Ecommerce basics: the basics of selling online

14 MINS
Web.com Team

In today’s business world, selling stuff online is a really big deal. It’s like opening a shop that never closes and can be visited by anyone from anywhere. This article is here to help regular folks who run small businesses, online stores, or websites, and those who want to start their own thing online. 

We’re going to talk about online selling, and we want to make it simple. No fancy talks. Just straightforward info to help you understand how this online selling thing works. From making your own online store to getting customers, we’ll guide you through it all. So, stick around as we dive into the basics of selling online and understanding what eCommerce is. 

What is eCommerce: An introduction

eCommerce, or the process of buying and selling on the internet and has generated approximately $856.8 billion in revenue in 2022.  

What makes it appealing is its ability to allow buying stylish sneakers or brand-new phone with just a few clicks online. A long way back from the 1990s, when people first started buying books online. It’s come a long way since then. 

So, what made eCommerce rise from then on? Well, there are some good reasons. First, it lets you sell your stuff to a global audience. Second, your online store never closes; it’s open 24/7. And third, it’s really flexible. You can easily change what you’re selling to match what people want. 

In our digital world today, eCommerce is like the base of business. It’s super important because most people shop online. Think about it – when was the last time you didn’t check online reviews before buying something? eCommerce isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity if you want to keep up with how people shop and do business these days. 

3 types of eCommerce 

Business-to-Business (B2B)

B2B eCommerce happens when one company sells products or services to another company. It’s like a factory selling materials to a car manufacturer. Both sides are businesses, and B2B often involves buying things in larger quantities.  

Alibaba is a huge business that demonstrates this type of eCommerce.  

Business-to-Consumer (B2C) 

B2C eCommerce is when businesses sell things directly to everyday people, like you and me. Think of ordering a new phone or clothes from an online store. They sell individual items to regular customers. 

For this type, Amazon is a big name. Well, for a brand that sells anything from A to Z, they stay true to their branding.  

Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)

C2C eCommerce is regular folks selling things to other regular folks online. It’s similar to a neighbor selling their used lawnmower to another neighbor through an online platform like Craigslist and eBay. It’s everyday people trading stuff with each other. 

Each of these methods has its own way of operating and who it serves. Knowing these helps us understand eCommerce, whether for running a business or shopping online for ourselves. 

Ways to sell online: eCommerce business models

The process of selling online typically follows this journey: manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to retailer, and eventually, the customer. At first glance, this seems like a lot, but there are several eCommerce business models to choose from that can simplify the process. Here are the most popular models to choose from:

Dropshipping

Dropshippers don’t actually come into contact with physical products. Instead, they act as a middleman, choosing a popular product from a dropship supplier’s catalog, listing it online, then sending an order confirmation back to the supplier for shipping. Dropshipping has a low startup cost so it’s perfect for people looking to start a side hustle. The difficult part about this model is promoting your product, so it’s useful to have a strong understanding of marketing when choosing this business model.

How Dropshipping Works

Process of how dropshipping works

Wholesale

This model is similar to a traditional retailer, where owners purchase stock in bulk from a manufacturer at a discounted price and sell those items on online marketplaces. While this method does give you control of the physical product packaging, there is one downside: storage. Wholesalers must have enough storage to house the products they sell. Luckily, there are solutions to this, including third party logistic (3PL) companies to take the pressure off of you.

Arbitrage/ Resale/ Vintage

Have you ever gone thrift shopping before? The arbitrage business model uses this strategy, where merchants find discounted products from other retailers, and sell them at a higher price. Similar to dropshipping, some find this model useful as a side hustle. The biggest drawback most resellers face is how much time it takes searching for the right product.

Artisan/ Handmade

Some people turn their hobbies into profitable ecommerce businesses too. For artisans, this business model has proven to be a lucrative endeavor. It’s a great way for DIYers to make some extra cash. But running an eCommerce business does take time and attention, which makes it a challenge for handcrafters to juggle online selling and product building.

Private/ White Label

We’ve all seen identical products on supermarket shelves with different labeling. This is an example of white labeling. A business owner following this model purchases generic items from a manufacturer and sells it with their own personal branding materials. Similarly, private labeling occurs when only one merchant can sell a particular product exclusively.

Woman business owner looking at her mobile phone with a laptop

Main Product Categories to Sell Online

Choosing what to sell online may be the biggest decision an entrepreneur can make. Not everyone can sell Lamborghinis on the internet. That’s why it’s important to choose something that fits your goal. Here are the three main eCommerce product categories you’ll see:

Physical Products

This is simply a tangible item that customers can interact with. It’s the most common of the three types of products. Are you reading this from a phone or laptop? Those are both considered physical products. 

Digital Goods

Similar to physical products although with one main difference, they’re not tangible. Instead, business owners send shoppers their purchase via download. Examples of this include online lessons, software, and music.

Services

The third category consists of actions given to shoppers including freelancers and consultants. A good example of this type of product is a marketing company providing email assistance to a business owner or a business offering bookkeeping services.

