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How to sell stuff online

No matter who you are or what you do, one thing is almost certain – if you want to sell something these days, you’d first want to look online. Depending on what you want to sell, there are quite a number of solutions available. For example, if you wanted to sell your old watch, you would probably put it up for sale on a classifieds ads website such as Olx or Quickr. If you want to sell numerous brand new products, you might want to set up your own e-commerce website! We’re sure by this point that your mind is teeming with questions. This chapter hopes to answer them.

HOW TO SELL STUFF ONLINE

We tell you how you can you use the convenience of e-commerce to get rid or your own stuff, and also cash in on you’re the e-commerce boom by setting up your own e-commerce web site

No matter who you are or what you do, one thing is almost certain – if you want to sell something these days, you’d first want to look online. Depending on what you want to sell, there are quite a number of solutions available. For example, if you wanted to sell your old watch, you would probably put it up for sale on a classifieds ads website such as Olx or Quickr. If you want to sell numerous brand new products, you might want to set up your own e-commerce website! We’re sure by this point that your mind is teeming with questions. This chapter hopes to answer them.

No matter who you are or what you do, one thing is almost certain – if you want to sell something these days, you’d first want to look online. Depending on what you want to sell, there are quite a number of solutions available. For example, if you wanted to sell your old watch, you would probably put it up for sale on a classifieds ads website such as Olx or Quickr. If you want to sell numerous brand new products, you might want to set up your own e-commerce website! We’re sure by this point that your mind is teeming with questions. This chapter hopes to answer them.

Selling second-hand products

Let’s go back a couple of years. What came to your mind when you wanted to sell stuff online? Well, thanks to the movie Transformers, even those who didn’t know, found out that eBay.com is a place where you can sell even your grandpa’s specs! eBay was the place to advertise your old merchandise. Today, the online retailer has plenty of company with a number of web sites helping you do that. Search the internet, look for the ads being displayed on various pages across the internet and you’d realise that you’re nowhere close to being deficient of services that enable you to sell used products online.

We won’t discuss selling second-hand products at length because it’s pretty straightforward and simple. Just head on to one of the classifieds websites which help you to do it. While some sites don’t require registration before you put up an ad, others do. Sooner or later you’ll start receiving emails and phone calls from people who want to buy the product you’re selling; and you can sell almost anything – a used hard disk, a bike, a car, your services as a web designer or tutor, anything!

 

Some of the popular classifieds websites are: www.meramaal.com, craigslist. co.in, www.clickindia.com, olx.in, classifieds.sulekha.com, quickr.com, olx.in and localads.rediff.com. There are many others that cater to the  second-hand goods category, which you’ll eventually discover.

 

However, there are a few simple points to be kept in mind. These websites will try and record your identity for sure (such as by your email address, Facebook ID or mobile number). Make sure that you don’t sell faulty products. You would not only be putting your online seller reputation at stake, but also inconvenience the buyer and give the website a bad name. Honesty is the best policy because your activities are being recorded.

Selling first-hand goods – creating your own online store

Thanks to all the positive news surrounding Flipkart, online retail is catching up, especially with the famous “cash on delivery” option. In case you skipped your school biology classes, here’s a reminder – we evolved from monkeys, so it’s only natural instinct wanting to do what the other guy is doing (read: mimicking his actions). This instinct is not something which you can easily overpower. Seeing how online stores are succeeding makes one want a piece of the action, with very few exceptions. That though is nowhere close to being easy, so we’re here to simplify it for you. Read on.

Setting up

In real world, when you want to set up a store, you can do two things:

1. Build a room yourself. Then install the furniture and put the goods inside, put up a banner on the store, advertise and wait for the customers.

2. Get a pre-built room on rent or purchase one. Modify it if needed, change the banner and advertise. Then wait for customers.

Selling online is not that different. Here’s a similar example and here also, you’ve got two options:

 

1. Build an ecommerce website from scratch using your superb programming skills, enter the product data and price, design the website well and get Google to advertise it on the internet for you. Then wait for the raffic to pour in.

 

2. Get a popular ecommerce framework which is pre-built, modify it to your needs and then advertise and wait for customers.

Don’t forget that you also have to track your orders, maintain a warehouse, register a company and find someone providing a doorstep delivery service!

Although the above example of e-commerce maps well enough to the real world, there are points to consider well before you set sail in any of those directions. Let’s start with the build-from-scratch model: When building from scratch, you’re going to face one huge problem upfront – designing the website of your dreams. Things are not easy by any means here.

