Online Business Promotion: Discover the Fun of Creating Your Own Profitable Store
Are you interested in building an Internet store to do online business promotion? You can promote your local brick-and-mortar store this way and sell products from your inventory, or you can create an online store from scratch. If you do the latter, your Internet business model is similar to the Internet auctions model, but your shopping channel and your sales process is different from someone who is selling through a shopping portal like EBay or ShopZilla. It will also require a major investment of time, but once you have it set up it can become quite profitable.
First, you will need a product to sell. Your choices are virtually unlimited as to what you can sell, but there are only two main categories:
- Your own products
- Other peoples’ products
Research on online business promotion of Internet stores shows that many people make more money selling their own products. But there are some caveats to doing this, as you will see.
If you want to sell physical products online, you either have to make the product or find a supplier, preferably a
who makes and distributes it. When you take this second option, it’s called ‘sourcing’.
If you choose to create your own products to sell, you will be selling a smaller volume of products, but they will be handcrafted and most likely of a high quality. If your product becomes popular and you get a large customer base, your business can expand.
A drawback in online business promotion of your own store is if you produce your own products it usually takes more time and money than sourcing or reselling wholesale products does.
The Challenge of Online Business Promotion of Your Internet Store: Finding Product Sources
A caveat to reselling wholesale products
In the world of online business promotion of your own store, it can be hard to find legitimate wholesale suppliers. Many are scammers or the prices are so high that you would not be able to make a profit. If you do decide to go the wholesale route, make sure that you buy wholesale products only from real suppliers who are a real business. Most wholesale suppliers will not sell to individuals, so having your business all set up ahead of time is a big plus.
Maybe you have friends or relatives who make products. You could see if their product fits with your site’s theme. If it does, great! You can work out an arrangement and agree on a deal so that you sell their products online and you receive a portion of the profits. This way you won’t have any out-of-pocket expenses for purchasing inventory . . . one of the pluses of doing online business promotion of your own store.
If you are planning to source products, you will probably sell a lot of items and will need SKUs (stock keeping units). But of course there is no way that you could make and produce these things on your own. So instead of your role being creator of products you are an aggregator of products. What is aggregating? Someone who gathers many different things together and combines them in a new and different way.
Your online store is like a product that you want to sell to your visitors. If they like the store, they’ll be more likely to buy the products . . . an important goal of online business promotion of your store.
Another option is drop shipping which gives you the option of offering a variety of products without having to stock and ship them. Drop shipping won’t earn you as much money as you would get if you stocked and shipped your own products, but you can open your own store without having to pay for an inventory.
What about offline sourcing opportunities?
Are there local artists or flea markets in your area that might have products that would fit with your niche? Collect their products and art and sell them in your online store.
If your town, city, or state is famous for a local specialty (e.g., Italian cheeses or wines), those can be taken online also.
Whether you purchase the products for your store online or offline, the key is to aggregate an interesting variety of products that match your sites’ theme and provides your visitors with what they want.
Think about what you like to work with and get products to match. Then pull it all together in a fresh, different way and put your unique ‘spin’ on it to make it yours . . . another goal of online business promotion.
Look for some excellent suppliers for your growing store, and when you find them, keep it a secret! These sources are the lifeblood of your business, and you don’t want to give it away. Compare the development of your online store to that of an online entrepreneur. Developing products from scratch can take a long time…and the same can be true for your store.
Brainstorm to find products that will fit your small business marketing niche, and list types of businesses that you are interested in. Write down everything you think of. Then narrow your list down a bit, and research each of the topics you have written down. How likely is it that you will be able to find products to match the topic? How much profit can you expect to make? You want to offer a product or service that has high demand and low supply.
The Internet makes this tedious research a little easier…you can look for sources at Thomasnet.com (for the U.S. and Canada), or TipCoEurope.com, and search directories like Yahoo! and Google. Websites for trade shows that are similar to your product line might also turn up some valuable sources.
You must have a steady and constant stream of product sources if you want to succeed online. You’ll need backup sources in case you receive an order and your favorite supplier is temporarily out of that particular product.
You want people who will sell the products to you at low prices, so that you can turn around and re-sell the products for a higher price. Buy low, sell high! Sounds like the old adage given to investors, doesn’t it? The best way to do this is to find a reputable wholesale dropshipper.
Turn Your Existing Local Brick-and-Mortar Store into an Online Global Store
Here’s a short case study about setting up an online store
Three years ago, Elizabeth Johnston didn’t know anything about online business promotion of her local store. But now, the 32-year-old woman runs Johnston Designs, her online store that draws over 20,000 visitors a month, and significantly increases her customer base at her offline store. In 2004 Elizabeth was spending approximately 1,000 per month to promote her store in magazines and local papers.
Due to the economy she cut back on her advertising and decided instead to build a website that would enable her to show off her new products as they arrived. She asked some web designers about launching an online store; but the web designers scared her off by saying “You don’t want to do that, it’s too much work—almost like opening another store”.
Taking their advice, she decided to make a site only for advertising—her customers would not be able to purchase online. The site was attractive, and she spent several thousand dollars setting it up and maintaining it.
During the next year, Elizabeth received many emails from people who wanted to purchase her products online. She realized that her site needed to be rebuilt to allow customers to do this.
Johnston decided she wanted an E-commerce suite, something quick, simple, and easy to use. She also needed a steady stream of product photos, so she hired a Webmaster to keep up with the site and take new product photos and post them when new merchandise arrived. (Note: Whenever you set up any kind of online store, be it an auction site or your own online store, showing pictures of your products becomes an integral part of doing online business promotion.)
After the eCommerce site had been up for a few months, Elizabeth decided to invest some money in Pay-Per-Click advertising. In her first PPC campaigns, she purchased a variety of keywords and bid on terms that matched her products, within a budget of $1,000 per month. But she soon found out that her budget was too small to draw much traffic on so many different keywords. So she narrowed her campaign down to the top 5 clothing manufacturers that she carries in her store. She spent less money and concentrated on a smaller niche, which ended up being much more profitable.
What is the online business promotion lesson here? When you buy keywords, choose ones that have a specific focus. And buy keywords for the products for which you have the deepest inventory.
Johnston’s main traffic source comes from her efforts to promote her site. She can tell from looking at her site’s stats that most of her visitors type her URL in; or they come from the website’s weekly newsletter, which over 1,000 people have subscribed to.
She uses a Website Analytics software program to track how much time visitors spend on her site. In May the average time spent on her site was 3 minutes, and by July it had gone up to an average of 5 minutes. She has also been tracking the connection between her traffic and her sales. As her visitor counts have gotten higher, so has her conversion rate.
One of the many lessons Johnston learned about eCommerce is that people who shop online are looking for a bargain. If the product they want is too expensive in a local store, they go online to find the product at a discounted price.
Another thing she learned is that the Internet is a great way to get customer feedback. Thinking ahead about improvements for the future, Elizabeth says that she would like to get a toll-free number so that customers who are not comfortable about ordering online can call in to place an order. She is also planning to offer free shipping on orders over $50.
If you follow these tips, you will maximize your success quotient as you become an expert in online business promotion of your Internet store.
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