Where to Sell Your eCommerce Products

We mentioned before that eCommerce is the buying and selling of goods online, but where do customers find these products? Depending on the business model and type of product you choose, you’ll also have to decide which selling avenue works for you. Below, we list popular places to sell goods and services online:

Social Commerce

Social media connects the entire world with unlimited content at the click of a button. It’s come to the point where not only is social media for interacting with other people, but with brands too. Companies all over are utilizing platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote their business and even sell their products right from the social site. With new features introduced every month, it’s the future of eCommerce.

Online Marketplace

An online marketplace consists of large companies, like Amazon, eBay, or Walmart, showcasing thousands of online merchants and the products they wish to sell. For this particular approach, sellers sign up for their desired marketplace, showcase a product with a description and image, then wait for an order. It’s one of the easier routes, but some aspects will be out of your control.

Screenshots of Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart online stores

Personal Store/ Shopping Cart

Another option for online sellers is creating their own branded store. This route consists of ready-made eCommerce websites, like our DIY website builder, to create a personalized site that only focuses on the seller’s products. While online stores require more time and resources toward marketing, it also allows merchants complete control over their brand, unlike sellers on Amazon.

Set up your eCommerce business with Web.com’s online store builder

Getting into the eCommerce game may seem tough, but it’s manageable with some smart steps. 

1. Research, choose your niche, and plan

Research: First, figure out what folks want to buy online. Check out what’s trending, what people like, and who you’re up against. 

Niche Choice: Pick a specific area to focus on, like sports gear or handmade jewelry. This helps you target your audience. 

Planning: Make a clear plan. Think about what you want to achieve, how much money you need, and how you’ll tell people about your store. 

2. Deciding between self-hosted or easy platforms

Self-Hosted: This means you do more tech stuff yourself. It’s harder but gives you more control. 

Easy Platforms: These are user-friendly and take care of the tech side, like Web.com’s Online Store builder. They let you focus on your store, not techie stuff. 

3. Picking a web address and hosting

Web Address: Choose a good website name that fits your business

Hosting: Get solid hosting for your site. Make sure it can handle your visitors and growth. 

Introducing Web.com’s Online Store Builder

Web.com’s Online Store builder is a smart pick for newbies. It makes starting your online shop a breeze with customizable designs and secure payments. It’s your partner for a successful online store

With these steps and tools, you’re ready to start your eCommerce journey without breaking a sweat. 

Building your online store

Creating a good eCommerce website is key to selling online. Here are some simple but important things to keep in mind: 

Mobile-friendly design

Lots of people shop on their phones and tablets. So, make sure your site works well on all screen sizes. 

Easy-to-use navigation

Make it easy for folks to find what they want. Use clear categories and menus, like aisles in a store. 

Search bar

A good search bar helps people find products fast. It’s like asking for help in a store and getting pointed in the right direction. 

Looks matter

Use nice pictures, good descriptions, and the same colors throughout your site. It’s like making your store look inviting and organized. 

Speed and security

Slow websites can drive people away. Make sure your site loads quickly and use secure payment methods to protect customer info. 

Product listings and descriptions

When you sell stuff online, how you present your products really matters. Here’s how to do it right: 

Attractive product listings

Make your product titles and descriptions catchy. Use words that show why your product is special. 

Convincing descriptions

Your descriptions should not only tell people about the product but also make them want it. Explain how it can make their life better. 

Good pictures and more

Use clear, sharp images to show off your product. Add extra things like videos or 360-degree views if you can. 

Customer reviews and photos

Ask happy customers to write reviews and share photos of them using your products. It adds trust and shows how real people like your stuff. 

Keep it consistent

Make sure all your product listings look and sound the same. It makes your store look organized and professional. 

Remember, your product listings are like the face of your online store. Making them attractive and honest is key to getting more people to buy from you. 

Payment and Shipping

When you’re in the online selling game, you need to handle payments, shipping, and keeping customers happy just right. 

Payments and staying secure

Pick payment methods that are trustworthy and keep your customer’s info safe. It’s crucial for them to feel confident when they buy from you. Things like SSL certificates and encryption help with security. 

Shipping choices and costs

Give your customers options for how their stuff gets to them. Make sure the shipping costs match up with things like the size, weight, and where it’s going. Offering free shipping or fixed rates can attract more buyers. 

Dealing with returns

Have a clear plan for what happens if someone wants to return something. Make it simple and easy for them. Maybe even offer to pay for the return shipping. 

Helping your customers

Be really good at helping your customers. Answer their questions quickly and handle any problems politely. Make sure they can reach you easily through email, chat, or phone. 

Doing these things right makes your customers trust you, come back for more, and tell their friends about you, too. 

Marketing your eCommerce store

Getting people to come to your online store is a big part of the game. Here’s how to do it right: 

Bringing in visitors

Use online ads and partner with people who can help spread the word about your store. 

Create helpful and interesting stuff like blog posts, videos, or pictures that answer questions and make people want to visit your store. 

