First-time sellers often feel overwhelmed researching what it takes to sell online. Comparing site-builders, building a website, learning SEO… and that’s just the beginning! But it’s often enough to discourage aspiring online sellers.
The good news is: it doesn’t have to be like that!
Selling online doesn’t always mean building an ecommerce website first. Whether you want to test the waters and evaluate demand or just are not ready to invest in an ecommerce site, there are effective ways to sell online without a website.
You can offer your products to online shoppers via platforms you’re already familiar with. Read on to find out which ones suit you best and how to make it happen.
Sell on Facebook & Instagram
Not only is Facebook the biggest social network in the world (2.8 billion monthly active users!), but it can also be a powerful tool for selling online. You can even set up a Facebook shop without a website!
A Facebook shop is an online storefront that lives on your Facebook page. You can create it for free—you need just a business page to get started. Keep in mind you can only sell physical products on Facebook.
Here’s a step-by-step instructional guide for setting up a Facebook shop. When creating your shop, you’ll be asked to choose one of the three checkout options or how you want customers to complete their purchase:
- on your website,
- on Facebook (available for US businesses only),
- or via messenger.
If you don’t have a website, then the last option is for you. “Via Messenger” means that your customers will be directed to message your business to complete their purchase.
To be clear, this option doesn’t create a checkout for your shop. You’ll need to arrange a way to process payments on your own. For example, when a customer sends you a message, you can ask for their email to send them a PayPal invoice or offer them to pay via a bank transfer.
Tips for Selling on Facebook
Setting up a way to sell is just the beginning. Now you need to figure out how to sell products on Facebook without a website.
Add business info
Even though your online storefront lives on social media, shoppers expect it to have detailed business information, just like when they shop on a website. Add a detailed “About Us” section, business contacts, and up-to-date information on payment and delivery.
Create collections of products
Quality product pictures and descriptions are absolutely essential, but you can take it a step further by creating collections for your products. Collections are items grouped by category in your Facebook shop. For example, “Clothes,” “Shoes,” “Accessories.”
Use Facebook Messenger for customer service
Customers often have questions about products, payment, or delivery, so make sure to answer them in a timely manner. Chatting with customers can allow you to introduce them to other products that they might like, and/or find out what products they’d like to see in your shop in the future.
Try to reply to all messages as quickly as possible: pages that respond fast and consistently are marked with a “very responsive to messages” badge. This shows customers you are ready to help them with questions they might have.
When you can’t reply to messages (say, it’s outside of your business hours), set up an automated away message to let customers know when you’ll be able to respond. Learn how to set up automated responses on Facebook.
Create content relevant to your target audience
Facebook supports various forms of content you can use to engage your followers. Pay special attention to video posts and live videos, as they often get more engagement than regular posts or stories.
Some examples of content you can post on your page:
- Customer reviews
- Videos that explain how to use your product
- Stories with you or your team
- Posts that contain useful information related to your products.
Tips for Selling on Instagram
90% of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform, so it makes sense to connect with potential shoppers via Intsta, especially if your products fall into popular Instagram niches. Examples include fashion, beauty and skincare, lifestyle, food, and artwork.
Make sure you have a business profile, because they come with tools for better account management, and access to built-in analytics to show how your content is performing.
If you don’t have a website, you can create a shop on Instagram using the same instructions for setting up a shop on Facebook. When choosing a checkout method, you’ll need to select “checkout with messaging.”
Again, this won’t actually create a checkout for your Instagram page. Shoppers will be directed to message your business for payment and purchase completion details.
There are other ways to sell on Instagram. You can sell through Direct Messages, in your comments, or via hashtags. We’ve explained them in our blog post about selling on Instagram without a website. These methods require a lot of manual work, just like selling on Facebook via messaging. However, this might be enough if you’re interested in testing out the platform or running a side hustle and only planning for a few sales a month.
Write an informative bio
A 150-character description is not a lot of space, but it’s enough to convey to your audience what’s unique about your business, and explain how they can contact you. Be sure to include:
- Business details that differentiate you from your competitors. Say, “Designer phone cases made from recycled materials.”
- Keywords relevant to your products. If you sell cakes, your bio might read “Custom cakes for special occasions.”
- Contact buttons like “Call” or “Email”
- A branded hashtag to encourage followers to post pictures with your product.
Save important information to Highlights
You can save your Stories that contain important info to special folders — Highlights — under your profile’s bio. Create different Highlights to answer the most common customer questions, such as:
- Return policy
- How to use, store, and/or care for your product.
Explore Instagram tools to increase engagement
Instagram has rich tools for content creators and business owners alike. Check out your ability to post stories and reels, and to use IGTV, and lives. Test all of them to find out which types of content your audience likes and engages with the most.
For example, create longer videos for IGTV to explain how to use your complex product. Or, shoot short reels to show off your fashion brand.
Stories are great for getting to know your audience (stickers with polls and questions), building anticipation for new products, and sharing behind the scenes clips of your store in action!
Lives are helpful for sharing information on topics relevant to your brand and interesting for your followers. For example, if you sell yoga mats, you can shoot a live video about meditation techniques for beginners. Just make sure to announce lives ahead of time — both via stories and regular posts.
