Create your own online store

CREATE YOUR OWN ONLINE STORE

€39 (excl. VAT) a month.
What is dropshipping and how does it work?

Your complete guide to creating an online store

In this article, we'll be discussing the topic of online sales.
We'll take you through the essential steps involved in joining the world of e-commerce in a simple and effective way, weighing up the pros and cons of this way of selling that has now become part of our daily lives. Online sales are a constantly growing sector and one that has seen remarkable growth in recent years, not only from a purely quantitative perspective, but also in relation to technology.

Before the advent of the Internet, it was referred to as 'mail order': the items to be purchased were chosen from a catalogue and an order was placed, usually by post or telephone. Therefore the catalogues were mostly seasonal and updated every few months. In just a few years, however, with the arrival of the web, all this has changed and taken a tremendous leap forward.

From items that are no longer available in traditional physical shops to luxury items, today everything can be found online and purchased from the comfort of your own home without having to wait too long to receive your purchase.

The first question that everyone asks is: "why sell online?"

Why sell online?

The answer to this question may seem trivial, but it's important to sell online because more and more people are buying online.

Not keeping up with the times could mean seeing a drop in future sales and finding yourself competing with companies that have already gone the e-commerce route.
Shopping online is not a passing fad, but a daily activity that involves an increasingly diverse audience, not just the younger generation.

During 2020, including as a result of the pandemic, there was an exponential increase in online sales. This was not a transitory phenomenon, but a fundamental shift in shopping habits for many buyers who had previously been hesitant to buy via digital channels, who were forced to turn to e-commerce due to the closure of physical businesses.

Some companies have gone digital simply by changing the way that they interact with their customers, e.g. by receiving orders through social networks. Others, on the other hand, have discovered the potential of new digital distribution channels.

In the past, online sales were almost seen as a threat to the survival of traditional physical businesses. Today, however, we have become aware of how online sales can provide an additional distribution channel and not necessarily a substitute for traditional channels.
Why sell online?

What is an online store?

The term "online store" refers to a website where customers place orders and where the economic transaction takes place entirely online.

Besides being an expensive process, setting up your own e-commerce site is a long-term investment. Attracting customers to your online store, selling your products and achieving a fair degree of visibility are time-consuming targets.
Having your own e-commerce site might therefore not always be the most suitable sales channel, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

In addition to the considerable costs of setting up an e-commerce site, a rather large advertising budget must also be set aside, and this can be difficult to estimate, especially when starting out. This is because there is a lack of reliable data for establishing percentages related to turnover, product life cycle and targets.

In addition, time must be spent monitoring traffic and maintaining the site. These are activities that take up valuable company time and which often cannot be handled internally. This often results in the need to request external support.

Moreover, new online sales websites struggle to gain credibility and reliability in the eyes of a wider audience. This is why, when it comes to shopping or selling online, Amazon is one of the most popular websites for potential customers.

What are the potential advantages of selling online?

There are many advantages to selling online. The main one is, of course, the potential to reach millions of customers and not just the people living near the physical shop, thus expanding the boundaries of your target audience. You can target your entire national and, if you want, international customer base.

This is even more true for activities aimed at a niche market audience: the potential visibility of an e-commerce listing will enable you to reach your particular target audience and create a community of fans for your brand.

If you are a brand owner and choose Amazon as your e-commerce site, you may also decide to sign up to the Amazon Brand Registry.

This service protects your brand rights by reporting possible infringements to your exclusive rights or inaccurate content found on e-commerce sites belonging to competing brands.

You'll have control over your online listings and you can proactively defend the uniqueness of your products.

Until recently, Amazon only included registered brands in the Amazon Brand Registry. Now, however, it is also possible to use the Amazon Brand Registry to protect brands that are pending registration with the competent Trademark Office and for which the relevant application has already been filed, thus obtaining the exclusive rights. Both Italian and European legislation stipulate that the rights connected to the ownership of a registered trademark take effect from the date of filing the relative trademark application. So you don't need to wait for the registration certificate to be able to warn third parties about improper use of your trademark.

The first task to be performed in order to gain access to the Amazon Brand Registry is, therefore, to apply to register your brand with the relevant Trademark Office for the territory in which you operate or in which you sell your products.

