You can have the greatest looking ecommerce storefront online, with the best technology and tons of money to pump into multiple marketing campaigns… but if you’ve selected the wrong product to sell, none of this is going to help you make great sales. It all starts with doing the necessary legwork and research to result in identifying the right product.
Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself about the product or product range you are thinking of selling online. By the time you are through you will know if you have a winner, a loser or simply a product that requires a little extra work.
1. Would I buy my product and is it of a high quality?
Your product should be something you believe in. You need to clearly see the benefits and attractiveness of your product in order to know how it will provide your customers with a worthwhile purchase. What’s more, if it a product you like and value, you’ll be far better at selling it. People will see the enthusiasm (and people see this – it’s not something you can or should ever fake), will see how keen you are to help them and solve their problems. If this is your focus throughout setting up and managing your shop, you are one big step closer selling successfully online. As selling online is becoming increasingly popular and the storefronts more and more advanced – you will need to offer a product that is of a high standard. Product quality (which supersedes price) is often one of the most important factors to take into consideration when your reputation is on the line and you are attempting to establish a lasting online presence.
2. Is it legal to sell my product online and do I need to acquire any rights?
There are many ownership and copyright laws that apply to products and brands so first things first – you need to be sure that you will not be implicated by your government (or the laws of your country) or another company / individual (because of their ownership or intellection property rights) when selling your products online. You can check this by contacting your manufacturer or supplier. There are also extensive rules, fees and licensing that applies to medical products, food, alcohol or precious stones for example. Make sure your product is legal and get the rights to sell it!
3. Have I researched my competition both online and offline?
Is it possible for you to compete and is there a market demand? These are the two most important questions you’ll need to shed a hard, realistic light on. In order to set the right pricing, packaging, merchandising, specials etc., you’ll need to intimately understand what your competitors are doing and how well they are doing it. Online buyers often research and make their choice of seller based on a number of factors including trust, credibility, attractiveness, ease of storefront use, pricing, availability and more. Just declaring “cheapest price” on your products isn’t going to guarantee loads of sales, as price is fast becoming less and less of a factor when browsing buyers are making decisions. This will call you to offer credibility and/or special attractions to cause a consumer to buy despite your pricing being lower or higher than the competition. Competition is healthy as it tells you there is a hungry market and it also tells you what you are up against. If your competition is lining their pockets, so can you, but – you’ve got to figure out how to differentiate yourself in as many ways as possible from them to secure your slice of the pie. If your product is saturated on the Internet you’ll need to really plan for a bigger budget for sales and marketing as you’ll be going up against some stiff and often very strong competitors that aren’t prepared to give up one sale or customer without a fight.
4. Do I have easy access to stock at any time?
With an online shop, good service is perhaps more important than it is in a real store due to the fact that customers expect a flawless process… so you never want to be out of stock if you can help it because that first impression is the one that lasts – remember the Cheese Shop in Monty Python that had no cheese?! Your customers will not end up shooting you but you will have definitely lost them forever if they find a product they want and they can’t buy it! You will need to have access to reliable and consistent stock levels at all times. One month you might sell 100 products, the next you might sell a 1000 in one sale. This may apply to each product and variation thereof. This logistical issue must be considered in terms of your capacity to purchase / manufacture excess stock and how long it takes, the product shelf life and where you would store your stock. If you opt to make use of a drop shipping service – where a third party does the shipping and often holds stock for you – the relationship, your agreed arrangement, the added costs thereof and the risk of dealing with a 3rd party must all be taken into consideration.
5. Will it be profitable to sell this product online?
Selling expensive items is generally more profitable, but can require more credibility to successfully sell. When you look at the price of your product, don’t forget to calculate direct and indirect costs of selling your goods. Bear in mind that shipping costs must be included when calculating a price – if your price and margin are low and the product fairly heavy your sales may suffer as customers might balk at the shipping fees. Your sales may actually eat into your already small margin as you attempt to augment that shipping fee to boost sales themselves. Remember that even the best selling products won’t earn you any real money if your margins are too small. Consider your targets to be sure that you’ll be smiling at your bank balance from month to month once your storefront starts ticking over.
6. Are there any additional costs to selling my product online?
Selling certain products might mean incurring extra costs such as specialised packaging, royalties, license fees, certifications and so on. Specialised packaging such as secure boxing or bubble-wrap would also incur additional costs. Consider also the possibility of swap-outs and returns. Again, shipping costs are often unforeseen until it’s too late, so know all your costs of sale before you commit to selling any product online.
7. Is my product conducive to online sales and delivery?
It’s true that anything can be sold online but for some products, the process of an online sale is simply not profitable and/or causes too much extra work. Consider for instance the size and weight of your product and how much it may cost to ship. Consider the nature of your product and whether or not it is too fragile to ship or whether it has an expiry date. Certain products come in a variety of options such as colour and size. This must be carefully considered when selecting products and offering your customer’s personalization (or what we call in the industry “upselling” options). As an online merchant you’ll need to bear in mind that some products, such as designer works of art, sports cars, custom jewellery, all have high visual or touch requirements (attached to a high price) and the consumer may wish to see the product live before they buy. Such products would be illogical for e-Commerce and cannot be expected to yield high online sales.
8. Will consumers trust buying my product online?
Why should the consumer buy from you and not the mall, another bricks and mortar store or a competing e-Commerce storefront? For a customer to spend money with you online, they need to be crystal clear that buying from you is well worth it on a n umber of levels. Is it more convenient to buy from you, will it save them time and money, is it hard to find your product elsewhere, is your product of the highest quality difficult to exact elsewhere, do you provide insured delivery, can they contact you if there is a problem or they need help, what do others say about your products\ and services? It all boils down to you building trust in your visitors to convert them into paying customers. These are just some of the questions in a potential customer’s mind when deciding whether to part with their money and give it to you! Consider the label or branding of your product and be aware that some work might need to be done to ensure that you further build trust this way. Provide information about yourself and the product. For storefronts whose products are more abstract – it is important that the sales process remain easy to use while clearly described so that consumers feel comfortable that what they see on the screen is what they will get in real life.
9. Is my product marketable online?
Is your target market reachable online, is there a sizable market out there hungry for what you sell and have you got a sold plan to drive as many of them to your e-Commerce storefront as possible? Many online shops open in a sea of competitors without any planned marketing! Let’s face it, it won’t matter what products you sell if your customers can’t find you! But before you even get to the stage of building your own storefront, you must determine what market you want to sell to. Once you know what kind of customer you want (i.e what kind of customer is ideal for your product), you’ll be able to determine their needs, their likes, dislikes, potential turn ons and turn offs and so on – commonly know as “User Profiling”. If you find then that your products appeal greatly but only to a few people, or the market that you are trying to penetrate has little access to the internet (such as pensioners or low income households) then it may not be enough to sustain a profitable online business. If you know there is a sizeable and willing market out there, there is so much that can be done freely to market yourself online to increase traffic through search engine optimization, affiliate marketing and viral email marketing (to name but a few). If you know you can use as many of these mediums as possible to communicate and attract a large online market of potential buyers, and all other factors taken into consideration, then you’ll know at least that you’ve got the right product to sell online!
Once you’ve selected the right product, make sure you use the right ecommerce software and webhost to create, sustain, run and support an effective e-Commerce storefront! PLAN your business and brand while RESEARCHING your product.