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.

What are the downsides of drop shipping?

Drop shipping is an easy way to get involved with e-commerce. No need to have a warehouse, no need to carry inventory, no need to package and ship orders. How much easier can it get?

Despite all of the pluses, drop shipping does have a big downside.

Here are some of the downsides:

  1. Price- you pay for the convenience of having someone else handle inventory and service, and often you pay a heavy premium for that convenience. Suppliers add a markup to the cost of packing materials, they will add a markup to shipping costs, and often they will markup their labor costs. After all, nothing is free.
  2. Information- Your drop ship supplier must keep you informed about inventory levels and any price changes. If you are selling on Amazon, eBay, or other similar sales platforms and you cancel too many orders because of a back order situation from your supplier, your service ranking will be affected and if your metrics drop too low your selling account may be suspended or even cancelled.
  3. Convenience- The number one reason to use drop shipping is also its biggest downside. Drop shipping makes it easy for just about anyone to enter the market. This easy entry results in massive competition since sellers don’t need any investment to start a business.This massive competition often results in sellers competing on price only. Profits suffer for everyone
  4. Control- When you drop ship you give up control of all of your order handling.  How do you ensure your orders will be shipped quickly?  How do you ensure good quality? How will your supplier handle problems or returns when they occur?  You have to find trustworthy suppliers.  That is a difficult thing to do.  Some suppliers will be excellent, some just good, and some totally terrible.  You have to hope you have made the correct choice.
  5. Your effort and involvement- Again, drop shipping is a good way to get started but it is not as easy as a lot of the companies trying to sell you tutorials or drop shipping services would like you to believe.It is not passive income.  It is not a low effort way to do business.  You have to pay attention and actually put a lot of effort into the business to succeed. You have to process orders.  You have to provide customer service and answer questions. You have to communicate with your customers about shipping, tracking numbers, possible service issues and more.  You also have to keep aware of your competition and monitor prices, monitor new items, and make sure nothing is happening to disrupt your market.

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.

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.

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.

When Should You Automate your Drop Shipping Company?

Let me start by saying that drop shipping is not a passive business. You can’t just throw a few items on a website and never worry about or pay attention again. You must be involved if you want to succeed. Drop shipping requires less overhead and inventory expense since you won’t need a warehouse, but you pay for that lower upfront expense with higher long-term fees for services and higher merchandise charges.

A drop shipping business, and in fact, all other businesses should base their decisions about automation on financial reasons. When it becomes too expensive or time-consuming to continue to process orders by hand, you should explore the options available for automation.

Do a little test on your internal business expenses. Determine how long it actually takes to capture, process, and transmit a customer order to your supplier. Add how long it takes you to verify shipment has been made, tracking numbers received, and customer advised of details. How long does it take to handle all accounting functions for each order. Added all together, that will be your order processing time for each order you receive. Factor in other regularly repeating tasks you handle with every order. Multiply that time by the number of orders you handle each day times the hourly rate you pay your employees. That is what it costs you to handle each order. You probably will be surprised at how expensive it costs to handle orders. A lot of small businesses really underestimate how much it costs them to run a business.

Now, get the costs together on automation software and hardware necessary to process those same orders. Add your cost of human supervision of the operation. Add in your monthly service or maintenance fees to keep your system operational and you get the cost per order for automation.

These order costs don’t include your fixed expenses like rent, or equipment and utilities since they will be necessary whether you automate or not.

Always keep in mind that not all business process can be partially or fully automated. Some human intervention and oversight is always necessary.

You can automate the order processing system to send orders directly to your supplier after your system captures the customer data. Of course, you must make sure someone audits this process so correct data is captured and transmitted.

You can automate the process to send your customers tracking data and shipping advice. This could include your accounting entries so orders are properly processed, shipped, and marked when completed. You can’t just send your drop ship supplier 100 orders and rely on them shipping 100 orders on time, complete, and correctly. Your internal data needs to be matched and edited with the external data they send you.

You can automate customer contact to thank your customer for their order and give them options on how to contact you. You can automate future contact to advise about new items and promotions by utilizing an email auto responder for mailing lists.

You can automate some customer service tasks by offering a really great and comprehensive FAQ service but you still need human intervention. Some people are just funny that way! Imagine, wanting to actually speak with a live, real-time person that can actually answer questions and make decisions.

Of course, no matter how much automation you can apply and how easy you can capture and store customer data, it is still all worthless unless someone, generally a human, actually takes the time to analyze and use all that data.

How do you create a niche website?

