Category Archives: selling online

How To Sell Online: 10 Easy Steps For Beginners


So you want start selling online? That’s great! But where do you start, especially if you’re new to the whole business of selling online?

Here’s what we recommend:

1. Identify your potential customers

Every sale starts with a customer. If you think you’re going to sell to “everyone”, you’re sadly mistaken. Only an excruciatingly small proportion of the global population will want to buy what it is you have to sell.

So let’s get real. We won’t get fancy, at least not yet.

When you’re ready to get fancy, we’ll direct you to Tony Zambito and his definition of what he calls Buyer Personas, “research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”

For now, we’ll settle for a rudimentary customer definition that includes:

  • Gender (Male, Female)
  • Age Group (Children Under 8, 9-13, 14-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65 Plus)
  • Employment Status (student, full-time employment, part-time employment, unwaged, domestic duties, retired)
  • Marital Status (single, in a relationship, married, divorced, widow/widower)
  • Location (just your city, all of New Zealand, Australasia, Oceania, Southern Hemisphere, English-speaking countries, global)
  • Interests (sporting, hobbies, arts & cultural)
  • Media Habits (consume traditional media, predominantly online, heavy social media users, mostly mobile)

No, you won’t know all that information right away — but if you have existing customers, you can survey them. Otherwise, survey your new customers as you acquire them.

Why do you need to know this information?

Because it influences:

  • What you sell to them (their needs/wants will vary based on their circumstances)
  • What they can afford to pay
  • How you sell to them (younger audiences prefer short copy, lots of pictures, ideally video)
  • Where you sell to them (no point advertising on Facebook if they’re not there)
  • When you sell to them (if they’re working, they won’t be buying much during work hours)


2. Choose what you’re going to sell

You may already have a product you’ve developed and plan to sell. In that case, skip to the next step. On the other hand, if you’re planning to sell someone else’s product(s), keep reading.

You may already think you know what sort of products you’d like to sell. But that may change once you’ve defined your customer more precisely (as noted above).

Alternatively, you may have decided on the types of products you want to sell, you just need to find out where to source them. In that case, may we recommend that you take a look at the Worldwide Brands Directory ( It’s a certified database of thousands of the best dropshippers and light bulk wholesale suppliers, who carry millions of drop-ship and wholesale products you can sell on the Internet. Worldwide Brands has been certifying these suppliers since 1999, and has built up an enviable reputation for its directory (you’ll find a review here:


3. Get your own web address

Yes, you could just have your own free web address on someone else’s site (, but why would you (apart from the free part, of course)? That would be like setting up a shop inside a supermarket — everytime anyone asks you for your address, you end up promoting your landlord, not yourself.

If you think you’re only going to be selling to the New Zealand market, purchase a .CO.NZ web address (eg There are plenty of domain name resellers, but we recommend — NZ .CO.NZ domains purchased there start at NZ$27.95 +GST per year.

On the other hand, if you think you’re likely to be selling internationally, sooner or later, look for a dotcom address — we recommend (but just for the address, not the hosting). Godaddy dotcom addresses typically start at around US$10.99 a year for the first year.


4. Get a website

Once you’ve registered your web address, sign up for a hosting account with global hosting provider Hostgator ( We host all our websites there, hosting is from US$3.96 per month (for unlimited storage and unlimited traffic), and their support is generally excellent.

During the signup process you specify your existing domain name and Hostgator will tell you how to transfer it to them.

Once you’re up and running you’ll have access to your website backend through an industry-standard service called CPanel. There are plenty of articles and video tutorials online about CPanel (just google “how to use cpanel”).
Using CPanel, set up some email accounts (eg,, etc). If you use Microsoft Outlook, you can set up separate accounts on your computer to clear each email account.

5.Install WordPress

Using CPanel’s “QuickInstall” facility, install WordPress (listed under “Blog Software”) – the software will be installed automatically on your website.


6. Add WordPress plugins

Once you’ve set up WordPress, your site will be ready for you to start adding content right away. However, for optimum effectiveness, you should add in a number of key plugins which add enhanced functionality. You can either google “best WordPress plugins” or use a service like WPFreshStart ( — currently costing around US$27), which quickly adds important plugins to make it easier for your site to be found through Google.


7. Set up a business account with, to handle payments by credit card

PayPal has no set-up costs, just a per transaction percentage (currently 3.4% + $0.45 NZD per transaction).


8. Add your estore

You’ll still need to add ecommerce functionality. Start with Shopify ( After a 14-day free trial, you’ll pay from (Starter plan) US$14 per month.


9. Market your estore

Once you’re set up, you’ll want to market your products online. Check out our Social Media Marketing courses to help you do that.

10. Learn much more about eCommerce

We would be remiss if we didn’t point you in the direction of our “Mastering eCommerce” course:


Scary eCommerce Statistics, Trends & Predictions

Wondering about the latest eCommerce statistics? Planning ahead and need some trends and extrapolations?

