The Scotiabank Women Initiative

Whether your business is well-established, or you are just starting up, you want to make sure your company's products and services are available wherever your potential customers are. Increasingly, this means you need to be able to sell your products online. But how can you do it effectively?

There are so many ecommerce options that it's hard to choose between them. But the question is, what specific opportunities are out there for selling online and how can you capitalize on them?

Easy ways to develop an e-commerce business

  • Sell items you already have but no longer need through online classified ads on places like Facebook Marketplace or other social media platforms.
  • Create artisanal products and sell them online through your own online store by creating a website through an ecommerce hosting platform.
  • Decide what you want to sell: things you already own, things you make, or things you buy. Each of these options has its own merits. It is pretty easy and a good way to declutter if you sell stuff you already own, like used furniture or clothes.

Sell locally on social media

Depending on how much effort you want to put in, you can stick to selling items locally through an online classified site or social media. The benefit to this approach is it's a good way of dipping your toe into online sales and assessing if an e-commerce business is right for you. Plus, you don't have to put in any seed money and the sale will be free - no one will be taking a cut. Of course, the negative with this approach is there's only so much you can sell before you run out, so there's no way to scale. Plus, you'll have to accept payment by methods like cash, cheque or e-transfer.

Leverage an e-commerce platform

Another option is selling items you make in a popular online store. This approach has become quite common in recent years as creators get access to easy-to-use platforms, where thousands of consumers search, and in exchange, the site usually takes a cut of your fee. It's kind of like an online shopping mall and you pay rent for your store. There's now a big market for personalized, handcrafted items like candles, jewelry, signs, woodwork and the like. It's a great idea if you're creative and have the space to make goods. The downside is it's quite a bit of work and you'll have to account for and deal with shipping and postage. Taking this approach is certainly scalable and can be profitable, but you have to run it like a business and keep track of all your expenses and make sure you're selling your items for a high enough price that you're earning a profit. If it takes you 3 weeks to crochet a baby blanket, for example, and you're selling it for $100, your hourly wage would be very low.

Buy cheap goods to resell at an online store

The third approach to online sales is buying inexpensive goods and then reselling them at a higher price. This approach is most popular on online sales sites because you can “dropship," which means you don't have to deal with any of the shipping issues. Dropshipping is a three-party system: you choose the goods and market them on a platform like Amazon, and then when a customer purchases the item, the third party ships out the item.

This means that you don't need to invest money in inventory or deal with shipping. Your role is essentially to select and market the product and act like the middle person. After the initial set-up, the process becomes somewhat automated. If successful, this method can be profitable. It's a question of finding the right products to sell and marketing them appropriately. These e-commerce platforms typically accept credit cards making them very user friendly, but they may charge you a transaction fee.


What can I sell in my online store?

There's literally no limit to what you can sell in your online store. If you want to go the artisanal, creative route, then think of things you like to buy online. For a lot of people, that can mean something personalized - engraved mugs, dog collars, bridesmaid gifts, watercolour painting of pets etc.,

For reference, some top selling items on online stores are:

  1. Crafts and supplies
  2. Handmade wooden and clay items
  3. Jewelry
  4. Wedding paraphernalia
  5. Paper and party supplies like custom stationery and posters

If you're buying manufactured goods and simply reselling them, then there's no end to the kind of products that can be profitable. The range is huge, but the product should be on the lower-end, priced around $10 to $50. Some of the most trendy items are:

  1. Interactive pet toys
  2. Women's shapewear
  3. Posture supporters
  4. Silicone baby teethers
  5. Electronic accessories like phone holders for the car


Marketing your online business

Promoting your online business is an essential part of gaining new customers. Some of the most popular marketing strategies include using social media, selecting the right price and search engine optimization. Leveraging social media can include learning how to place Facebook ads, creating a free Facebook page for your business or building an Instagram page. Remember that selecting the right price is part of a marketing strategy. Whether your items are priced high or low, you can use that to an advantage when promoting your product. And by optimizing search, you can capture all the traffic that is routinely funnelled through search engines.

To learn more about developing a marketing strategy, selling online and how to make your business profitable, check out the different social media and e-commerce platforms and use their education resources, which are usually free.

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