30 Years ago, if you wanted to start a your own retail business you most likely had to open a brick and mortar store that people visited in person. Then along came the INTERNET, and while physical shops are still very much in existence today, the internet has made itself a staple for people looking for a way to sell their goods. But with all the opportunities that the internet can give you, it brings with it the competition of others seeking those same profits. So what can you do to set yourself apart from the competition and what strategies do you need to have to become successful at selling?
The first decision you have to make is figuring out what “niche” you want to go into and what your target demographic is. Once you’ve found what type of products you want to sell, it is important to be consistent with that product theme throughout your site. Let’s say you want to start selling juniors clothing. You shouldn’t sell products outside of that niche (at least not on that clothing site). If you were to start selling power tools for example, you may think you are broadening your audience but what you’re really doing is telling people you are indecisive about what you want you online store to be about. When people buy things whether it is online or in person, they are more likely going to buy from someone who knows everything about what they are selling. I, personally, wouldn’t ask someone at an arts and crafts store what smartphone plan they’d recommend, so why would I do that when it came to someone selling juniors clothing and power tools? It is important that people can IDENTIFY you as an expert in your market. If you try to replicate a Walmart or an Amazon format where they sell a little of everything, you are not going to see much success as a small business.
After you’ve decided on what audience you’re looking to cater to, the next step is to find products that will sell. This is where studying trends will become highly beneficial for you. The world is ever changing when it comes to what the current trend is. If you don’t keep up with it, you’ll be selling outdated merchandise that very few people are still interested in. This is why I also don’t recommend you gravitating your whole store around one trend. Do you know what the stores selling only fidget spinners are doing now? They are either watching their sales diminish, or have abandoned that store and are starting over with “the next big thing”. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no question that making a store around a trend can be highly profitable, but those profits won’t be everlasting like you’d hope they’d be, and eventually you’ll have to move on. This is why I recommend finding a niche that isn’t going anywhere and learning to take advantage of trends within that market when they come along. That way you’ll be able to grow that brand for years to come instead of starting over every time a new trend comes along.
You’ve decided on a niche… you’ve found your products… now it’s time to drive in some traffic. First, you’ll need a store front, or in this case, a website. This will be your stores domain and it will host all the products you are selling. A big mistake when people are starting out is the fact that they think they need their website to look extravagant. They’ll hire graphic designers to make the perfect page and spend a lot of money in the process, making it take that much longer until they start turning a profit. You want your site to look professional, but don’t spend all of your capital on what it looks like. If you make your site look too flashy, people will get distracted from the real reason you invited them over. You want them to BUY your products, not admire your art gallery. If you really have an itch to show off something beautiful, hire those graphic designers to create great looking ads. It will be far less expensive for you to have someone design a few banners than designing an entire website. Besides, you’re going to need those ads if you want people to find you and become interested enough to visit your website. Ads are the one thing, I feel, is worth paying an artist for (in this certain situation, of course). An appealing ad will determine whether you’ll see 50 visitors a day or 500. If you run the same old basic ad that everyone else is running, you’ll just be another face in the crowd. You need to show people that you have something NEW and EXCITING to offer them.
Which brings me to my next suggestion: learn to be innovative. Like I said before, the world is ever changing and if you don’t keep up with it, you’ll be left behind. This is why billion dollar companies put so much money into their research and development departments. They want to be on the cutting edge when it comes to their products and services. Obviously, I am not suggesting that you need to discover the cure for cancer, but finding new products to sell and new ways to sell them are great ways to stay relevant. Take phone apps for example, many people create websites to sell their products but very few have utilized the phenomenon that has taken over our phones. Believe it or not, once upon a time phones were only used for calling people. Today, however, I can use my phone to buy and sell stock shares, check how many steps I’ve taken today, or even BUY PRODUCTS ONLINE. In fact, many have ditched the traditional computer for its smaller, more mobile little cousin to connect to the online world. The point I’m trying to make is that being innovative doesn’t mean you have to invent something, but rather utilize new tools as they become available. If you can stay one step ahead of your competition, then you’ll have the ability to reach more consumers than them and capture their potential sales before your competition even knew what hit them.
The final thing I want to mention is the most important thing to have under your belt and that is the ability to be a GREAT salesperson. Sure, having the best looking ads and the hottest new products can make you a great amount of sales by themselves, but what we’ve been talking about here isn’t just how to sell but how to SUCCEED. If you can’t close the deal on the tougher customers, then you’ll fail at selling time and time again. Much like a salesperson at a brick and mortar store, you have to persuade people to want to buy your product, but the question is how do you accomplish this when you aren’t face-to-face with your potential customers?
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