How you can keep up with your competition.

Being a retail entrepreneur, whether you choose e-commerce or brick and mortar, is not a passive business. Especially since the internet makes it so easy for potential customers to shop and compare.

To stay ahead of your competition you must continually study, research, and learn about your market, your chosen product categories, the market trends, and your competition. It is not an easy task.

Every major retailer like Walmart, Target, or Amazon, among all the others, have hundreds of employees whose job is to monitor their assigned product categories for new products, market trends,pricing, promotions, and competition so they can stay competitive. These employees go by many different names depending on the company. They could be called buyers, merchandisers, category managers, product managers, etc.

I suggest you limit your product offerings to a few categories to make it easier for you to keep up with what is going on with your industry. Just about every product category has a trade association. These trade associations sponsor trade fairs or shows to allow their members to exhibit their merchandise and give potential customers the opportunity to view many companies all in one place. The trade associations also produce newsletters to keep their members up to date. It is a great idea to subscribe to them for the latest industry news. Also, make regular shopping trips to major retailers to review what they are offering in your chosen product category. It’s ok to take advantage of their expertise.

Often, the first piece of advice given to new retailers is to sell products you already have knowledge about. Having an interest or prior knowledge about a product category makes your learning curve so much easier.

Can you make money selling items for $1.00 each?

The real answer is that no matter how much, or how little, you pay for that item you sell for a dollar, you are going to lose money if you only sell a single item. You must consider all of the other costs you must pay just to do business.

I will use the example that others have used. You pay $0.50 for an item that you sell for $1.00. You make $0.50 gross markup each. Not a bad markup in general.

If you have a brick and mortar store you pay rent and utilities. You pay employees. You have everyday business costs like advertising or marketing. If you have a dollar store and a customer walks in and buys one item for $1.00 you lose money. The cost to handle that transaction is just too high. Hopefully, your customer will buy 10 or 15 items at $1.00 each and allow you to make a little profit.

The same principle holds true for e-commerce stores. Your overhead may be lower but you still have to pay for someone to process the order, print the label, put the item in a box, and ship it. You need to pay shipping charges. You need customer service to notify the customer about tracking numbers, handle questions and returns. All this costs money.

Only you can determine how much it costs to process each order. Calculate how long it takes to process an order, print a label and pack and ship an item. Next calculate your labor rate and apply the cost of labor to the time spent to process an order. Add in credit card or Paypal processing fees, selling fees, advertising and marketing costs, and the allocation to overhead you charge for each order. All those business costs add up pretty fast. You will find there is not much left of the $0.50 “Profit” you think you may make.

I guess is you sell an item for $1.00 each, are completely automated in your order processing, and you sell thousands every month, you may be able to squeak out a little profit at the end of the month, but it will be really tough.

Good luck finding that item!

What are some great niche products for YouTube?

One of the hardest facts to realize is that a Niche is a Unique, specialized segment of a market. This makes it low competition and allows the seller to make a larger profit margin on the items in the niche. Once anyone announces a popular niche, especially on a public forum like Quora, it is no longer a niche. New sellers will jump in to take advantage of unique marketing and selling opportunities and the extra competition drawn to the niche usually results in fierce price competition.

Take the time to do your in-depth research and use your product knowledge to find that special niche you are looking for. YouTube videos offer a very special and unique way to advertise and market. Look for products that have a special “magic” or visual appeal and opportunities to create fun, in use videos. You may only be selling a common item like shoes or other similar items but try and create some buzz. Show real people using the product in real yet creative ways. If you get lucky and have a video go viral, sit back and enjoy the ride.

How do customers choose whether to purchase an item from you instead of from Alibaba when the price is cheaper?

Why should someone buy from your website instead of direct from a trading company on Alibaba? Let me count the ways.

