E-Commerce 101: Shipping your products

You might have a good looking e-commerce site, best products, lowest prices, but it will count for nothing if you are unable to fulfill your order efficiently. Shipping is often being ignored by first time etailers, for instance they just couldn’t handle it when their business is picking up. Try to imagine if you have like 100 orders per day, how do you fulfill the orders effectively in terms of time and cost? It is an art to master and hopefully by reading this, you will be more prepared than ever.

Shipping Vendors

The first thing you have to do is comparison shopping, basically sourcing for the most reliable and cheapest way to send parcel. Look up for those published rates at your local shipping vendors’ website. For example, you should check with USPS, UPS, FedEx etc. if you resides in United States. Whenever necessary, try meeting up with the sales representative from these shipping vendors to explain your requirements at the same time exploring options.

Here’s a basic checklist for sourcing your shipping vendor:

  • Shipping rates – How is it calculated based on weight, dimension and location? Registered or express parcel rates?
  • Location – Is it convenient for you to send parcel? Are you planning to fulfill orders from overseas?
  • Pick-up service – Can the shipping vendor pick-up parcel from your place? How much and what’s the pick-up schedule?
  • Others – What are the requirements and benefits of opening an account? Is tracking code provided?

Depending on your business, you might require services from multiple shipping vendors. For example, USPS offers cheaper rates to send heavier items, and UPS or FedEx offers convenience to send lighter stuffs.

Shipping Charges

Once you figure out the cost to ship the products, you need to develop a sensible shipping policy to pass onto your customers. If you are charging too much, you risk losing business. Bear in mind that shipping is never a profit center, customer will be put off if you are charging more than required.

Your profit will be cut though if you don’t charge enough. The simple logic is to charge exactly the fee required to ship the items.

If you have high profit margin or light-weight items, consider free shipping provided you can afford to do so. Customers love free shipping and it’s one of the biggest factors to persuade online purchase.

Packaging & Handling

Packaging is another cost that you have to consider, and absorb in some cases. Are you using packing materials provided by the shipping vendors, or your own branded ones? Branded packaging enhances your brand impression but could eat up your profits. It is worth considering though when your business becomes substantial.

Some etailers do charge handling fees, which consist of the cost of the packing materials and the cost of labor to pack items. In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to pass along these costs to the customers. You don’t want to be charged at the cashier for providing the plastic bag and packing the items, don’t you?

Return & Exchange

Don’t forget that a portion of your customers will request for return or exchange, especially if you are selling apparels. The question is, who is responsible for paying the cost of returning the item, and sending out the exchanged item?

Generally, it makes sense to state it clearly in your return & exchange policy, in which your customer has to bear the shipping cost of returning the item to you. It is a small price to pay to make your customer happy by footing the opposite bill, just make sure you budget it into your costing. It is completely different though in the case of defect item, which you should be responsible for the two-ways bill.

Conclusion

Delivering happiness to your customer

Delivering happiness to your customer

Always remember that order fulfillment is ultimately important to make your customer happy, and possibly return for more. It takes a lot of courage for customers to place order for the first time, so don’t let them wait too long to receive the order!

Image credit: ba1969

E-Commerce 101: Marketing your online business

Well, you must be pretty excited soon after launching your online store. Don’t celebrate yet, the work has just begun. Marketing your e-commerce site is arguably the most challenging aspect – how to get more visitors to your online store?

The good news is, especially for small-medium business, advertising is not the only way. All you need to do is leverage on several channels, put in your efforts and voila! The rewards will be equally satisfying, if not more.

In this time, let’s take a look on major marketing channels that you shouldn’t miss.

Competing for eyeballs

Competing for eyeballs

Search Engine

Buying intention always starts from the search engines, like Google, Bing and Yahoo. So, how to improve your site ranking in the SERPs (search engine result pages)? In short, SEO (search engine optimization).

First – internal factors. A SEO shopping cart will make your life easier, and not to worry about the technical details. All you need to do is to figure out important keywords as part of your business / product write-up.

