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Today, we’re taking a hard look at the mistakes people make when trying to sell online. We chat with hundreds of sellers every week where we see what works — and what doesn’t. If you read this list and find yourself making one of the mistakes, I’ve added some ideas about how to fix it.

Like anything, selling online has a major learning curve and you only learn by doing. If you find yourself making more than a few of these mistakes, it means that things can only get better from here! So let’s get started.

Here are the 11 mistakes people make when trying to sell online.
1) They expect to make money by simply listing a product
Selling online takes more than listing a product for sale on your store. Surprisingly, many people still believe that by publishing a product for sale means that the customers will come. It may seem tempting to throw a product up for sale, share it on social media, and expect your followers to buy your item, but it takes a lot more work than that.

Instead, focus on cultivating your audience by adding value to their lives. You can do this by creating valuable, free opt-ins, sharing other people’s work on social media, and developing an online marketing plan that makes sense for your business.

With a strategy in place, it’s a lot easier to start monetizing your blog instead of throwing it into the wind and hoping it will stick. If you need help getting started, here’s a post on how to start monetizing your blog with digital products.
2) They don’t know who they’re selling to
Building a community is key for selling online, but if you don’t know who to serve with what you know, you aren’t able to create products and services that improve people’s lives.

First, you want to figure out what it is that you offer and who you can help most with what you know. There are many ways to narrow your focus, but for the sake of simplicity, there are two ways to define a target market: through demographics and psychographics.

Demographics include age, gender, income, occupation, and education level. Psychographics are a bit different and help you define your ideal audience by personality, values, hobbies, lifestyles, and behavior. A mix of both demographic and psychographic qualities can work well, or you can choose one or the other.

Then, you’ll want to write down your ideal target market somewhere you can refer to easily. This gives you a filter when writing product copy, descriptions, blog posts, and social media.
3) They’re promoting more than adding value
Is there anything worse than someone who constantly talks about themselves? Eventually, we learn to tune out those people, because they aren’t adding value to the conversation.

The same goes for selling and sharing online.

When all people do is share their product for sale without attempting to add value or educate their followers, they’re not influencing them to buy. In fact, this type of strategy may turn off potential customers.

Try flipping your strategy and sharing relevant, valuable, and helpful content with your target audience, then asking for the sale later. An 80% ratio of sharing content to 20% promoting and selling is a good rule of thumb.

ReadTake Your Social Media to the Next Level with these 8 Simple Tips
4) They force customers off their site to pay for their product
If you want to create a yuck customer experience, force your customer off your site to pay for their product.

Luckily, there’s a better way to go about this. A clean, clutter-free buying experience not only impresses a potential buyer, but it also encourages them to buy. With less steps in the checkout and a clear, simple process, they are more willing to reach for their wallet.

Selz offers an overlay which means that you can take payment right on your existing website or blog — even if you offer payment through PayPal. Not only is it sleek, but your buyers have a better experience which means more sales for you.

Even if potential buyers ditch the checkout process at any point, we help you automatically recover sales with our Abandoned Cart emails. It’s a win-win for everyone.
5) They’re trying to sell to a nonexistent audience
This ties back into #2: if you don’t know who your ideal audience is, then you likely don’t have one (yet!). Trying to sell to a nonexistent audience is not only a waste of time, but it doesn’t work. But this doesn’t mean you can’t create one!

Instead, figure out who your ideal audience is. Then, find out where they hang out online and in-person… then, go there! Consider exploring Twitter feeds, Instagram hashtags, Facebook groups, and other blogs that might have the same audience is you. You can see people interacting in real time, see the questions they have, the struggles, and the things they love. This will help you determine how your business and products fit into their lives. It can also help you write product copy, blog posts, and email marketing campaigns.

ReadHow to Increase Blog Engagement (Because Writing Content Isn’t Enough!)
6) They aren’t building their email list
One of the biggest mistakes of online selling is not creating an email list early enough. If you have a blog, a website, or any product online, you must be collecting email addresses. Read this post to understand the basics of email marketing. Even if you do in person workshops, tradeshows, or meetups, collecting email addresses is the first step in building an engaged audience. One of the easiest ways to start building your list is through an opt-in offer. An opt-in is a free product with value which you exchange for an email address.