  1. Convenience- Companies on Alibaba sell mostly in larger quantities. On your website, possible you sell one piece at a time.
  2. Shoppers experience- Ability to combine an order and buy multiple items at the same time. Your website may also be easier to shop from.
  3. Location- Your company may be located in the same time zone or at least similar time zones so customer service may actually be conducted in real time or at least more convenient times for you as a customer.
  4. Trust and professional image= The quality and professionalism of your website will make a big difference in the level of trust a customer places with you. They can see by your address and contact details where you are located and how to contact you in the case of a problem. If your website is done correctly your potential customer should see that you are an “expert” in the products you are selling. FAQ, installation or usage tips and tricks, customer testimonials, etc.
  5. Shipping methods- You may be able to offer more speed based delivery service options than a Chinese supplier.
  6. Delivery Times- Shipping from China can take 4 to 6 weeks or more depending on the product, inventory levels, and shipping method used. You may be able to offer next day delivery or other quicker methods.
  7. Payment methods available- Customers may be more comfortable using credit cards with your company, rather than sending secure data to an unknown company in a foreign country.
  8. Customer service- Have a question or a problem? With a local company website you can pick up the phone or even send a text and expect fairly rapid solutions to your problem. Or, get up in the middle of the night to call an Alibaba supplier who may or may not be able to communicate easily in English. They all will tell you, “Yes I speak English”, but the level of understanding may be difficult.
  9. Return policy- Did you ever try to return something to a Chinese supplier? Getting return authorization may be difficult, cost to ship back high, and don’t even think about trying to get a refund for any customs duties you may have paid.

Remember, when you talk about buying from Alibaba you are not really buying from Alibaba at all. You are buying from a third party vendor using Alibaba to list and market their items.

Keep in mind that price is not always the only consideration shoppers use to justify a purchase. If the price is the only consideration you are worried about, and it doesn’t matter about the speed of delivery, possible returns, trust or scam potential, and little details like those, then go ahead and buy based on the lowest price available.

Buyer beware!

How Do You Convince A Customer To Buy From You Instead Of Your Competition?

To convince a customer to buy from you instead of from someone else, you offer them something of value that your competition does not offer. This is one of the hardest tasks many business owners face. How do you convince someone to buy from you instead of any of your competitors?

  • Offer better, quicker order processing and shipping service.
  • Offer better technical support and sales training for your products.
  • Offer quantity pricing incentives for a higher volume of sales.
  • In a worst case scenario, offer a lower price than your competition if you can afford it. If you can only compete on price, you will probably not be very successful since your competition can also cut prices to keep their current customers from moving to you.

How can you prevent liability when selling online?

You really can’t prevent liability, you can only lessen your exposure. If someone or something is injured or damaged using your products. People, especially in the USA can sue anyone for anything. Often cases are dismissed or “Thrown Out” by the court as frivolous, but you may still have to pay legal fees to defend yourself. While not being able to prevent liability, there are ways to lessen your exposure.

  • The best that you can do to avoid or at least reduce liability is to select your suppliers carefully. Make sure they are manufacturing quality products and are using proper quality testing. Verify that they comply with all necessary safety regulations in your country. Examples of risky products would be anything electrical (think battery packs and battery chargers on Hoverboards for a recent example), anything that replaces an OEM part on a vehicle,, (think brake parts, tires, wheels, brake lights, headlights, etc.,) batteries on rechargeable products, (think about Samsung phones), food, medicines, and nutritional supplements, cosmetics, children’s clothing, and the list can go on and on. Make sure your supplier can provide copies of this compliance to regulations just in case you need them.
  • In addition to carefully checking quality, see if your suppliers carry product liability insurance and ask that you be covered on their policies for your protection. You will need to consult with an attorney or insurance agent that specialises in Product Liability since it is a very complicated area, especially if you import products.
  • Look into carrying your own product liability insurance, especially if you are selling something that may fall into a “ high risk” category.
  • Handle all customer complaints promptly and to the customer’s satisfaction. Sometimes just the simple act of acknowledging the problem and correcting it is sometimes enough to avoid legal action or additional problems. Some customers simply like to know you care about their issues and are willing to work with them to correct a problem.

As I mentioned earlier, Product Liability is a complicated issue and you must consult with a qualified attorney or insurance agent to get the best, most accurate advice. Proper advice may save you from a lot of financial problems for both your business and you personally in the future.

How do I find a Mentor?

t will be very difficult for you to find mentors or role models. You can’t just approach someone and ask for their free mentorship. Learning and experience has its price. It may be the cost of tuition for an education, or it may be your hard work and dedication in advancing by on the job training. After all, why should someone successful volunteer help you without knowing anything about your dedication and skills.

Usually, mentors will find you! They find you by noticing your actions, passions, intelligence, responsibility, and dedications to any task or project you may attempt to participate in. They find you when they notice you are serious about learning or becoming better in your tasks.

Get an education and impress others with your intelligence and willingness to learn.

Get a job and impress upon others that you are serious about learning the job at hand and gaining necessary life experience to succeed.

What are the best export products to China from Europe?

There is never anything easily called “Best” product to export from China to Europe or anywhere else in the world for that matter. It will all depend on your goal or reason for importing the product.

