Learning how to start selling online, especially when you are in Sri Lanka, can be a challenge. As you might have noticed, there seems to be a lack of good guidance on how to get started. That’s why we thought, we’ll put together a no-nonsense, complete guide on how to start your online store in Sri Lanka and sell locally and internationally.
In this article we will cover all the below-mentioned topics, which should help you get a very good idea about selling online in Sri Lanka and how to make money out of it;
- Why sell online in Sri Lanka? Is there potential?
- What business should I start? and what products should I sell?
- How much investment do I need to start selling on my online store?
- Can I market my e-commerce store in Sri Lanka and globally?
- How to convert your shoppers and increase your return in investment?
Why Sell online in Sri Lanka? Is there potential for E-commerce in Sri Lanka?
Even though it might surprise you Sri Lanka is a vastly untapped retail landscape with a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurs to take advantage of. The primary reason being the lack of choice when it comes to purchasing products across any category, locally.
You need to look for no further proof than the fact that Aliexpress alone does more than 25,000 orders per day in Sri Lanka. That is more than the business that any locally established retailer does in Sri Lanka. And it is a well-known fact that eBay, Amazon along with Aliexpress are some of the popular shopping platforms for Sri Lankan consumers. These platforms are popular in Sri Lanka and worldwide due to their vast range of products.
So the trick to establishing a successful e-commerce store in Sri Lanka lies in identifying the market segments where there is a lack of choice and offering that successful to your customers. There are a lot of tools that can help you in deciding what segment you should try to focus on and what products people are looking for.
What business should I start? and what products should I sell?
It is pretty easy to think about what you are most passionate about and start a business related to that. But doing that might not actually be the best idea, cause truth is, what you sell matters. You should spend some time figuring out the best combination of profit and passion, with more weight towards the profit of course. And the reality is that will always be a lot easier to be passionate about what you’re doing when you are profitable.
Figuring out what can be profitable is all about market research. Entering a market with little to no competition can be tempting, but also very risky as it will be hard to guess how well your store will perform. Evergreen markets like fashion, jewelry, and accessories, beauty, home, and living are proven segments with a lot of competition but less risky and can be highly rewarding if you are able to give the customers some unique product selection.
Here are some good tools for you to figure out what could be your best segment.
Google Trends is as the name says, a portal that gives you a pretty good idea of what is trending in Sri Lanka, or around the world. Type in your keywords and see how the trends look like. Also make sure to keep an eye on search volumes, as even though some keywords could be trending it could still be low search volumes.
Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest Tool
This tool will help you understand the Google search volume for your keywords. You can drill them down by countries and see past 12-month trends. This will give you a pretty good idea about how much people are looking for your products online.
Popular shopping websites like Daraz, Amazon, eBay, and Aliexpress
You can type in the keywords to on the search bar of these platforms and get some very useful information that can help you with your decision making process. You will be able to see the sales of top-selling products, which will give you an idea about global demand. It will also help you compare how well different categories perform in terms of sales. Aliexpress even has filters to see sales by country, which can be very helpful if you are only focusing on Sri Lanka specifically, or any other country in particular.
Once you’ve figured out what segment you are going to focus on, next step is to decide on the products. This is much easier than the previous step as you can get a pretty good idea of what products are popular in Sri Lanka based on sales on other platforms like Amazon, Aliexpress and Daraz.
How much investment do I need to start selling on my online store?
Here are the key things you will need to invest in to start selling online.
Your e-commerce platform
You have a few options like Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, and Eversell. These platforms have different pricing mechanisms and most charge a monthly subscription fee along with transaction fees.
If you are selling in/from Sri Lanka, Eversell could be the best choice as there are no additional transaction fees, and it integrates with Sri Lankan payment processors like WebXPay, Payhere and shipping providers like Aramex Sri Lanka.
Payment processing partner / Internet Payment Gateway
Ability to accept payments online is a crucial part of scaling your e-commerce business. Cash on delivery is a good place to start if you don’t want to pay additional fees on your transaction, but this can be quite restrictive as your cash flow will be affected with goods that are in transit. Customers are also more likely to reject your orders at door-step with Cash on Delivery.
