A decade ago nobody in India knew about online business. It was the time when scaling a company meant opening a new store in a different locality, town or city. Nobody was aware of the online trading world. Fortunately, we are now. And many want to know how to sell online.
It is the digital age where ‘go digital’ and ‘sell online’ are not just the buzzwords anymore.
The online shopping bandwagon has picked up speed in recent times. According to Statista, the number of online Indian shoppers is expected to cross 329 million by 2020, up from 130.4 million in 2016.
With the smartphone revolution and companies like Flipkart crossing billion-dollar valuation, it becomes inevitable for your business to sell online.
3 ways to sell online
Broadly, there are three ways you can choose to sell products/services online.
Sell on marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and more.
Build and maintain a DIY eCommerce store.
Get an eCommerce website from a reputed digital agency.
You can opt for any of the three ways mentioned above depending upon your budget, objectives and technical knowledge. But before we describe them, let’s discuss the legal details of selling online.
First things first
There are a few things you must do irrespective of the method you choose to sell products online. You’ll need to get all your legal registrations done:
- Company registration.
- GST number (not required for operators with an annual turnover of less than Rs 20 lakh).
- Business-specific licenses.
It’s worth noting that premium marketplaces like Amazon, PayTm and Flipkart do not allow you to register as a seller without a GST number if you sell taxable goods.
1. Sell online through marketplaces
This one is perhaps the most straightforward option available because, with this method, your online business gets up and running within a week. You don’t need to build a customer base, spend hefty amounts on marketing or be technically sound — all that is done for you.
Popular options include:
There are plenty more options including Limeroad, Shopclues, Myntra, Voonik, Zivame and many more.
You merely have to submit your business details on the website’s seller-registration page. The verification process usually gets completed in a couple of days.
Documents required by different marketplaces vary. To be on a safer side, keep the following documents ready when you apply.
- GST number
- PAN card copy
- Copy of Trademark Registration Certificate
- Bank details
- Address proof
- Business logo
Each marketplace charges differently. While the majority of them do not ask for a subscription fee to register, they charge commission on a per-sale basis. The percentage of the amount deducted varies from category to category. For some items, the commission could be as little as 5 percent while for others it could go up to 20 percent.
While the marketplaces let you set up your online store quickly and save on your marketing and other operational costs, they take big chunks from your profits.
The biggest downside of this method is not having control over your own business.
Ideally, your brand recognition and relationship with the audience should grow with sales. But with this method of selling, you don’t get the email IDs of your customers. This limits your ability to nurture relationships with them.
Moreover, you are run by the whims and fancies of the marketplace — some of which do not have a good history so far.
2. Sell online through a DIY eCommerce store
The eCommerce website builder is a good option for those who like to have control over their businesses. It can help you not just pocket more money but also portray you as a branded business in your own right — not just another stall on Flipkart.
It doesn’t matter if you possess technical knowledge or not. The best store builders are extremely simple to get you started.
With an integrated payment system and shipping methods, your professional-looking eCommerce store can be up and running in no time. And many eCommerce website builder provide plenty of room to grow. With GoDaddy’s Online Store, for example, you can add a vast inventory of 5,000 products.
Depending on the builder you choose, registration is quick. Those that have free trials don’t have an initial registration process at all.
While no store builder asks for a setup fee, they offer different plans (with recurring fees) based on the features you need, the size of your business and other factors.
Majority of them come with a free trial option so you know what you’d be paying for.
Other expenses include buying a domain name and hosting space for your website (hosting is included with Online Store).
GoDaddy offers a free trial for 14 days without any requirement of your credit card details.
You get plenty of features like:
- Easy website customisation.
- Inventory management.
- Secure payment processing.
- Third-party shipping integration.
- Marketing tools like email and social integration.
Plus, no profit-sharing as you take home every penny earned after the monthly fee. Whichever builder you choose, be sure it has 24/7 customer support.
3. Sell through a professionally built eCommerce store
The third way is to get a customised eCommerce website built by an experienced digital agency. You get a sophisticated and professional-looking design created to suit your needs and expectations. There are no limitations to what you can do regarding layout, colour scheme, feature inclusion or anything you can think of.
Depending on the features you’d like to include and the agency’s reputation and expertise, charges vary from Rs 50,000 to Rs 200,000 or more. Maintenance cost is an additional annual expense you need to spare.
A few crucial things to take note of
Whether you build it yourself, go the marketplace route or hire someone else to build your eCommerce website, be sure you have these things:
A smooth checkout process
According to Octane research, the number of shoppers who put items in their carts but leave without purchasing in India is as high as 75 percent. Complicated checkout process is a primary global reason for cart abandonment. So whatever option you choose, a smooth checkout is essential to your success.
Clean and bright display of images
Ninety percent of the information to the brain comes through visuals. Using spectacular and high- definition images can increase the conversion rate on your store. Get tips on taking product photos here.
A prominent Call-to-Action (CTA)
In spite of your Herculean efforts, you could find your visitors not purchasing because you did not pay the required attention to this small but essential point. A bright and prominent CTA button makes it easy for the visitors to know where to click. It also prompts them to take the required action.
You can sell online
The idea behind this read is to make you aware of the options you have at your disposal regarding online selling. It is the right choices made at the start that make or break the business. I hope this article helps you make better business decisions from day one.