 

Not only should you be having an ample amount of understanding of the design process and underlying technologies but you should also have someone by your side who can make the site look good for you (oh, that is of course unless you’re ready to take on the daunting task yourself as well). It’s also important to note that you’re dealing with money here. Any security loopholes and your complete business can be swallowed overnight by hackers who broke into your website. So the programming part is not going to be easy. On the brighter side, you’d have all the features you want, the way you want them, and the site would look as beautiful as you envisioned.

 

If you’re not a programmer but still want to have your ecommerce site built from scratch, you can approach a web designing company and tell them what features you want, but be ready to burn a huge hole in your pocket. The good thing here is that when you give a project to a company, you can set a deadline given you have enough cash to spare.

There’s another way: you can hire a freelance developer to get the job done but then you wouldn’t be in a position to ask for everything, as in this case there’s one single person doing your job. So, the amount of time taken to develop the site will be higher vis-à-vis hiring a company. The upside in this case is that you’d save on the cost of building the site since a freelancer would be less expensive.

 

No matter which method you choose to build your website from scratch, you’ll always have the freedom to alter the website’s design, both – in terms of features and looks. You can add and remove few elements. You can do what you want to with the site.

 

However, when utilizing a pre-built ecommerce solution, you won’t have as much freedom in terms of design. There are many free and paid software which are available for this purpose. You’ll be able to find such software in all categories and dimensions – free or paid, open source or closed source, classifieds or first-hand sale systems (or both). If you’re already using a popular CMS such as Drupal or WordPress, then you can add plug-ins for the purpose! There are multiple solutions for setting up ecommerce sites online for various needs.

 

The problem here, however, is that you’ll be restricted to the design of the system you choose. Yes, you can modify elements to suit your needs but there would be a limit to how much you can customize. To modify any pre-built system to suit your needs which are significantly different from what the design of that software allows, the work needed to be done rises exponentially – sometimes more than what’s needed to design a system from scratch. Hence, although getting a pre-built solution makes it easy, it won’t be flexible enough for the modifications you may need.

 

Some popular prebuilt e-commerce systems:

osCommerce – http://www.oscommerce.com/

ZenCart – http://www.zen-cart.com/

PrestaShop – http://www.prestashop.com/

Magento – http://www.magentocommerce.com/

Abante Cart – http://www.abantecart

Spree Commerce – http://spreecommerce.com/

Drupal Commerce Plug-in for Drupal – http://drupal.org/project/commerce

WP e-commerce Plug-in for Wordpress – http://wordpress.org/extend/

plugins/wp-e-commerce/

 

After building the website, you need to host it. Assess your primary needs and keep these three things in mind when looking for a host:

1. Technologies supported: Technology such as PHP 5.3, PostgreSQL/ MySQL/Oracle, Python etc)

2. Bandwidth and storage provided: It can be minimum in the beginning but other plans with bigger limits and better values should be present.

3. Pricing and support: Pricing is usually competitive but good support from the host is important in case you want enhancements or are having technical troubles.

There’s a big enough list to choose from when it comes to hosting. Some good hosts are:

expertrio.com, bigrock.in, sutlibomb.com, siteground.com, godaddy.com and bluehost.com.

Managing payments

You can ask the customer to pay in basically two ways:

Cash on delivery: It’s easy for you and for the customer but the problem is that the person who delivers the product has your money. This money would change hands many times before it reaches you and takes time. This can take its toll in the beginning when you would be short on cash!

Online payment: This is done via “payment gateways”. There are multiple providers available. If you’re a programmer, you can have a look at the steps needed on their API documentation or contact them. Also, most banks (such as SBI, Citibank, HDFC, ICICI etc.) have their own payment gateways. You can create an account for your company and ask them for the service. Most payment gateways provide security by giving away SSL in their plans but that might be optional. You might want to have a look at various banks’ websites which provide payment gateways. They provide both, financial as well as technical information on how to get it done. You could also opt for other payment gateway solutions such as CCAvenue. No matter which one you choose, you would have to utilize the API provided by them to use their services. You should also focus on the features provided by the gateway e.g. if you’re getting a payment gateway service which doesn’t support debit cards but supports Paypal, then it doesn’t make sense from an Indian buyer’s perspective.

Security

In some cases, you might need extra SSL certificates depending on the requirements of the chosen payment gateway as well as your own site design. If you do need more, then your web-host would be happy to sell you one. If you want a better SSL solution from a company such as VeriSign (or similar), then you’ll need to follow extra steps and it would cost you more. Our advice: if you have to buy a SSL solution, ask your host first. Finally, you’re going to need a warehouse which you’ll have to manage. You would probably require an inventory and order tracking system as well.