Payment processing aggregators like WebXPay and Payhere, give you the opportunity of accepting a wide variety of cards (like Visa, MasterCard, Amex, etc.) without having to individually sign up with the banks. Paypal and Stripe are good options if you are selling globally, though getting your funds to your Sri Lankan bank account could be a challenge.
Shipping service provider
There is a lot more flexibility when it comes to delivery, as most shipping providers offer a very good interface to manage your shipments. Eversell provides direct integration with Aramex, which offers local and international shipping. With this integration in place, you will be able to calculate shipping rates on checkout, prepare shipments, print shipping labels and provide shipment tracking for your customers, right from your Eversell dashboard.
If you have the upfront investment, you could buy direct from wholesalers or manufacturers. Or even straight-up manufacture your own products if that is what you are trying to do. If you are on a tight budget and do not want to take the risk of tying up your investment in inventory, you could look at alternative methods like drop shipping.
With drop-shipping, your will be selling products that are owned by a manufacturer, or wholesaler on your online store. When a customer buys a product on your store, the provider (manufacturer or wholesaler) will be shipping it out directly to your customer. There are some advantages to this method, as you don’t need to invest up-front in inventory, and you can sell it at any price you decide to.
The key thing to focus here is that your relationship with the provider of your inventory is crucial to ensure success, as the customers purchase the product from your store, and if there are any defects in product or questions related to the product, they will reach out to you.
How can I market my e-commerce store in Sri Lanka and globally?
Once you have done everything we discussed so far, you are halfway there. The success of your online store will now depend on how well you are able to reach out to shoppers and how well you convert them to your customers. Let’s look at the channels available to you as an entrepreneur to market your products, and what you should be doing to close the sale when the shoppers land on your website.
The most popular method of attracting shoppers is to be present where they are. This is where social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Youtube, etc. come in. We recommend starting with Facebook and Instagram, as these are two of the most popular social media channels in Sri Lanka and worldwide.
Setting up a good business page/profile and pushing content relevant to your audience is the key to getting traffic from social media channels. Connecting your online store to your Facebook page can help you showcase your product range on your Facebook page and drive traffic to your store. Eversell gives you the ability to set up a Facebook shop with a couple of clicks, which otherwise could be a daunting task.
The best way to ensure quality free traffic to your online store is to optimise your store for Google searches. This is called Search Engine Optimisation. An online store that ranks high for relevant search terms on Google, is like having a flagship outlet inside of a shopping mall. Except that the outlet is present in every single street in Sri Lanka.
This includes well-written relevant content on your homepage, updated SEO focused descriptions on your category and product pages, and if you are really looking to break into the first page of Google search results, an updated and relevant blog that your audience will love. Learn how Eversell can help you with optimising your store for SEO here.
No, I’m not talking about paying agencies to push mailer campaigns to their bases. This actually might do more harm to your brand than good in the long run. What you should be doing is capturing email addresses of your shoppers, with their consent of course, on your e-commerce store. And send them updates about new collections and sales.
You can leverage the power of email marketing to also drive re-purchases and build a loyal customer base. A well-managed email marketing strategy can drive a very high return on investment on your marketing effort, as mailer campaigns are relatively cheap compared to other forms of advertising.
Eversell offers effective ways to get your visitors to subscribe to your mailer list, and integrates with popular email marketing tools like Mailchimp to run effective email marketing campaigns.
If you have the money to invest in advertising, you can run advertising campaigns on popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook to drive traffic via targeted ads. These campaigns are relatively easier to set up and can drive high-quality traffic if done correctly. Campaigns to drive traffic to your website and re-targeted ads to visitors who had previously visited your store can further help drive sales.
If sales is your primary focus, we would highly advise you to set up ads that drive traffic to your website, rather than engagement on your posts.
Eversell can integrate with Facebook’s advertising engine via Facebook’s pixel tracking mechanism to even help you optimise your ads further. It also enables you to run dynamically re-targeted product ads, which will show your visitors the products they browsed through when they visited your store, to drive higher conversions. Have you ever wondered how the products you browsed through keeps popping up on your social media? Now you know.
How to convert your shoppers and increase your return in investment?
