Are you looking to start an ecommerce business without having to stock inventory yourself?
Or are you wanting to expand your existing ecommerce store by offering new products?
Finding a dropshipping service to sell products may be the way to go.
What is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is an order fulfillment method that allows your business to partner with a supplier to display and sell their products in your online store. In other words, you can sell their goods and it does not require your business to keep the product in stock.
When you sell an item, the dropshipping business (the supplier) will send that purchased item straight to the customer.
The product itself never passes through your hands.
This online business model sounds too good to be true, right? Not exactly.
With the right approach, dropshipping can be a successful fulfillment method, including with trending, worldwide brand name items. That means taking the time to conduct market research and finding the right suppliers.
Of course, low profit margins, a highly competitive market and no control over the supply chain are potential hiccups along the way, but dropshipping products with various wholesalers can have its perks.
How to Find Dropshipping Suppliers
Finding the best dropshipping companies for your ecommerce platform is a key component. From California to New York in the United States and from Europe to China abroad, linking with the right dropshippers and inventory source is vital to success.
That’s easier said than done, however. Many dropshippers are smaller companies and can potentially be harder to find. There are also dropship scammers who might try to swindle you with a big upfront or monthly fee.
That’s why BigCommerce put together a dropship supplier directory:
Best Dropshipping Suppliers
If you’re looking for high-quality products to send to your customers without keeping the product in stock, dropshipping is one solution to several online stores.
Here’s a list of dropshipping companies listed in no particular order.
Spocket is a dropshipping marketplace that enables retailers to start and scale their online stores. Sprocket connects retailers to thousands of suppliers across USA and Europe.
2. AliExpress Dropshipping.
AliExpress is a wholesale and dropshipping platform that connects dropshippers to suppliers and products, including consumer electronics and apparel.
An official partner of AliExpress Dropshipping, Modalyst is an automated dropshipping app filled with trending brand names.
SaleHoo is a wholesale supplier directory that connects dropshippers to suppliers, including suppliers in a variety of different niches. It is a well-known dropshipping marketplace along with others such as Alibaba.
Doba is a marketplace that compiles manufacturers and suppliers into one place. With Doba, you can search through wholesale products in your industry and consolidate them into custom lists.
Wholesale2B is a supplier integration system that allows you to choose more than one million products and sell them on BigCommerce, Amazon and eBay.
7. Worldwide Brands.
Worldwide Brands is a comprehensive directory of dropshippers and bulk distributors. They continually update their list with new suppliers and certify that each is reputable and reliable.
8. Sunrise Wholesale.
From home decor to jewelry and more, Sunrise Wholesale is a general wholesaler with more than 15,000 products.
MegaGoods is a distributor and dropshipper for wholesale products such as clocks, kitchen items, televisions and more.
10. Inventory Source.
Inventory Source is a dropship network that provides access to more than 180 suppliers and allows you to sync your inventory and auto-upload product data.
Whether you are looking for pet supplies on Wholesale Central, skincare and beauty products or other various product categories on National Dropshippers, the list of dropshipping stores goes on and on.
While the pricing, shipping costs and shipping times may vary, many of them can connect to Amazon, eBay, BigCommerce or Shopify stores. They may also link to other ecommerce platforms such as Oberlo, Wix and WooCommerce.
However, not all companies are legitimate.
How to Spot a Fake Dropshipping Supplier
When sourcing for a dropshipping supplier, beware of fake wholesalers. And especially since some resellers don’t always use best SEO practices and can be hard to find online in a simple Google search, ways to identify a fake wholesaler might include minimum order sizes, pre-order fees or on-going fees.
To avoid any hassle, be sure to check out our guide to the right approaches to dropshipping.
Looking to automate your dropshipping? That’s definitely possible.
Take Spark Shipping, for example. They specialize in automating the connection between your ecommerce platform (BigCommerce) and dropshippers.
If the dropshipper supports it, Shark Shipping automates inventory quantities, orders, and tracking data between BigCommerce and the dropshipper.
FAQs About Dropshipping Suppliers
What is the dropshipping supply chain?
The dropshipping supply chain is often long and tedious.
First, the product is produced at the manufacturing level — at which point the product is at its cheapest.
Then, the product is stocked by an initial wholesaler, who typically marks up the price before making it available for dropshipping.
At this point, the product is often transferred to an additional wholesaler, who may mark up the price even further or act if they have received it directly from the manufacturer.
The product is then purchased and stocked by you (the wholesaler) before reaching its final destination: the end consumer.
Note that the delivery time may vary depending on the dropshipping supplier. Some companies offer fast shipping.
Are there free dropshippers?
Yes. There are several free dropshippers in both general and niche categories.
Although some larger dropshippers charge yearly or monthly fees, most only ask that you pay the cost of the products you are shipping to the customer.
Some may charge additional shipping costs or fees.
Is dropshipping legal?
Yes, it is legal. It is also important to familiarize yourself with counterfeit and trademark regulations in your region to ensure that you and your dropshipping supplier avoid crossing any lines, including with various branded products.
Is dropshipping profitable?
Yes, dropshipping can be profitable to merchants. Dropshipping is a low-risk business model that allows you to sell products to your customers without incurring huge running costs like a wholesaler would have. Because of the low-cost, it could be easier to become profitable with dropshipping faster than other business models.
Can I pay dropshipping companies with a credit card?
Yes. In fact, suppliers might even require you to pay by credit card at first.
Can I dropship on Amazon?
Yes, you can dropship on Amazon. However, your business must follow Amazon’s dropshipping policy, which includes: being the seller of record for your products, identifying yourself as the seller of your products on all packing slips, invoices and external packing. You must also be responsible for accepting and processing customer returns of your products.
An alternative to using a dropshipping supplier is the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program.
Can I dropship on eBay?
Yes, you can also dropship on eBay. However, it is a very competitive space and it’s hard to make a big profit.
How do dropship suppliers handle returns?
To return an item, you will often need to get a return merchandise authorization (RMA) from your supplier, which aids the process of your customer shipping the product back to their address.
Make sure you also have all other item information on hand to help the customer support process go as smoothly as possible.
Once the item is shipped and received, the supplier will refund you and you refund the customer.
Beware of extra fees from your dropshipper, including a restocking fee.
Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent… omnichannel.
Multiplication, multicellular, multivitamin… multichannel.