Test different types of ads and CTAs
You can use paid promotions to show your posts and stories to a wider audience on Instagram, just like you can boost posts on Facebook.
Instagram also allows you to run various ad campaigns, be it photo, video, stories, or ads in the Explore page. There are also carousel and collection ads that can include additional videos or images.
Test different calls-to-action in your ads. For instance, “Learn More” makes more sense if you’re showing off a product to a first-time audience. “Shop Now” might work better if you’re offering a deep discount to close a deal or clear out old inventory.
Sell on Marketplace
If you wonder how to sell without a website, you might’ve already thought about selling on a marketplace—say, Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. This might make sense for two reasons:
- Marketplaces generate thousands of visitors a month themselves, so you don’t have to put as much effort into marketing as when you sell on your website.
- Shoppers come to marketplaces looking for certain products, they are already in a “buying mode.”
To start selling on a marketplace, you need to create a seller’s account on the platform of your choice. Amazon and eBay require you to choose a selling plan, depending on the size of your business and the tools you’ll need for selling on the platform. For example, Amazon’s Professional plan includes special listing features (promotions, gift services) while their Individual plan doesn’t.
Keep in mind that marketplaces charge not only for a selling plan but for each sale you make through their platform. For instance, Amazon charges a $0.99 per-item fee when an item sells on the Individual selling plan.
After you create a seller’s account, you can start creating your product listings. But keep in mind that some products need to be approved by the platform before customers are allowed to complete sales. This is the case if you plan to sell jewelry, music, videos, or watches on Amazon.
Read the marketplace’s guidelines to be aware of restrictions for different categories of products. For example: eBay allows you to sell a reproduction of an artwork (like posters or prints) only if it does not violate any laws, copyrights, or trademarks.
Tips for Selling on a Marketplace
Selling on a marketplace has its perks, but it also has quirks and drawbacks you need to take into account.
Choose the right platform
There are lots of marketplaces to sell your products on. Apart from the well-known ones like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Etsy, and Alibaba, there are niche-oriented marketplaces like Fruugo and Fullbeauty, or bargain-focused ones like Tophatter.
To help you choose a platform, think of your target audience. Is your product targeted at people who love handmade jewelry? Then Etsy might be the right choice for you. Are you targeting local shoppers? Consider Facebook Marketplace.
Optimize product listings
Your product will compete with other similar items on the marketplace, so strive for top-notch listings.
Make sure your product pops up when shoppers search for it on a marketplace by including relevant keywords in the title and description of your listing. Don’t hesitate to write a long description with a lot of details about your product. Also, add any award badges to the description to show your product is trustworthy.
With pictures on your listings, remember that more is more: show your product from different angles and demonstrate it in use. Some platforms allow you to include a video along with the images — be sure to use this format to highlight the advantages of your product.
Work with reviews
When presented with dozens of similar products, shoppers pay special attention to reviews. It’s as simple as that: the more five-star reviews you have, the more sales you’re going to get.
Always request reviews from customers, but not immediately after their purchase, as they need time to receive and try out the product. To give buyers extra incentive to leave a review, offer a discount for the next purchase or a small gift that appears in their inbox a week or two after you’ve made the sale.
If you get a negative review, make sure to reach out to the customer to fix their issue. Negative feedback without a comment from the seller looks much worse than a negative review with a reply that shows you’re willing to communicate and make things right.
When Do You Need A Website
Accepting orders on social media through messages requires a lot of work, which is fine when you’re just starting out or running a side hustle. But as your business grows, it becomes harder to manage orders manually, which might lead to overselling. Having an ecommerce website allows you to avoid that by tracking inventory.
As for marketplaces, they attract sellers with their large customer bases, but they do nothing for brand awareness. For marketplace shoppers, your product is an item from Amazon or Walmart, not from your brand, which might lower your chances of repeat orders. Moreover, it’s difficult to get customer information for future marketing.
Taking the points above into account, you might need to set up an ecommerce website if:
- You want to have full control over your prices, the look of your store, and marketing.
- You don’t want to pay transaction fees for each sale you make.
- You want to avoid limitations enforced by third parties.
- You want to stay connected with your customer for future promotions and don’t want to share their contacts with third parties.
You want to grow your brand and make your business more than a side hustle.
Get the Best of all Platforms
Now that you know all the advantages and disadvantages of selling online without a website, you might be considering creating a site for your business—but have hesitations about giving up on the perks of selling on social media and marketplaces.
The good news is that you don’t have to choose between a website and other sales channels! eComQB allows you to sell in several places at once, including on your website, social media, and marketplaces.
eComQB allows you to manage your orders and products in a single place, and have everything synchronized with your stores on social media and marketplaces. This way, you can reach customers on their favorite social platforms, and take advantage of the huge audiences on marketplaces while also growing your brand online.
Plus, eComQB doesn’t take transaction fees, which helps you stay on budget when you’re just starting your business.
When you sign up with eComQB, you get a free one-page website with a built-in online store that you can design as you like, even if you have zero coding or design skills! Check out this blog post for a step-by-step on creating your ecommerce website without any help from developers and designers.