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4 Things You Have to Know Before Starting An Online Selling Business

By Mark Ching
Are you ready to start an online selling business? Here are some insights.

Many Filipinos have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. To survive, a lot have planned to start small retail businesses to sell items online.

But how can you prepare for this career pivot? Here are some things you have to know:

1. Online selling can take most of your time

From time to time, this author would sell a few books on Facebook Marketplace to save on shelf space. While I was only doing it on the side, it still felt like a full-time job. I had to be online the whole day to answer inquiries because potential customers demanded fast replies. There was even one moment when a buyer sent an inquiry at 2AM and proceeded to send curse words when I didn’t reply immediately. I was asleep.

Other activities were time-consuming as well. These include taking the photos of the items, posting the listing, packaging the item for shipping, lining up in LBC to send out the item, and even claiming the payment from a pawnshop/payments partner. They all stack up.

2. Factor in your time into your pricing

The adage “every second counts” also applies in online selling. Consider how much time you are spending and add that into your pricing.

If you want to do meet-ups, for example, make sure to indicate meet-up spots that are convenient for you. Do not go outside those areas to avoid incurring additional costs.

One time, a potential buyer of one of my book listings insisted that I do a meet-up about 8 kilometers away from my listed meet-up spot. I refused because it would take me about an hour to go there, plus I would spend money on travel costs. The buyer still insisted, so I said I’ll add 100 pesos to the price. The buyer said no and that was that.

3. Get ready to deal with all sorts of people

Extraordinary patience is required when dealing with buyers online. It’s easy to say that you will be accomodating the whole time, but when you’re answering the 100th query about pricing, you will find it hard to stop yourself from pointing out that the price is indeed posted on your listing. Can the potential buyer just read the post, please? But that would be rude, wouldn’t it?

You also have to prepare yourself for low-ballers and scammers. Low-ballers are those who would try to undercut your pricing so they can get exorbitant discounts. To combat this, list a price that already has a mark-up, so that you can offer a discount with the price that you are comfortable with. If the customer insists on a larger discount, just leave them on read. You are allowed to move on to another buyer.

Scammers, meanwhile, should just be blocked outrightly. If you think the potential buyer is a scammer, check their Facebook profile and do a search to see if other sellers have already posted about them. There are other ways to protect yourself from scammers; we can discuss that in another post.

4. Turn buyers into your fanbase

You cannot just do the bare minimum when selling online. You have to turn your first-time buyers into advocates. In marketing terms, advocates are buyers who have turned into believers who would market your products for you. These are the buyers who were so delighted by their purchase that they would post about your products on their own social media. They will even convince their friends and family to buy from you, too.

How can you do this? Go the extra mile with packaging. For my books, for example, I would wrap them in bubble-wrap even if it is not required. I would also add an extra bookmark with a hand-written note.

You can also give them a discount for their next purchase if they post their purchase on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This way, you turn them into advocates and repeat buyers. That’s a good tactic.

Online may look easy, sure, but there are a lot of things you have to know if you want to be successful at it. Watch this blog for more tips.

Mark Ching is the Marketing and Design Head of iRipple. He previously worked in various roles in Imonggo for 10 years, starting as a customer support officer then later as a product manager.
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