Based on word association alone, omnichannel retail sounds way cooler and more mysterious than multichannel retail. It’s also a little trendier these days. Everyone is talking about it. Or at least everyone who wants to get the most out of physical and online commerce should be talking about omnichannel versus multichannel retail.
But what is omnichannel retail? How is it different from multichannel retail? What do either look like in practice, and which one is better? The truth is that either strategy can work if executed properly. Both approaches have their merits, so it often boils down to how attainable, scalable and effective each strategy is for your particular business. We don’t have to declare one’s supremacy over the other, as long as we all agree that nobody is talking about single-channel selling anymore.
What is Omnichannel Retail?
Omnichannel retail is a form of integrated multichannel commerce that enables data synchronization between channels. Omnichannel retail typically refers to the practice of linking a store’s brick-and-mortar operations with its online business. It can be part of a larger commerce and marketing strategy that connects the various touchpoints of customer and brand interaction, and ensures that information is handed off between touchpoints.
An omnichannel strategy focuses on how multiple channels interact with each other and the customer. A successful omnichannel setup keeps customer data and product data synced across channels. The ultimate goal is to maximize convenience for the customer so that every interaction with a brand across different channels feels like it’s part of one seamless experience. Omnichannel retail is sometimes referred to as “seamless commerce” or “unified commerce.”
A complete omnichannel marketing strategy for a brand includes a two-way integration between online channels and a physical location, plus handoffs between online channels. A brick-and-mortar location should be able to share relevant and accurate data, such as available inventory, with an online channel. Likewise, an online channel should be able to pass important data to the brick-and-mortar location, like when a customer has placed an order for pickup.
Ideally, a customer can go from product discovery to purchase on any channel, including a physical store, online store, and even social media. There should also be additional opportunities for marketing and increased brand interaction whenever a customer takes action.
There’s more than one way of delivering an omnichannel experience, and the methods used are often different for every company based on the nature of the business and the clientele. Businesses have the opportunity to think outside the box and deliver an experience that a customer wouldn’t have while shopping on a single disconnected channel. New and improved options for customer engagement exist through the combined strengths of various channels.
Although “omni” means “all,” omnichannel retail is not necessarily about being everywhere all the time. An omnichannel strategy should center customers and meet them wherever they interact with the business, including physical locations and via desktop and mobile devices. Building a marketing strategy for a channel that customers don’t use would be ineffective.
Technology is often a limiting factor for executing an effective omnichannel strategy. Creating the proper integrations, collecting the right data and keeping it updated, and then building strategies around that data requires significant time and resources. Fortunately, there are more solutions today than ever before for providing a seamless commerce experience to customers, and businesses don’t have to build these solutions on their own.
In a study from Arlington Research, 49% of omnichannel merchants outsourced their omnichannel operations in some capacity during 2020, and more than 50% said that outsourcing their omnichannel operations was a priority for the future.
How Does Omnichannel Ecommerce Work?
Omnichannel retail encompasses numerous strategies and features, but in general, an omnichannel approach relies on data being collected and communicated across various channels so that customers’ experiences feel unified whenever and wherever they’re interacting with a brand. Sometimes, the integration between channels helps customers continue their journey where they left off, almost as if the brand “remembers” them.
Although omnichannel strategies have the potential to deliver a memorable experience, it’s also possible to create a negative impression for the customer with a solution that doesn’t work as intended. According to Microsoft, 58% of consumers state that they’ve stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience. To improve customer retention, it’s vital to make sure that each step along the customer journey is consistently positive.
These are the basic steps for omnichannel retail:
1. Identify customer touchpoints and opportunities for improved interaction with the brand.
Adopting a customer-centric view of your brand helps you identify opportunities to deliver a more convenient or personalized experience for consumers. The point of purchase is only one touchpoint along the customer journey. Brands can create a positive and lasting impression before and after the sale, and increase brand loyalty. It’s also possible to add more touchpoints to the customer journey or redirect customers to a better option for continuing behaviors they’re already exhibiting.
2. Build a strategy around the customer experience.
Identify which processes need to be executed to deliver a quality experience from a customer experience point of view. Where are the pitfalls and potential cracks in the system? What is the brand’s goal for each touchpoint along the customer journey? How many touchpoints can branch off into new or repeated engagements with the customer?
3. Connect systems and people to pass data back-and-forth.
Good data holds everything together, and it often requires the right tech stack to preserve high-quality data across different platforms. For example, a retailer that wants to use local inventory ads to show which products are currently available for curbside pickup needs to accurately track in-store inventory, send the inventory values in a product feed to the ad channel, and continue to update the inventory values as they change.
In this example, it’s also important to create a process that keeps the physical store associates informed of new orders, and have someone on hand who knows how to resolve any issues that may occur.
4. Execute the strategy.
This can be a multi-step process depending on what the goal is, and what part of the customer journey is being targeted. For example, an in-store purchase might present an opportunity for directing a customer to a loyalty program or creating an account to receive additional promotions. In an omnichannel approach, a customer profile is accessible in the store and on mobile and desktop devices, while customer service representatives on social media channels should also be able to help with account issues.
5. Collect and measure additional data.
In a completely unified omnichannel setup, every customer action triggers an additional action from the brand. Collecting data allows brands to identify where customers are in the customer journey, gauge interest, and decide which action to take next to nurture the relationship.
As networks like Google and tech companies like Apple respond to concerns about consumer privacy, the ways that consumer data is tracked are changing. The decline of third-party cookies means that first-party data is even more valuable. First-party data is typically collected when users choose to provide additional data about themselves.
Although it may take some creativity to entice potential customers to share more information, customers who do so are already interested in deepening their relationship with your brand, and are more valuable in the long term compared to consumers who aren’t really looking to engage further.
What is Multichannel Retail?
Multichannel retail is the practice of selling or listing products on more than one channel. The channels can be digital, physical or a combination of both. A business can sell products on its website, a brick-and-mortar location and through different platforms or marketplaces.
Multichannel selling enables a business to reach more customers on different channels with the same product catalog. It’s important to note that merchants can of course reserve specific inventory for different channels, and even customize and optimize different product titles, images and other product attributes for different channels. A multichannel retail model can be part of a multichannel marketing approach that utilizes email, social media, the company website, and other channels to reach customers.
