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.
question is what am I selling?
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
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?
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
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
Based 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
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
In 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
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
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
What About Distribution?
Also, 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
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
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
Amazon.com allows you to list your product on their service and then you can
either sell it directly through Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com library, in that way you have two
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
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
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.
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
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.
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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