You started a fashion store in a small community and things are going swimmingly, even some of the animals in town are wearing your garments. Then, by some stroke of fate, things change; a pandemic hits, perhaps.
Yes, things change. And they’re changing faster than ever before. According to Statista, global ecommerce has grown consistently year on year (see the graph below) and will reach more than 6.3 trillion USD by 2024. That’s a lot of opportunities waiting for ecommerce operators (yes, I’m talking to you!).
You might ask yourself, “What can I do to benefit from this global trend?”
Before we unpack the first important steps, let’s just talk about the benefits of selling online. Think of fishing. You can go fishing in your local pond or you can go fishing in the sea. The sea holds much more fish than your local pond does. So it stands to reason that you’ll be able to catch more fish in the sea. It also makes sense that there is much more room to hide in the sea if you’re a fish. Thus, the increased opportunity you’ll have when going online is mind-blowing, but so is the possibility of failing.
Not if you do some basic things right.
Fish where the fish are
If you know anything about fishing, you’ll know that anglers target certain species of fish in specific areas. Some fish like murky water, others hunt when the water is clear and cold. Some fish have small mouths, others massive ones. You have to adjust your hook and the bait you use accordingly. There is no way that cod will bite on bread, just like there is no way that a 50-year-old will buy a pregnancy test. Well, there’s always the one… But that’s not the one you’re after.
The whole point about any shop, whether it’s online or in-store, is to sell to a certain target market. To find out where your ideal target market is and what they’re up to is easier than you think, especially online.
Google Trends is a great tool to help you see which products are more popular than others. Let’s say you want to sell clothes online but you’re not sure if they should be floral, cotton, or retro sweatshirts. Enter all three terms into Google Trends and see which one is most popular, region by region. Google will also tell you what time of year they are most popular so that you can focus your marketing efforts on that month. More about that in our next blog.
Google’s keyword analysis tool will show you which keywords people search for are the most popular with potential customers, and which ones are the most sought-after by business competitors. Logically, you can deduce which products are the most popular amongst customers and which products are offered the most by your competitors. A word of advice: If something is searched less than 300 times in a month, don’t sell it. You want to make money right?
Seth Godin, a marketing guru, says: “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” So if you come across a glory hole of fish, don’t think that it’s not exactly the species you were looking for and give it a miss. Just change your bait so that you can catch the fish that are there. In other words, if you come across a bevy of potential customers but they don’t align to the products you wanted to sell, don’t go looking elsewhere, rather find a product that they want and sell it to them.
Online forums are other sources of great insights, people are quick and extensive about voicing their discontent online. They will complain about products they can and cannot find, the quality of those products, and the reliability of the stores they bought them from. If you lurk in the background of these discussion threads, you can pick up a great deal of information. It might not be scientific and data-driven, but sometimes a simple insight into the psyche of people can lead to great inspiration.
Learn from big stores
Big retailers often have a section on their sites where they show their most popular products or biggest sellers. Are there any trends that you can piggyback on? Use Amazon, Etsy, and eBay’s sales data and check the “Best Sellers” sections of the industry you’re in. Some even have trending pages, making it easy to keep up with what’s hot and not.
Sell what you know
Although Seth Godin is right, there is also a saying: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” It’s easier to sell something to someone else if you’re passionate about it. When you start doing product descriptions, social media posts, and finding suppliers, you will make your life much easier if you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t… well, there’s always time to learn. And learn fast before you commit too much of your energy, resources, and time to it.
When choosing the products you’re going to sell, think of how they’ll travel. Products with awkward sizes that are perishable and more expensive to stock or to ship might not be such a good idea. Sometimes there’s a good reason why nobody else is doing it. Don’t be the eejit who thinks there’s a gap in the market if nobody’s selling ice cream in the desert.
Where to find your products
You can buy your products from a wholesaler or manufacturer, make them yourself, or use a dropshipping company. Every option has pros and cons. Let’s have a quick look at them.
- Buy from a manufacturer or wholesaler
You buy your products from wholesalers and manufacturers, add your branding, and then sell the products to your customers. Some of the costs you’ll incur are the products, storage, shipping, and upkeep. The biggest benefit of this model is that you can scale in a wink. One of the drawbacks is that you will probably not sell anything handmade or unique. Make sure you choose one or, preferably, a couple of reliable suppliers. You will depend on them to be able to supply your customers with the products you sell. If something happens to one, you can seamlessly replace it with another.
- Make it yourself
The pandemic has seen an increase in handmade or original products. Typically this option includes art, jewellery, crafts, and more recently, pre-prepared meals. The main costs you’ll incur will be materials and your time. This business model allows you to develop your own brand and control stock and pricing. But it’s very difficult to scale. It might be a good idea to look into bespoke services or tailor-made products if you want to reduce some of the risks associated with this model. It means that people commission you to make something specifically for them, and they pay up-front. People are also more willing to pay a premium for this kind of service.
This has become an increasingly popular way to sell on the internet. It means you fulfill an order without ever stocking or handling it yourself. It works like this: You list various products on your site; a customer orders it and pays you; and you pass the order onto the dropship supplier who delivers it directly to the client. Website Builder Expert published a great guide on how to build a dropshipping site.
Whichever products you want to sell online, you’ll need a payments provider like Truevo to support you on this journey. Truevo offers a range of online and offline solutions for businesses big and small.