Multichannel retail maximizes exposure for a brand and gives consumers more choices about where to purchase products, but it is not an integrated experience like an omnichannel model. All omnichannel retail must be multichannel by design, but not all multichannel retail is omnichannel. In multichannel retail, the customer’s experiences on any given channel are siloed, or happening in relative isolation from each other. Although each sales channel supports the main business, data synchronization across channels is minimal or nonexistent.
Some challenges in multichannel retail include keeping operations scalable, meeting requirements for expanding to additional channels and delivering a consistent experience across all channels. A multichannel approach is generally less complex than an omnichannel approach, but still requires diligence and the proper investment to make it manageable and keep customers happy.
For example, in a poorly-managed multichannel experience, a customer might get two different impressions of the brand on two different channels. In the worst case scenario, customer service, branding, promotions and even product availability is inconsistent or inaccurate depending on where the customer is shopping.
Automating as many manual processes as possible can help a business improve efficiency and reduce human error. Fortunately, many technology partners today assist businesses with product optimization and listing, order fulfillment and have experienced customer service and support teams that make it easy to expand to more channels.
In most cases, a successful multichannel retail model allows brands to increase their sales volume wherever possible, but does little in the way of creating a personalized customer experience. However, retailers who want to provide a solid omnichannel experience first need to streamline their multichannel approach, since omnichannel retail relies on the integration of multiple channels.
How Does Multichannel Retail Work?
Multichannel retail is all about making products available to shoppers. When we talk about multichannel, we’re usually referring to a mix of ecommerce sites or online shopping destinations that brands use to reach more customers. This includes ads on search engines, social media, direct sales on a marketplace, and a company’s own website. According to a report from Omnisend, a multichannel approach has a 90% higher customer retention rate than a single-channel approach.
A multichannel approach is built on a foundation of product data. Many companies choose to use ecommerce platforms for organizing their inventory and product data. Modern ecommerce platforms have many direct integrations, tools, and partnerships for helping a business solidify and streamline its online presence.
These are the basic steps for a multichannel retail approach:
1. Product data is housed on an ecommerce platform or a merchant’s website.
Before product data is syndicated anywhere, it needs to exist. Merchants can upload all the product data they have, including multiple images, descriptions, UPCs, variations like different colors and sizes, prices and stock availability. This product data repository is the source of truth for all the other places that the merchant plans to distribute their product data.
2. Product data is formatted and syndicated to external channels.
Because different channels have different data requirements, integrations and policies, the merchant’s product data cannot be exported as-is to any channel on the web. Having the right technology solutions makes this process considerably easier, especially for companies that have a high SKU count in their catalogs.
Product listing partners import the raw product data to a centralized platform, optimize the product listings to improve performance on every targeted channel and then create product feed exports to those channels using existing integrations. The product feed is continually refreshed with the most up-to-date information available about the products, such as availability, new products or price changes.
Companies can do all of this themselves, but they need to invest a significant amount of time and money for in-house development, channel expertise and continued maintenance of their data feeds.
3. Businesses that sell products on marketplaces need to manage incoming orders from multiple channels.
To fulfill orders from a marketplace, a business must receive the order, match the ordered item to the correct product, ship it and return tracking information to the marketplace so that the customer is notified. As more marketplace channels are added to the mix, fulfilling orders becomes time-consuming, so finding ways to automate the process allows a company to significantly streamline their multichannel operations.
Product listing partners take order data from a marketplace and insert it into a merchant’s ecommerce platform as if the order was placed from the merchant’s website. Once the order is processed and fulfilled by the merchant as usual, the listing partner reports the order tracking information back to the website.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel Differences
Although an omnichannel strategy is built on a multichannel foundation, there are key differences in the customer experience, goals and execution.
1. Omnichannel is more customer focused, and multichannel is more product focused.
An omnichannel strategy relies on identifying all of the touchpoints between a customer and a brand, and finding ways to capitalize on those moments to increase convenience for the customer or enhance the customer’s connection to the brand. In a multichannel strategy, businesses try to put products in front of as many valuable customers as possible, but the emphasis is primarily on increasing their online presence, not on deepening the customer experience.
2. Omnichannel retail links channels directly so that they work together, and multichannel does not integrate channels with each other.
Omnichannel retail typically refers to the way brick-and-mortar stores and a business’ online operations work in tandem. Multichannel retail refers to a business with physical storefronts and online stores, but the operations are siloed into separate channels of the overall business rather than integrated.
Multichannel marketing uses a variety of channels to send a customer the same content or unrelated content, while omnichannel marketing builds upon interactions on other channels in order to advance the customer journey at any touchpoint.
3. An omnichannel approach creates new customer experiences, while a multichannel approach limits the customer’s experience to the capabilities of individual channels.
Leveraging different channel capabilities together enables brands to create new and memorable customer experiences that consumers wouldn’t normally get through a single channel.
A multichannel approach helps customers find products they want and lets them make purchases on channels they’re already comfortable with—such as Amazon—but the customer’s brand exposure is limited to that site. The brand can employ additional marketing tactics to incorporate its Amazon business into a holistic omnichannel strategy.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel Examples
There are numerous ways to execute an omnichannel or multichannel retail strategy. Both are built on a foundation of well-organized product data, but an omnichannel approach includes marketing efforts that are more personalized, or require data synchronization that is more complex than a siloed multichannel setup.
Check out the following examples to see how businesses leverage these models.
1. Omnichannel: Online product data is displayed in a physical store.
Brick-and-mortar stores can use in-store kiosks to display online inventory that doesn’t fit on shelves, or isn’t currently available at their location, such as luxury models of a product. Retailers might also showcase a popular product as a floor model to help customers get a sense of the product and imagine it in their homes, but then choose to make the product available through an online order with in-store pickup or home delivery as fulfillment options.
Omnichannel retailers can also feature product reviews on the shelves or on display stands. Displaying reviews can be as simple as showing the star rating and the total number of reviews, or as detailed as showcasing a full write-up from a customer. By linking the review display to an online source, the information is kept current as new reviews are added.
This feature is effective because it delivers an experience that customers already seek out on their own, thus maximizing convenience for them. According to a study from RetailMeNot, more than two-thirds of in-store customers prefer to look up customer reviews for products or services on their smartphones before approaching a store associate. Accounting for this behavior allows the retailer to improve the customer experience while also reducing opportunities for the customer to get sidetracked on other websites.