Secondly – external factors. Links from well-ranked sites is also an important factor to determine your site ranking. There are many ways to build valuable inbound links especially via affiliates.

Social Media

There is no reason to skip having Facebook page for your business. Facebook is one of the best channel to engage with your fans or customers. Start building your fans base, give them some incentives and interact with them.

Twitter too is an excellent channel to listen to comments about your business, and build relationships. Just make sure that you have to be quick to respond especially on customer service issues.

Start a blog related to your industry, if you have enough time to write regularly. Blog about what your customer wants, not about what your business is. Blog can help you to become the industry expert, thus gaining trust from your audience.

Shopping Portals

Besides search engine, it is also important to get listed within comparison shopping engines like Google Product Search, Shopping.com, Yahoo! Shopping etc. For a start, pick the most popular or free sites to submit your products.

If you have enough resources, try to list your business or products in other types of shopping portal to increase exposure. Some examples including shopping directory, deal finders, social shopping and so on.

Advertising

The e-commerce site would not rank well in search engine especially soon after launch. In order to gain some traction, you can consider bidding for PPC (pay per click) advertising like Google AdWords, more so if your product keywords are rather niche.

Another feasible channel for small-medium business to advertise is Facebook advertising. You are able to target your audience by demographics, location etc. and grab this opportunity to increase your fans base.

Conclusion

Don’t forget the traditional marketing methods too, in which you can apply both online and offline marketing techniques to compliment each other. Just prepare for some hard work and creativity to stay ahead of your competitors!

If you are interested to find out more, we will dive into each channel in our upcoming posts. Do subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated.

Image credit: Daveness_98

E-Commerce 101: Understanding online payment

After deciding on what products to sell online, you need to figure out how your customers are going to pay you. Accepting credit cart transaction is a must, since most of the online sales occur through credit card payment. The question is, how do you swipe your customer’s credit card without the presence of point-of-sale (POS) terminal?

How does online payment work?

How does online payment work?

How does online payment work?

If the illustration above is a tad too technical to understand, here’s a simple explanation in words:

  1. Customer check out the shopping cart, enter personal and financial details.
  2. Details are transmitted via a secure connection to a payment gateway service.
  3. The payment gateway service securely routes the information via the relevant financial networks.
  4. Upon success, the customer’s credit card account is debited and your merchant account is credited.
  5. Once all funds are cleared, the money is remitted to your business account.

What is payment gateway?

In short, payment gateway works like a virtual POS terminal in cyberspace. Internet payment gateway acts as an intermediary between your shopping cart software and all the financial networks involved with the transaction, which includes the customer’s credit card issuer and your merchant account.

What is merchant account?

Merchant account is a type of bank account that allows you to accept payment by debit or credit card. Payment received via credit card sales are first routed to the merchant account and held there before being remitted to your bank account.

What is third-party processor?

You will be better of with a third-party processor if you are just starting your online business. Third-party processor like PayPal is basically a payment gateway and merchant account rolled into one. You can always switch to a merchant account provider when your transaction volume becomes sizable, in order to enjoy better transaction rates.

How to choose online payment service provider?

Choosing the right online payment service provider is important in launching a e-commerce business. If you aren’t very sure, the rule of thumb is to select those that are well established and reliable. Some of the major considerations including:

  • Application or setup fee – This is usually a one-time fee. Competition is stiff now so always opt or ask for the fee to be waived.
  • Annual or monthly fee – Could be zero-fee, or charged based on the transaction volume. The higher the volume, the lower the fee.
  • Transaction fee – Charged by flat rate per transaction, or more commonly a percentage of the transaction value.
  • Remittance – Remittance fee is chargeable whenever you withdraw the fund to your bank account. Do take note on how fast or frequent the remittance is being done, which is important to your business’s cash flow.
  • Chargeback – Chargeback happens when a customer disputes a charge on his or her credit card. You are responsible to refund the full amount, and the service provider might also impose a chargeback fee on top of it.
  • Supported currencies – It very much depends on your target market, who you want to sell your products to? Check whether the respective currency is supported to increase customer conversion.
  • Others – Check whether do you need to fork out extra money for value added service like fraud detection, advanced reporting, technical support etc.