At present, Amazon only accepts brands registered in certain territories in its Brand Registry, one of which is the European Union.

If, for example, you sell your products within Italy, you can submit an application for registration to the Italian Patent and Trademark Office (Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi – UIBM).

Before you can sign up to the Amazon Brand Registry, you must therefore start the process of registering your brand at the Trademark Office (but you won’t have to wait until this process is complete in order to be accepted by the Amazon Brand Registry).

To sign up, you'll need to provide Amazon Brand Registry with some basic information:
  • The name of the registered or submitted trademark.
  • The trademark application or registration number issued to you by the Italian or European Trademark Office.
  • A list of the product categories that you're interested in.
  • A list of the countries where you make or sell your products.
A request for inclusion of a brand in the Amazon Brand Registry can only be submitted by the trademark owner. If you are a vendor or seller on Amazon, you can use your Vendor Central or Seller Central credentials to access it.

You can quickly and efficiently add other registered trademarks of which you are the owner at any time.

The second advantage of an online store is that it does not have opening and closing hours, and this means that your customers can shop online 24/7. You can be receiving orders even while you are asleep: impossible with a traditional shop that has to keep specific opening hours. Your customers can visit your online store whenever they want, and time flexibility is a very important aspect in our hectic modern society. Many people give up on buying a product simply because they do not have the time or inclination to leave the house to get to the shop.

The third advantage is running costs, which are undoubtedly lower than those of a traditional physical point of sale, as there are no costs for maintaining premises such as rent, utilities and purchasing furniture. This enables you to lower the prices of your products and develop more aggressive promotional strategies.

Thanks to the tools offered by stores such as Amazon, you can analyse a variety of (obviously authorised) data concerning your customers and their purchasing habits, such as number of visits to your storefront, respective dwell time, purchase data, where your target group comes from and their purchasing preferences. This data will help you develop web marketing strategies to create the right targeted listings without spending too much.

Your e-commerce site will not only be a tool for selling online, but a real storefront for your business, through which you can share and consolidate your corporate image with your visitors.

As you can sell all over the world, it's good to bear in mind that tax regulations vary from country to country; here you can find all the necessary in-depth and up-to-date information so that your tax position is always clear and in compliance with local regulations, thus avoiding penalties.
Potential advantages of selling online

What are the potential disadvantages of selling online?

Despite the numerous advantages presented in the previous section, selling online also has some disadvantages. First and foremost, the increase in direct competition.

While it's true that e-commerce allows you to extend the boundaries of your business, exponentially increasing your pool of potential customers, it also increases the number of direct competitors. Gaining the necessary online visibility within the sector is, therefore, neither easy nor obvious. That's why choosing a well-known website such as Amazon may be a good strategic choice.

Another possible disadvantage is the lack of physical contact with the product. In an online store, the buyer cannot physically touch the product, nor try it. As a result, visual presentation and descriptions of the items for sale are so important. Your virtual storefront must be inviting and persuasive to entice customers to buy. Product descriptions should be comprehensive and include all the technical specifications; photos should be of excellent quality and resolution and show the product from different angles.

In an online store, there are no sales staff and customers buy autonomously, or rather totally on their own, without the company being able to advise, suggest or guide them through the purchase process. This is why you should turn to e-commerce sites equipped with customer support, like Amazon.

Another disadvantage that should not be underestimated is a certain level of mistrust that still prevails towards digital payment instruments and methods, especially in Italy.

It is therefore important to choose a website that guarantees a variety of payment methods. Amazon offers a wide range of payment options, ranging from major international credit cards to services like PayPal, not to mention the option of cash-on-delivery. What's more, with Amazon, sellers can offer payment plans that are definitely an advantage when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Another element that positively impacts buyers' insecurity about payment methods is the presence of feedback from other buyers. Being able to read the opinions of those who have already purchased from the store greatly increases trust in the sales partner and reassures even the most insecure customers.

One final disadvantage is the time it takes to receive the goods and the shipping costs, which can be borne by the company or the buyer and can often serve as a deterrent. To overcome this problem, Amazon also offers an optional fulfilment service. Through the Fulfilment by Amazon service, once the sale has been concluded directly between the third-party seller and the buyer, the FBA service then takes care of the packaging and shipping of the product, right through to after-sales support and buyer returns management. So you don't need a large warehouse, as all you have to do is send your products to Amazon and its personnel will take care of the rest.