2. Omnichannel: Click-and-collect options combine the ease of online shopping with in-store availability.
Click-and-collect refers to a customers’ ability to shop online and collect their purchased items from a local store. For example, buy-online-pickup-in-store, commonly referred to as BOPIS, enables customers to visit the website of a nearby brick-and-mortar location, see which products are in stock, make a purchase online, and pick up the order from the store within a few hours. BOPIS surged in popularity during the pandemic but should retain its popularity due to the increased convenience it provides.
Curbside pickup is another popular model of click-and-collect that allows customers to make purchases in the same manner as BOPIS. The only difference is instead of entering the store to collect the order, the customers wait in their vehicles and an associate brings the product to the parking lot or a space designated for curbside pickup.
Another model, buy-online-return-in-store, or BORIS, improves the online shopping experience because customers don’t have to worry about mailing a package back to the merchant if they need to return it. They can return their product to a brick-and-mortar location, receive a refund, and the store handles the return process from there. As an added benefit, customers may continue shopping once they’re in the store.
3. Multichannel: A brand sells products on its website, distributes them to retailers, advertises products on Google and Facebook, and lists additional products on Amazon.
This is a common multichannel approach that uses advertising, marketplaces, direct sales, and wholesale to reach as many customers as possible. Each of the channels are a different facet of the company’s business, with the main goal being sales on each platform.
For this model to succeed, it’s important to deliver a solid customer experience on each channel so that none of them become a liability to the business’ reputation.
Advertising can be expensive, so one challenge for the business is to optimize the product listing ads and campaigns in order to bring the most valuable customers to its website, where they become more familiar with the brand’s voice, look, and promotions. Another challenge is keeping the ads up-to-date so that customers can find what they’re looking for, and so that merchants can keep their advertising privileges. For example, merchants who create Google Shopping campaigns can have their Google Merchant Center accounts suspended if they violate Google’s policies.
Listing products on Amazon helps businesses reach customers who are already comfortable shopping on Amazon, but the challenges here are adhering to Amazon’s listing and fulfillment requirements, winning the buy box, paying commissions, and maintaining a positive seller rating to not lose selling privileges. The payoff is that Amazon has a massive audience of highly engaged online shoppers. Over 150 million people are Amazon Prime subscribers, and 20% of those Prime members shop on Amazon multiple times per week.
A business that has mastered multichannel retail is able to syndicate its product data on multiple advertising channels and marketplaces, streamline its order fulfillment process, and continue expanding in a scalable way.
When Should You Choose Omnichannel or Multichannel?
Retailers have proven success with omnichannel and multichannel strategies, so the key is choosing the right strategy and executing it effectively and consistently.
1. When should you choose omnichannel?
An omnichannel retail strategy relies on a strong multichannel backbone. If a business doesn’t have a streamlined and consistent approach to its multichannel operations, then customers will have a negative experience when they are the center of an omnichannel approach. For example, imagine a customer who purchases a product online, arrives at the store to pick it up, and is informed that the inventory displayed online was inaccurate and the order was cancelled (without notifying the customer). If the systems don’t work independently, they won’t work together.
Developing an omnichannel approach requires significant investment and continued maintenance. Businesses without sufficient in-house resources need to invest in the right tech solution. Because omnichannel seeks to create personalized customer experiences, the investment is higher than it would be for a multichannel setup, but the payoff is improved customer retention and brand loyalty due to increased customer engagement.
2. When should you choose multichannel?
Companies that want to reach more customers can find success listing products in more places. Before deciding which channels to advertise or sell on, it’s a good idea to do some research to determine if the products are accepted on the channel, if it would be profitable in light of different fees per channel, if there is a market for the products on a particular channel, and if the business is prepared to handle an increase in volume or operations without sacrificing quality.
Multichannel is a good option for businesses that don’t want to invest in a full omnichannel approach, but the right tech stack is still necessary to streamline their multichannel operations. Businesses that aren’t able to automate a significant portion of the work in a multichannel setup will become overwhelmed as they grow.
An omnichannel retail strategy links brick-and-mortar locations with online channels to deliver an integrated multichannel experience for customers. The goal is to increase customer convenience and personalize the customer journey to spur greater engagement and customer retention.
An omnichannel strategy centers the customer and ensures that each touchpoint provides an opportunity for consumers to purchase products, reach customer service, receive useful information, and save time. To achieve this, customer data and product data must be synced across channels, which requires an investment in the right technology.
Retailers have the ability to blend features of online and physical stores to deliver a convenient and memorable customer experience. Offers like BOPIS and in-store product reviews, as well as loyalty programs that are accessible on mobile, desktop, or in-store, can make the shopping experience feel seamless.
A multichannel retail strategy uses multiple channels to put a brand’s products in front of as many valuable shoppers as possible. There is minimal integration between channels, so the product data on each channel should be synced with the central data source to ensure that product listings are consistently up-to-date. This still requires an investment in the right technology to make expansion manageable and scalable, and ensure that the channels don’t become a liability to the brand’s overall reputation.
Both omnichannel and multichannel approaches offer the potential for increased customer satisfaction compared to the single channel approach, but they are more complex as well. With the proper planning and the right technology, moving beyond a single-channel model can be highly rewarding for a business.
No matter the size of your online store, product descriptions play a key role in your ecommerce business.
Effective product descriptions can possibly lure potential customers. Good product descriptions can potentially influence a purchase decision. Great product descriptions can ultimately help improve conversion rates and increase sales.
The technical details, including the use of power words and A/B tests, can be the difference between a potential buyer on your ecommerce website and those customers shopping at a competitor with similar products.
Business owners, marketers and copywriters all know the importance of writing product descriptions, but what’s the best way to help reach your target audience?
What are Product Descriptions?
A product description is a form of marketing copy used to describe and explain the benefits of your product. In other words, it provides all the information and details of your product on your ecommerce site.
These product details can be one sentence, a short paragraph or bulleted. They can be serious, funny or quirky. They can be located right next to or underneath product titles and product images. They can be scannable selling points or have strong readability.
There are multiple styles and ways to make product descriptions work for your ecommerce store, but there’s much more to them than simple copywriting.
Creating the Best Product Descriptions
There’s no doubt product descriptions can help take your business to the next level, but what should they say? How long should they be? Which format is best? How do you make the products rank high for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Here’s a product description template to follow:
1. Think about the who, what, when, where, why and how before writing.
This method is often used by journalists to provide facts in their stories and it is the first step in crafting a product description.