Last but not least, it will be much straight forward if the payment service provider is already integrated with the shopping cart of your choice. WebShaper for example, is supporting most of the major payment service providers like PayPal, 2Checkout, WorldPay, Authorize.Net and Google Checkout, just to name a few.

Free vs. Paid shopping cart software

Following the article on 4 ways to sell online, we are going to explore on platforms to setup your own storefront in this episode. Generally, there are two options for getting your own branded webstore: Free (a.k.a. open source, do-it-yourself) and Paid (a.k.a. hosted, managed, SaaS) e-commerce software.

Free Shopping Cart Software

Free shopping cart solutions are typically open source software. Sometimes, it is not totally free as you could be charged for upgrades or additional features. Nevertheless, all you get is the software itself. You need to source hosting packaging, install the application, apply updates and administer security yourself.

As you can see, it is quite an impossible task if you have zero knowledge on technical or specific programming language. Of course, you can hire some one reliable to do it for you. But that defeat the purpose of being “free”, isn’t it?

Therefore, open source shopping cart is only worth considering if you are well-versed in programming. In this case, you get the flexibility of open source software where you can add or tweak a feature to your liking.

It is important to pick an open source software that is established and well supported. However, support is limited to its own community in most cases. Be prepared to scramble through resources like documentation and forum to get your answer. It is really doing-it-yourself as the community is consist of volunteers who are not obligated to assist you professionally.

As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t really want to allocate much of your time worrying about applying updates, administering security and maintaining your e-commerce system, right?

Calling for HELP to maintain your open source e-commerce software?

Calling for HELP to maintain your open source software?

Paid Shopping Cart Software

Hosted e-commerce solutions provide you with everything you need, from hosting, software, updates, maintenance, support to security. You can always find the right shopping cart software package that has the features that you require.

The biggest advantage if compared to the free e-commerce software is that you don’t need to worry about applying updates or maintenance of the system. The updates are being done by the software providers usually at no additional cost. This can really save you a lot of valuable time and let you concentrate on growing your online business.

Cost wise, subscription fee charged by hosted shopping cart providers are generally inexpensive nowadays. The relative low entry barrier is extremely suitable for small and medium business to setup an own branded online store, so to speak.

There is always time for free stuff, but a little investment can save you a lot of hassle so that you can focus on your business and customers. Sign up for a reputable shopping cart software like webShaper, or talk to us if you aren’t sure which package is for you.

Image credit: On3

E-Commerce 101: 4 ways to sell online

Whether you are selling your collectibles, starting your small online business, taking your brick and mortar online, there is a surfeit of channels where you can sell online. There isn’t any one-size-fits-all model, though you could start with one which has the best fit to your business. You might also want to consider listing in multiple sites provided you have the resources to do so.

Marketplaces

The biggest advantage of these platforms is the amount of potential buyers that you can reach, as the traffic of some established marketplaces are enormous.

eBay is your best choice if you are selling unique or hard-to-find items, such as collectibles, memorabilia and so on. You can choose to auction your product or sell it at fixed price (buy it now). Bear in mind that eBay is charging you for both listing your product and once your product is sold.

Amazon is a better option if you intend to sell commodity-priced items, and will only take a bite out of the profits if your item sells. The drawback is you can only sell items that are currently available at Amazon, though you can recommend to Amazon if it is not available and wait for the approval.

If you intend to sell something niche, special-purpose or vertical marketplaces could help you to reach the right audience. For example, Etsy is the best place to market handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies.

Classifieds

Similar to marketplaces, established online classifieds sites are also having substantial traffic. It is one of the entry points for people to lookup products or services and you could list your products for free in most cases.

