What Are You Going to Sell in Your Online Shop

online shop makeoverSo you’ve decided to start your own online shop but what are you going to sell in your online shop?

Now suggesting that you need to think about what you’re going to sell might seem like a no-brainer … how could you possibly be thinking about having an online shop if you don’t know what to sell right?

Well perhaps you would be surprised at just how many people come into my partner’s web design business to discuss the setting up of an online shop and then admit that they haven’t given any thought to what they actually want to sell.

So if you’re thinking about starting your own online shop what are you going to sell in your online shop?

It’s important to know what you’re going to sell because the answer will then open up a whole bunch of other questions that you need to ask yourself and knowing the answers to those questions before you start work on your shop will make life so much easier for you as you build your online shop.

We’ll look at some of those questions here.

A fallow field or totally saturated?
Before we even think of anything else you need to think of who else sells the product you want to sell. Are there lots of online shops out there selling exactly the same product you’re going to sell or are you going to be the first person to sell this product?

If there’s no one else out there welling what you’re going to be selling then skip straight to the next section but if the market is already saturated with online shops selling the same thing that you want to sell you are going to have to do some thinking.

What can you offer that will make people want to buy from you rather than all those other online shops out there that are selling the same thing? Are you going to beat them on price? Are you going to beat them on customer service? Are you going to beat them on quality?

What is your unique selling point … what will make people buy from you and not from any of your competitors?

If you can’t compete … or you can’t think of a unique selling point then perhaps it’s time to stop and consider whether or not you should be starting this online shop.

How well do you know your product?
Are you going to be selling something that you have some experience with … something that you might have worked with or had an interest in in the past or even have an ongoing interest in right now … or will you be selling something that you have never used or tried yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these.

For example: my smallest online shop sells a modest range of hand tools that are popular with model train enthusiasts and in particular those model train enthusiasts who like to build their own wagons, carriages, locos and buildings. I know what these modellers want because I’m one of them and I’ve been involved in the hobby for many years.

On the other hand my partner has an online shop that sells scrap booking and other craft material. Toni is not a scrap booker so she needs to spend time talking to those who love scrap booking so she can get a feel for what will sell in the shop and what won’t.

Some people will find it harder to sell products that they have no personal interest in and it’s easier for them to sell products that they’re familiar with … but there are also dangers associated with selling products that you’re too familiar with.

A friend of ours has done quite well in the past from his online shops that sell jewellery. He’s not a jeweller by trade and he has never worked in a jewellery store but he knows what jewellery items sell even though they may not appeal to him.

On the other hand I always need to shut off the inner modeller in me when I’m buying tools for my online shop. I need to think of what others might find useful rather than what I might need for my next project. If I didn’t do that I’d be overstocked with stuff that appealed only to me.

Are you going to be selling tangible or intangible items … will the items you’re going to sell need to be shipped or will they be available to be downloaded from your website as soon as they have been purchased?

Can they be shipped by your local postal authorities or will they need to be shipped by courier … or even by a specialised carrier? Nothing is simple when you’re starting your first online shop but there is no difficulty that is too big to overcome so do not let the physical size of the item you want to sell deter you from offering it for sale.

The legalities of what you’re selling
Is it legal for you to sell the products you want to stock in your online shop? Is it legal to sell those items in your State … and/or your Country?

Does the law restrict who you can sell those products to? Do you need a permit to sell them? Are there rules and regulations that govern the way you can sell your products? Are there record keeping requirements that you must comply with? Is it legal to ship your products via the method you want to use for shipping?

For example: one of my partner’s clients is required to clearly display the serial number of every product he sells via his online shop because there’s a Federal regulation that governs the particular products he sells that requires him to do so. If he doesn’t include the serial number in the description he can be fined and his website can be shut down.

Another client sells second-hand items so he has to keep a register that describes and identifies every item he sells because the State that he lives in requires him to keep that information regardless of where the person lives who buys those items.

What warranties does the consumer law in your country require you to give to anyone who makes a purchase from your online store? Is there a time limit on any guarantee that you are legally required to give? Would it be beneficial for your business if you gave an even better warranty than the minimum required by law?

So are there any rules and regulations that will have an effect on the items that you are going to sell through your online shop and will you be able to comply with them?

Stock with special requirements
How well will the items you want to sell through your online store travel? Are the items you want to sell fragile and will you need to spend extra money on packaging to ensure that the items arrive intact? Are the items you’re thinking of selling too fragile to ship by any method?

Are the items you want to sell particularly heavy … so heavy in fact that some forms of shipping are not available to you? Here in Australia there is a maximum weight limit on what you can send through the post and some courier companies have weight limits too.

If you’re going to be selling items that come as a liquid … or include a liquid … you need to be aware that not all carriers will transport your items. You also need to check with your carrier about your liability should the item you’re sending break during transit. Will you be responsible for other items on the truck or in the container that are damaged by the liquid from your parcel?

If you are selling a liquid then you need to ensure that your item won’t break in transit and that was something that was just too hard for us. None of our online shops sell anything that contains a liquid because there was no way we could contain the liquid and the cost of replacing any items that were damaged because our item broke was too much of a risk to carry.

solutions to business problemsSourcing your stock
It’s all very well deciding what you want to sell but where will you get the products from?

If the items that you’re going to sell are things that you make yourself will you have the time to make these items so that you always have a good supply on hand?

Even if you’re sourcing your products from other suppliers will you be able to have stock on hand and will the supplier be able to continually replenish your stock? Any break in supply can leave you with eager customers and nothing to sell them and that can have a disastrous effect on your business.

And what about the quality of the goods that are being offered for sale in your online shop?

Regardless of whether you’re making your own products … or sourcing them from wholesalers or even direct from the manufacturer… don’t fall into the trap of cutting corners or buying products just to save money and to maximise your profits.

If you do cut corners or buy cheap, inferior products to sell sooner rather than later you will discover that the cost of replacing the items or refunding the purchase price is destroying your business.

Guarantees and replacement policies
No matter how good the quality of what you’re selling and no matter how well you pack it before shipping it to the buyer sooner or later something will arrive that’s been damaged in transit, doesn’t work when it’s plugged in or stops working soon after it arrives.

What are you going to do about it? I’ve already mentioned that there may be legal requirements that govern what you should do but are you going to go above and beyond your minimum legal obligations?

In one of my online shops the law allows me to ask for the return of any item that is claimed to be faulty or damaged but I don’t. My guarantee is that if the item is damaged in transit or fails to work properly then I will refund or replace with no questions asked.

Sure that costs me money but the value of a satisfied customer is far more than the replacement cost of the item that was broken.

So if you haven’t already decided on what you’re going to sell do so now … before you go any further.