- Who is this product for? The target audience can be gender (i.e. male or female), an age group (i.e. college students or retirees), a lifestyle demographic (i.e. new mothers or car enthusiasts) or some other defined group of people.
- What are the product’s basic details? This includes attributes such as dimensions, materials, product features, cost and functions.
- When should someone use the product? Is it meant to be used during a certain time of day, seasonally or for a specific type of occasion? Just as important is pointing out if a product can or should be used every day or year-round. These details will help speak to the product’s long-term value.
- Where should someone use the product? Is it meant for indoor or outdoor use, for your car or your home?
- Why is this product useful or better than the competition? This can be anything from quality to value to features. Think about the product benefits to your customers and consider how images can complement your product copy.
- How does the product work? This may not be necessary for every product, but it’s a must-have feature if you are selling anything with moving parts or electronics.
Let’s now dive into ways to make your product pages and landing pages shine.
2. Determine the best format to describe your products.
When starting to craft your perfect product description, it’s important to determine the best format to use.
Since some online shoppers only scan text on websites, it might be helpful to use bullet points that cover the most important product details. Bullet points should generally be used for specs (like dimensions) or short phrases (like features) so they are quick and easy to read.
Unfortunately, bullet points aren’t always the best way to tell a product’s story and convince target customers that they are looking at a great deal. They can look cold and clinical on a page instead of engaging the shopper’s emotions or imagination.
To avoid those common mistakes and pain points, use prose instead.
By writing a paragraph (three or more sentences) or two about the product, retailers can set the scene and help the shopper realize why their life up to this point has been incomplete without it. It may seem daunting, but after some practice, it will become second nature and even (gasp!) fun.
This is your opportunity to be a little creative and establish a voice (personality and tone) for your brand. Just imagine you’re at a party, telling someone you’ve just met about the product. How would you describe it so that they would understand how great it truly is?
This brand voice permeates every aspect of your online marketing: social media, SEO, paid search — every customer touchpoint. Unique, compelling copy makes your products more relevant for search engines and other marketing mediums that value original content.
In fact, following this simple formula below is a great way to writing compelling product descriptions:
[Paragraph(s) of Prose] + [Bulleted List of Specs or Product Features] = [Engaging Product Description]
3. Choose goals and KPIs to measure success of your product descriptions.
You need goals to measure the success of product descriptions.
“But this is going to take a long time,” you might be thinking, especially if you rely on product descriptions from your distributors or manufacturers. And you’re right, this isn’t a quick process. However, if you can commit to writing product descriptions using the formula above, you can begin to see a variety of benefits:
- An increase in conversion rate.
- A decrease in cart abandonment.
- A lower return rate.
- Fewer calls from shoppers.
- Improved organic search rankings.
There are countless product description examples, including on platforms such as Amazon, BigCommerce and Shopify.
4. Make your product descriptions short and sweet.
Don’t overthink it. Use conversational paragraph-long descriptions to engage fans and ideal customers as well as quick bullet points with need-to-know specs to concisely convey the most important information for online shoppers.
5. Use storytelling to your advantage.
Does your product have a backstory that’s particularly special to you? Chances are it will be particularly special and endearing to your audience, too. Use that story in your product description to add more character to your item, engage your audience and win hearts and minds.
6. Don’t be afraid to boast.
Here’s how you take the product description formula above one step further. Is your product differentiated through a founder’s expertise? Is your product better because of years of testing? Is it hand-crafted? Does it get strong social proof with testimonials and product reviews?
Call that out!
Tell a better story in your short product description paragraph by including tidbits of detail that prove why your product is better than the rest. Don’t be afraid to name drop, either.
7. Get technical to win trust when needed.
If you have a more technical product, don’t be afraid to get in the weeds with your product description. Prove to your customer your brand’s expertise in the industry by providing all possible details they’d need to know before they ever even have to ask.
8. Know when to show and not tell.
Text isn’t always the best way to describe your product. If you are getting too wordy, think about how you can simplify.
Images carry weight and are better remembered by customers. If possible, show off your product in a visual that explains exactly what the product does.
9. Know when to show, tell and describe.
Other than graphics, videos can be an effective way to showcase how to use a product or why it is better than others. Many brands use videos, graphics and text to drive the point home.
10. Don’t be afraid to be unique.
While a short paragraph description on a product page is a best practice, know when that isn’t what your audience wants. Every industry and online business is unique. Do you know your customer well enough to know they won’t read that product description? Are all of your customers scanners?
Pull out the content that is most important to them and find engaging, visual ways to get all the relevant information to them without any headache. Your buyer personas should inform the overall form and approach toward your product descriptions, including the website design and white space on the page.
Go Big or Go Home
In all, it’s important to first know your audience in order to determine what kind of content will best speak to them to increase conversions.
The ecommerce product description formula works for most brands, but it’s only a starting point.
Think visually. Add graphics and optimize your product images. A/B test copy and get personal on those pages. Look at Google Search Console to identify popular terms and power words so you can improve SEO traffic to the product page.
Whether you’re selling t-shirts or strollers, shoppers like to buy from people they trust and building trust is different based on what you are selling.
From the moment you use a website builder and construct your site’s design, think about how images and descriptions can work in harmony to tell your story to customers. There are countless examples of product descriptions, but find the best fit for your business.
Know your audience. Know your product. And then, show and tell with your online shop descriptions.
The 2020 holiday season was — to borrow an overused but nevertheless true phrasing — unprecedented.
For months, ecommerce experts had been predicting record ecommerce sales. After all, the results of the COVID-19 pandemic kept many from seeing their loved ones in person or from shopping in physical stores. Many of those predictions came true.
In fact in 2020, U.S. consumers broke records holiday shopping during Cyber 5, with online sales rising 20.6% year-over-year.
Now as the 2021 holiday season approaches, many retail businesses are wondering what this year has in store.
We talked to ecommerce experts from around the industry to learn what they believe are the trends most driving the 2021 holiday season.
Here’s what they said.
Increased Online and Hybrid Shopping
“As we head into the 2021 holiday season, even as in-store shopping begins to reopen its doors once again in certain regions, online shopping is here to stay and will continue to grow. More consumers are continuing to shop on mobile devices and the digital realm is entering the walls of traditional stores. The future of retail is both online and offline.
