Photo Credit: Pixabay
Once you have set up an e-commerce store, the next step is, of course, to focus on driving sales.
Successful e-сommerce retailers don’t just launch and hope everything goes well — they have multiple marketing initiatives up and running that get their stores in front of new audiences, and ultimately driving sales, at all times.
If you’re a little short on ideas for making your first sale online, we’ve put together a list of thirty methods you can test right away. Let’s jump right in.
How to sell online
Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. Sell on Instagram
With one billion users, Instagram isn’t a bad place to start when you’re looking to secure some quick first sales.
Instagram is a prime channel for building an audience, getting early attention for your products, and leveraging influencers to build buzz around your brand. But there’s a few things you’ll need to do to make Instagram work for your store.
First, fill out your profile completely; if there’s a form available, you should be using that real estate to build your brand and drive users to your site.
Second, determine the best hashtags for your audience. What hashtag(s) is your ideal audience following? Use those to get your posts in front of them.
Finally, post regularly with attractive images that feature your products. Instagram is a visual platform, so make sure that the visuals you’re using are good ones.
To streamline your sales, you can also connect Instagram shoppable posts. Shoppable posts allow you to tag products in your images with specialized links to purchase right from Instagram.
Considering Instagram? It’s best to create your Instagram profile early — even before you launch your store. The earlier you can get your Instagram rolling with attractive content, the faster your first sales will be. That being said, it’s never too late to start!
2. Explore Pinterest
50% of people bought a product after they saw a promoted pin and 93% of pinners use Pinterest to plan their purchases. So don’t miss the chance to expand your audience. First, start a business account (it’s free), customize your profile with board covers and titles, and make sure your bio is SEO-friendly.
Pay attention to Rich Pins — they provide more information directly on a pin. There are four types of them, and your choice is a Product Pin. It shows the price and where to buy your product. Learn how to add rich pins here.
The pin shows the price and informs pinners that the item is out of stock
3. Add Your Products to Facebook
To increase visibility for your new store, add your products to your Facebook business page. With Ecwid, it only takes a couple of clicks.
Once you’ve connected your Ecwid store with your Facebook business page, a new “Shop” tab will allow Facebook’s two billion active users to discover your products:
This will also allow you to quickly advertise your products on Facebook using Facebook’s powerful audience targeting tools. Learn more about Facebook tools available from Ecwid.
4. Ask Friends to Write a Review
Family and friends are often your first customers. Leverage those relationships by asking your personal network to spread the word about your products on social media, in person, and even on popular review sites. Just five friends promoting your products on their social channels can be enough to win those elusive first sales.
You can also offer your friends free products in exchange for detailed reviews. When free stuff is on the line, you might just be surprised at how helpful those friends can be.
5. Test Facebook & Instagram Ads
Facebook (which owns Instagram) makes advertising simple and allows you to determine your budget, run time, target audience, and ad design. Not many other advertising enable so much customization, and the nice thing about ads here is that you can stop them at any time.
Plus, with Facebook’s built-in analytics, you can see real, tangible results for your efforts to discover what makes an effective ad. And since Instagram is now under Facebook, including your ads in this network is just a matter of clicking a checkbox, as seen below.
Create Facebook ads that speak to your target audience and have a compelling CTA for customers–and then watch the sales roll in.
6. Throw a Contest
Contests are great for promoting your business. You may catch the interest of potential customers and gain new subscribers. Choose a prize worth joining the competition, for example, a gift card or a collection of products. Make sure the rules are clear and simple to follow. Promote your contest or giveaway on all your social platforms, even if it’s just Instagram-based, for example.
Explain or show your subscribers how you chose the winner. If it’s a contest — explain the criteria you based your decision on. If you use a randomizer app, make a video of the process. This way you ensure your followers’ trust.
Giveaways are popular on Instagram — you can throw them for any occasion you like (Image: @insidecrochet)
7. Sell on Facebook Messenger
Once shoppers start discovering your new store, they’ll probably have a few questions before they’re ready to make a purchase. And if you want to get those sales over the line, you’ll need to be able to answer those questions quickly and efficiently.
Email is reliable but response times are often delayed, and too many phone calls are likely to frustrate both you and your millennial customers. That’s why we added our Facebook Messenger integration for Ecwid storefronts.
FB Messenger in the Ecwid storefront
About 1.3 billion Facebook users are already using Facebook Messenger to communicate with friends and brands, so chances are your future customers will be there too.
Learn more about what FB Messenger can do for your store and how to get started.
