Selling Online 101 - Your First Sale

Posted by Michael Watt on


So you have bought your first product/s to sell. You are determined that you are going to take over the world! Well there is still a long way to go, but good on you for taking action! In this blog we will look at how to list your products, market them, ship them and successfully deal with customers. 

Product Listings

Whether its eBay, Amazon, Facebook or one of the many other online marketplaces, you need product data in order to advertise you product for sale. This will include a product title, pictures, item specifics such as material, size etc. For some marketplaces the more data you can provide, the better. For others, where attention may be limited - such as facebook - you may want to try  short, effective data points with great pictures that grab attention. 

In such a varied and in-depth subject, providing key points may prove more useful. The main points when considering your product listings are: 

- Take clear, detailed pictures that show a variety of angles of the product. I would suggest 3 pictures at the very minimum. (Ebay recommends 7 pictures for every listing!) 

- Titles must be search-able and should include at least the brand, product name/code, colour and product type. 

- The item description must be clear and to the point. It should be easily scannable with clear product information that could include: Material, Country of Manufacture, Specific features, RRP, Colour and size. A specific size guide may be needed if selling internationally. 

Marketing Your Product

Multiple in-depth, completely separate blogs could be written on marketing but today we are focusing on the basics and how you can start. 

Before you can sell anything, you need to figure out who your potential customers are and the get their attention.

Therefore you must first find out the answers to these questions: 

1. What is my Target Market?

2. What are their interests?

3. Where are these people's attention - social media? Newspapers? TV?

4. Are my products / branding in line with my target market?

5. How can I get my target markets attention?

I would suggest that by answering the questions above, you will think deeper into who you are targeting and what you can do to catch their attention. The key to catching and keeping attention really comes down to valuable, relative content. Content can come in many forms but some ways in which you could start are: 

1. Running Targeted Ads on Social Media 

Creating visually pleasing, informative content and paying to "boost" or setup a campaign on Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram is a great place to start. Boosting posts on your facebook page or Instagram page will push your items out to a wider audience, increasing your reach and possibility of capturing that attention! If you are not doing this - research it and start doing it. 

2. Marketplace Ads 

Lets focus on Ebay and Amazon.

Ebay offer "promoted listings" which allows you to agree to giving a certain percentage of the sale to eBay and in exchange they will advertise your products, increasing their reach. This is a good way to start as you can set the percentage, meaning you never get surprised and can keep control. I would suggest utilising this tool on eBay  - the trending percentage seems to be around 5-8% within fashion. 

Amazon offer various advertising options but the most popular is their pay-per-click campaigns. In this system, you can select the items you would like to promote, Amazon will use their automatic keyword system to promote the item and you only pay when someone clicks on your item. The pay-per-click is very popular but also risky if you don't know what your doing. If you setup the campaigns with large limits then you could end up spending alot of money for not much return. The key is to research the system and start off with small limits. You should be aiming for an Acos (advertising cost of sales) of below 10%. 

3. Email Marketing 

Converting a new customer should be celebrated as it is difficult in this very competitive, online environment. Therefore we should do our best to keep the customers we have gained informed and offer them deals so they become repeat customers. A simple email marketing software can help keep all customers and potential customers a few clicks away. Software such as Mailchimp or Getresponse is a low cost system which will help you to start communicating effectively with you customers. We currently use Omnisend and it is very useful, easy to use and low cost - I would suggest taking a look! 

4. Physical Literature

Although it may have decreased in popularity, this is still an important part of your marketing mix. Physical marketing material may include items such as leaflets, business cards etc that offer special discounts or direct them to your website / social platforms. These could give placed alongside the packing slip when sending your items. It will be sure to get the attention of the customer when they open their package. These things can be created very cheaply on sites like Vistaprint. 

There are many other ways of advertising that should be researched, but hopefully the above gives you a small insight into some ways in which you can start with. 


Shipping Your Sales

The internet has been around for a while now, which has meant that courier companies are catching up and constantly changing to become more reliable, cheaper and easier to use. This is all to the benefit to us as online sellers. The world is increasingly becoming a smaller place and sending items thousands of miles to various countries is fast becoming a normal, low-risk activity. 