However, buyer is required to contact the seller manually in order to make further order arrangement. Online payment is usually not supported and there isn’t any order tracking and so forth. Also, buyers are generally more cautious while dealing with classifieds sellers.

There are so many classified sites around the world, the most iconic one would be Craigslist which has expanded to more than 700 cities in 70 countries. You can also try to market your products via a handful of classified sites, particularly those that are popular in your target market. For example, OzFreeOnline.com is the one that you can’t skip if you are targeting Australians.

Before we proceed to other platforms, let’s take a break by looking at the traffic volume (from US only) of Amazon, eBay and Craigslist:

Social Networks

Many people are now living their lives within social network sites, and it is an opportunity that you can’t miss if you are to market and sell your products online. It is no doubt the best platform to create some sort of viral effects of your business.

At the moment of writing this post, Facebook is having more than 400 million of active users (click here for latest Facebook Statistics). The key is, you need to install third party application like Payvment to setup a storefront and enable e-commerce on Facebook. You can’t sell effectively on Facebook without installing any e-commerce application.

No doubt, social shopping has great potential but it still has some way to go. Perhaps, the shopping experience is not optimized, or users are still reluctant to shop within social networks. As for etailers, the e-commerce applications are not yet as comprehensive or flexible if compared to marketplaces and own e-commerce sites, probably due to the fact that it need to be contained by the social network itself.

Still, social networks can’t be ignored if you want to market your products. Setting up a business fans page is a must in order to engage with your customers. Similar to classifieds, pick the most popular social network in your target market before getting started.

World Map of Social Networks

World Map of Social Networks

Image credit: Vincos

Your Own Storefront

Last but not least, thinking of having your own branded online store? This is the best option for committed and ambitious sellers where you are equipped with greater control over your business in the long run. Of course, you gotta work hard to pull traffic to your store, in relative to those platforms being discussed earlier.

One of the options is to go for open source shopping cart, which is free in most cases. Free does come with a price though, in which you need to install, develop, customize and maintain it. Unless you are pretty confident in programming, you need to hire some one reliable to do it for you.

If you choose to go for hosted shopping cart like webShaper, you are able to save most of the technical headaches. You don’t need to invest heavily either, as there are usually various packages available for different needs. In this way, let the e-commerce software providers concentrate on what they do best by continuously improving the system, at the same time you can focus on growing your online business.

For further considerations on getting your own branded storefront, read free vs. paid shopping cart software.

E-Commerce 101: What skills do you need?

Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel

Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel

The skills required to start an online retail business are the driving forces behind your businesses success. You might not need to be an expert in every areas, but these are the things that you will learn or strengthen while running your online business. All it takes is dedication and commitment!

Retailing

Similar to any brick and mortar business, the art of selling is pivotal to succeed in your online business. Necessary traits in order to obtain a successful retail business are listed (but not limited to) below:

  • Merchandising – Market research, product manufacturing or sourcing, marketing and advertising.
  • Pricing – Profitable enough for your business at the same time attractive to your customers.
  • Fulfillment – Deliver goods effectively (in terms of shipping time and cost) to your customers.
  • Customer Service – Customers are always your first priority, make them return for more!

Marketing

How do you bring visitors to your online store? How do you get found by Google or Facebook? How to convert visitors into customers? These skills are crucial in every Internet-based business:

  • Search Engine – Optimize your store for search engine, build links by participating in your community.
  • Social Media – Setup a Facebook page and Twitter account, and engage with your fans and followers.
  • Blog – Write useful content about your industry, this is one of the main channels to pull visitors from search engine.
  • Advertising – With a little budget, you can start to advertise via Google AdWords, Facebook advertising etc.
  • Offline Marketing – Use traditional marketing methods to complement your online efforts.