Selling online can also involve dealing with downtime and unforeseen events: if your site is down for whatever reason (e.g. server or hosting problems), this may result in a loss of customers. If the site in question is not accessible, visitors cannot make purchases and this will be reflected in a drop in sales during that time frame. For this reason, relying on an established website like Amazon minimises this risk, which is often underestimated.

How do you become an online seller?

The first step towards joining the world of e-commerce by opening your own store on an existing website is to register as a seller on that website. The complexity of this process can vary from site to site. From the options available, the route offered by Amazon is the simplest and most intuitive.
Once on the website, you can register as a new selling partner by choosing between two different selling plans:
  • Individual selling plan: with a fixed cost per item sold.
  • Professional selling plan: with a monthly cost.
The choice between the two plans mainly depends on the number of products that you plan to sell on the site. Of course, if the number of items on sale is small, a plan per item sold is cheaper; otherwise, having a fixed monthly cost may be the best option.

This choice of plan is not final, so if you start off with an individual plan and over time realise that the best solution is a plan with a fixed monthly cost, you can always change, and vice versa.

At this point, all you have to do is follow the next steps and list the products you intend to sell based on the product groups offered.

Whether you are a newcomer or an experienced selling partner, it can be difficult to know which product group to focus on. For this reason, it's a good idea to carry out a careful assessment of the competition.

Amazon is a very intuitive site, which makes it easy to identify the products most representative of market trends.

Focus your analysis on "Best Sellers" (divided into product groups) by reading the reviews left by customers for your competing stores. Users do this as well and only decide to buy if there is positive feedback, otherwise they'll turn to a more reliable alternative.

Read the product descriptions carefully too, because within them you'll find all the information you need to understand the purchasing potential of a product:
  • price of the item;
  • dimensions and weight;
  • sales rankings;
  • reviews.
How do you become an online seller?
After this comparative analysis of the items being sold by your competitors, all you have to do is place your products in the relevant product group.

Product sheets are an essential starting point to work from.

Efficiently optimising product sheets will help you not only to better present what you want to sell, but also to reach your target audience faster.

The sales rate of the product and the amount of content on the sheets are two factors that influence their effectiveness.

To this end, it's worth studying the Amazon guidelines in depth and then creating your product sheet with these three fundamental points in mind:
  • use strategic keywords;
  • add full descriptions that will entice the buyer to buy;
  • insert titles that are clear and at the same time indispensable.
We live in a society where the visual component plays a key role, so words are not enough to attract buyers. An important and often a predominant part of a product's success is its photos.

You should therefore include eye-catching images in your product sheets.

This means always using high-quality images and photos.

Even a small imperfection, such as blurry or grainy elements, can hinder a sale's success. The end customer, even though they are not a photography expert, focuses their choice on products with a professional product sheet and a high-quality image.

Bear the following points in mind:
  • study the formats supported by Amazon;
  • invest in professional photos;
  • add photos of the product in different contexts and at different angles;
  • carefully select the main photo.
By adhering to the above points, the chances of your product being purchased will increase. At this stage, the importance of price should not be underestimated.

An effective strategy for selecting the price is to study and compare the prices of competitors for the same products. Through an accurate comparison, you can then work out which is the best price to offer the buyer. This step is crucial because a product with a price that is too low risks looking cheap, while a product with a price that is too high might make the buyer turn to other sellers.

In addition, the price must be updated from time to time. This is because trends are constantly changing and a certain product in a given period may have a different price for various reasons. A final tip, therefore, is to use not only competitors' prices as a benchmark, but also the performance of that product over the course of the year. Amazon offers tools that allow you to analyse the prices of items in the same group so that they are always contextually appropriate.

What does it cost to sell online?

There is no fixed fee to set up an e-commerce site. It all depends on the site itself and primarily on its objectives. The contexts differ, as do the running costs. So first you have to decide on your target audience, and then analyse the project you want to implement.