Pick an option

If you’re convinced that you want to build an e-commerce site for yourself and you think that you understand the world of e-commerce, then sites such as MartJack and Buildabazaar can help. Both of these are presented to you as hosted solutions which assist you in kicking off your very own e-commerce site in almost no time! Both BaB and MartJack allow you to receive online payments, track orders, maintain inventory and so on! While MartJack doesn’t offer a trial where you can just sign up and proceed to create your store, Buildabazaar does. Moreover, MartJack is targeted towards retailers while Buildabazaar can be used by anyone wanting his own e-commerce store.

When it comes to Buildabazaar (let’s call it BaB from now on), operation is quite simple. First thing you do is choose a plan that suits your needs and if you’re confident enough start off in paid mode. You can also watch a demo to know how it works. Once you’re satisfied with the demo, you can opt for any of the paid plans to continue building your store. Building a new store is very easy. The fact that large stores such as crossword. in run on BaB’s platform is proof enough. You can have your own domain name if you wish, or as a sub-domain such as mystore.buildabazaar.com

 

Once you sign up, you get taken to your admin control panel where you can control the various aspects of your webstore. One of your first jobs is taking care of the template (or look and feel). You canther do this now or get to the option later! On your BaB control panel, you have multiple options:

1. Catalog: This section helps you maintain the product catalog which will appear on your website. You can add a product easily and maintain a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), Price, Discount and so on. Additionally, you can download and upload the entire catalog in one go! The interesting thing here is that you can even choose products easily from BaB’s parent site, InfiBeam’s catalog itself and manage what parts of the InfiBeam catalog appear in your own store.

2. Purchases: This section is self-explanatory. It gives you the option to manage purchases and shipments.

3. Content: Here you can create content for your webstore. You can manage the menus and individual pages, create new sections and so on.

4. Customer Service a.k.a CS Panel: This section helps you deal with two things - i)The Contact Us pages on your site and ii)The ability to manage the purchases done by customers from your site. The list of purchases is downloadable in CSV format. This section differs from the Purchases section which shows you the statistics from the purchases perspective while this section shows it from the customer service perspective by listing the type of purchases done by customers and so on.

5. Promotions: Allows you to manage promotions that use promotion codes – either for individual products or entire categories! Besides creating promotions, here you can view the list of purchases done using promo codes.

6. All Reports: As the title says, this facility generates and lets you view any kind of report you want.

7. Accounts: Allows you to maintain the ledger. Also contains the account details of  your bank where your income is to be deposited.

8. Configuration: This is where you’d return if you have to change your site’s look, behavior and the information it displays. You can edit the business details which include your tax details, location, customer care number and email address. Here’s where you’d configure a payment gateway for yourself and manage stores in real world. You can even enable Google Analytics for your store for an in-depth analysis of how users browse your website. Another important option in this area is the product delivery zone management.

Now keep two things in mind - if you’re adding a product from the InfiBeam catalog into your own catalog then InfiBeam will take care of the shipment and handling of the order while you’ll receive some commission for the sale. The second point to consider is that BaB doesn’t take care of shipments from your store (or should we say ‘warehouse’) automatically. It acts as the middleman who gets you in contact with the various courier companies operating in the country (you can view a list in the configuration section of your control panel) and help you fix a shipment deal with them. For every purchase done on your store, the system will generate an Order ID. It’s the job of the webstore owner to give the product to the courier company and track its progress via the firm and thus update the order code and status!

 

MartJack is a similar solution for the purpose which helps you create your own online store in easy steps. After logging into the control panel, you have various options which include:

1. Getting Started: Here you can manage the template (look and feel) of your store, enter the store information, define the call for action (using which you, the store manager can allow the customer to ask you for an email reply or a callback), manage your shipping profile (shipping zone and modes) and select a payment gateway among various other functions. Notably, the options provided here are the basic options taken from the other sections.

2. Product Management: Enter product details and pictures or select a product from the given catalog. You can also manage the product categories which you want shown on your site!

3. Design Your Site: This is the option to configure the look of your site and manage its content.

4. App Settings: Here, you can configure the notifications you want to activate for each order received, customer’s request for a callback, manage your own domains and maintain the tax profile of your store.

5. Stock Management: Allows you to maintain the information of various prod- ucts and their stock available. You can enter or edit SKUs and prices delivery options.

6. Order Management: Just as the title says, you can maintain the list of orders you’ve received as well as manage and track back the states of each order. Interestingly enough, MartJack provides easy shipment options wherein you can select one of the courier services already associated with MartJack.

7. Marketing Promotion: This is similar to BaB’s Promotion panel. Here once again you can create a promotional code for individual products and complete product categories. If you had to build a website from scratch this would usually take a lot more effort.

8. My Account: This section allows you to enter and edit details about your own store. (The author of this chapter is working on his own e-commerce website http://www.c-integration.com )