Writing

Due to the fact that customers can’t visit your shop or see your product physically, proper write-up is important to assist them in buying decision. There are basically two areas that require writing skills:

  • Within the Store – Professional write-up about your business, complete description of your products etc.
  • Promotional – Good copywriting skills on blog, social media and advertisement to attract audiences.

Design

In any physical stores, elements such as good ambience, product display / shelving, attentive shop assistant are critical to maximize customer’s shopping experience. You need to do the same with your online store:

  • Graphic Design – Create attractive images to decorate your store, such as product showcase, promotions etc.
  • Web Design – Basic HTML and CSS to customize your online store content, appearance and layout.
  • Usability – Interrelated to the above, design your store to make it easy for your customer to navigate and place order.

Technical

Some of the technical skills are already mentioned above especially on graphic and web design. It could be advantageous for your online venture with these tricks up to your sleeve:

  • Shopping Cart – Open source or hosted shopping cart? It’s your choice to decide the best one for your business.
  • Domain / Hosting – If you choose open source, most likely you need to source hosting package for the shopping cart.
  • Payment Gateway – Understand how payment gateway works in general, fees involved and remittance rules.
  • Search Engine Optimization – Identify important keywords for your business and understand meta tags, headings etc.
  • Web Analytics – Analyze your site visitors, monitor campaign and goals conversion.

Conclusion

Of course, not all skills required are listed here but these are the fundamental ones. Again, you don’t need to master all skills from the start as you can pick them up as you go. Don’t let those barriers stopping you from following your dream of becoming a successful etailer.

You also have the option of hiring some one else to help you particularly in the areas of design and technical, so that you can focus on growing your business. We can help you on those areas and feel free to contact us for free consultation.

Image credit: SeaWayBlog

How to source products to sell online?

Have you figured out what products to sell online? Have you researched whether is there any online demand for your products? If your answer is yes, it’s time to explore on methods to source your products, that’s unless you are producing them yourself.

Understanding the Distribution Chain

If you want to be in retail business, it’s critical for you to understand the basic of distribution chain. Not every single business will fit into this flow but generally it’s how a product reaches the consumers via several channels.

Distribution Chain

Distribution Chain

Obviously, you as an online retailer can source from manufacturer or wholesaler. However, most manufacturers and wholesalers are usually selling in volume. If you are not stocking up in bulk, it’s hard to get a deal with them. That’s why smaller retailers sometimes have to source from other intermediate distributors or suppliers.

As a rule of thumb, try to get as close to the manufacturer of the product as possible. The closer you get, the better your buying price will be, and the higher your profit margin.

Dealing with Wholesaler

Finding reputable wholesale suppliers requires some legwork. Some pose as a wholesaler but mark up the price, another reason is some genuine wholesalers don’t have web presence since they already have deals with big retailers thus don’t bother to expose themselves to small-medium businesses.

That’s why you need to do some groundwork offline. For example, if you want to sell Samsonite bags. You can call Samsonite’s headquarter and ask for the sales department. Tell the sales department that you have a retail business and intend to sell Samsonite bags. Request for a list of their wholesale distributors in your area and they should be willing to provide you that.

This is one of the ways to identify legitimate wholesalers, to give you an edge in both your profit margin and the competition.

Other Sourcing Methods

Besides the standard bulk wholesaling method, here are some other alternatives to source your product:

  • Local sourcing – Keep your eyes open on garage or yard sales in your area. Those often provide good profit margin but the inventory level is usually random or limited. You can also visit craft markets where there are countless small manufacturers, who are willing to work with you to reach wider audience.
  • Drop shipping – If you don’t have much budget to stock up your inventory, this is the way to go where you don’t need to keep goods in stock. You accept orders at your storefront, transfer the request to your drop shippers and they will ship the order. Since the shipping process  is not within your control, it’s extremely important to source for reputable drop shippers.
  • Light bulk – If you want the control over order fulfillment, some suppliers are willing to offer lower minimum orders. Pricing might not be that attractive but you can afford more flexibilities, especially if your are just starting your business.
  • Importing - More and more online retailers are sourcing products from overseas, especially China. However, bringing in products yourself could be expensive, as a workaround you can look for those importers who have already brought in the products to your country.
  • Liquidation - Business is being closed down for a reason. If product demand is not that particular reason, clearance sales is a great way to find bargains to stock up your inventory. But, bear in mind that this is not a renewable source. If the products are sold out, it’s tough to restock them in the same manner.