The analysis begins with an assessment of the costs to be incurred and the possible earnings. Of course, this analysis must always be focused on final earnings. Setting up an e-commerce site does not only mean incurring costs related to site development; in addition to these, which can be quite significant depending on the complexity or simplicity of the site, you also need to consider other additional costs related to improving the site's features and functionalities, its security, optimisation of the end-user experience and any marketing strategies.

To be able to minimise the risks and respective costs, the simplest and least expensive solution is to make use of an existing e-commerce site like Amazon. This solution eliminates the costs of developing your own website and all associated functions and applications. However, there are other investments to consider.

In addition to the fixed cost linked to the sales plan you choose, you should budget for the fees charged per product group for each item sold. On all products, Amazon deducts the percentage applicable to the product group fee from the total sales price.

This is equal to the total amount paid by the buyer, including the price of the item and any shipping or gift wrapping costs. Most of the fees per product group are between 8% and 15%.

In addition, there may also be management costs related to fulfilment. With Fulfilment by Amazon, you only pay for the services that you use. There are no subscription fees, contracts or minimum inventory requirements. You send your products to the Amazon Fulfilment Centre, which then takes care of the packaging and shipping. In addition, the service guarantees multilingual customer support, by telephone or email, open day and night, at no additional cost.

So the advantages of using a site like Amazon are not only related to the undoubtedly lower costs, but also to the ease of use and comprehensive nature of the store. Being able to process an order without having to deal with a courier company for shipping and being able to analyse sales data on the same website speeds up the entire sales process. This also has direct consequences on the final price of the item, which may therefore be lower and more attractive to buyers.

Conclusion

This article has explained the reasons why more and more people are turning to digital channels, and has attempted to simply and thoroughly explain the advantages this brings and the steps to follow in order to set up your own online store. Within the article, we have shed light not only on the pros of this sales method, but also on the cons that should be evaluated according to each specific project. We often tend to think that the world of online sales is complex and confusing. When faced with the desire to launch your own e-commerce business, searching the web for answers to all your uncertainties and questions can dampen your initial enthusiasm... However, as we have explained, even the world of e-commerce has its own well-defined rules, which do not differ significantly from those of a traditional shop.

This article has therefore highlighted how you can minimise costs and the associated risks so that your concerns about tackling online sales do not dampen your initial enthusiasm.

You should always bear in mind that online business does not preclude traditional business but, following its own specific rules, runs parallel to it. So if you have an established business, e-commerce can be an additional channel for your operations that will allow you to expand your business without hindering your existing one.

FAQ

Why should I sell online?
The answer is simple: because almost everyone is buying online now. Keeping up with the times by starting to sell online ensures that you reach an increasingly large audience and allows you to expand your business beyond national borders.
Why should I choose Amazon for my e-commerce site?
Amazon is one of the most popular e-commerce sites. There are hundreds of millions of active Amazon accounts worldwide and this is a guarantee of success and visibility. Your target audience will increase, and consequently so will your sales opportunities.
What sales plans are available?
There are two sales plans available: "individual" and "professional", and they differ substantially in the sense that the first has a cost per item sold, while the second has a fixed monthly cost regardless of the items sold.
How does Amazon registration work?
Start by choosing one of the two selling plans and setting up an Amazon selling account. Make sure that you have access to your bank details, credit card, a valid ID, tax information and a phone number on hand to complete the registration.
What should I do if I'm a brand owner?
If you are the owner of a brand, you can register it with the Amazon Brand Registry.
This allows you to protect the rights of your brand by requesting the cessation of conduct in breach of the same and/or the removal of inaccurate content.
Which products sell best on Amazon?
The best-selling products vary from day to day and may include books, children's items, electronics, outdoor or household items. Check out Amazon's bestsellers for a real-time update of the best-selling products.
How much does it cost to ship my items?
Shipping costs vary depending on whether you intend to fulfil orders yourself, use a combination of shipping options or rely entirely on Amazon for Fulfilment and its service.
How much does Fulfilment by Amazon cost?
Fulfilment by Amazon is a service that allows you to fulfil orders and it provides for payment based on consumption. You pay for storage space and the fulfilment of each order. Your prices include the cost of shipping, for Amazon Prime Free two-day shipping and free shipping on eligible orders. Fees may be charged for sales and optional services.

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