Before ever stepping foot into a physical store, shoppers are encountering various digital touchpoints as they go through their decision-making process. They can research product details, find customer reviews and recommendations, as well as compare pricing. Pairing together offline strengths and online advantages is the key to enhancing interactions with customers whether they choose to buy online or in store this holiday season. Delivering an exceptional customer shopping experience is key.”
Mike Esposito – Content Producer, 1Digital Agency
…But Also Be Prepared for More Ways to Shop
“It’s tempting to assume the biggest trend that will impact the 2021 holiday season will be a greater influx of shoppers, based on the fact that ecommerce has grown explosively over the past year. However, we believe that unpredictability will be the greatest challenge for online businesses.
It’s hard to predict where the largest segment of shoppers will come from. No doubt, this online shopping season will be busy, but at the same time, shoppers from across the country have cabin fever. Many may be itching to get out and back into malls and outlets.
It’s hard to say whether more shoppers will stay hunkered down and continue to shop exclusively online, if most of them will be raring to get out and back into the traditional retail holiday experience, or if there’s going to be a healthy mix. Businesses with both online and brick-and-mortar locations had better be prepared for both scenarios.”
Connie Wong, Marketing Manager, Silk Software
“While many states and municipalities are reopening, the lessons of the COVID-19 era will shape retail for years to come and possibly forever.
Many merchants have felt the squeeze of supply chain limitations. It’s more essential than ever to have a diverse array of products, services and channels for fulfillment. Creating a comprehensive ecommerce strategy can ensure you have the functionality in place to further adapt when customers’ needs inevitably change again.”
Sarah Toth, VP Marketing & Partnerships, Guidance
Leverage Omnichannel Marketing
“The long-perceived norms of holiday shopping have been flipped on their head. And more so than ever before, we can expect a season full of surprises. They may not know to ask for it by name, but omnichannel marketing is precisely what our consumers need.
Consumers want to know that despite the channel for engagement, or whether they decide to step out and shop or do it from the comfort of their couch, they will receive the same exceptional experience.
Above all else, they want consistency, hyper-personalized messaging and convenience.”
Alita Harvey-Rodriguez, Managing Director, MI Academy
“Have a complete omnichannel nurture cycle! Merchants who do not have their dynamic email and retargeting campaigns set up will have a tough time reaching their optimal conversion rates and CPAs.”
Duran Inci, CEO, Optimum7.com
Give Shoppers What They Want: Convenient Options
“The biggest trend this holiday season will be “convenience.” Shoppers will be asking.
- Can I order online, when and how I want?
- Can I pick up in store when I want?
- Can I reserve in store and have the product waiting for me to try?
- Can I get immediate delivery?
- Can I return my purchase through a simple collection service, or return to the store and have replacement goods waiting for me?
Retailers that develop strategies based on these “5 C’s” of convenience will be in a great position for this holiday season.”
Alan Moore., Group Managing Director, RANDEMRETAIL
“Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) will be important. The majority of the shopping process will happen online, but I also believe that more inventory will be allocated away from retail and made available for easy delivery nationally.”
Michael Payne, Director of Sales, Silk Software
Shopping on Mobile Is One to Watch
“Purchasing on mobile is the one to watch. Shopping on mobile devices is easy to do on-the-go for shoppers, especially for last-minute purchases. However, cart abandonment can be higher on mobile. This is a trend that online retailers should try to curb by providing a frictionless mobile shopping experience, and by remembering that people are more inclined to make a purchase from their mobile device if a discount is available.
Deliver discounts cleverly by offering a coupon code once a customer subscribes to your newsletter. That way you have their contact information and you can continue to nurture them by email, too. You can also display a very enticing offer on exit intent to keep customers on your site and incentivize them to complete their purchase.”
Emilie Murphy, Product Marketing Manager, POWR
Prepare for Shoppers Starting Early
“Consumers will start shopping early. Supply chain disruptions from the past year have left a lasting impact on perceptions. Last year, we heard that 70% of shoppers intended to shop early to avoid both crowds and items being out of stock. Similar trends are expected this year. To meet early demand, retailers should consider launching holiday plans and promotions earlier than usual.”
Erin Sagin, Product Marketing Manager, Google
Merchants Need to Prepare Inventory Early, Too
“Be aware of supply chain constraints. Typically, retailers need to order their items anywhere from 3-9 months ahead of time in order to be able to fulfill them on time for the holidays. Global supply chains are seeing major shortages as production capacity is tapped out and consumer demand is increasing. Will retailers be able to buy enough inventory? Will it come on time? Will shipping woes continue or will stores reopening spread out consumer demand and lighten the load on carriers?”
Jake Cohen, Head of Customer Marketing, Klaviyo, www.klaviyo.com
Social Media Will Grow in Importance
“More people than ever before will buy their holiday gifts on social media. This might not be anything new, but with the lasting effects of the pandemic, consumers are turning to more digital channels. What’s more, brand discovery now takes place — more often than not, and during the holidays for sure — on handheld devices. Social media is to thank for that as 45% of people who discovered something new online last season said it was a gift for someone. So, this holiday season, make sure your social strategy is in top form — as it could make you lots of sales.”
Chris Cano, Content Lead, dotdigital
Facebook for BigCommerce gives merchants the tools they need to thrive across Facebook and Instagram. Check out our guide on how to sell on Instagram to learn more about how it works, setting up product tags and more.
Online Experience as a Differentiator
“As more and more customers are shopping online, the demand for remarkable customer experiences is at an all-time high. During the holiday season, it can be hard for merchants to differentiate themselves exclusively on price. With a bit of creativity, minimal investment and a good dose of empathy, merchants can win over customers with a stellar customer experience from first touch through to post-purchase interactions.”
Francis Pilon, Head of Global Partnerships, LimeSpot
Reviews Will Play a Big Factor
“Reviews will play an increasingly more important role this year in the 2021 holiday season. In fact, the provision of reviews and social proof has been flagged as vital to success. It’s recommended that brands and retailers offer shoppers anything to help educate, encourage and increase the chance of conversion.
In fact, 70% of ANZ shoppers read at least one review prior to making an online purchase (source: BigCommerce report). Consumers want to be fully educated prior to purchase and are happy to do their research and retailers need to offer this, or risk losing sales.
Additionally, consumers will be looking for three things in the reviews — realness, recency and relationships. Consumers want to see a mix of both positive and negative reviews. Trust is therefore the number one factor when it comes to reviews and their impact on increasing conversion.”
