce tips, inspiration, and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Unsubscribe anytime. By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.

How To Sell Online: Get Started in 9 Simple Steps (2024) - Shopify (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated:

Views: 6311

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.