The internet has completely flipped the buying process on its head. In 2000, a Pew Research Center study found that only 22 percent of Americans were shopping online. Compare that to a more recent 2016 study that found that 79 percent of Americans make online purchases. Brick and mortar stores are closing. Shoppers now prefer shopping from the comfort of their homes and on their smartphones.
These changes present an opportunity for entrepreneurs. You no longer need a physical storefront to have a thriving business. Here I’ve broken down the basics of five different options for online sales.
Selling on Amazon
Amazon is the most famous ecommerce website. With $135.99 billion in net revenue last year, it’s also safe to say that Amazon is dominating the etail industry and crushing its competitors.
How it works
For selling products, you’ll need to choose between Amazon’s two selling plans. At $39.99 per month, the Professional Plan is best suited for entrepreneurs with a higher sales volume (more than 40 items sold per month). The Individual Plan is better for smaller scale vendors. Users pay $0.99 for each item sold. After selecting your plan, create your account and register. You have the ability to sell products that are already listed on Amazon or upload new items.
Amazon is also the No. 1 place for authors to sell books, musicians to sell recorded music and film makers to sell independent films. Amazon provides self publishing through its partner Createspace.
Selling on Amazon has countless advantages for budding entrepreneurs. Many consumers prefer to buy through a website like Amazon which they know and trust. You also reap the benefits of Amazon’s high web traffic. Being listed on Amazon gives your company exposure to a big new pool of potential customers.
Selling on your own store
Some entrepreneurs prefer to establish and manage their own online stores using an ecommerce solution. Magento, Shopify and Woocommerce are the most popular platforms for doing this.
How it works
Ecommerce platforms allow you to use a personal domain to set up an online storefront. They each have customizable themes to choose from, or you can create and upload your own theme. Using the platform, you upload your products, track inventory and fulfill orders.
These platforms allow you to have a unique website that matches your brand and vision. In addition to this personal freedom, these sites also act as a CRM solution. They seamlessly integrate with apps such as Google Shopping and MailChimp as well as with social media platforms. They have different pricing plans, allowing you to choose the plan that best fits your needs.
Selling on Facebook
Facebook has over one billion users, making it a great selling space for entrepreneurs. With Facebook Store, users can make purchases right from your page.
How it works
Setting up your Facebook Store is very easy if you already use an ecommerce solution like Shopify or Magento. Add the Facebook App to your store through your website and it’ll import your items directly to your Facebook Store. Don’t have an ecommerce site? That’s okay, too. You’ll just need to get the Facebook Store app and set it up that way.
Your business already has a Facebook page, so why not turn it into a sales opportunity? After all, your customers probably visit Facebook more than your website. You can now reach them even when they’re not in “shopping mode.” Also, Facebook has sophisticated analytics that provide you with useful traffic reporting data.
Selling online courses
Online courses and certifications have become increasingly popular. Take advantage of this by trend by selling your courses through websites like Udemy and Skillshare.
How it works
Udemy allows entrepreneurs to upload PDFs, audio files, videos and PowerPoint presentations as course materials. It also has a message board that facilitates communication between students and instructors. Instead of monthly payments, Udemy collects 50 percent of your course sales if the site promotes it. If you promote your own courses, Udemy only takes 3 percent of your revenue.
In Skillshare, courses are segmented into short, pre-recorded videos and culminate in a class project. Instructors earn royalties based on number of minutes their course videos are watched each month, and also make money on enrollment referrals.
People like elearning because of the flexibility and convenience of taking a course at their own pace. Traditional classroom learning simply isn’t possible for parents or people who work full-time. Udemy and Skillshare have both iOS and Google Play apps, allowing students to learn on the go on their smartphones. These sites also have huge customer bases, giving your course plenty of exposure. Udemy has a reported 15 million users, and Skillshare has 2 million.
More entrepreneurs are selling ebooks. Self-publishing allows people to write books without worrying about literary agents and publishers. Apple’s iBooks and Google Play are two of the most commonly used ebook stores.
How it works
Selling your book on iBooks is easy. After completing a simple online signup, you’re able to sell your book. Apple takes a 30 percent commission per sale.
With Google Play, you can sign up to be a seller using an existing Google account. Your book will be available for preview on Google Books. Publishers keep 52 percent of the revenue from their ebook sales.
Selling ebooks democratizes the book industry. It’s much easier to self-publish than get your book picked up by a publisher and distributed in bookstores. With ebooks, you have control over your earnings, as you’re able to set your own book prices. Readers also like ebooks as they’re often less expensive than a paperback or hardcover book and allow them to read wherever they are without having to carry a book everywhere.
Choosing the best online selling opportunities
As you can see, you have many choices for where and how you sell your products and services online. All of the platforms I’ve described are solid options and have helped millions of entrepreneurs establish successful online businesses.
The key to making any of these work is to first decide what works best for you. Do you have a flare for ecommerce? Do you understand how to sell products? Which products to sell? Do you understand inventory, promotions and the rest that comes along with being a eretailer?
Or, maybe that is not for you. Maybe you are more of a creative person. You have a story to tell, a book to write, a painting to paint? Then selling on Amazon, Etsy and the like may work best for you.
If you have loads of professional experience and want to teach the world, then developing and marketing a course may be your best bet. There are literally thousands of options here, so do your research and understand what pays best, where your audience is, how you need to produce with video and other content.
In the end, the choice is up to you. But, whatever you choose make sure that it aligns with your entrepreneurial brand, your experience and resources.