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[edited by: lorax at 11:47 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]
I doubt many people are willing to buy widgets from someone they've never dealt with before- I seem to remember a thread about this (or a very similar) issue some months ago.
So having a web site be your only sales channel for widgets is probably economic suicide.
(That said, every month we do generate sales of a certain type of widgets through one of our affiliate partners. However, it is a very niche product and only accounts for less than 5% of the sales through that affiliate partner.)
[edited by: LifeinAsia at 10:00 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edited by: lorax at 7:31 pm (utc) on May 9, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]
When deciding what to sell online you may want to first decide who you want to market to before you decide what you want to sell.
Think niche. If you're just emulating a widget store at the mall it will be difficult to stock all the products.
Try specializing in a specific market like widgets for students and graduates or people who need replacements, or someone who just wants a widget from a specific school.
Another niche would be for motorcycle riders who might require something a little wilder than the local widget maker offers.
The more unique your product, the easier it will be to sell, and the more you can charge.
Concentrate on items not readily available offline.
[edited by: lorax at 11:53 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]
[edited by: lorax at 11:54 pm (utc) on May 8, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]
Put together a brochure type website instead. Write some good content about what it is your produce and why people should buy from you. Publish the site and watch your website traffic. Promote gently and keep adding to it occassionally. Give the search engines some time to find and index your content. When the engines start sending you some decent traffic levels and you begin to notice people call you because they found your website then you can revisit the ecommerce aspect. Start small, especially when you're just getting your feet wet and in such a saturated market space.
Think of it this way. When you buy a car, the dealer makes the assumption that you have a driver's license and know how to drive. Same goes for online marketing and SEO stuff. If you ask for it, the assumption is you know what they aren't providing and that either you know it or it will be done by others.
Concentrate on the basics first. Give the site about a year to percolate and get some traction - but this is more of a business decision for you. Whatever you do, set a deadline and be willing to walk away if your don't meet your targets by the deadline.
If your content it good and has value to your visitors, you may very well see some sales via phone calls or a contact form from the site. I highly advise you to consider this a long term investment. It will take time and energy on your part to build the site traffic. Don't spend extra money adding horsepower to the site until you see some clear benefit and understand how to read and use the statistical information your website provides you at the most basic level.
[edited by: lorax at 7:23 pm (utc) on May 9, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized [/edit]
RE: conversions - absolutely have to be included in the decision making process though the actual numbers are a moving target - even within a given market sector. You can make assumptions based on averages but don't count on these. We've seen conversion rise and fall as much as a 6-7% within a single year. There are too many variables to be sure about the numbers.
Another thing to consider is how much time you're willing to put into learning. There are a great number of resources here at WebmasterWorld. But as a business person you need to decide just how much time you wish to spend learning how to manage and work with your website versus running your business. Some of the ecomm folks here would argue these are inseparable and for them it may be. For others, it's not. I lean towards it's a choice of how you wish to run your business and how involved you wish to be.
I think you'd need to look at your website as one piece of your business rather than the entire thing. Don't ditch the avenues you're already making money from, but think of the website (whether it's a brochure site or an ecommerce shop) as one more way to spread the word about what you have to offer. And a thought that's off-topic for this entire forum ;) -- You could think about getting your widgets into stores, especially since people are asking about that.
If it were easy, everybody would be doing it successfully. Unfortunately, the naive think that all it take is to put up a rinky dink website and wait for their ship full of gold to come in.
We started slowly and currently ecommerce carries 55% - 65% of our sales for most months (but the store is in a small town.)
We're in a niche market and have two distinct types of products that are only distantly related. One is pretty competitive and the other mildly. We currently have well over 700 products, including various options and sizes, and growing.
You start by bulding the site from the ground up to be search engine friendly. Build as many pages on the topics of your area as you have time for, populate your cart with a good offering of products, decide on and establish a good shipping scheme, and most important of all make sure everything works. Have a good payment processor, don't shortcut with something like payPal. When this is in place, consider a PPC campaign (to avoid being widgetized, I'll just say there is a forum here dedicated to this campaign. :-) ) This is not optional. You MUST have a monthly budget to drive traffic to your site through "sponsored ads" - don't wait for search engine traffic, especially if it's a competitive market.
Within a week of doing all the above, we had our first sale on a $5/day PPC budget. Traffic that month finished out at 5K, the previous month was barely 1000. :-) As months rolled by, the traffic kep climbing and we began to get very good search engine placement, in fact page one for the best keywords of one of the two major lines.
Two years in and we're "almost" there, it pays for the advertising, we're able to enjoy a higher daily PPC budget, and are up to 15K visits per month. It's still small time, but we're approaching the point where it's going to make us a living.
It's a lot of work. But it can happen, even for a difficult market.
Knowledge and hard work. I see quite a few people here giving you bad feedback about starting an online shop. Think of it this way, considering I have an online shop in a given niche, do I want any competition from anybody else, do I wanna make it look profitable, well I think you smart enough to answer the question.
Anyways, learn as much as you can about SEO, SEM as far as the rest you can hire programmers to build a store for you and install whatever necessary to make the site friendly to SEs, remember you have to sell something that people are actually looking for. Do your homework.
As for offering something niche and what people are looking for, Expected man, I have to say the more I think about it, the harder it is to actually think of something niche...perhaps good old fashioned 'passion for what I love' will win :)
p.s. any guidance on where to learn about SEO / SEM? Thanks!
Productive organic rankings will be a challenge to start with. As a matter of fact it may take a few years to capture and hold valuable serp position.
With this said, you should research and become well versed in adwords and ysm. Additionally, budget as much as you can for ppc placement. If it is just modest to start...then plow a certain percentage of your profits back into your ppc budget until you are in a position above the fold.
Proper keyword selection and search engine exposure will be your quickest route to traffic in the beginning of your ecommerce venture.
Big assumption I know but probably a true one.
An online shop is no different from a high street shop, it has to look good and have decent prices - not cheap but decent. Is like direct mail, you have to grab someones attention quickly and hold them there.
It takes time as well, I have a site started in 2005 that is only now making money, id need a furtehr 10 just like this one to make a living.
The odds are against you, the price of failure is lower than in a traditional store though.
...perhaps good old fashioned 'passion for what I love' will win....
This is far more important than many people credit it. If your only passion is to "make money" that will show in everything you do. Customers will react accordingly. They also will respond very well if you apply your passion to your niche.
Question: Has anyone tried to sell two things that are not in the same niche? If so what were the results?
This is almost exactly what I meant when I said "distantly related." Now quite as distant as sporting g's and ice cream, but they are pretty far fetched. Hmm how to widgetize . . . .
A particular country is one of the roots of civilization, and out of this country artistic expressions have been long appreciated. Two of these expressions are our lines, and their only thing in common is the civilization of origin.
Anyway in retrospect, I feel like we should have really developed two sites, maybe even a third ( there is a third "supplemental" line that doesn't move well for us.) The reason gets back to targeting, allowing one site to concentrate on one topic. The more diverse the site, the more diluted the results.
However, making such connections is not always bad - although most of our sales are in one line or another, quite often we get customers sampling from both or even all three "lines." So maybe our distant connections are not all that distant.
Barriers to entry are minimal, ive run and do run ecom's from a spare bedroom. Anyone can do it.
My point is you wouldnt believe the amount of people that I know who seem to think that you just throw up a site and pounds rolling in. It takes hours and hours and hours of work before you get anyone come a knocking at your site.
I only target subject areas Im interested in otherwise Id be bored stiff and that would show.