Many email marketing tools are free, so there’s no excuse not to sign up for an account. Selz integrates with Mailchimp, AWeber, and Campaign Monitor for free, so with every free download or sale, your customer’s email address is added to your email list.

Read3 Keys For Writing Effective Marketing Emails
7) They don’t prioritize customer service
A huge mistake people make when first starting out with online selling is providing lackluster customer service. Yes, you are providing a product or service online, but that doesn’t mean customer service should go out the door. If anything, it should be a top priority to help you stand out online.

If you’re selling digital products, you’ll need to know how to troubleshoot download errors, and resetting download links. Educating yourself on different file types, browsers, and compatibility is one of the ways to provide superb customer support. Your customers are relying on you to help them resolve any issues, so knowing how the digital aspect of it works is key.

Knowing how some of the more technical aspects work is simply part of your role as someone selling products online and your customer’s will thank you for it.
8) They aren’t doing any marketing
As a business owner, marketing is now a major part of your job description. Regardless of what you sell, you must learn how to gather and direct your community to where you’re selling your products.

With Selz, we provide you with the marketing tools necessary for selling online like discounts and coupons, analytics, and social media sharing. You also can embed widgets and buy it now buttons onto your existing website, blog posts, and side bars which is one of the most effective ways to monetize an already existing audience.

ReadThe 5 Most Effective Ways To Use Buy Now Buttons and Widgets
9) They give up if they don’t see immediate results
Selling online is not for the faint of heart. Arguably, it can be a bit harder to influence your audience to buy from you online because you aren’t there in person with them. Instead, you have to educate them through content, whether that’s on your blog, in email campaigns, and social media before you can expect them to buy from you.

If you simply list an item and expect to sell your products like crazy, you’ll end up disappointed. Instead, create a strategy that works for you and keep it up. Most people give up right away because they expect the cash to roll in, but for the majority of people, this simply isn’t the case.

Keep working at it and eventually, things will fall into place as you continue to learn. The important thing to remember is to follow a strategy, find what works, and repeat it.

ReadOpening for Business: 5 Steps to Selling Online for Beginners 
10) They don’t explain the product in their description
When selling online, you must be extremely clear in what you’re offering and who you’re offering it for. Without a product description, your online product is essentially worth nothing because buyers don’t know what they’re getting.

One of the best ways to express the value of your product is through a video or a thorough written description. Always include how your product transforms the life of the customer. Do you provide more simplicity, ease, or peace? Does your product teach people how to be more self-reliant? Or do you want to sell eBooks on how to nourish your body from the inside out? Whatever it is, clearly define what your product does, who it does it for, and what the buyer can expect. Never underestimate the power of testimonials, too.

ReadHow to attract customers with video content
11) They don’t create a consistent brand experience
When people are getting started with selling online, it can be tempting to throw together a scrappy image of the product, add a short description, and share the product on Twitter.

This is not something that impresses potential buyers.

Instead, creating a consistent brand experience should be at the beginning of your journey to selling online. It can easily be part of your ideal audience brainstorm from #2.

Ask yourself: What is it about your business that stands out? What is your USP (unique selling point) and core message? What type of feeling do you want people to experience with your business and products? Even if you’ve never made a sale in your life, taking time to establish your brand experience is a smart way to influence your buyers because consistency breeds trust. If you have no idea how you impact others, consider reaching out to friends and family to find out.

You’ll also want to determine your business’s design & colors. Once you figure that out, you can incorporate your message and design into everything you do, including your ecommerce store, and you are that much closer to creating a consistent branding experience.
 What are some mistakes you see people make when trying to sell online? Have you made any of these mistakes yourself? Leave us a comment below!

About the author

Kristen Runvik

Content strategist and holistic herbalist with experience in collaborative content creation and strategy implementation, multidimensional and highly creative content development, ecommerce growth, and medicinal plant, flower, and herb expertise.

