When we talk about how to start a merchandise business or sell merchandise online, we usually have a specific type of merchandise in mind.
But if you are new and want to start a business, let’s define what is considered merchandise.
According to dictionary.com, merchandise is “the manufactured goods bought and sold in any business”. So, any kind of goods can be considered merchandise as long as there is a process of selling and buying them.
However, when the question of how to sell merchandise online arises, a new entrepreneur might be overwhelmed by the multitude of choices he has. So, we’ll make light of this issue and come up with a plan to help you understand better the world of small business merchandise.
Why sell online?
In the last decade, eCommerce growth was enormous, and many small businesses started online at first. Only in 2020*, the number of online sales was 44% bigger than the year before. The start of the pandemic also brought this one, as people were keener on buying everything online.
2021 was still a great year for online sales, and that showed in the numbers. In the US, people bought more online than in 2020, even if Covid19 restrictions were fewer and the panic began to dissipate a little. Online shopping is still going strong.
Considering all this, we think it’s safe to say that selling merchandise online might be a better option than doing it offline. At least for some businesses.
But what kind of merchandise can you sell online? Are there limitations to this, or are there business merchandise ideas that just won’t work online?
Like in any other business, this too can have several disadvantages.
Limitations in selling online:
- For some merchandise people need to touch it, feel it, then decide to buy. For example, clothes, shoes, and hats, are all great in the picture, but if you’ve never bought from that exact brand you cannot be certain of the measurements.
- Shipping cost – while in a physical store the only shipping cost you’ll see is embedded in the price, online the cost is revealed only after you add to the cart. Some people cannot seem to get past that issue when ordering online, especially for heavy goods when the shipping cost might be bigger.
- Perishable products – although there are rules and regulations you need to consider before selling perishable items (food, drinks, etc.), people tend to buy them in the store. Many consumers might feel that a supermarket is a better place to shop for food, contrary to an online supermarket.
- Fragile merchandise – there are several factors to consider if you think to sell fragile items like shipment, packaging, warranty, and exchange.
So, with all these limitations you should consider, how to start.
Make a business plan
There’s no better place to begin to sell merchandise online than forming a business plan.
What does it entail?
- What kind of merchandise you’ll sell.
As we said before, there are many types of items that are considered merchandise. So, which kind will you sell? Before starting a business, you’ll need to decide this aspect.
- Will you be making your own merchandise or not?
If you are the one creating the merchandise things might be easier as concept goes. You already have an idea, you are the one deciding what to create, and you are the master of all things merchandise from your store.
- Design, creation and defining the characteristics of your merchandise;
Be careful when designing and creating the goods, if you feel that you are good at only having the idea, better hire a designer to do the actual product. It will save you a lot of trouble working with someone who has been through this process and knows what he’s doing.
- Who will buy your merchandise, who is your target audience?
After knowing what you’ll sell, figuring out who is your audience should be easy. Put down everything you can think of your avatar and create the perfect client for your merchandise. Only then you’ll know where to sell and how to communicate.
- Who is your competition?
Take a look at your competition, what are they doing, where are they selling, how are they pricing their products. Make a list and follow. You’ll be able to position yourself on the market after this step.
- What is your unique approach, and why should people buy from you?
And if you have followed your competition, then you’ll also know what you are and aren’t in relation to their brand. What is that unique thing that differentiates you from them? That is the one you’ll need to advertise.
- Follow with the market analysis and see how did this exactly merchandise sold over the last few years.
Don’t forget to also evaluate the market, see what happened on your niche a few years back. Is there a growth or perhaps sales have dropped? You’ll know if it’s a good time to start a business in this field or not.
- Will you have employees to help or not?
Employees will help carry the burden of a business, but consider if you afford them at the beginning.
- How will you fund your business at the beginning?
Make a budget and stick to it. See if you have the necessary funds to start everything.
- How will you advertise your products?
