wheel - 5:59 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)
You know how many chances you get to make a first impression?
You should be clear, don't open until you are able to properly service clients. Call your supplier and ask for any amount of credit. Go to the bank and get a another credit card in your own name. Ask a family member for some cash for a number of months. Do whatever you need to do, and don't be afraid to ask. You take risks on your credit and money, you don't screw around with a mediocre customer experience.
Delivery times are one things I used to crush my competitors when I used to run an online bookstore. I had an order come in at 10:30pm one Friday evening, they were only 20 minute drive from me. I rang their doorbell at 8:30am Saturday morning with their order. Once they get over the 'well, that was kinda creepy' stage, they like the service.
I had orders at 5:00pm (I was working fulltime elsewhere), I'd arrive home, pack up the orders, drive them back into the courier center to make their 8:00 cutoff, and the clients would get their package the next day at 9 am.
Large corporate orders that were within 1 hour drive of me saw their books the same day - I packed them up and delivered them by hand. Corporate admin people get an email from their boss saying 'get me these books, need asap'. They call me, they hand over the books the same day to their boss and look like heroes. You think these people would've bought books from you?
How does your storefront compare to that? Heck, how does Amazon compare to that?
It sounds further like you're dropshipping. Personally, I'm against dropshipping (well, I'm all for it for my competitors). It takes inventory out of your control. I suggest you again figure out what you need to do to maintain your own inventory. Be aware that some of the competitive advantages you have available to you come from finding the right source. Spend some time finding a supplier as close to the original manufacturer as you can. Again, maintaining inventory is crucial.
I'll bore you with another tale I've posted here before. With my old bookstore, timeframe was of the essence (books were needed for deadlines). I'm in country B, all the books came from country A. Clients of bookstores in country A always had the advantage because books got held up at the border.
Here's how I handled a big book launch where everyone had been waiting for this time sensitive book. I opened a receiving location in country A so that location got the books the same time as all the bookstores in country A. I drove to the other country, to the shipping location and was waiting for the courier to arrive with the books the day of. Picked up the books, cleared customs and immigration myself, drove home to where my order boxes were already ready to go. Packed, shipped, then drove back into the courier location in country B and shipped the books the same day. My clients got them the next day.
Now, all my competitors got their books the same day as me. I don't know what they were doing, but it took a day or two to get all the orders out. My clients in country B were yacking the book up on the internet, people in country a were calling my competitors with queries on their books - they were PO'ed that clients in country B already had their time sensitive books when theirs hadn't even been shipped. I remember people were posting online in disbelief, then anger.
that's why you need to reconsider your structure. I'm not the only smarty-pants out there. Start off half-cocked and you'll find clients in short supply. And if you don't have money, then all you've got is the customer service experience.