Whether you are trying to get a new business off the ground or you are adding a sales channel to an existing one, chances are, you have considered selling products online. Welcome to eCommerce!
Selling things online is tricky business, and doing it right can save you a ton of money and time rethinking and redoing your strategy. So in this article, we break down and de-mystify the art of online sales while teaching you some of the pitfalls to avoid.
The 4 Ecommerce Models
The first thing you need to do as a new business is select the model that suits your goals. If you prefer not to maintain your products in a warehouse or you don’t like fulfillment, there are options for you that will be profitable and rewarding. So choose wisely!
There are 5 main components to selling things online. They are:
Each of the models is suited for handling part or all of the above components.
The traditional way to sell your wares online is to manage marketing, production and fulfillment yourself. You can produce your own products, or you can have it manufactured, and with each comes its own benefits and drawbacks.
One of the main benefits is that you can control the quality and cost of the products yourself. If your manufactured products are too expensive, you can find cheaper storage or shipping options. This is called supply chain management.
Not everyone likes supply chain management and shipping, and you can offload a significant amount of work by letting a supplier handle this for you. Dropshipping is basically selling a product for a third party, who then ships directly to your customers..
Instead of changing the supply chain, you can negotiate with a wholesaler to give you a better rate, or you can find another supplier.
The reduced work also comes with the cost of a lack of control, both in the production pipeline and in the customer experience.
In reverse, when you first get started, you may choose to take sales out of the picture and focus on what you know: production and fulfillment. You can do this by listing your products on a marketplace like Amazon or Wayfair.
The upside of listing your product on a marketplace is that it takes very little to get started. The downside is that you have to deal with merchants that copy your product offerings, and of course, the reduced profit margins since you pay a percentage of your sales to the service.
White-labeling is similar to dropshipping except that the brand invisible to the end-user. You are also required to buy products in bulk in order to keep prices down and to maintain inventory while you sell products out of your store.
With affiliate marketing, you don’t even run a store. You simply direct traffic through ads to a retailer, who pays you a commission for every sale made. It’s definitely the easiest of the above models, but also the most unpredictable as you have zero control over the affiliate partners or the customer experience.
Key Compotents of an Online Store
It’s important to put some effort into maintaining a store that is pleasant to browse, and gives customers the information that they need. Make sure your store has the following:
- A clean and intuitive design
- Mobile-friendly (responsive) design
- Conversion tracking
- Discount code and promotional capabilities
- Ratings & Reviews
- Compliance with accessibility standards
You will, of course, need to do your best with identifying your customers and product and managing the operational side of your business. But building a quality storefront is right up there in importance. The last thing you want is to build a store that turns away motivated customers because you’re not giving them the information they need.
Look to Big Business
One of the great things about running a small business is that you can look at the top brands to see how they’re handling themselves, and borrow from their successes while avoiding their failures.
Big brands drive engagement through social channels. They use UTM codes at every touchpoint to track the customer journey and learn about their customers, then they craft messaging to attract more of the same.
Brands build a long-lasting relationship with customers through email and social campaigns and set up audiences for more focused communications.
They also find ways to connect with the customer at the POS through chat marketing and by using upsells and cross-sells to improve the customer lifetime value (LV).
By letting big companies spend all the money and assume all of the risk, you can watch and learn, using the strategies that are the most suitable to your own business and customers.