A “ Niche” site is simply one that specializes in a unique product. It could be a product you have developed, a brand that you have marketed and established, a novel and unique way to advertise and sell your products. Anything that draws attention to your business and generates more sales.

The number one difficulty selling things on the internet today is competition. Anyone with an internet connection can sell online. It is really difficult to make a profit if you try and sell the same popular products as everyone else. Most sellers don’t know enough about advertising, marketing, or selling to establish a reason for customers to buy from them instead of any of the other competition so they simply try to sell based on low price only.

You create your niche site by research and by educating yourself about all aspects of the market for your chosen product category. You find out who your close competition is, what they sell, who they buy their products from, and the general size of the industry to make a decision about what to sell. You become an expert on the products you want to sell and develop unique and creative marketing and advertising methods to prove to customers you are the best choice for them to purchase from.

Every major retailer in the world has a group of merchants who have become experts in their assigned product categories. They are “Buyers” or “Category Managers” or Merchandise Managers”. They decide what products to sell, what price they sell them for, and how to advertise or promote the product to their market.

You have to become that expert to hope to have the best chance for success in your online sales niche. You first should choose a product category you have some previous knowledge about. It makes learning a whole lot easier. Suppose your interest is video games. You probably already know what the hot products are, the best joysticks or control devices, the hottest chips and memory cards for games. You also probably know what products you wish were available. Find those missing products. You would then be unique.

Maybe you know that a certain popular product can do a lot more than what it is advertised for. Advertise that special hidden feature and you have a unique niche product. Be creative, but always remember, you must continue to develop new products because your competition will catch up fast.

Over my many years as an International buying manager I dealt with many Asian factories. It was amazing to find so many electronic products available but not in production because no one every asked for those features before. I was developing an electronic horn for a customer and was meeting with the factory engineering team. My customer wanted a horn to compete with an existing model on the market that had 20 sounds. I asked the engineers if they could make the horn with 20 sounds and they replied, sure, which sounds would you like to use? The I.C. chip they used already had over 80 sounds programmed on it but no one had every asked for more than the 20 already available. For a few small tooling charges we developed an entirely new product. Find those unique niche products.

Do your research, use your experience, and learn all you can. Nothing is easy. but if it is profitable, in the end your hard work will be worthwhile.

Is it possible to earn a high 6 figure income drop shipping?

If you are trying to earn a high 6 figure income, I assume you mean maybe $500,000.00 to $900,000.00 per year, you would have to have an extremely unique, high dollar value product or group of products to sell and have virtually zero competition to cut your selling prices or divert sales.

Do the simple math. To earn $500,000.00 per year from a retail e-commerce operation you would have to sell 5 times that amount, or maybe even 6–8 times that amount to get a net income that high since many drop ship items have notoriously low-profit margins. Drop ship suppliers do actually charge you for the convenience of handling the inventory and shipping for you and most are not cheap. So figure you are running an extremely low overhead drop ship operation and you sell $2.5 Million each year. If your product is selling for $100.00 each that would be 25,000 pieces sold per year or a little over 2000 per month or about 70 each day. Even with extensive automation of order processing that is a lot of work or someone to handle.

Here are some of the daily things that must be done on a regular basis:

  • Process orders and send them to your drop ship supplier. Easy enough to automate but still requiring some human intervention at times.
  • Make sure tracking numbers are sent from your supplier on a timely basis and relayed to your customers. Again, can be automated but you must make sure your orders are being shipped on time.
  • Make sure you review the on-hand inventory position and monitor supplier for any selling price changes so you can react on your website or selling platform.
  • Handle any customer service related correspondence, questions, and request for returns.
  • Normal business routines like accounting, looking for new products, looking for new suppliers, marketing, and advertising.

Handling 70 orders a day does not sound like a lot of work, but it does add up when it comes to your time involved. All of these take time and hiring someone to handle these for you will cut into your potential net income. Some things can be automated but again, not everything can be done with an app. I will use Amazon as an example since it is easy to look up data on their seller’s performance. Only 13% of sellers on Amazon sell between 1 Million and 10 million dollars worth of merchandise per year. Only 2% sell more than 10 million. The average order value on Amazon is only $47.00. Not a lot of sellers in that high income bracket you are looking for out of the millions that sell on Amazon.

So yes it could be done but will probably require a whole lot of luck, an extremely unique product, and a good staff to handle the day to day operations. Another point to keep in mind. If you can find products where you can sell 25,000 pieces each year, you would be much better off buying in bulk and handling the shipping yourself.