Getting Started With Online Selling - Alison Wren - Guest Post - Collectively Caitlin - Business Coach

Selling online is a dream for many. Whether it’s your own designs and products or a collection of gorgeous things from others - it can be a great way to build a profitable business.

 It isn’t easy – these days ecommerce is dominated by mega retailers like Amazon. But in the same way as many of us love to support our local stores, there is still a place for the independent ecommerce store.

Here are my key success factors for online selling:

Identify your niche.

You can’t compete with the big retailers so don’t try.

As a boutique ecommerce store it’s vital to have a clearly identified niche - a specific and well defined segment of the population who will love and buy your product.

Once you have defined this you can really understand your customer. Their values, what motivates them and what makes them want to buy. With this knowledge you can target your online marketing – your website copy, your photographs and your social media – specifically at that person.

What can you give them that the mega stores can’t? It could be unrivalled product knowledge, a great sense of style that helps them get the look they want or beautiful, hard to find items. Find a reason they will buy from you – and pay a realistic price.

Marketplaces are a great place to get started.

Getting customers to visit your online shop is tough. Page 1 of Google is usually dominated by big brands and paid search is complicated (and expensive, if you don’t get it right).

So many ecommerce businesses start out by listing their products on an online marketplace like Etsy, eBay or Amazon. These big marketplaces can get your products in front of large numbers of willing buyers very quickly.

It’s a good way to learn what sells, what doesn’t and get to know your customers before you invest in your own ecommerce website.

At some point you will want to have your own website. Basing your whole business on someone else’s platform leaves you vulnerable to rule changes and if you break the rules (whether by accident or not) your shop can be taken down at a moment’s notice.

Photographs sell

Successful online businesses know that great photographs are what really make your customer WANT to buy.

Snaps taken on your smartphone just won’t do.

This is an area where you simply cannot take shortcuts. Either use a professional photographer or invest in the right training and equipment to learn how to take fabulous product shots.

Pay attention to your product titles and descriptions

It’s boring, but writing well-crafted, individual titles and descriptions for every product will really pay off. Whether you are listing on a marketplace like Etsy or for your own website, these will determine if your products get found or not.

It’s important for organic search. The page title (which is usually the same as the product title) is one of the key things Google looks at and it also wants to see original, relevant content on the page.

It’s important for paid search. Google Shopping adverts are one of the most cost effective ways to get your products in front of willing buyers and these rely heavily on the product description to decide when to show your item. Even if you are not using Shopping adverts immediately, it makes sense to get these right from Day 1.

Research your keywords, create keyword rich titles, make sure your descriptions are comprehensive (don’t forget vital details like sizing that your buyers need to know) and most of all make sure each one is unique.

If you are selling branded products don’t be tempted to use the manufacturer’s description – create your own.

Social media alone will only take you so far

It’s the secret that all those social media gurus don’t tell you - Social Media alone is terrible at directly generating sales for your ecommerce business.

While Followers, Likes and Engagement look good, they don’t always translate into sales – at least not the regular flow of orders you need for a sustainable ecommerce business.

It’s fantastic when you are starting out – with no budget but plenty of time you can use it to get those first important sales. But it’s not easy to scale as you grow. Most successful online retailers use a variety of marketing activities including Google Shopping ads and search optimisation.

Customers will pretty much expect you to be active on social media these days – especially if you sell lifestyle products in areas like fashion, interiors and weddings. And it’s great for creating awareness, building loyalty and getting feedback.

But you need to develop a social media strategy that’s integrated into your other marketing activities rather than expecting it to be your primary sales channel long term. Use social media to grow your email list and take advantage of targeted advertising and remarketing opportunities.

Conversion is key

Conversion rate – the proportion of your site visitors who actually make a purchase – is critical to the success of any online business. After all, getting visitors to your website is hard work and often expensive and if they don’t buy, all your efforts are wasted.

Get Google analytics with ecommerce tracking installed. This will give you masses of vital information about your visitors, how they found you and which of your marketing activities are most profitable. Use this to make adjustments to your products, marketing and website.

Make sure it is ridiculously easy to buy from your store – whether on a desktop computer or a smartphone. Ask your friends and family to make trial purchases and give you honest feedback.

In Summary

  • Identify your target customer and why they should buy from you
  • Don’t cut corners on photographs and product descriptions
  • Create a marketing plan that can grow with your business
  • Focus on turning browsers into buyers

Of course you also need to have fabulous products, competitive prices and back it up with impeccable customer service! 

Getting Started With Online Selling - Alison Wren - Guest Post - Collectively Caitlin - Business Coach
Getting Started With Online Selling - Alison Wren - Guest Post - Collectively Caitlin - Business Coach


After a career in IT, Alison Wren escaped corporate life to set up a DIY wedding stationery ecommerce business. Over 7 years she built that business to a 6 figure turnover with 6 staff and a custom fitted workshop and warehouse before selling up in 2011. Alison now works as a marketing consultant and writes a blog for wedding business owners Wedding Business Success (

You can follow Alison on Twitter and Facebook