How to sell online and grow your business

sell-online-bcclNowfal Beary founded NewBorn Cart and JabKas, online baby product brands, with 10 products in 2015. Four years later, he has 100 products on two online marketplaces.

Online marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Shopclues have made it easy for entrepreneurs to start online businesses.

A rise in the number of online shoppers has spurred them to expand or shift to online selling. The downside, however, is brand dilution since customers are not keen to know about the brand. This can be overcome by venturing into social media platforms or opening online stores. Here are three options to choose from:

  • Online marketplace

To create a seller account on Flipkart or Amazon, the sites will verify your business documents, bank account in the name of business, and tax documents. After registering, you can list the products, set a price and start selling. The website will not influence the selling price, but charge a commission of 3-25% , besides a fi xed fee of Rs 5-40, and shipping charges of Rs 25-260 on each shipment. After deducting charges, you will get the payment in 7-15 days after sale. The charges can reduce your profits, especially if you are a small seller.

For shipping, most websites have logistics services to pick the packed product from the seller and deliver to customer. Alternatively, you can store the stock at their warehouse for a fee. It will save you the effort and cost of packing, facilitate faster delivery and allow them to handle exchange requests.

Benefits: High traffi c means you don’t have to worry about marketing or promotional campaigns. There are no set-up costs and the onus of customer satisfaction—except for product—is not on you.

Drawbacks: Most sites have easy return policies, so you will get back a lot of products. Cancellations and exchanges will eat into the revenue and slow down payments.

  • Online stores

You can also use e-commerce solution platforms to build an online store. Shopify and GoDaddy provide hosted solutions, which means they host and build the store, charging Rs 1,000-7,000 per month. It’s a good option for beginners with no technical knowledge.

Open-source solutions like Magento, WooCommerce and PrestaShop are free of cost, but you will have to build the website from scratch and host it. To fulfil orders, you can store, pack and ship packages in-house or outsource it to a third party. The latter will cost more but offer more time to build your business.

Benefits: Online stores integrate with Google Shopping and social media platforms to offer high visibility. You also get to know your customer. The direct interaction with customers tells you where you need to improve, says Vedang Patel, Co-founder and Director, The Souled Store, an online pop culture store. Besides, you can devise your own return and exchange policies.

Drawbacks: Gaining customer trust is a big problem. “It’s difficult to establish website authenticity and assure product quality,” says Patel. “Getting traffic to one’s website is an expensive process. If not done right, the cost can spiral,” adds Patel.

  • Facebook

Facebook is not just a marketing platform, but you can also sell products by setting up Facebook Shop on the fi rm’s business page. However, you need an online store as Facebook Shop does not allow direct selling in India without an external site linked to it.

Don’t have an online store? Start by creating a basic website with a free e-commerce solution platform like Shopify or Ecwid, and link it to Facebook Shop. The products on the site will be displayed on the business page. Customers can browse your catalog and order directly via Facebook. Order processing, shipment and payments are automated via the site.

You can carry out business in a similar manner on Instagram. You can’t have a redirect link with each post, but can attach a single link of the online store in the bio. Without an online store, you can take orders by adding the ‘contact us’ tab on the business page, but will have to process each order and shipment manually.

Benefits: Facebook Shop is an effective way to get new customers, as your brand is exposed to its 2.3 billion active users.

Drawbacks: As the business grows, managing orders manually can become timeconsuming. Without an online store, you will have no other shopping outlet.