In the era of the internet and the online world, there is very high competition in all online businesses. For a newbie, it’s hard to stand and compete with the giants of eCommerce platforms. And as an entrepreneur in a competitive market, you’ve likely already felt the effects of this digital transformation, and perhaps you’re looking to get some skin in the game.
But selling online isn’t always as intuitive as it seems. Even for a savvy business owner, the competitive playground of eCommerce can present roadblocks that make starting an online business feel all the more daunting, from deciding what products to sell to choosing the right eCommerce platform.
Nonetheless, the benefits of selling online can far outweigh the challenges: cross-border selling, access to new customers, greater flexibility, and scalability the opportunities are endless.
➥ How and Where to Start?
In this article, we’ll be covering the what, where, and how of selling online so that you can be on your way to building your own online business.
➥ Essential Components of an Online Store
Of course, if your goal is to increase sales and make money, you can’t simply throw a product online and hope your business takes off you’ll need to lay some groundwork first.
Yes, creating a good product is central to a successful business, but there are several other components to running an online store that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here we’ll dive into the most important ones to help get off to a good start.
➥ Brand name
First impressions count, and choosing the right brand name has the ability to make or break your business.
No matter how great your product is, a forgettable brand name runs the risk of getting buried among the pack. But a catchy, intriguing brand name has the potential to capture your audience and attract them to your store.
In many ways, a brand name tells the story of your business. It conveys what your business stands for, what your values are, and what you can offer your customers. And as a result, customers will often associate your brand name with your product and how it makes them feel.
Even trademarked brand names like Kleenex, Chapstick, and Band-Aid are often used today to describe any brand in a given product category which goes to show just how strongly we associate brand names with the product they represent.
Here are five simple steps to coming up with a memorable brand name:
- Put pen to paper and brainstorm with key stakeholders to create a list of possible names.
- Keep it simple, using clear, descriptive words and aiming for positive connotations.
- Stand out from the crowd, and make sure the name doesn’t sound similar to those of your competitors.
- Stay away from trendy buzzwords, and instead choose a name that is classic and timeless.
- Choose a name that will look and sound good in logos, slogans, and your domain name.
Even before your store’s launch, you can get a headstart by marketing your brand to begin attracting a steady flow of customers.
One of the best marketing tactics is to take an omnichannel approach, leveraging multiple sales channels to create a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints. Utilizing channels such as email newsletters, paid to advertise, and SEO capabilities, you’ll be able to get your name out there before customers even see your product.
Social media, for instance, should be a no-brainer when it comes to marketing your brand. Create a Facebook Business Page or Instagram profile that highlights new product listings or customers who use your products, and include links that lead back to your online store.
Not only is social media marketing a great opportunity to engage with your customers, but many social platforms even offer the ability to sell products straight from your profile.
➥ Shipping and fulfillment.
Unless your business solely sells digital products, you’ll need to have a plan in place for how to calculate shipping costs and get products to your customers on time.
If your company is based in the U.S., compare pricing from the USPS, UPS, and FedEx, as well as any other options near where you’re headquartered. Decide on which shipping carrier works best with your budget and service, and calculate the appropriate shipping rates to charge your customers.
While it’s ideal to offer free shipping, keep in mind that you’ll have to absorb the cost and potentially build the shipping cost into your product pricing. Another option is to use real-time rates provided by the shipping company so that you don’t under or over-charge the customer.
➥ What Type of Products You Can Sell Online
But while each of the above components is essential to a successful online strategy, they are worthless without a great product to support them.
Before you begin to brainstorm the design and experience of an online store or even your store’s name, you’ll need to decide what products to sell. This decision is a strategy within itself, as what you sell will impact every other business decision you make.
Regardless of which industry you are in, there are two types of products you can sell: commoditized products and niche products. Let’s take a look at how they’re different and which is a better fit for your business.
➥ Niche products
Niche products, on the other hand, are goods or services that serve specific customers and product categories.
