Tech - Web Marketing
By: - at May 28, 2013

Things to Consider Before Selling Products Online

Before starting any type of business that sells a product, it's important to answer three key questions:

what, who and how, or more precisely, what am I selling, who am I selling it to and how am I selling it?

Three Elements To E-Commerce
Let's look at these three questions in relation to ecommerce.

The first question is what am I selling?

Comparing Apples and Oranges

If you think about it, depending on the type of product you're selling, how you handle that product in your shop, online or in real life, changes dramatically. If you're selling a physical product, you have to keep things like stock management and shipping in mind.

Of course, if you have a set, stock or product, you cannot sell more than you physically have and once someone purchases a product from you, you have to get it from your location to their location. And depending on your product, that may cost a lot of money or very little money and you have to figure out who's going to offset that cost. If you sell a digital product like an e-book or some other digital entity, then the stock management is less important.

The things that are important are other elements like copy protection and stock control. Should the person who purchases the product be able to download it multiple times? Should they be able to come back and re-download it later if they lost the original product? And what happens if you make an update to the product? Should original purchasers get the update for free or do they have to pay either a portion of the original cost or buy the product again to get the new update?

If you sell a service, you also have to think about stock management. And yeah, I know that sounds a little bit odd but if you think about it, a service is really selling time that you have and you only have so much time to sell. So, if you sell a service, you have to make sure you don't sell more of the service than you're able to provide, because then you're basically taking people's money and not giving them anything in return.

Who Is Your Audience?

Older CustomersYoung Girl Shopping
The next question is; who am I selling it to? I don't mean you need to know the people you are selling it to personally. What I mean is you need to understand your customer's likely behavior on your site and also what they expect from your site. You have to ask questions like, what are my customer's preferred payment options. While some people trust sites like PayPal implicitly, other people are very reluctant to provide their payment information online and for good reason. It seems risky to give away your payment information to an unknown site.

PayPalBased on what you think or what you know your customers' preferred payment options are, you need to provide different types of payment solutions. It could be a payment gateway like PayPal or it could be entering credit card information directly into your site or it could be offering other types of payment options like a check or a money order or even a direct bank transfer. It all depends on what you are comfortable with and what you think your customer is comfortable with.

You also have to think about whether your customer is going to buy just one product or several products. If you give them the option of bundling products together, this may change how you are going to ship the products. And it also may change whether you want to provide volume discounts or if you want to provide other incentives to bundle products together. How likely is your customer to return to your site? This depends on what type of product you are selling.

Basket Value
add to cart cartIn some cases people will only buy one product once and then they will never buy anything again.

But in other cases people may want to return again and again to buy more products, either the same product or products like it. If that's the case, you may want to give the customer the option of setting up an account so they can go back to the site and see their previous purchases and also so that they can save their shopping cart. And this is really important, many people like to shop online while they are at work and then they place what they want to buy in the shopping cart and when they come home from work they go over their shopping cart and make sure that is actually what they want to buy and then they make that purchase.

So, giving people the option of setting up an account and saving their shopping cart may induce people to buy more of your products or it may not. It really depends on what you are selling and who your customer is. Is your customer likely to share your products with their friends? If so, you should make it easy to share this content. Social sharing like sharing content on Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus or in particular on Pinterest has become extremely important in marketing online sales.

Sharing On Social Media

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So, giving people the ability to share your product on these services can be powerful in getting more customers. But, it requires that your product is something that is worth sharing, that it is easy to share, and also that is something that you want them to share because if you want your product to be exclusive or you have a specific type of service you are selling, you may not want people to share it on social media. It all depends on your product and your customer.

What About Distribution?
Moving ProductAlso, you have to think about how your customer wants to get your product. Again this depends on what type of product you are selling, but if you are selling a physical product, does your customer want it shipped by regular mail or by expedited shipping through a shipping service or do they want to come and pick it up? Do they want to buy it in a store or do they want you to provide it to them in person? All these things are possible.

It depends on what you want to do and what your customer is willing to pay for. And, you have to look at how you are selling the product. In some cases, you may want to sell the product online only.

This makes it easy to manage stock and accounting and it also makes it easy for people to know where to get the product. But selling it online only might not always be the best solution. In many cases, you want to sell your content both online and in a store. If you do that, you have to make sure that you keep your stock in order so you know that you are not overselling the product, either online or in the store and that you have product available.

You have to remember when people buy products in the store, they can see if there are no more products available. However, when it's online, unless you keep your stock in check you may end up in a situation where people buy more products than you physically have and then you have to figure out a way of handling that. Some people choose to use a distributor to sell their content. That way their stock management is handed over to someone else, and they are responsible for selling that product.

But it also puts a person in between you and the customer so you lose a bit of control. This is great if you have large volumes of product to sell but it's a trade-off so you have to figure out if this is the right solution for you. Another popular option when you have an online store is to also sell person to person or business to business. You will often see people who sell things like t-shirts will also sell those t-shirts live in venues or during fairs and stuff like that.