Getting traffic to your online store will drive sales for your business. But how do you know if you are doing enough to convince your shoppers to buy in your store? If you ask me, this is where most online business owners lose out, by ignoring the behaviour of their users. The performance of your online store could be measured by a very key performance indicator, conversion rate. Here’s how to calculate it
Conversion Rate = (Customers (The number of unique users, who bought something)/ Total Unique Users) x 100%
For example, if your store gets 100 users, and 4 of them end up buying something, then your conversion rate is 4% (4/100*100). This tells you how good you are at converting your traffic to end customers. Quite a lot of factors play a part in improving your store’s conversion rate. Knowing the key methods and taking steps to improve those can give you a better bang for your buck, and increase your profits without no additional investment!
Let’s go through some of the main factors which when optimised can improve your conversion rate.
- Clear and simple navigation
Imagine you walk into a supermarket and all the products are randomly stuffed on to the shelves. I assure you, anybody would walk out the next minute. The same logic applies, and might I say even more strictly for online stores. Users want to find the product that they are looking for quickly and efficiently. Organising your product catalog in meaningful categories and having clear navigation tools will drastically improve your conversion rates. A perfect example of a website with excellent categorisation and navigation is Ikea. Take a look at their navigation and you will see how easily a user can find their desired product category.
For even better user experience you could add a search function to help the user find exactly what they are looking for. Also, it is important to ensure that you showcase the user with the most relevant search results and not just any content that has their search keyword in it.
- Page load times and overall site speed
More than 70% of users leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Yeah, you read that right. If your store loads in more than 3-5 seconds, you are at a significant disadvantage. Not just from users who get off of your site, but also on your Google search ranking potential. Page load times are a major factor in SEO and Google does not want slow websites to show up higher on the rankings. You can improve your e-commerce store’s speed by using a combination of a fast hosting provider, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to deliver your page contents faster, and well-optimised content (the technical aspects like page size, image formats, etc.). You can use tools like Google Pagespeed Insights, or GTMetrix to see if your website is too slow and what measures you could take to make it faster.
- Rich product content
Your users are not able to physically touch and feel your products before they make their purchase. So your product description and images must be informative enough for them to make this decision. Providing other useful information like shipping and payment information will help your users make their buying decision faster. You can check out how the content is displayed on the best selling products on Amazon to get a good understanding on what information your shoppers might be looking for in your products.
- Social proof
Nothing tells a user the product is a definitely good one than reviews from other fellow shoppers. This is an absolute must-have feature on your e-commerce store. You can show reviews from verified buyers only to increase trust in your store, and help that potential buyer make that decision faster.
If you want to spike your sales to capitalise on the holiday shopping period or clear out those stocks from last year, you need to do promotions. Promotions are a few tricks that you can use to push your sales higher. A few promotional tactics that you can use to drive more sales are as follows;
a. Limited-time sales price – Offer a discounted price for a limited time, driving users to make buying decisions faster
b. Coupon codes – Offer coupon codes with minimum purchase values to drive up your sales
c. Free shipping – Free shipping is one of the most popular promotion mechanism, and is a proven method to increase sales4. Bundle offers – Bundle products together to create the perception of increased value
- Recover abandoned carts
Not all users who go to the cart page will end up completing their purchase. There are a lot of reasons for this and the most common reasons are high shipping fees or lack of payment options. You will need to have a mechanism to capture these users’ email address to send them abandoned cart emails with incentives to complete their purchase. Offers like, a 5% discount if they complete their purchase in the next 24 hours, could help you recover those lost sales. Eversell has inbuilt tools to re-target abandoned cart users with automated emails to help you recover lost sales, so that you don’t have to do this manually.
We hope this extensive playbook will help you with making more money and profits off of your new or existing e-commerce store. Most recommendations that we shared are applicable for businesses targeting customers from all over the world, not just Sri Lanka. Even though starting your own e-commerce business can seem like a daunting task, with best practices and a bit of flair, you can convert your new or existing venture to the next big thing in e-commerce.
We at Eversell, have put together the most essential tools along with our e-commerce optimised platform to help you do most of these things very easily or automatically. But regardless of what platform you use, our advice would not be any different. If you found this guide helpful please share it with your friends and if you think we should write more content on how to grow you online sales, then do let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.