In some ways, it's harder than it ever has been to be an online seller—competition is incredibly intense, margins continue to fall, and the expectations of shoppers are higher and higher.

On the other hand, there's also never been a better time to be a seller—the level of professionalism that even small sellers can achieve is higher than it has ever been before.

Here are some of the things that small sellers are now doing to play right alongside far bigger companies.

Better photography.

With today's great smartphone cameras, inexpensive digital SLR cameras, and inexpensive lightboxes, even sellers that are just starting out and operating on a shoestring can put together studio-quality product photos that make products look amazing.

How to take advantage:

Making high-quality photos and videos is less expensive and easier to do than ever before. (Image: © StockRocket / Fotolia)
  • Get a recent smartphone or an entry-level DSLR camera

  • Get an inexpensive photography lightbox—they can be had for less than the price of a movie ticket and popcorn these days

  • Take time to practice getting your exposure and image size settings right

High-quality video.

The same smartphone or DSLR gear used for better photography can also be used to create pro-quality videos, if you also invest in an inexpensive tripod and basic video editing software, then find a nice setting in your home or business environment.

How to take advantage:

  • Get an inexpensive tripod—no high-end features needed, just something to hold your gear

  • Get ahold of iMovie or a similar program for your computer or tablet and learn to make basic edits

  • Start producing basic social media and product videos that will help to build a loyal shopper base

Affordable advertising.

Yes, anyone can advertise online these days, and it doesn't cost a fortune. Take a day to learn—then reach a new world of the shoppers that you want to target.

There was a time when global advertising was out of the reach of most small businesses, but in the present, any seller can reach any audience anywhere around the globe for very little money. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and most importantly search advertising with Google and Bing enable you to reach new shoppers anytime you like.

How to take advantage:

  • Set aside a few dollars (literally) to experiment with advertising

  • Pick a platform or two—Facebook and Google Ads are good places to start—and learn about them

  • Start running inexpensive ad campaigns to reach shoppers that'd otherwise never find you

Polished fulfillment experiences.

With eBay now offering eBay-branded packaging material along with easy-print labels, and Amazon FBA providing professional packaging as well, the delivery experience for even first-time sellers can match the best the industry has to offer.

Pair with simple bubble wrap and laser-printed packing slips or included business cards for an unboxing experience that's top-shelf.

How to take advantage:

Either get your own branded shipping materials or take advantage of eBay-branded shipping materials for the professional touch.
  • On eBay, get eBay-branded packing materials and an inexpensive food scale, then pre-print labels

  • On Amazon, take advantage of the FBA service

  • Use your own printer to create packing slips and marketing material to include in boxes

Smooth returns and exchanges.

The days of having to negotiate returns and exchanges by email—along with the embarrassment and goofiness that this generates in comparison to major retailers—are over. Instead, sellers on eBay and Amazon can now deliver a first-class experience to shoppers when problems arise.

How to take advantage:

  • Opt in to the eBay managed returns program

  • Be sure to handle any returns, refunds, and re-shipments promptly to preserve the experience

Don't Put it Off, Take Advantage

Even if business is going well and sales are coming in, don't put off taking advantage of all that the modern e-commerce ecosystem has to offer. No matter how well things are going, they go even better when you polish the rough edges away and take a step up to the next level.

This is especially true when each of the strategies above are so easy today to take advantage of—and when your competition is increasingly likely to be using them. So get started today!

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