Getting found on Google

Make sure your product pages use the right words (keywords) and have good descriptions. This helps Google show your store to more people. 

Make your website load fast, work well on phones, and be easy to use. Google likes that stuff. 

Using social media and email

Show off your products on social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. Talk to your customers and use ads to reach more people. 

Get people to sign up for your emails. Then, send them messages about special deals, new stuff, or helpful info. 

With these moves, you’ll bring in more visitors and turn them into happy customers who keep coming back for more. 

Analytics and data

Let’s talk about why it’s important to know your numbers: 

Tracking your progress

Keep an eye on how much you’re selling, how many folks visit your website, and what they do there. It’s like checking the scoreboard in a game – it tells you how well your online shop is performing, and you can make improvements to boost your conversion rate. 

The conversion rate story

Dive into the nitty-gritty, like how many of your website visitors actually end up making a purchase (we call it the conversion rate). Plus, find out how often people leave without buying and how many happy customers keep coming back. These numbers are like your store’s report card. 

Understanding the story behind the numbers

Now, let’s read between the lines. If lots of people are window shopping but not buying, maybe your checkout process needs to be smoother. If customers aren’t returning, consider starting a loyalty program. 

Tools like Google Analytics can be your detective kit, helping you decode these numbers. When you keep an eye on your data, you’ll uncover secrets to make your business thrive, sell more, and keep your customers smiling. 

Scale your eCommerce business

Ready to supercharge your online store’s growth? Here’s how to do it in plain language: 

1. Spice up your product lineup

Think about adding new stuff to sell. It’s like offering more flavors at your ice cream stand. People love options, and it can bring in more cash. 

2. Explore new places to sell

Don’t stick to just one online store. Imagine having stalls at different markets. Try selling on popular websites like Amazon or eBay to find more customers. 

3. Go global

Think beyond your own backyard. Explore selling to people in other countries. You might need to tweak your offerings to match what they like. 

4. Sharing the load

As things get busier, consider letting others help. It’s like having teammates in a game. You can delegate tasks or hire experts to handle things so you can focus on the big picture. 

5. Inventory made easy

Keep your stock in check with special software. It’s like having a wizard that tells you what to keep and what to order. This way, you don’t run out of stuff people want to buy. 

6. Supercharge your shipping

Make shipping easier by teaming up with pros. They handle the packing and sending, so you can focus on other things. It’s like having a crew that delivers your products hassle-free. 

By giving these strategies a go, you’ll set sail for growth and take your online business to exciting new places. 

Challenges and pitfalls

In the eCommerce universe, challenges are like puzzles waiting to be solved. Here’s how to tackle them: 

The battle of the brands

eCommerce is like a grand bazaar, and competition is fierce. To shine, focus on what makes you unique, treat customers like royalty, and keep inventing cool stuff. 

Trust issues

Trust is like a fragile glass ornament online. Protect it with secure payments, show off what happy customers say, and make return policies as clear as crystal. 

Juggling inventory

Balancing too much or too little stock can feel like spinning plates. Get smart with inventory tools, watch what’s selling, and keep those shelves just right. 

Marketing magic

Making marketing dollars count can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Keep trying new tricks, track what works, and double down on what brings in the gold. 

Scaling smarts

Expanding can be like a rollercoaster ride. Plan it right, get some backup when needed, and make sure your foundation can handle the extra weight. 

How to avoid Newbie Blunders when starting an eCommerce business

Newcomers often stumble on these rocks. Here’s how to skip them: 

1. Investigate before you leap

Don’t dive in blind. Get to know your customers, scope out the competition, and spot trends before taking the plunge. 

2. Mobile matters

Lots of folks shop on their phones. Make sure your website is phone-friendly, or you’ll miss out on a big crowd. 

3. Customer love

Happy customers are your best pals. Always lend a hand, answer questions fast, and treat them like royalty. 

4. Don’t rush the launch

Think of your product as a fine wine; it gets better with time. Take it slow, create top-notch listings and pics, and make an unforgettable first impression. 

5. Data is gold

Don’t ignore the treasure chest of data. Keep an eye on what’s happening, so you can adjust your sails and navigate the eCommerce seas like a pro. 

By tackling these eCommerce challenges with enthusiasm and avoiding rookie missteps, you’ll become a captain of the online business world, ready for whatever waves come your way. 

Take the first step towards eCommerce success with Web.com!

In your eCommerce adventure, remember these key points: 

  1. Start with a clear plan and niche. 
  2. Choose the right platform for your store
  3. Prioritize mobile-friendly and user-centric design. 
  4. Create engaging product listings. 
  5. Master data analysis for informed decisions. 
  6. Embrace growth strategies and avoid common pitfalls. 

Now, set sail on your eCommerce journey with confidence! It’s a dynamic world, but you’ve got the tools to thrive with Web.com. For further learning, explore resources like eCommerce courses, blogs, and industry forums. Your success story begins now. Happy selling! 

  • Web.com Team

    Our goal is to be your go-to partner in today’s always-on digital world.

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