What is your goal?

  1. Is your goal to sell a high volume, i.e. Large quantities, of products at high profit? If so, the best product is something you or your company have uniquely developed and are currently marketing or building a brand without too much competition yet.
  2. Is your goal to sell a “Best”product simply a high sales volume product? If that is the goal simply do your market research and pick a product off of a platform like Alibaba. These types of products offer high sales volume but razor thin profit margins due to the amount of competitors importing the exact same products and trying to sell based on price alone.
  3. Is your goal to sell a product with a high profit margin, a decent sales volume and build your own successful niche? If that is the case start with products or categories that you are most familiar with. What are the problems customers in that niche face? What products are available to “Fix” those problems? What is your direct competition selling?

If you can’t decide which direction you need to establish your company, then you need to do more in-depth market research.

When you can answer these types of questions about your reasons for importing and selling, then you can start building your sales plans. Once you have decided what is the best product for you, then you face the task of figuring out how can you convince your potential customers to buy from you instead of the hundreds of other sellers of similar products?

Years ago I worked for a mid-sized company selling an extremely large range of products in a very specific niche market. The company had been started by a young man who knew pretty much everything about his market, his potential customers, his competition, and how to best market his niche to reach his target market. He learned everything based on experience. When I worked for him the company had been in business over 40 years so he was no longer a young man but was in my estimation a wise mentor. We had a large merchandising staff and attended all major trade shows looking for new products and new opportunities. He had hired a buyer with over 30 years experience in buying and merchandising but little direct experience in our niche and after the new buyer’s first trade show, the boss was asking the new guy about what he had found and experienced at the show.

The new buyer started out reviewing the show in a pretty standard fashion, Company ABC sells x types of products and these are his best sellers. Company XYZ sells y types of products and these are his best sellers. He then proceeded in the same fashion for a few more companies before the boss stopped him. He said,”We already know what those companies best sellers are”. “All we have to do is look in any of the hundreds of stores run by our competitors to see what are the most popular items”. “If you take a look at our business and examine our best sellers you would see that our “Best” sellers are the items nobody else sells on a regular basis.” “Our target customer comes to us to find those unique products, buys them at a high profit margin, and hopefully fills up the rest of his cart with all those other “popular” items while he is shopping in our store”.

And these lessons are sometimes the hardest ones to teach to someone who is just starting out in the world of retail, whether it is an e-commerce store or a brick and mortar store.

US marketers: Would you outsource marketing tasks to someone outside of the US?

Proper marketing and advertising is the lifeblood of any business. Done right, it helps you grow. Done wrong it will kill your business fast.

If you are talking about common marketing tasks that are not specific to your product or market, you may be able to use outsourced foreign marketing for repetitive tasks.

If you are talking about industry specific or business specific marketing tasks you hire the best “Experts” in your field you can afford. Marketing is charged with delivering your message to your targeted market. If you want it done right make sure you have someone that has an understanding of what specifically you and your company needs to do. Make sure you can communicate effectively with your chosen marketer and that they will be available when you need then, should a problem come up. If you don’t care if your message reaches your audience, hire the cheapest people you can find. If you want your business to grow and succeed you hire the best.

Remember, good marketing isn’t just about posting a few message on social media or searching keywords and SEO.  It is about delivering your message.

It’s your company, your money, and your business reputation on the line.

When can you expect to see an AHA moment after you launch an e-commerce store?

You will probably experience that AHA moment as an e-commerce entrepreneur when you realise that there is more to retail selling than just copy and pasting a few dozen ads for products from your favourite supplier onto a template to build the website. You will see that you need to produce some unique ad content and photography to show all the potential customers that you are actually different than the hundreds of other sellers offering exactly the same product, with the same ad copy and photo, at a similar price as everyone else.

You will see that you actually need a marketing plan to economically reach your target market.

You will see that you need to establish some level of trust using your website design, and copy to let customers know that you are a professional. You are the expert in your chosen product area and that you will provide them with great product, great service, and great follow up help if they should need.

Start with a great product.

Add great product content telling the customer what you are selling, what problems or solutions it offers them, what features and benefits the product has, and why they need to buy it from you.

Figure out how to reach your target market to deliver that great sales message you have developed. You don’t always have to pay for marketing, but you do have to have a plan. If you just wait for organic search engine growth, your beard may be long and grey before the organic traffic kicks in so utilise social media, blogs, forums, PPC ads if necessary to get the word out.