In many instances, these are unique, one-of-a-kind, or handmade products, making them some of the most popular items bought online. Niche products are often made in small batch runs or on demand. Think of a unique beaded necklace, a collectible antique, handmade frozen yogurt, or a leather iPad case.
However, store owners can also sell a combination of commoditized products and niche products to increase their profit margin. Offering only commoditized items, especially if they are popular products sold on major online marketplaces will make it extremely difficult to become successful.
Larger online sellers and marketplaces can buy items in large quantities, which makes for more profitable products — but chances are your startup won’t be able to compete right off the bat.
Instead, offer commoditized and niche products to your customers while delivering an on-brand experience to set up your online shop for success.
Take a look at Tyler’s, for example.
Tyler’s dives into the best of both worlds by selling niche clothing and accessories in addition to commodity apparel products from popular brands like Billabong, Simply Southern, and YETI.
By offering both niche and commodity products, they are able to better serve their customers by making their online store a convenient choice for consumers looking for a single store to buy both types of products.
➥ Commoditized products
Commoditized products are essential, high-demand, or popular goods or services that can be physical or digital products. These are products that everybody needs and what make up the majority of online sales.
➥ How to Select products to Sell
We’re all looking to become the next big company similar to some of the most popular D2C brands today. But the truth is, in today’s saturated product market, it’s difficult to generate product ideas.
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a product brainstorm checklist to help you unlock your entrepreneurial spirit and drive.
➥ Find Products What People Like Most?
“Passionate” might be a buzzword, but it carries a lot of value.
Starting your own business is not the glitz and glam that’s shown in the movies. The reality looks a lot more like long hours, likely some rocky terrain, and the occasional, if not frequent, sacrifice.
Being passionate about what you do will not only help carry you through hard times, but will also aid in crafting a brand message that speaks to people in a way that is meaningful, authentic, and engaging.
Let’s be real without passion, what’s the driver behind your online business?
By emotionally investing in your product, you can better deliver its value and mission into the market. Plus, an emotional story will help you stand out from competitors.
➥ Find products with high potential.
You’ve identified a potential product that solves consumers’ problems and comes from a place of passion. So, what’s next? Creating a resounding brand message can make a splash in the competitive eCommerce space.
Crafting a recognizable and memorable brand means you’ll need to put in the time to research and truly understand your target audience. Your brand should speak to your potential customers in a way that both resonates and compels them to come back.
In other words, you want to build loyalty based on audience identity.
Here are some great questions to start with:
- How does your target audience like to be addressed?
- How will you position your product?
- How will you design your own website to communicate your brand and appeal to your potential buyers through layout, color scheme, and calls to action?
➥ Problem-Solving Product
“If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find a solution for a problem in your own life.” — Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb
When you’re brainstorming ideas for a product or service, it’s essential you reflect on problems in your own life.
For Kyle Kirkpatrick, an Olympic gymnastics coach, it was wanting to listen to music while training athletes. The caveat? Being able to use headphones that would stay in place, regardless of whether he was running or jumping on the trampoline performing flips.
Spoiler alert: Kirkpatrick successfully took what used to be a small annoyance and transformed it into a brilliant business idea — the invention of Decibullz.
The reason behind his success? Pinpointing a problem and conveniently solving it.
Your product or service doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge, complicated endeavor, it can be quite simple, yet exceptionally effective.
Product opportunities can also exist in a few other areas:
- Improved product features.
- A new market unrealized by your competitors.
- Unique product positioning and marketing.
Beauty and skincare brand Bliss took a trending product, improved its features while tapping into an unrealized market opportunity, and introduced it to the market with a unique positioning.
Bliss, founded in 1996, began its business as a modern spa in NYC. They sought to revolutionize skincare by introducing ingenious products to the market and cultivating a sense of community with their customers.
Fast forward to 2022, with the help of new technologies and global ingredients, Bliss continues to introduce new PETA-certified, cruelty-free, clean beauty and skincare products that work for every budget.
“We want everyone to put their best face forward.”