Steph Gillies, Head of Marketing & Communications, Trustpilot
SMS Marketing Will Be A Must-Have Channel
“SMS is no longer a nice-to-have channel, but a must-have one — especially during the holidays.
Last year, Omnisend sent 378% more SMS messages than in 2019, with Q4 accounting for 68% of those sends. While SMS conversion rates increased more than 100% YoY, they were especially impactful during the holidays.
On Black Friday, SMS accounted for 2.5% of sales across all channels, and accounted for 19% of all November SMS orders. Expanding out, the Cyber Ten generated 72% of all November orders.
We expect this trend to accelerate. First, consumers are increasingly adopting SMS as a preferred communication channel. Second, with marketers unable to re-send marketing emails to non-openers due to the iOS update, we anticipate SMS will fill that void while breaking through seasonally-cluttered inboxes to drive promotional awareness.”
Whitney Blankenship, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Omnisend
Time will tell how the upcoming holiday season will go. Will shoppers be excited to return to stores or will they continue to enjoy the convenience of online for much of their holiday shopping? What channels will they flock to and what features will earn their business?
Our best advice is to prepare by covering your bases as much as possible. Prepare your site early. Serve customers everywhere they shop. And provide a seamless shopping experience. For more information on getting your website ready to deliver holiday magic, check out our guide.
There’s a reason that ecommerce has become a multi-trillion dollar industry — to the tune of a projected $6.5 trillion in sales globally by 2023. Even after the effects of the COVID pandemic subside, the global appetite for the convenience of online shopping is not going away, particularly during the busy holiday season. Selling online is the future of retail.
But the competition is also increasing. Unless you sell a very niche product, chances are, you’re not the only one. It’s increasingly important that you cement your brand in customers’ minds with not just your products but the experience of buying them.
Shift to the mind of the consumer — from selling online to buying online. What do shoppers most value? In many cases, it’s their time. They want stores to cater to when, how and where they want to shop. You need to provide an omnichannel experience that follows them through the entire buying journey seamlessly.
To meet what modern buyers want — and at this point expect — you need to provide a frictionless purchasing experience. Frictionless purchase provides exactly what a shopper needs in the moment that they need it without them having to think about it. It eliminates points of hassle that lead a would-be customer to abandon their cart and decide to shop later (or, worse, shop elsewhere).
In this guide, we’re sharing the five steps to achieving frictionless purchase on your site along with some of the tools to help optimize your tech stack to achieve them.
Step 1: Make it Easy to Buy
Your marketing worked. The shopper is on your site. They found something they love, and they’re ready to buy. All the hurdles are cleared, right?
Not exactly. The sale can be more tenuous than you realize, even after an item is in the shopper’s cart. In fact, Baymard calculated the average cart abandonment rate (based on 44 reported statistics) to be almost 70%.
Here’s what you need to do to foster conversions and make it as easy as possible to complete the purchase.
1. Prime your site for purchase.
The road to purchase starts before they hit the checkout page. You need a gorgeous site that inspires confidence in your brand and makes customers want to buy your products again and again. If you’re not a web developer, you can use tools like Shogun Page Builder to easily design a beautiful site that entices shoppers to purchase. Shogun is an intuitive drag-and-drop solution for creating and managing page content that lets you design a custom site without relying on coding or developers. And it seamlessly connects with BigCommerce stores.
2. Personalize the experience.
Another thing to consider with the experience you provide is to tailor it to the customer. Customers expect if they’ve shopped with you before, you won’t treat them like a stranger and will ease the path to purchase. In fact, 63% of shoppers expect their purchase history to direct personalized encounters from brands.
Create custom storefront experiences with LimeSpot. LimeSpot Personalizer is an AI-powered personalization platform that empowers marketers and ecommerce professionals to deliver 1:1 personalized shopping experiences across web, mobile, emails and ads. LimeSpot makes it easy for brands to create a customized storefront experience for each customer.
3. Optimize your checkout experience.
Reasons for cart abandonment vary (and we’ll talk about more of them below), but one study found that 21% of online shoppers in the United States have abandoned their shopping carts due to a long, complicated checkout process. The checkout experience is a key place to reduce friction and there are a number of tools that can help you do it. Adding a digital wallet to your checkout is an easy first step. Shoppers expect your payment gateway to include either Apple Pay, Google Pay or similar. But don’t add too many — the goal is to create a simple checkout experience
- Offer easy payments with Stripe. Stripe works with the BigCommerce platform to allow you to collect payment through a robust, single-click integration. Encourage shoppers to convert by offering digital wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. The integration also supports international payment methods including SEPA, iDEAL and Alipay, so your global customers can use their currency and payment method of choice.
- Take checkout off your shoulders with Bolt. Bolt solves the complicated technological challenges involved in checkout, fraud detection and digital wallets, so you can focus your energy on what matters most — growing your product, brand and customer base.
- Let them pay you later with Paypal or Sezzle. Let customers buy what they want without stressing about immediate payment (and without you worrying about payment either). Pay Later from Paypal and Sezzle both offer short-term, interest-free installments and other special financing options that buyers can use to buy now and pay later, while merchants get paid up-front.
- Improve the shipping experience with ShipperHQ. Give your shoppers accurate rates, estimated delivery dates and the right choices in checkout — so you can use your shipping to gain a competitive edge. ShipperHQ lets you provide these options up-front and in-cart with real-time shipping rates for 50+ carriers and methods including LTL freight, same day delivery and cross-border options.
4. Help them find what they need.
Another potential point of friction for customers: finding what they want to buy. Some customers arrive at your site looking to browse the inventory, and others have a clear idea what they want. Regardless of their intent, anyone who lands on your site should be able to find what they need without having to dig. Here are some solutions that can help.
Improve customer search with Klevu and Fast Simon. Klevu is a leading, end-to-end discovery platform for ecommerce businesses that enables merchants to deliver personalized and intelligent search and navigation experiences for their shoppers. Klevu’s search engine brought them the level of precision their customers needed to find their products, and one customer seeing a 19.8% increase in revenue after switching. Fast Simon is a leading shopping optimization platform that drives ecommerce search, AI-powered merchandising and personalization, based on shopper behavior, store inventory, data and visual signals for thousands of fast-growing BigCommerce merchants.