Maintaining Stock Levels
That way, people who are reluctant to buy things online because they do not want to pay shipping or because they want to see the product in person are able to buy that product without paying for shipping and to see it before they buy it. But again, if you are selling it person to person, you have to make sure you keep your stock in check. And what a lot of people do to get around this, is when they sell a product person to person, they still register it in their ecommerce solution as if they sold it online, they just take out the shipping option. That way their stock management is kept in order and they can also see all the sales, they will just put a note saying I sold this in person instead of online.

A relatively new option is becoming more popular now, is to also sell your product through an online vendor. And here, I'm thinking in particular of

Selling Via Amazon allows you to list your product on their service and then you can either sell it directly through or through one of their third party systems. That way you can have your own ecommerce site and reach your customers that way and you can also reach customers that are searching for your product or something like your product in the library, in that way you have two channels.

But again, when you do that, you have to keep in mind you have to keep your stock in check and you also have to remember that when you sell things through Amazon, they take a cut so you lose a bit of your profits. Answering the questions of what, who and how upfront will make the planning of your online store a lot easier and save significant time when you're setting up the store. Take some time to think these questions through and write down your answers for later so you have a good foundation to start from.

Knowing Your Product
It might sound a bit silly for me to say you need to understand your product. But having a clear understanding of what you are selling and what if any competition you have in the marketplace will go a long way in ensuring your success. These questions and their answers will help you prepare product descriptions and marketing materials for the web to increase the chances of your customer's finding, sharing, and buying your products instead of a product from your competition.

What Is The Perceived Value Of Your Product?
The first thing to ask is what is the value of my product? I'm not talking about the dollar value here;

I am talking about what is the value for your customer. How does your product impact a life of your customer and what problem does it solve or how does it improve the life of your customer. If you answer these questions in your product descriptions and in your marketing materials, you are more likely to get customers simply because when people use the web, they are usually asking questions. Questions like, "Hey, I have this problem; I need it solved," or "How do I get something?". By asking and answering these questions in your product descriptions and marketing materials, you are more likely to get hits from search and you are more likely to see people come in from social sharing sites like Facebook and Twitter because people often ask their friends these types of questions.

When you are describing your product or if you are developing new products, try to approach it like the music industry. Use the first, best or different principle to look at how to differentiate your product from your competition. All products should be first, best or different and ideally you want any product to be all three. If you are the first to do something, you should say so. Make a point out of being the first.

Are You The Best?
If you are the best, it is important that you explain why you are the best and what differentiates you.

You should do this in a way that does not put down your competition but elevates your product.

And of course, if you are the first, you also have to make sure to be the best because anytime you invent something someone else will try to emulate you and do the same thing. And then, it is important that people understand that, since you are the first you are also the best.

The next part, different, is a bit of a challenge but it's also important because by differentiating you from your competition, people will see that there's value in your product because you are not the same as everyone else. Figuring out the dollar value of your product can be a bit of a challenge especially when you are selling things online because you are now competing in a global environment and there will always be people out there who will try to undercut you. Anything you make, someone else will try to make and sell at a cheaper price. You have to figure out what the value is for you.

By that, I mean, how much you have to sell a product for, so that you end up earning money and then you have to figure out how much your target audience is willing to pay.

How Much Will They Pay?
That means you have to figure out who your target audience is and how much they are willing to spend on a product that they are buying online. That way, you can find a balancing point between what you need to earn and what they are willing to pay for it and then set the price there. The most important thing here is to not either undervalue or overvalue your product. If you set the price too low, since it's sold online and people cannot really see it in front of them, they will assume that it's a cheap product that they do not want to buy.

If you set it too high, they will just feel like they are being ripped off. So, finding the balance point is important. Like I said, if you are selling products online, your competition is the rest of the world. So, there is no point trying to find every single competitor. Instead, try to look at who is your direct competition.

Defining Your Market
Define your target market and then figure out where they are going to buy whatever product type you are selling. That way, you will be able to target your specific competitors and figure out what they are doing. Once you know what they are doing try to not emulate what they are doing.

Improve on the experience for your customer, either by adding better descriptions or better photos of your products, changing your interface on your website so that people have an easier time finding your products or making it easier for people to share your products online.

Internet Alternatives
Consider selling your product in other venues in addition to your online store. This can be extremely effective in reaching people you would never reach online. Because no matter how important ecommerce is getting, there are a lot of people who will never buy content from the Internet, they will only buy products they can see in front of them.

Other venues could include adding your product to a store so a store is actually selling your product in real life or it could be getting a booth at a fair or a market and sell your products there. Many T-shirt printing companies that sell online also sell their products at markets and fairs because then they can sell them directly to people. They do not have to pay for the shipping and they can charge more at the fair than they can in the online store. Just remember, if you are selling your product in real life, make sure to include the web address for your online store so that when people buy it, they can go to your website afterward and buy more products or they can share the website with their friends.

Because if you are selling something really cool and people buy it, their friends will want to buy it too. By giving them the web address to your store, all their friends will be driven to your online store.

In Conclusion
Understanding your product and how it fits into the market and the life of your customer will help you reach your customer more easily and hopefully help you sell more of your products online.





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