The key is to find the courier that fits for you. Since we sell expensive, top-branded fashion worldwide, we need top of the range shipping with excellent service, good insurance options, quick shipping and worldwide infrastructure. We currently use a mix of DPD and UPS. DPD is great for Europe, especially their next day delivery option in the UK which is priced well and offers great communication options with customers through notification emails and texts. UPS is great for reliable shipping to further afield countries since they have a world-wide network. Remember that the service the customer receives will play a large part in whether or not they return to you again. I would suggest that always aiming for the cheapest is a bad idea as you will sacrifice the level of service. 

You also should think about your image. If you are selling a premium item - ideally you want a premium courier to be delivering the item. For example, if we sold one of our Alexander McQueen Larry trainers (which cost over £300) and sent them with My Hermes and had a casual worker deliver it in their car, the image does not correlate. Its not because My Hermes are a bad company - the offer great prices that work for many other sellers who sell cheaper products - but its the fact that the level of product needs to match the level of courier. Think about how you ship your products and the level of service your customer receives. Ask yourself these questions: 

1. Am I sacrificing service and delivery time because I want to save a very small amount? I would suggest this is a bad idea.

2. Are all of my deliveries trackable and require a signature upon delivery? I would suggest this is a must for any item over £25 value. 

3. How can my customer interact with the courier when the item is in transit? Can they track the item and are they given any options to pick it up from a shop or delay the delivery / change the address?

4. What is the process of the item is lost? Does the courier have a phone number you can call to speak to a physical person? You should really have some type of insurance  / compensation in place. 

 Ultimately, the key is to think long-term and find the service that fits well with your product range. Don't sacrifice the level of service to save a small amount. 


Customer Service

Many sellers can get caught up with the buzz of sale and actually drop the ball on the most important aspect of building a successful business / brand. No punches should be pulled when developing your customer service plan, it is vital to the longevity of your business. It can be very frustrating at times, and you may even lose money on occasion if a mistake is made or if the customer wants to return the item. When frustrating things happen - think long term. Sacrificing a little profit here and there to keep your level of customer service high is the best investment you can make. Here are a few basic pointers that will help: 

1. Accept returns.

This may sound daunting and will affect your profit margin, but for any business that aspires to grow, you will have to accept returns at some point. It simply does not look professional and may make potential customers question the authenticity of your items if you do not accept returns. 

There is now a law in Germany that means whenever Germans buy online, they are automatically entitled to a FREE return BY LAW. Although this has provided small amounts of pain and extra money to businesses, it has also given the German consumers a huge amount of confidence to buy online and it has greatly helped their economy. Lets learn from that and help buyers shop with confidence. Start with offering returns and be generous with the return period. Returns are something that you have to accept is inevitable and an area where you can show your customer service skills. 

2. Be Responsive

Be quick to reply to all questions and concerns that may arise. Many marketplaces have various messaging platforms - make sure you adhere to their rules and timescales so you do not receive any defects. Quick responses, even if they are negative news - such as an items no longer in stock -  will be appreciated by the customer compared to it being dragged out or ignored. Show the customer that you can deal with problems quickly and effectively and they will trust you. 

3. Provide Information & Nurture 

Once you have gained a customer, you need to keep that customer, its that simple. Returning customers are the golden geese that need to be nurtured and taken care of. Once a customer has converted, they should receive information all the way through the process - an order confirmation, shipping confirmation with a tracking number provided and also a follow up message asking if everything was okay. They can then be added to any lists or segmented customer groups and be contacted again with special offers, deals and events that will encourage them to buy again. 


I understand that this has been alot of information to take in, but I hope that it has provided you with new ideas or reinforced some areas that you know you can improve. There are so many aspects to running a successful e-commerce business and it is very difficult to keep on top of everything. There are so many systems that you can look into that will help you manage your business and I would suggest doing as much research as possible. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our content. Please comment with any questions, suggestions or your story of what you have done so far! 

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