Sunday, August 24, 2008

Simple basics to ecommerce

There are 3 simple basics to e-commerce - ignore them at your loss.

  1. - Find something someone actually wants and buys.
  2. - Get a supply of this - the lower cost to you the better.
  3. - Offer and deliver it effectively, profitably, and with the best possible quality.
Your real success is to do the above repetitively - multiple products you can sell over and over. (Rinse and repeat.)

The first point is a sore one. You don't sell what you "feel" will sell well. Those things which sell, people have to buy. You find out what people are buying.

Secondly, your profits are made when you get your supply. The lower price it is for you, the more you can profit from it. If others are undercutting you - below your cost - then you don't have the right supplier (or you haven't bought in enough quantity to keep up.) The exception is the loss leader - they are selling at a loss - but in that case, there are other strategies. The main one is to have other items that are selling well enough to carry your overhead on that item - while you wait for their "sale" to be over.

Third is to immediately have a way to deliver the goods in a high-quality manner as possible. Again, you have to be making a profit on this. But you have to provide great service. Period.

My own downfall has been all of the above. But the one I've been working on recently has been the third. But only because I already have 1 and 2 in hand. You have to have something you know sells first - people are buying it. Then you have to have a low-cost supply and deliver it inexpensively. You make a profit by having all three points in tow. Any of the three being out and you simply don't.

- - - -

I've been studying up on auctions, eBay particularly over the last three months. And so leaving my blogging and other social posts to lag.

With eBay, the above points are simple. I've covered them on earlier posts. HammerTap or other research programs will give you 1. WorldWide Brands should help you find 2. And then you have to create either an eBay store or your own ecommerce site in order to attain 3.

eBay has been evolving since I've been studying in it. They are trying to expand into sales which Amazon has been taking from them - and they've noticed - fixed price. So they've been changing things which tick off their sellers, especially the smaller ones. They've been dropping fees for bulk and larger sellers - and making it more possible to have "stores" online (especially through them.) But there is a lot to be said for the one-off sellers, the specials, the "99 cent" auctions.

So there are now two simple strategies for getting started and using eBay, especially with the three points above:

A. Put in some loss leaders to get leads and reverse funnel buyers. Meaning, you have an email and address for someone who has bought from you - so they will probably be able to buy from you again. Sell some things at bare minimum profit (not at a loss, if you can help it) just to get their name. Then cultivate these leads and get them to your ecommerce site.

B. Get routinely selling items posted for a fixed price. In a month, eBay will have discounted fees so that you can keep that item up there for a month at a time - not the weekly auctions you have to do now. This also gives you customers - particularly if you do a "make an offer" scenario so that they can haggle with you.

The sum of eBay: it's a silo - they try to get you do to everything there.

You use eBay because it's full of shoppers and buyers. The fees, like Amazon or anywhere else, are what you pay for the privilege of using their servers and bandwidth. Just like your own ecommerce site. But they have a lot more people visiting there's on any given day, hour, or minute.

Your whole effort is to get these people to find your stuff - and then get them to buy from you directly, where you don't have to pay a fee for every sale.

eBay is making it harder and harder to get email addresses of your customers. And there are ways to get customers to give them to you anyway - we've covered this with opt-in newsletters and autoresponders.

One tip - no matter what you sell: give away a bonus info-product CD with an auto-run feature that gives them a way to directly access your ecommerce site and sign up for your newsletter. This would be either a PDF catalog of your products with direct links, or a simple HTML page which also links directly to your site - preferably a duplicate of your home page. If you can get your whole catalogue (except for the shoppping cart) right onto that CD, you'll be in good shape. Because there is no bandwidth problem with a local CD. Once they go onto the web for info, you can lose them.

(And if anyone has a shopping cart which will run within a browser - like using local javascript - please let me know. Otherwise, you have to run an executable program with God-knows-what local hardware on that customer's computer.)

So that's the tips for today: Sell what people will buy at a profit - and set it up to do it repetitively. And if you're using eBay, make sure you can start capturing email addresses - because eBay isn't going to let you have them much longer.
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