Check these out (we call them “scary” if you’re a retailer committed to bricks & mortar):

  • 54% of Kiwis aged over 18 years are now shopping online, an increase from 38 percent of New Zealanders five years ago (Nielsen NZ Online Retail Report June 2013)
  • In key spending demographics, the numbers are much higher. 71% of Kiwis aged 25-34 and 68% of those aged 35-44 now shop online (Statistics NZ, per NZ Retailers Association Online Retail Report 2013)
  • New Zealanders spent $3.7 billion in the last 12 months purchasing via the internet (Nielsen NZ Online Retail Report June 2013)
  • 26% of the total NZ online shopping, representing nearly $1 billion, was spent on international websites (Nielsen NZ Online Retail Report June 2013)
  • These totals are only for physical products purchased online. It’s estimated that a further $1.6-$2 billion is spent on downloadable products or intangible purchases such as airline tickets, rental cars, accommodation, theatre tickets and entertainment (NZ Retailers Association Online Retail Report 2013)
  • 37.8% of Kiwi online shoppers bought Clothing, Shoes or Accessories online in 2012, while 32.1% bought Books or Magazines (Nielsen NZ Online Retail Report June 2013, as reported in NZ Retailers Association Online Retail Report 2013)
  • Smartphones have changed the way that Kiwi consumers shop. Smartphones are critical shopping tools with 74% of NZ users having researched a product or service on their mobile device. (Google/Ipsos Our Mobile Planet NZ May 2013)
  • 33% of Kiwi smartphone users have made a purchase on their phone; of those, six out of ten have purchased within the last month (Google/Ipsos Our Mobile Planet NZ May 2013)
  • U.S. wedding ring retailer My Trio Rings reports that the amount spent in a smartphone transaction tends to be as much as 12% more than sales through other media
  • More than a quarter (27%) of Kiwi online shoppers made 11 or more transactions online in 2012, an increase of 44 percent from 2011 (Nielsen NZ Online Retail Report June 2013)
  • 17% of Google searches on a mobile device result in a purchase (Google/Nielsen Life360 Mobile Search Moments Q4 2012)
  • Over 40 per cent of all visits to Trade Me are now from smartphones and tablets (Trade Me Annual Report 2013)
  • A survey of 2000 UK consumers by ITV’s Tonight news programme found that 49% of UK consumers plan to buy the bulk of their 2013 Christmas gifts online
  • By 2018, the Centre for Retail Research predicts that 61,930 UK shops will close and more than 21% of purchases will be made on the web (Monocle, October 2013)
  • Internet marketing experts at Emarketer estimate that by the end of 2013, eCommerce sales in the U.S. will generate US$262.3 billion worth of sales, 16.4% higher than in 2012
  • Sales from U.S. mobile commerce alone is projected to amount to US$41.68 billion in 2013 (eMarketer September 2013)

Latest New Zealand eCommerce Statistics

Statistics New Zealand has just released the latest Online Shopping figures from the Household Use of Information and Communication Technology report for 2012 — and they make fascinating reading.

Key points:


Yes, 54% of New Zealand’s 2.8 million Internet users (those aged 15 plus who went online in the last twelve months) shopped online and made at least one purchase in 2012.

If we look at individual age groups, those numbers go way up:


Typical online shopping expenditure ranges from twenty to five hundred dollars in a typical month (with a small percentage who spend a lot more):


As Statistics New Zealand notes:

It also seems that what we’re buying is changing. We’re not necessarily buying tangible items; over half of those who shopped online had at least one item delivered electronically. This may include items such as e-books, music, or e-tickets.

Looking at those who had made a purchase in the four weeks before the survey, women outnumbered men in spending a total value of up to $500, while the more expensive purchases predominantly belonged to men.

The number of people spending a total of over $2,000 online has doubled since [the previous survey, i] 2009, to reach 44,000 people in a four-week period.

If you are one of those who aren’t yet offering ecommerce on your website, NOW would be a good time to start. Check out our Mastering eCommerce course.

Don’t Waste Your Home Page

As we enter 2013, we begin a series of tips on how to maximise your online sales. Some of these tips will be drawn from our Mastering eCommerce course, others will be inspired by new thoughts and articles that we come across online.

Our first tip, brought to mind by this article on “7 Unlucky Things You Can Do To Your Ecommerce Site in 2013”, is simply:

Don’t Waste Your Home Page Space

There are a number of ways to waste your home page’s potential: hero shots and distracting rotating banners, unclear value propositions (or none at all), irrelevant merchandising or even annoying country-selector splash pages when geolocation tools can do the job.

To put the home page in context: it’s the single most important part of your ecommerce site, the page that draws the most eyeballs. Think of it as the equivalent of the front page of a printed catalogue. In the days when we worked (during our time in ad agencies) with some of New Zealand’s largest retailers, we saw first hand that the front page is solid gold — items featured on the front page were expected to be the biggest sellers of all products in the catalogue. If they didn’t have that potential, they simply weren’t featured on the front page.

Similarly, the home page of your website needs to lead to more sales than anywhere else on your site. If it doesn’t it, change it immediately.

Let’s look at the front pages of some of NZ’s leading online retailers:

Nothing tentative about The Warehouse’s home page — and the top product panel rotates through a number of offers, in case the first three you see don’t attract you.

Another hard-selling front page, this time in the form of one-day-only deals from EziBuy.

Our leading electronics retailer, Dick Smith, similarly devotes its home page to hot product offerings.

And, unsurprisingly, we see a similar sales-centric home page approach from Farmers.

We could go on, but we think you get the idea.

Essential Home Page Components

What else should you include on your home page, apart from your latest offers and promotions?

Econsultancy editor Graham Charlton suggests 27 essential elements of an effective ecommerce homepage. In our view the ten most important are:

  • Search box
  • Store finder
  • Telephone number
  • Contact details
  • Address
  • My account / sign in
  • Shopping basket / checkout link
  • Email sign up
  • Delivery information
  • Accepted payment methods