How offline merchants can sell online

- Posted by to E-Commerce

Selling online, especially when you have little or no experience, can be daunting and complicated. The offline space operates very differently from the online world, both in terms of workflow, negotiations and accounting.

● When dealing with people online, you can never be sure of the person you are talking with, and how credible they are especially if it’s the first time you’re doing business with them.

● There’s also the issue of putting your data and payment online, unsure if security is tight enough to avoid or deter hackers.

However there’s no denying the fact that a lot of the world’s businesses are migrating online, or at least exploring a new sales channel. After all, no one’s ever said no to helping more people and reaching more potential customers right?

People are not resistant to the idea of selling online, but rather are fearful of the uncertainty that selling online represents. Here are a few ways to manage the risk and conquer the fear, while gaining a new revenue stream in the meantime!

Identify which items you can sell online

Since you already have an offline business, you’d think you probably know your target market. However, not all products are viable to be sold online, and your global online audience might react differently to your already local customers.

Instead, do some prior research. A good first step would be to simply list your goods and services online, and see what comes up. If there are indicators of interest in the product or you see there is a need, then I would recommend pushing forward with the strategy.

Interested customers will know where to look to find what they want, and might even automatically contact you for a possible sale. Your job here is to make your item as visible as possible using whatever possible means.

However, as the Internet is a big wide space, online information is often visible to many parties including your competitors. This ‘openness’ has paralyzed many businesses for fear of competitors ‘spying’ on their pricing and products.

The solution? You can simply encourage interested customers to call you for quotations by listing your contact clearly and putting a ‘request for quotations’ option on the website. It is not necessary to put sensitive information online and as such you should only do what you are comfortable with.

Name your products with a universal product code

Different companies purchase stocks from different suppliers or perhaps an individual supplier.

If you are purchasing from multiple suppliers, each supplier may have different Stock Keeping Unit (SKUs) for their products. To avoid confusion on your end, it is much better to have your own SKU on all your products.

Having a universal product code within your inventory system will go a long way in helping you juggle both online and offline sales.

It will help you to find out which item is being sold quicker, and your team will also have no issue picking and delivering the goods as everyone is on the same page. A universal product code will allow your operations team to better manage your paper stock, regardless of sales channel.

This is because if you’re using software such as Microsoft Excel, having multiple SKUs for the same product is going to create lots of confusion, and this might cost you time and efficiency, or even worse, the sale.

Find a suitable eCommerce platform or eCommerce builder

When venturing online, take baby steps such as finding a new location and shop space online to sell and display your goods.

There are various aspects to consider when choosing your new shop location: ease-of-use, features & price and many others.

The most important things to consider are the comfort levels of use and that it adapts to your style of doing business.

Here are some reviews of the most popular eCommerce platforms that can help you take your business online:

● Shopify

Pros: Simple to use & setup. No programming skills needed. Awesome themes

Cons: Great for first time eCommerce entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to keep up with you when your eCommerce business expands.

● Magento & WooCommerce

Pros: Base versions are free. Large feature selection plugin. Great for eCommerce business that is looking to scale fast.

Cons: Complicated & will require PHP coding knowledge to set it up

● Marketplaces

Choosing a suitable marketplace is highly dependent on your product and target customers.

Global marketplaces such as Amazon & eBay are good to start with if you are selling consumer products.

Today, there are plenty of marketplaces for all sorts of products in all regions.

Tip: Best Online Marketplaces to Sell

Have software to help you

While you might be up-to-date with your management skills in an offline business, operating online at the same time might make administration a nightmare. To avoid administrative headaches, many businesses now consider a software solution as essential to managing daily inventory updates and operations.

Large companies use customized solutions to solve inventory issues, but unfortunately, smaller companies might not have enough money to follow suit.

Other than Microsoft Excel, an alternative you definitely should consider is Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, such as EMERGE App.

There are a lot of SaaS programs out there in the market, as people are more open to using software to make their businesses more efficient.

Look for software that adapts to your workflow, as changing your company’s culture and habits to suit the software can often backfire and give rise to resistance from embracing the new solution.

Other important points to consider are user-friendliness, pricing, and support availability.

All these factors will play a part in helping you sell faster and better on both online and offline mediums.

Build your fulfilment process

The name of the game here is flexibility and reliability. Rain or shine, you want to make sure your goods reach the customer.

When you are starting your eCommerce business, you will need to decide whether you are selling locally in your region or abroad to different markets. Which fulfilment process depends on your size/price of your products & region you are selling to.

Below are a few fulfilment options:

- On demand last-mile logistics companies

In recent years, there are plenty of apps and last mile companies that have been set up to serve the eCommerce last-mile market.

It connects eCommerce merchants with delivery drivers to pick up and deliver the parcel to their customers and usually only locally in the region. Fees are higher if your parcels are larger. Hence, if your customers are abroad, this option may not be available to you.

- Local postal services

Local postal services companies has been given a new breath of life with the emergence of eCommerce as a viable industry.

Local postal services have been serving eCommerce business for some time now & is still the most commonly used delivery for both local & offshore customers.

However, if your parcel size is relatively large, the fees may be unreasonable & pricing may be uncompetitive to your customers

- Courier companies

This is generally used by B2B delivery of goods abroad. If your parcel is relatively expensive and time-sensitive, courier would be the best option although it is pricey.


We hope this information has been of use to you, and that the deconstruction of this ‘mysterious’ space has encouraged you to venture online. If done properly in controlled steps, you can see success at every step of the way. Good luck and have fun selling online!