Selling products online began in 1994 and has proven to be a fantastic way for businesses to reach more customers and customers to reach more products. As online sales platforms have increased in sophistication, the practice has become secure, easy-to-use and reliable. These days there are thousands upon thousands of people selling products online, from large multinational corporations, to sole traders, and their customers come from all over the world.
What sort of things are sold online?
Certain businesses lend themselves to online selling, whereas others might be more trouble than they are worth. If you make or distribute niche products for a particular hobby, you might be a prime candidate for an online store. These sorts of products are often hard to find – especially if a lot of demand is coming from people outside major cities who have less choice in their shopping already. Trying to sell something oversized or very expensive from a new online store is likely to be much more difficult, especially if they are items sold commonly in-store, and anything fragile or perishable is not advised.
Selling online is more typically for products than for services, but many service businesses have begun to find innovative ways to harness the internet to drive sales. One of the most high-profile examples is Uber, who utilise sophisticated GPS technology and a very well-structured business to offer thousands of lifts a day for a fraction of the cost of a taxi. While the development costs of such a system would be significant, businesses like Uber have fully integrated their online and offline practices, leveraging their technological advantages and innovative business models to out-compete the existing services.
How does selling online work?
Selling online is done through eCommerce systems, which allow people to select products and pay for them securely. Some websites allow many users to sign up and utilise their eCommerce platform – like eBay, which acts as an online auction where users can set up shops and buy and sell with each other. Other websites offer ready-made, easy-to-use eCommerce stores that you can install on your own domain or website, allowing you to harness the power of online selling for your business.
More sophisticated professional eCommerce products are also available, and can integrate with warehousing software, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, accounting software, MySQL databases, and so much more. The result can be nearly limitless automation of your sales and distribution process – the client browses the store and purchases a product, causing the secure system to bill their chosen payment method and generate a receipt for them, which is automatically added to the business' records for reporting purposes. Simultaneously, the same purchase triggers an order, which is sent to the warehouse (some of which are also equipped with automated conveyor belts and inventory databases, so they require no manual handling) for dispatch, and information of the purchase is stored in the CRM with the client's details, to be referred to if there is any issue. Finally, details about the sale itself – such as the time, the type of product, the profit made, and so on – could be pushed into a database for data analysis. A package can arrive at your customer's door without anyone but the postman even looking at it, let alone touching it.