Useful Sourcing Tips

Every sourcing methods have their pros and cons. It is best to use a mixture of sourcing methods and find the right balance to maximize the profit for your business.

Always start small and play safe.  For a start, order in smaller quantities even though the profit is thinner. Again, go as far as you can to verify the legitimacy of your suppliers. Avoid the scammers and impostors!

Image credit: BBC

How to know if your product has online demand?

While deciding on what products to sell online, you are mandated to perform some online researches exploring the market demand of your products. Will your products sell? Some of the following steps might give you a hint or two.

Keyword Popularity

1. Google Search – The easiest way is to enter the product keyword into major search engines like Google. The search results will give you an indicator on how competitive the keyword and product is. Don’t forget to check out the AdWords (sponsored link) sections to spy out your competitors. The more competitors means the more demand and resources required to market your product. Lesser competition could mean that your product is niche, but does it have demand? It is a question for your to ponder.

2. Google Insights for Search – Although you can use Google Trends for similar purpose, we recommend you to use Google Insights for Search since it’s an extension to Trends with few additions (for example rising searches). You can filter the keywords analysis by type (Web Search or Product Search), location and time range.  It is simple enough to use and there are 3 things to take note:

  • Interest over time: Is the keyword getting popular (or opposite) over a certain time range?
  • Regional interest: Which country (you can drill down to city) has the most desire? Is your target market in the list?
  • Search terms: You can also find out popular search terms related to your product, and what are the rising ones?

3. Keyword Tool – If you want to be more analytical with the number of searches, this is where you can estimate the search volume of a particular keyword. Head over to Google Adwords: Keyword Tool, set your languages / countries and enter your product keyword. You can get an estimation on how much searches are being triggered per month locally or globally.

Consumer Demand

4. Amazon – Amazon has a hourly updated bestsellers page, where you can check out what kind of product is hot and in demand for various categories, such as toys, clothing, beauty, baby stuffs and so on. It is a place that you couldn’t miss if you intend to figure out the trend of online consumer demand.

5. eBay – Similar to Amazon, eBay also has its trending data in eBay Pulse where you can discover popular searches, largest stores and most watched items by category. Talking about category, there is a huge set of category and sub-category, which could only be good if you are into niche products. Due to the fact that eBay has more international presences (in 30 countries) compared to Amazon, you could get hold of foreign market demand by accessing respective local sites.

Last but not least, you can also explore consumer demand via price comparison sites, drop shipper / wholesaler directories, discussion boards or any sites that you can think of. If there is a gap for your to fill, great for you! Otherwise, prepare to work hard and earn your market share!

E-Commerce 101: What products to sell online?

Ask yourself some fairly simple questions first:

  • Have you bought online before?
  • What kind of items have you bought, and why?
  • What are the reasons you purchase online instead of local stores?

This might give you a better clue on products that are sellable online. Don’t worry if you are still clueless, hopefully a tip or two here can give you a better idea to kick start your online venture.

Product Demand

Online demand that is, without heavy competition. Is the product easily available at Amazon or Wal-Mart stores? Find something that is not easily available for average person in your target market.

This is the key of choosing product to sell online, but sometimes you never know without trying. Creating a demand for your product could be even better, where you will be able to grab the first-mover advantage.

All the criteria followed will be related to product demand in one way or another.

Niche Product

Why sell those everyone else is selling? If the market is already saturated with products like electronics, can you beat your competitors’ price?

Selling unique, collectible or crafty item online is usually a good idea. How do you know the product is niche for your target market? Read this on how to know if your product has online demand.

