What it Takes to Start Selling Online
E-commerce is an expanding market set to grow 8 to 12 percent next year, according to Business Insider. This will make e-commerce a $427 billion dollar industry. One can sell almost anything on Amazon, Etsy and eBay, but each one of these retail platforms is missing something – the personality of a brand’s own website.
Although Amazon, Etsy and eBay are great places to get started, gaining name recognition from them is almost impossible. A Magazine searched high and low for the most helpful tips to establish your very own online business. Keep reading, all of you budding entrepreneurs.
Let’s be real. The average person probably doesn’t know how to program their own website, but don’t worry; you don’t have to be a master programmer to sell online.
Setting up an online business may be easier than you think with Shopify. The founder of Shopify, Tobias Lutke, realized the public lacked the tools to create their own online shops. By meeting with developers and programmers, Lutke got to work in creating Shopify as a more personal Amazon.
Unlike other website hosts, Shopify allows you to use your own domain. More importantly, Shopify operates point of sale technology far beyond that of their competition. For all the necessary technology needed to keep track of sales and manage inventory, Shopify has got you covered. Shopify operates blogs, Pinterest buyable pins, Facebook Shop and the option to start selling on Amazon. You can sell almost anything on Shopify, and best of all, it’s super user-friendly.
Just because you’re a college student doesn’t mean you can’t start your business now. Annie Skoch is a senior fashion merchandising student at Kent State as well as an entrepreneur and owner of Anne Cate. Anne Cate sells products from wristlets to throw pillows to baby clothes that are all handmade in Cleveland.
Skoch set up her first shop in 2009 through Etsy at the age of 13, then used Weebly to direct people to her shop. Since then, she transformed her use of minimal descriptions and low quality images to her very own professional website.
“Figuring out how to sell a product without any in-person reaction was a challenge,” Skoch says. “My shop has been transformed and altered probably 100 times over and I am sure it will keep changing with newer technologies and business growth.”
Weebly, a competitor of Shopify, is a website host that is known for their drag-and-drop feature, which is super user friendly but leaves little room for customization. Running an ecommerce site through a personal domain starts at $30 a month.
Skoch says Etsy’s fee’s are very affordable, so it’s a good place to start. She recommends using Weebly or Shopify for an easy to use and professional setup.
“I have been using Weebly for six years and just transitioned to Shopify, but I already favor Shopify highly over Weebly,” Skoch says. “Shopify is much more professional and has greater quality over Weebly. Shopify has great customer service and offers many more features for the same price that Weebly offers for their minimal plan.”
Another website host to consider is Big Cartel. Big Cartel is very well know in the streetwear industry so we contacted Kasey Montazeri, owner of streetwear clothing brand Diablo Conglomerate.
“The first shop I had was with Big Cartel back in April 2015,” Montazeri says. “It was the easiest way because I knew it was cheap. I did it all on my own and it kind of showed because I didn’t really know what I was doing and I had to go with how it was set up on their platform.”
He says Big Cartel is easy to use but doesn’t have many customization features, including a personal domain and page options.
Diablo Conglomerate’s mission statement is to bridge the gap between clothing and entertainment and offer an experience that goes beyond clothing. It’s based in Northeast Ohio with a team of designers, musicians and photographers.
To get his company message across, Montazeri’s roommate and now manager helps him transition his site from Big Cartel to Shopify last Fall. With the use of shopify, he says his site now looks professional.
Purchasing a vendor license
In the state of Ohio, you need a vendor license to sell legally. In most cases, you will also need it to buy. Vendor licenses in Ohio are a one-time purchase of $25. Although you will never need to file for a new vendor license, you are required to pay your taxes monthly or semi-annually depending on how much you sell.
Your vendor license will come with a North American Classification System (NAICS) code for your business. NAICS allows you to buy merchandise with the intention to sell.
Creating a return policy
If you would like your online business to have a good reputation, you should establish a good return policy. The great thing about owning your own business is that you get to make your own rules. Make a return policy you’re comfortable with and stick to it.
Selling your inventory
Once you’ve purchased a vendor license and developed a return policy, it’s safe to say that you’re ready to organize your inventory, whether that be buying products to sell or making your own.
If you are looking to buy products to sell, your options are endless. Your business plan will determine whether you want to sell at a low price point or a high one. You have the option of buying products from wholesalers, big businesses or small businesses. You can find almost anything to sell online.
Although Skoch has several wholesale clients and handmade markets she works with, about 75 percent of her inventory is sold online.
“I drive sales both through word of mouth and online marketing, but also thrive off being discovered via basic Google searches,” Skoch says.
Unlike Cate, Montazeri’s online sales are almost 100 percent. Most of his brands business comes from the Youngstown area where he’s from, but he still sell out of the state.
“We had one show that we did in Youngstown in November, and that’s when the Conglomerate idea came together and was just like, bigger than me,” Montazeri says. “That was our first ‘welcome to the city’ sort of a thing, and we sold a good amount there.”
Connecting with customers
Skoch says the hardest part of maintaining her online shop is updating her website to cater to what her customers wants.
“I work on my website almost every day to optimize sales, professionalism and SEO [search engine optimization],” Skoch says. “You need to create the same experience and confidence that a customer would have if they were in a store holding the product.
Skoch has attracted unique company buyers and customer who found her site without doing any advertising. She has been able to receive feedback and learn about her customers’ stories.
Montazeri also enjoys the aspect of connecting with people through his online shop.
“I think the worst thing is also the best thing,” Montazeri says. “It’s the fact that I can connect with people who have no idea who I am or have no idea of me.”
Setting up an online store is a huge step into growing your business. Be prepared to launch your business and leverage your startup into a well-seasoned company with these few pointers.