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If you think you’ve missed out on the e-commerce boom and should have started an online business long ago, here is some reassuring news: the industry’s rapid growth isn’t slowing down any time soon, and selling your products online has never been easier.
Online sales were increasing steadily before the pandemic, but 2020 saw incredible growth. E-commerce sales grew more than 30% year-over-year in Q4 of last year, with U.S. sales reaching nearly $250 billion by Q4 of 2020. By 2023, worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to reach $6.5 trillion, according to Statista.
To meet the rising demand, the big players have expanded their e-commerce programs. Walmart, for example, launched a new subscription plan, Walmart Plus, to take on popular Amazon Prime. Platforms that make it easy for anyone to become an online merchant are also booming. Shopify had a record-breaking year, with a 71% increase in the number of new shops opened in the early months of the pandemic compared to the previous year.
The pandemic has also meant people are spending even more time on social media platforms. So, it’s not surprising that e-commerce and social media are merging. From Facebook to TikTok, social platforms are adding features that help people discover and purchase products directly in-app.
Sounds great, right? But if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, it may be overwhelming.
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Here are four different approaches you can take to start selling online today:
If you want to validate your idea, try social commerce
You may think you have a great and innovative product, but it’s always wise to test the market before investing too much of your money or time in a new venture. Fortunately, social media makes doing so more effortless than ever.
Social commerce, the idea of selling your products and services from your social media posts, is the next wave in online shopping. Social commerce purchases in the U.S. grew 25% in 2020, with U.S. sales reaching about $80 billion. That number is expected to hit grow another 12.9% this year, according to eMarketer.
Social media platforms are now adding features that help consumers discover branded products and purchase them without navigating to a separate e-commerce site.
For new brands, social commerce is a great way to test consumer reaction to your product idea. To get started, look no further than Facebook. On Facebook, you can run test campaigns of targeted ads with a budget as low as a couple of dollars a day. You can set up a store through Facebook Shops, which allows you to offer an end-to-end shopping experience to your customers on both Facebook and Instagram, without the hassle of buying a domain name and building a standalone website.
Through your ads and your shoppable posts on both social platforms, customers can connect to product details and native checkout to process payments. You’ll be able to find out how the market responds to your products and quickly pivot to a new audience or switch up your messaging if necessary, without having to open a separate store.
If you want to focus on selling a high volume, consider Amazon
If your goal is selling as many products as possible, start a business on Amazon. An obvious benefit of using Amazon is the ability to leverage the e-commerce giant’s search engine power, which organically brings customers to your store. You won’t need to run complex marketing campaigns or buy ads to drive demand.
Becoming an Amazon seller is a simple process. Choose whether you want to manufacture your products or resell existing ones (or a combination of both), and then set up an account on the platform to get started.
You can also take advantage of Fulfillment by Amazon, a service that lets merchants store their products in Amazon’s warehouses and have Amazon employees pack and ship them. This can be a great way to scale your business more quickly and without the cost and headache of maintaining inventory.
If you want to add an e-commerce component to your existing brand website, try WooCommerce
Whether you’re a blogger, business coach, consultant or creative, you may already have an existing website promoting your business and its services. Adding an e-commerce component to an existing site can bring in a new revenue source through sales of merchandise, subscriptions, courses and the like. And you don’t have to launch a new site or open a store on an e-commerce platform to do so.
Adding an online store to your current site, rather than starting one on another platform, allows you to capitalize on your existing site’s momentum—your branding, audience, SEO and traffic—to make your first sales.
If you’re among the millions of people who use WordPress (about 42.9% of all sites), you can quickly install WooCommerce to your site to handle transactions. WordPress’ parent company owns WooCommerce, and the integration between the two is seamless.
If you want to build a retail brand, try Shopify
Your dream may be to create a standalone retail brand that continues to grow over time. In that case, you’ll want to consider starting an online business with Shopify.
The all-in-one e-commerce platform, used by more than one million merchants already, lets you start and expand an online store without technical skills. That makes it possible for entrepreneurs who aren’t tech savvy to focus on other things like product development, marketing and sales.
The cherry on top is that Shopify operates like a Swiss Army knife, with tons of features already integrated to build your business. You also can harness the power of social commerce, thanks to Shopify’s brand-new integration with Facebook and Instagram.
Building and managing a supply chain can be one of the most challenging aspects of running an online store, and the platform’s Shopify Fulfillment Network addresses that headache. The end-to-end solution, from checkout to delivery, handles logistics like inventory and shipping that can take up a lot of an entrepreneur’s time and energy.
Whether you are thinking of launching a side hustle, starting a new business or expanding an existing one, now is a great time to start selling online.
Consumers have become more comfortable with e-commerce and are doing more shopping online since the onset of the pandemic. Simultaneously, technology providers are developing tools that give entrepreneurs a variety of choices of how and where they want to sell products. No matter your level of expertise, resources or goals, you can easily become part of the e-commerce revolution today.