Kristen is also the Founder of Lagom Body Co., a multidimensional skincare and lifestyle brand.

4 comments

  1. Marion

    Is it possible to target a specific audience and count on impulse purchase ?

    Do we always have to add value and create a brand or relationship ?

    I know that when I shop, if the product is under £40, I don’t need to know the seller as long as I like and want the product.

    1. Kristen DeCosta

      These are all great points, Marion! You will always have impulse purchases, and it’s great to factor them into your ecommerce and marketing plans! The benefit of adding value and creating relationships is that you gain repeat customers. Both tactics working together would definitely lead to success! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      -Kristen at Selz

  2. Tracey Green

    I recently went for a Pro package with Selz and after two minor issues which I got so frustrated about (was daft) I was ready to throw in the towel. I’ve been ‘at this’ build a business malarkey for three years in May. What I’ve just read above is soooo very true. I handmake customise and repair dress and costume jewellery to a high standard. It’s unusual and there are certain materials I love to work with. As a person who is totally absorbed when I’m making a piece – I ended up wanting to make lots and lots of things (and did) but this is an absolute no-no: less is definitely more in the world of craft. I became completely overwhelmed & as my personal life took a nosedive so did creating. I backed off the whole experience for months. Now I’m back and determined to see it through. I’ve realised a select and specific series of jewellery & craft homewares is far easier to take are of and promote as a speciality of a sort than loads of things which actually I wouldn’t buy! Now it’s different, I specialise in wooden and ceramic handmade items more than anything else. But I’ve also restored furniture in my past. When the time is right and MamaTee Jems is standing on her own feet it will be possible to introduce other crafts that interest me. But for now the meat of my business IS the jewellery primarily. Even after it was whittled down the entire stock is actually still huge! In three years I produced approximately 360 individual items, although sets and complimentary gifts etc would be counted as one item. Crazy stuff but I am struggling. And I know the area I’m turning into an absolute scaredycat..the strength I thought I had I don’t ! I cannot get bloody organised. In my head it’s taking some form of real shape, I’m skint (another huge sign) and I’ve started working at it at night which although productive in making jewellery, it is not conducive to taking care of the administrative side. Motivation is low (obviously tiredness) and the battle of time management between crafting and maintaining is holding me back. I’ve turned a corner. I think self belief is a very difficult thing to ‘come up’ with naturally. But I believe in what I do NOW more than anything. I talk about my business & its clear to everyone ‘I love her’!
    Family and friends are bored sick..if I’m not ‘a millionaire’ this time next year there’ll be trouble! I know the how of organising but the where to start. Stock is kinda organised! I veer between shouting at myself (since Selz) LOAD LOAD LOAD! And complete fear I’ve missed something somewhere else..and then it snowballs until I avoid the organising altogether & go back to beavering away making more lovely jewellery I won’t be able to organise. The cycle continues and the business is three years old in May! But what I’ve read here has caused a spark to go off! I’m allowing myself this evening (family do) Mothers Day tomorrow so begin anew first thing Monday morning.
    I think the wording here is inspiring because the underlying statement is don’t give up. Love your business & come to know everything about it. Take it seriously, which I do much more of these days. If only I could get a handle on organising my time, my days..some jobs take longer than others! Top tips welcome! Well done on this advice Selz, again I’m impressed! Twice in one day, congrats x

  3. Neil Paddock

    Hi Kristen

    Thanks for this article

    I have probably made all these mistakes since I started out with online selling, (and have since corrected at least a few of them) so I think this article is spot on.

    I am intrigued with the seemless experience you describe in 4) above, as at the moment people coming to my site get ‘bounced’ off to anther site to buy products. I found it too painful and time consuming creating pages in WordPress and adding Paypal links, once I had several products to sell, so I much prefer having the Selz store instead.

    I didn’t think the ‘bouncing’ was a really that big a deal, but I agree there is scope to create a better overall buyer experience.

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