NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Online Sales

July 6, 2009 Dollars and Sense News Column

Online Sales


          Whether you are hoping to sell a one-of-a kind collectible item or going into it as a business, online buying and selling is a growing market.  There are general online sales sites – such as eBay – and specialty sites for art, books and even motorcycles.

          If you are selling just one item, you might want to do a “size and weight” test before listing it on a sales site.  In other words, how difficult would the item be to package and how much would it cost to send it? 

          If you are hoping to begin an ongoing online business, remember you will need to consistently write descriptions and take detailed, clear photographs of everything you want to sell, post listings online, answer e-mail from potential bidders, and ship whatever sells to the winning bidder as soon as possible.  The large online sites offer free tutorials on how to set up an online store.

          A major factor in online selling is commission fees. Most sites charge fees equal to about 10 percent of the money you make from items sold on eBay. The fees include such services as posting your listing, completing a sale, and receiving payment through PayPal, which allows you to accept credit-card payment without establishing an expensive merchant credit-card account..

          Another form of online selling is selling products or services online with your own website.  Setting up a website can be done in a matter of minutes with assistance from a variety of online services.  Many online business owners fail though because they don't use common sense business practices after creating their website.  It is estimated that 90% of online shoppers who are ready to buy will want to pay for their order with a credit card.  Taking the time and expense to have a merchant account with credit card companies will pay off in quicker sales for you and easier purchases for customers.  To keep your online store and its web site up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you will need a web hosting service.  A web hosting service will insure your web site store is open when you are sleeping, eating, on vacation, etc.  Numerous books have been written on setting up an online business and can provide similar, valuable tips.

          Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are seeing more “announcements” of an item or items a member may have for sale but those are usually one-time-only sales and while they can be helpful on getting the word out they are usually frowned upon by other members of the social network.

          Web sites focusing on collectibles such as art, antiques or cars often feature bulletin boards where members can post anything form an item to sale to the location and date of the next car show. 

.         Online selling has changed the face of doing business and will continue to have a major impact on where and when consumers purchase goods – are your ready to join the online business community?



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