8. Work With Google Shopping Ads
Google Shopping Ads uses targeting, bidding, and keywords to help you expand your audience and create advertising campaigns.
The good news is that Google Shopping is integrated with Ecwid. You can run automatically optimized Google Shopping Ads even if you’ve never dealt with it before. All you have to do is follow three simple steps: choose your target audience, choose products, and start your campaign.
This is what a Google Shopping Ad looks like to a potential customer.
9. Consider Affiliate Marketing
81% of brands use affiliate marketing. It allows earning commissions for marketing another company’s products. In other words, you pay someone for every visitor or customer brought to your website by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.
You may partner with bloggers or other companies from your industry. For example, you can provide your partners with special banners that link to your store. They can even place your entire store on their websites. The advantage is that you promote your products only to interested people and pay only when you get results.
GiftIdeaGeek is an Amazon affiliate website. It uses humorous descriptions and focuses on geeky and pop culture products that match their niche
10. Partner with an Influencer
Think about who your audience looks to for advice about your type of product–is it a blogger, a podcaster, a news outlet, or something/someone else? Outline some potential partners and reach out to propose a contest, giveaway, or product spotlight that can get your online store in front of a new, interested audience.
Not only is this a form of social proof that helps validate your online offerings, but it takes some of the slimey-feeling sales pitch out of the customer acquisition equation. Essentially, you’re letting someone else sing your praises–and that’s a great way to make sales online.
Bloggers Emma and Elsie at A Beautiful Mess partner with clothing stores to do “Sister Style” posts, which show them wearing products they’ve been given as part of a paid advertisement. In these posts, they link out to the stores that provided the items–which makes it easy for their blog readers to purchase them, too.
Send free samples to influencers within your industry or a related industry. When they review your product, you’ll get more traffic and followers as well as approval from experts in your industry.
You can also ask industry influencers for an interview. This way you may get content for your blog and gain new followers.
11. Participate in a Group Giveaway
Brands often collaborate with bloggers and influencers to drum up a buzz with prizes and giveaways. Participation usually requires the audience to interact with the collaborators on social media in a specific way in order to be eligible for a prize. This gives new stores an opportunity to gain new followers, likes, and even make sales as a prerequisite to participation. And they may even stick around after to continue interacting with your brand if your profile has valuable content to offer.
To get started, you can brainstorm your own group giveaway or join an existing one. If you opt to join in on a giveaway that already has some momentum, look for giveaways united by a specific topic (for example, “eco giveaway”) so that any prize will be relevant for the target audience.
12. Support a Charity Organization
Charitable giving is a great PR opportunity and a chance to make your first sale — especially if you’re a small business that relies on your local community.
To make your donations work for your business, choose your organization to donate to wisely. You can pick a local organization or something larger, but make sure the values of the organization resonate with your brand values.
La Mer donates to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation
13. Promote Your Products at a Local Market
Crafty, handmade, local, organic — if any of those words describe your business, you might want to consider trying your hand at a local market. Farmers markets and artisan fairs are a perfect opportunity to get your products in front of potential customers to secure a few easy sales.
To bring your market customers online, print flyers with discounts and a link to your store, keep business cards or QR codes on hand, and remember to create an experience your customers will want to share.
14. Start a YouTube Channel
Becoming YouTube-famous isn’t exactly easy, but if you understand the trends (and put in the hours), you can — at a minimum — harness its power for your first sale.
Unboxing videos are a popular trend on YouTube and a perfect approach for e-commerce stores.
If you have a friend with a strong YouTube channel, ask them to shoot an unboxing video of your product. Or (if you have the money to spare), hire an influencer to create a sponsored video of your product.
And don’t limit yourself to unboxing videos either: there are a variety of YouTube trends you can leverage based on the types of products you sell, from makeup tutorials and recipes to how-to’s. Browse Think with Google, Google Trends, and your competition to understand what’s working on YouTube for similar brands.
Source: Think with Google
If you’re fairly new to YouTube, you’ll want to do some research before you jump in. Get started with resources like this: YouTube for E-Commerce: How to Sell Without Selling.
15. Participate in the Spaces Where Your Customers Spend Time
This suggestion is a big one because it’s how you’ll organically build relationships with customers. Find out where your target market spends time (is it a Reddit thread? A Twitter chat?) and participate there without making a sales pitch. Be resourceful, be kind, and strive to make friends in these spaces.
It’s what Gary Vaynerchuk did to grow his online wine business–which is now a multi-million dollar company. He spent time sharing his expertise, and people grew to trust him as a resource within his niche.
