How To Start Selling Online

An unexpected event, like the COVID-19 pandemic, could likely mean that you’re required to make changes to your business model in order to continue to manage your business while remaining accessible to your customers. Having a reliable eCommerce platform is more important than ever for businesses that need to find a new way of selling to customers who are no longer able to visit their stores. We’ve listed a few things to consider when exploring the eCommerce options available to you.

Where to Sell Online?

There are plenty of eCommerce platforms available to business owners. It’s important to consider your specific business needs and the implications of each platform on your budget.

  • Most website development services, like or Squarespace, offer their own built-in eCommerce platforms, allowing for easy set up and integration into your website.
  • Some development services offer plug-ins that will integrate seamlessly into your site. For example, WooCommerce is a plugin available to businesses with an existing WordPress site.
  • You can also use an independent eCommerce service, like Shopify. Shopify allows you to create a separate eCommerce site that you can link to from your current site. You can develop it to integrate with your brand and quickly get your products up to start selling.
  • You can also sell through Facebook or Instagram‘s built-in eCommerce selling features.

What You Need to Get Started

  •  Have a list of all the products/services you’re planning on selling online and evaluate what you can feasibly sell through your site. For example, if you own a coffee shop you might not be selling a cup of coffee online, but you could look at selling the other items offered in your space like coffee beans, kitchen accessories, or gift cards.
  • Consider what deliveries will look like. Are people collecting curbside or in store? Are products being shipped? It’s important to evaluate the costs associated with packing and shipping products (including your time), and the accessibility of your space for pickups.
  • Most platforms will keep records of the sales that flow through your eCommerce site. Explore what each platform offers you, in terms of sales data, and ensure that it fits your business needs. This is going to make bookkeeping and sales tracking seamless.
  • Ensure your inventory is managed accurately. What’s available in your actual inventory should be reflected correctly in your inventory online, so that customers aren’t able to purchase items that won’t be available to them. If your business delivers a service, ensure that your staffing levels accommodate the services that you retail online.
  • Consider how you will be processing payments. A payment processor, like PayPal or Stripe, is the safest and most reliable option, but will come with a cost (usually around 2.9% + $0.30 per successful card charge). These platforms mitigate risk and safeguard the money and transactional data for your customers. Less formal payment processing, like e-transfers, are also available but can be less secure and require more financial bookkeeping on your end.

About the Author: Matt Hill

Matt Hill is our Business Facilitator covering Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and all the rural communities of Southern Alberta. Matt trained as a theatre teacher in the UK and he worked in London schools for seven years before making the leap into entrepreneurship. Matt started a specialist cleaning business in London, growing from a one-man business to become a trusted partner of universities and real estate companies. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs looking to start small and test ideas before scaling up their business operations.

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