The economic recovery for most is much slower than the news would have you believe. Many people ask, “How can I supplement my income so that I can provide more for my family?” The current perceived trend to achieve this goal is doing business on the Internet, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Before opening an online store, you need to fully understand what online stores are all about.
Online stores aren’t much different from brick-and-mortar stores, except that you don’t have to worry about paying rent or having a lot of money in inventory. In online stores, you still have to present the right product at the right time at the right price. You still need to be very clear about what you are selling and project stellar customer service.
The first hurdle to overcome is deciding what to sell. It is always much easier and more fun to sell something that you are passionate about. That way, the long hours you spend with your online store become more attractive and less time consuming. Many products are more conducive to selling online, such as jewelry, clothing, or school supplies, while other products are more difficult to sell when they cannot be seen in person, such as refrigerators or leather sofas. So the questions to ask yourself about what to sell in your online store include:
• Can I sell a digital product that can be shipped directly over the Internet (such as an e-book) or do I need to sell a physical product that needs to be shipped?
• Will you specialize in a category of products such as pets or party supplies, or will you offer a wide selection of products?
• Do you have to stock inventory or can you find a company to ship it for you?
• Will you create your own product to sell? If so, are you going to do it yourself or do you need to establish a relationship with a supplier that makes it for you?
• How are you going to ship your product? From your home, a storage facility, or a shipper from a third-party warehouse?
The second hurdle to overcome is finding the niche of customers that will buy from you. You need to list what sets your site apart from all the other similar sites (and don’t be fooled, they are out there) found online. So to find the right niche:
• Study the competition and if you can’t beat them with product, price, or customer service, look for another niche. Go to major marketplaces like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears, Rakuten, Tiger Direct, or Newegg to see who’s already selling and make sure you can do it better, faster, or cheaper.
• Become an expert in what you sell. Show your passion for your products through original content that sets you apart from others. The more originality you add to the site, the more it will stand out
• Make sure it is easy to buy on your site. Even if the products are similar to other online sites, you will make your site different by making shopping easier. The faster you can get customers to like your products through the sale, the more you stand out from the competition.
There are many places on the internet that can help you open your dream store. “Build it and they’ll come” sounds good in movies, but it doesn’t work the same with online stores. Marketing your site with search engine optimization, paid search, emails, affiliates, etc. will be the subject of another article.
Make sure you partner with a company that offers a quick and easy way to get a site up and running. A business like this will have multiple website templates to choose from and will be able to sell as many products as you want. In fact, a good company will have products that are already uploaded to its site, so you can decide if you want to sell all of them or just some departments. There should be no limit to the number of pages you can create and the site should be integrated into a shopping cart so that you can start selling in less than an hour.
We go back to the original question of whether you should open your own online store. It’s inexpensive to get started if you find the right store building partner and the right product shipper for you. It can turn into a black hole if you start investing money in all the marketing plans that come up. So like any business, it takes time to build. If you are enterprising, optimistic and hardworking, then you should be in the online store business. If you think that if you pay for a site and all you have to do is sit back and watch the income stream, then the online store is not for you. The Internet is still the Wild West. Learn how to do guerilla marketing on the internet with your online store, show your customers that you are passionate about what you sell and this could be a fun way to earn a living.