For the best results, focus on one niche product category, and offer a reasonably wide selection. For example, instead of selling iPod, sell iPod accessories and become the best online source for this category.

iPod Accessories

iPod Accessories

Product Nature

Is the product light and easy to ship? Is the product perishable or fragile? Take this into consideration in order to reduce your shipping cost and prevent returns on broken items.

Does it have to be seen, held, tasted, smelt? This is especially true if people don’t know much about your product hence unable to make buying decision.

Do you have the resources to monitor orders on “high risk” product? As a rule of thumb, the bigger demand and higher resell value the products are, the higher chance that fraud cases will occur. The most obvious example would be electronics.

Are you planning to sell seasonal products, for festive season, winter etc.? Can you afford to put in extra resources during the peak period and slow sales during off-peak season?

Another useful tip, do bear in mind that shorter lifespan (consumable) products are good for repeating business.

Product Pricing

Is the product too expensive to be transacted online? Are your customer confident enough to enter their credit card numbers online to purchase something more than a thousand dollars?

Don’t sell items that are too cheap though, unless they have to be bought in bulk. The smaller in proportion the shipping fee is to the total price the better. No one is going to pay $5 to ship something that’s only worth $5.

However, shipping cost is not the only consideration for your pricing strategy. It is not as simple as (selling price – shipping cost = your profit), you need to include other costs like Internet payment gateway charges, online store fee, inventory cost and other operation expenditures.

In short, you need to make sure that the product pricing will be both attractive to your customer and profitable to your business.

Know the Product

Some might think that you don’t need to be an expert in the product you are selling online.

We think that it will be a huge competitive edge if you are passionate about your own product, be it the product feature, the usage of it, your competitors’ product, or the target market itself. Climb yourself up to become a significant voice in your industry, where people will listen and ultimately trust your advice.

How to do it? Create lots of remarkable content (not too hard-sell though), via blog, Twitter, Facebook and so on. We will cover this more in our marketing segment. Stay tuned!

Conclusion

Of course, not every tips that we mentioned are applicable to all cases, there might be exceptions.

Be patient if you still haven’t got any product in mind, open your eyes and look for inspiration from both the online and offline world. Read newspapers and magazines, attend trade shows, observe local businesses or crafters, talk to friends or relatives who are in retail, wholesale, import / export industry.

Once you have decided, it’s time to cash in on your passion – crush it!

Image credit: Robert S. Donovan

E-Commerce 101: Should you sell online?

In recent years, many have hopped onto the e-commerce bandwagon by selling products or services online. Probably the biggest reason of this trend is cheaper investment costs in relative to the physical storefronts. Cheaper doesn’t mean easy, it takes equally the same if not more passion and commitment in order to succeed in selling online.

For a start, let’s see whether you have the right potential or background to do it.

Online Shopping Cart

Should you sell online?

Entrepreneur Spirit

  • Starting your own business is always in your mind all these years.
  • You are not happy with your current job and want to become your own boss (just don’t quit your job yet).
  • You are happy with your current job and looking for extra income.
  • You are a stay-at-home parent and want to supplement income.
  • You think that Internet is full of money-making potential.
  • You want to make a living by doing something you love.

Retailing Background

  • You think you are a pretty good salesman even since your school days.
  • You know of something unique or niche, be it product or service.
  • You are already selling something (offline) all these years.
  • You or some one you know is running a small handcraft business, or something like that.
  • You know how to source product which has the potential to sell online.

Web Savvy

  • You are always connected to the Internet.
  • You do use Facebook and “become a fan” of some one occasionally.
  • You know how to differentiate between Amazon and eBay, don’t you?
  • You do shop online, and enjoy the experience.

Ask yourself questions like the above. If your answer is yes to some of them, selling online could be the right step forward. Don’t worry too much if you are lacking in a certain area (for example, perhaps you are not that web savvy), provided you are strong in at least one!

All it takes are passion and commitment!

Image credit: Turcolive