is gaining pace! Research firm eMarketer predicts that 2003 will see online sales
reaching US $58.2 billion excluding travel. According to Forrester Research, another
reputable research company, business to consumer e-commerce will hit US $230 billion
by the year 2008. While offline retail sales are staggering and will continue
to do so in near term, online retail sales will show a hefty 19 percent consecutive
year over year growth! And by the same year, two third of all US households will
buy some kind of products and services online. In 2003 alone 97 million consumers
will make some kind of purchases through the Internet. If you are selling products
and services offline, you should seriously consider hopping on to the e-commerce
bandwagon, or risk loosing significant portion of your business to your more proactive
Is it difficult to start selling products or services online?
May be, in the beginning of Internet era, this was a daunting task, but today,
with proper planning it is fairly easy.
• Choose the products or services that are viable to sell over the Internet
• Build an online presence
• Create an online product catalog
• Choose payment methods
Select products or services to sell
Although, some products are easier to sell online, contrary to popular believe,
most of the products and services are, actually, marketable on the Internet.
At present, books, electronics, information and travel related products are
selling better online. But, that does not mean that there is no room for other
products or services. As a matter of fact, you can sell just about anything
over the Internet! It depends more on the market segment you choose, and how
good you are in marketing. As you know, traditional items that you can get in
nearest grocery store were not doing very well on the Internet. However, that
is going to change very soon! According to Forrester Research many of today’s
slow categories are poised to significant growth as oppose to early online sales
leaders like travel and electronics, which will experience market maturity and
slower growth. Prediction is:
Food and beverage category will grow at a rate of 49 percent, reaching $18.2
billion by 2007. The home products category will grow by 42 percent over five
years, from $7.3 billion in 2002 to $42.0 billion in 2007. Flowers, cards, and
gifts will grow by 41 percent, from $951 million in 2002 to $5.3 billion in
That’s not all! By the year 2008, today’s best selling product – books will
have a mere 3 percent share of total business to consumer online sales.
So, if your products and services can generate offline sales there should not
be any problem in selling these items online.
Build online presence
You can choose to build an e-commerce website either yourself by hiring required
experts, i.e. web programmers or by appointing a website developing company
to do the job for you. In both of the cases, you have to be prepared to spend
a significant amount of money. E-commerce site is a very broad terminology!
Depending on you demand, it can cost you from a modest US $800 to any where
over a million US dollar! That’s not all! You have to be prepared to spare considerable
time on it, as well. Writing the technical scope, choosing the appropriate design
for your site and creating proper content for your site will take a lot of your
time. And there is no guarantee that you will do everything right!
That’s why, if you are new to e-commerce and do not want to spend a fortune
in your first endeavor, you should think about making your online presence by
choosing one of the available, on the Internet, Web Store services. There are
enormous advantages of using these services:
You can build one for a fraction of the cost, needed to create an e-commerce
You can choose the design of your web store from numerous available templates.
Simple editor allows you creating your web store all by yourself.
You can be up and running within days.
You can choose a merchant account from the one offered by the service provider.
There are many Web Store service providers on the Internet like Yahoo! Store,
Bigstep, Rusbiz, etc. Compare and choose the one, which best suits your requirement.
As an added advantage, some of the Web Store service providers will integrate
your store with a shopping mall or e-marketplace free of charge. This will instantly
expose your web store to a large targeted prospective customer audience.
Create an online catalog
If you sell only one or couple of products and do not add products or services
often, you don’t require an online catalog. However, if you have a product line
of over 10 products and you constantly add or change products, you should consider
a web store with the facility of an online product catalog. This feature of
a web store service allows rapid developing and maintaining of you electronic
catalog without spending large sums on creating one by yourself.
Look for a web store service provider who offers wizard or form base product
adding method to the electronic catalog and use some kind of standard product
classification codes. At later stage, if you choose to sell products through
e-marketplaces, this will allow you to integrate your products to e-marketplaces
and make sales offers with ease.
Choose a payment method
If you are planning to sell ebooks, reports, whitepapers etc. I would suggest
you to consider using clickbank’s
marketplace. That way, you don’t have to worry
about getting a credit card merchant account.
Around 90 percent of all sales transaction occur online are by credit card
payments. To accept credit card payment over the Internet, you must first have
a merchant account. A merchant account allows a vendor to process credit card
transactions. If you built a web store online with one of the web store service
providers, you will see that they offer gateways to one or several merchant
account providers and have partnership with them. In general, you get a better
deal with them. However, as charges vary significantly from one merchant account
provider to another, make sure you shop around before committing yourself to
Promote you site
To sell your products through your site, you must draw traffic. There are number
of ways of promoting your site on the Internet. This includes:
• Search engine submissions
• Adding your site to different online directories
• Opt-in email campaign
• Link exchange
• Banner and link ads
In you effort to promote your site, you should combine as many offline and
online promotional methods you can come up with. The more traffic you can generate
the better chance you have of selling more products from your Web Store.