Advertising is somehow expensive, but without it, your business doesn’t stand a chance. So, when you conceive the budget, make sure to leave space for marketing expenses.
- Where will you sell?
Selling online can be a good, cheap option for a start-up. Consider where will you sell online, on your website, on different platforms, on social media?
This is a short list of things to consider and questions to answer when it comes to formulating a brief business plan. But it is necessary as it gives clarity to what you should expect to happen once the online store is up and running.
Where to sell
After outlining every detail of your business plan, this is the one point you’ll need to careful examine.
You have the option to open up a physical store in a location you consider good. Or the other option, to sell online.
Selling online also comes with some choices:
Create a website
This is, perhaps, the most used method of selling merchandise online. When you create a website to sell merchandise you have control over many things – pricing, distribution, shipment, commissions, packaging, offers, discounts, advertising. At Ecomitize we help our clients deal with every aspect of creating an eCommerce website through our extensive list of services.
Sell on platforms
Depending on the merchandise you can also sell on platforms such as: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Zazzle and more. Here you can find an example of selling art online and the ways to do it.
Sell on social media
Social media marketplaces are great ways of beginning to sell merchandise. Just consider their limitations and the way other competitors will also be selling there.
Sell on your website
From the list above, we recommend selling your merchandise on your website. This will have many benefits you might not have considered.
Benefits of selling on your own eCommerce website:
- Along with our developers, we can find the right platform for your specific type of merchandise. These eCommerce platforms come with a wide range of features that will make your shop unique and easy to use.
- When designing your website, you can have freedom of expressing your one-of-a-kind vision for how the shop will look. Our designers are ready to implement your concept and make the products stand out.
- Functionality is important for a website, and you shouldn’t overlook it. We have the experience to recommend whatever we think works best with your products and make the most of it. For example, display products in a certain way, have filters available for users to find what they are looking for fast, add a search button in a visible place and many more.
- Having your eCommerce website means you can price the goods how you want, considering the market. It also means you can create discounts and offers whenever you want, not depending on rules of a platform.
- Integrating the right plugin for shipping and payment will save you a lot of trouble in the future. That is why, you’ll need to careful choose the eCommerce business to help you create your website.
Promoting your website
After designing and implementing the website, testing it for errors and doing the last-minute check-up, products are ready to be uploaded online. But where do you spread the news about your fantastic work? How to promote your website?
Here are some ideas:
- Improve the content of your website with SEO approved writing. Our SEO specialists will be able to help you structure the text so that your shop will appear on the first page of search engines.
- Create business social media accounts. Social media has become a large part of our behavior as consumers, so it’s no wonder that many businesses choose to promote themselves on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even TikTok. Make a business account for all these social media platforms and begin posting regularly. You can also integrate your shop with their eCommerce solutions for selling there.
- Paid advertising online. Having an organic growth is amazing for a start-up, but in practice is like a unicorn for many businesses. That is why, besides creating original content related to your goods, you’ll need to pay for the advertising at some point. We can help you by choosing the right channel, audience and creating the design for your ad to gain audience or sell more. Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Ads on YouTube, Amazon Ads, Instagram Ads etc., can have a big impact on your merchandise selling business.
- Email marketing. With a custom-made website, you can begin a campaign of e-mail marketing and increase your database. Email marketing is a great way of communicating offers, discounts and establishing a relation with your customers by offering them valuable information.
- PR. Public relations have changed their approach in the last several years. Now, PR means more than press releases and keeping a close relation to media. It is about finding out who’s who in any business, finding the local and up-and-coming influencers, and staying on top of news to prevent image disaster happening. You could invest in influencer marketing with the help of a good PR and get people to notice your products. But be careful because the budget might be more than you have put aside for marketing purposes.
Now you have all the information you need to decide whether you’ll start your merchandise selling business and how.
Ecomitize is here to help you with a custom-made eCommerce shop. Give us a call and let’s start your road to success.