Over time, people will come to know who you are and what you do, and they’ll take action without you having to ask them to. You’ll earn sales and referrals, which is good news for your e-commerce business.
Also, check out trade shows or even local flea markets and farmers’ markets. This way you can sell directly to your potential customers. Prepare discount coupons or stickers to give away for subscribing to your email newsletter or social media pages.
16. Master Your Networking Skills
Business networking is vital for attracting new customers or partners and understanding the market. It helps to make your business more visible and gain valuable contacts. You can network both offline (at conferences, business meetings, coworking spaces) and online. Social media is called “social” for a reason: join Facebook groups relevant to your niche, or participate in discussions on forums.
However, networking is not about handing out your business cards at events and subscribing to experts in your industry. It’s about cultivating long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with people who can be helpful to your business.
Check out our detailed guide to business networking and make your first step, or listen to this episode of the Ecwid E-Commerce Show, where two Ecwid merchants share how contacts helped them to manufacture their unique product from scratch:
17. Find Distributors for Your Products
Struggling to get your first sale? Let someone else make it for you.
Distributors are third-party professionals who work with retailers to get your products into their stores. The right distributor partner can dramatically increase your sales by helping you reach untapped markets and create new channels for sales and promotion.
Bear in mind, however, that adding more middlemen can also eat into your profits, so it’s best not to look at this as a long-term strategy. But when you’re just starting out, distributors can be a great way to spread the word about your products and build a loyal customer base to grow your operations.
Read more about finding distributors for your products.
18. Open a Popup Store
Who says you can’t build an online audience face-to-face? If you sell locally, a temporary pop-up store in a smart location like a street market or festival can be a quick way to jumpstart your sales.
Having a physical interaction with your customers offers more than an opportunity to interact with your products. Someone who’s met you in person is more likely to create a buzz about your store by sharing the experience with friends (granted the experience was a positive one). According to a survey of Ecwid merchants, word-of-mouth marketing (one customer sharing their experience with another) was the second most common way to promote a small business.
Read about an Ecwid merchant who managed over 70 popup stores in one year.
19. Start an Email Newsletter
Collecting email addresses for your email newsletter allows you to stay in touch with potential or past customers on an on-going basis. The ROI is significant, too: According to data from Campaign Monitor, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an email than a Tweet.
So how can you start gathering email addresses? Think about:
Including an opt-in on your e-сommerce site
Asking customers to opt-in during the checkout process
Using a lead generator (like a 10% off coupon) for those who sign up
Including an opt-in link in your email signature
Motivate people to subscribe to your newsletter: offer some kind of value for signing up. For example, it can be a chance to win a free product every month or week.
These are just a few ways you can get started–but as your list of subscribers begins to grow, you’ll be able to stay top-of-mind with shoppers who end up coming back to your online store over and over.
20. Create a Blog
A blog is a place for you not only to promote new products and to share sale information, but it can help you build a relationship with customers by giving your audience a behind-the-scenes view of your online operation. Create a blog to show your processes for shipping orders, talk about how you come up with new ideas for products, and let customers come to know you as the face behind the business.
Need an example? Online retailer Ugmonk wrote a blog that showed a product being made from start to finish.
21. Become a Source on HARO
HARO, AKA Help a Reporter Out, is a place where journalists and writers go to find sources for their articles. By becoming a source there, you can find opportunities not only to be quoted online and in print, but you can also share your expertise and build up authority as an expert in your field.
HARO sends out queries three times a day to source inboxes, and then you have the opportunity to respond with your best pitch. Over time, your successful responses will help you get your brand in front of new audiences–and you’ll have some positive SEO benefits from that as well.
22. Share a Great Story
Online competition is heavy, and the average attention span of internet users is falling. So, in order to engage your audience, you’ll first have to win their interest. And that’s where your brand story comes in.
Why should someone buy from you? What makes your business different? What are your company’s values? Your brand story is how you differentiate yourself from the pack. It’s who you are as a company — and that’s something shoppers are interested to know.
You might not have the resources to build a robust brand identity out of the gate, but there are several steps you can take to get your brand headed in the right direction:
•Create a strong value proposition
•Tell your story on your “About Us” page
•Use consistent, high-quality photography
•Present your products in consistent packaging (even if it’s simple)
As you begin to develop your brand, don’t be scared to showcase your strengths. A well developed brand story that tells customers exactly who you are and what you’re about can mean the difference between winning your first sale and being lost in the noise.
23. Add Links to Your Store
In order for a shopper to make a purchase, they’ll first have to find your store. And one of the most obvious ways to increase your store’s visibility is to create links.
Here are some great places to add links to your store:
•Your personal email signature
•Social media profiles (including personal)
•Guest blogs you’ve written for other websites
•In a QR code that can be printed and placed on your car or in other conspicuous locations
•In comments on forums and groups
24. Assemble a Lookbook
If you have a physical product that is associated with a lifestyle brand (think clothing, accessories, shoes, etc.), a lookbook that showcases your product in an aesthetically pleasing context helps buyers imagine themselves owning and using your products.
It’s a step beyond the standard product shot, and it gives shoppers an opportunity to see your products in action, too. Need an example? Check out L.K. Bennett’s online lookbook.
Learn more: Where to Find Models for Your Fashion Brand
25. Run a Live Stream Event
We’ve mentioned how social media can create early buzz around your products, and one great way to do that is through live video. Facebook and Instagram both offer live video tools that can be used to create brand experiences to connect with your customers.
To get the most out of live video, think of a fun activity like a lottery, contest, lecture, etc., that your audience would be excited to tune into a live stream to get. Then announce your live stream event early and promote it every day leading up to the event to drum up interest and engagement.
If you’re using your live stream to drive sales, create an exclusive coupon code that you can share with your audience at the end of your live event. Remember to keep your stream short and fun, and get audience feedback to improve future events.
26. Prepare Gifts
In e-commerce, discounts are a dime a dozen. So what happens if you switch up your strategy and offer a free gift instead of an equivalent cash discount? In one study, researchers selling lotion found they sold 73% more bottles by offering a bundle as opposed to a discount of equal value.
More often than not, customers will be more attracted to an offer that provides an extra item for free than an offer than simply provides a partial cash discount — even if it’s monetarily equivalent. So take some time before your store’s grand opening to consider what type of offer will be best for your new customers. Is it an extra product for free? An exclusive gift? What one offer can you make that’s relevant to your store and provides significant value to your customers?
27. Offer Free Shipping
Once a shopper arrives on your website, you want to do everything in your power to convince them to make a purchase. Ecwid is already optimized to encourage conversions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few extra tricks you can use to help ferry window shoppers through the checkout process. And that’s where “free shipping” comes in.
Roughly 84% of shoppers are more likely to complete a purchase with a store that offers free shipping. In fact, shipping costs are the number one contributor to abandoned carts.
Promoting free shipping on your website empowers customers to add products to their carts and complete their purchases without friction, knowing they won’t be surprised with any ancillary charges during the checkout process. When they see the price, they can make a purchase decision right then and there.
And free shipping doesn’t have to mean lower profits either! Check out some of our guides like six free shipping strategies for help, then learn how to market your free shipping offer for maximum results.
28. Offer Free Returns
According to recent reports, as many as 1 in 3 purchases will be returned. But that’s no reason to give up the fight. In fact, if you manage returns well, you’ll have the opportunity to not only save that sale, but also win customer loyalty for future purchases. And, of course, one of the best ways to manage returns well is to offer easy free returns for your customers.
What’s more, free returns give new customers the confidence to buy by enabling them to test your products risk-free. This is especially valuable for a new business with limited reviews.
If free returns are out of the question, consider offering gift certificates in exchange for returned items. You’ll be able to recover the sale, and offer your customers an opportunity to get the product they want.
And don’t forget to provide a clear return policy that’s easy to find in your online store.
29. Offer Buy Now, Pay Later
Whether or not a shopper completes their purchase depends — at least in part — on how convenient your payment options are at the time. If your products are more expensive, customers may hesitate to complete their purchase, particularly if you’re a new store with a short track record.
Fortunately, Ecwid offers “buy now, pay later” through Afterpay. Connect your Ecwid store to Afterpay to let your customers pay for their orders in four two-week payments with no additional fees when paid on time.
Learn more about Afterpay and Ecwid’s other 50+ integrated payment options.
30. Publish an FAQ Page
Sometimes customers have questions. And more often than not, they’ll want answers to those questions before they’re ready to complete a purchase. The easier it is for customers to find adequate answers to their questions, the more likely they’ll be to convert. By creating a resource with answers to commonly asked questions, you can help shoppers find important information quickly, and get back to the business of shopping in your store.
Not sure what to include on an FAQ page? Not to worry. Check out our guide to creating an FAQ page for ecommerce stores.
Make Your First Sale Online: Try New Methods
If you’re not already executing some of the strategies outlined here, today is the day to start. In no time, you’ll be well past your first online sale and busy packaging up orders.
If you’re past this point in your business, what are some of the ways you made your first sale?