5. Persuade them to buy.
Sometimes customers just need a little extra nudge to get them to commit to their order. From inventory callouts to ratings and reviews or leveraging user-generated content, there are a number of ways to amplify your powers of persuasion, and there are a number of solutions that can help.
- Let your loyal customers do the talking with Yotpo. Reviews from existing customers are a powerful conversion tactic. And their importance is continuing to grow. According to one survey, 34% of consumers report checking reviews of businesses and services more frequently than they did before the 2020 lockdown. But how to get customers to leave reviews and leverage them efficiently? Tools like Yotpo help BigCommerce businesses generate tons of product and site reviews, photos, videos, Q&A and other user-generated content and use them to drive traffic and conversions.
- Create urgency with Nudgify. FOMO is another great tool of persuasion, and Nudgify can help you let customers know what they might miss out on. The tool connects to your BigCommerce store and allows you to pick from a library of Nudges to show customers real data from your store such as recent orders (sales pop), which products are selling out and more.
Step 2: Inspire Customer Confidence
Another point of friction for shoppers is if they see any indicators a site might not be reputable or have strong security to protect their data from a breach. They’re right to be concerned. Online retailers deal with around 206,000 attacks on their stores each month. You need to display your reliability and security before, during and after purchase. Here are some tools to help you do it.
- Offer top site speed and security. Making sure your ecommerce platform is providing speed, reliability and security is key to broadcasting trust to site visitors. BigCommerce lets you tame operational complexity with an easy-to-use, secure platform that’s up when you need it most. BigCommerce stores come standard with Level 1 PCI compliance to make your site safe and secure.
- Deliver peace of mind with their shipments with Route. Route offers a connected suite of post-purchase solutions for online retailers that can provide customers additional peace of mind. Route allows customers to add package protection against loss, theft and damage right on the checkout page. Route also offers an immersive package tracking system so customers can follow their shipment every step of the way.
- Safely protect their purchases with Clyde. Clyde allows you to easily add a warranty program so their products are protected long after delivery. The app matches extended warranty contracts to your products and launches them directly to your live store. When your customer purchases a coverage plan they’ll receive an email from Clyde with info about their contract and what to do when something goes wrong.
Step 3: Deliver Surprise and Delight
Product delivery that’s fast and efficient can radically affect whether customers will shop with you again. According to one survey, 87% of consumers say the shipping and delivery experience directly impacts their decision to shop with the merchant again.
1. Faster, more efficient shipping.
You want the product delivery process and the unboxing experience to be just as frictionless and delightful as everything else in the process so far. We touched a little on how you can improve the shipping experience with tracking solutions above, but this step is your opportunity to really make a lasting impression on your customers. Here are some ways to kick it up a notch.
- Give them what they want even faster with ShipBob and Ware2Go. When it comes to having a positive experience with shipping, 63% say it needs to be fast and 66% require a free option. Amazon has habituated shoppers to getting their products in hand in two days or less. Third-party logistics solutions can help you compete. ShipBob works with fulfillment centers across the United States to be able to offer simple, fast, and affordable 2-day fulfillment for ecommerce businesses. Ware2Go’s NetworkVu can also make your shipping more efficient as it shows you how to build a right-sized fulfillment network that strikes a balance between your customer needs and your operational workflows. Using your client order history, seasonal demand patterns and business growth projections, the app can recommend best-fit options for fulfillment distribution that gets you faster shipping where it matters most.
- Increase your efficiency with ShipStation. When it comes to shipping and fulfillment, the more you can automate, the more time and money you can save. ShipStation makes it easy to manage all your orders from one platform and can save you time by automatically applying actions to orders based on criteria you set. Import orders by connecting a selling channel, manually creating orders, uploading a CSV, or inputting them via API. Plus, you can sync as many orders as you like, across as many sources as you use, and ship via any carrier you want with ease and speed.
- Offer branded packaging with Arka. One of the benefits of having your own ecommerce store over shipping through third-parties like Amazon is that you get to cement your brand and begin building affinity for it. Continue that through purchase and fulfillment by including your branding on your packaging. Arka provides branded and unbranded packaging for ecommerce businesses, including: boxes, protective inserts, poly mailers, tape, tissue paper and stickers. All you have to do is select the type of box you’d like, determine the sizing and quantity and then brand it with your company’s logo, messaging and colors.
- Provide updates with order tracking from Route and Narvar. Keep your customers in the know! Send your customers order status updates so they are aware when their order is ready for shipment, it’s been shipped, it’s on the way, and it’s delivered. Order tracking can cut down on customer service calls and emails, as well as provide additional transparency to your customers for a better overall experience. With Route, you can offer package tracking and order protection, which can transform the post-purchase journey from an undervalued afterthought into a loyalty-generating customer experience. If you’re looking for an app, Narvar delivers an engaging, on-brand shipment tracking and messaging experience to your customers.
2. Offer more fulfillment options.
For customers who want more than just fast shipping, providing additional options like BOPIS can be a benefit. A Digital Commerce 360 survey from August 2020 found that 43.7% of the top 500 retailers with physical stores were offering BOPIS — up from only 6.9% prior to the pandemic. And a McKinsey report found that 56% of shoppers plan to continue using BOPIS after COVID-19.
Provide an efficient offline-to-online experience with BOPIS through Randem Retail. The BOPIS App by Randem Retail enables you to turn your retail locations into pickup stores, allowing you to connect your online sales with your offline business and be everywhere your customers are.
Step 4: Make Returning Just as Easy as Purchasing
No one wants to see merchandise coming back through the doors, but providing a frictionless returns process leads to satisfied customers and even repeat customers. One survey found that 96% of consumers will go back to companies who made returns and exchanges as seamless as possible.
It’s important to ask for feedback from customers and solicit reviews so you can solve any issues early, and it’s also important that you make returns just as seamless as any other part of the process. Here’s a solution that can help.
ReadyCloud and Happy Returns makes returns solutioning a breeze. ReadyCloud helps you provide what they expect with an “Amazon-like” returns process and elevate customer communications automatically. Through the ReadyCloud Suite, you can connect your Administrative, Sales and Support Departments for better communication throughout the After-Purchase, Shipping and Returns cycles. Happy Returns has a national network of 700+ Return Bars that allow shoppers to easily return items without printing or packaging in under 60 seconds and receive refunds immediately.
Step 5: Keep Nurturing the Relationship
Depending on what you sell, a one-time customer has the potential to be a long-time repeat customer, if they are treated like one from the beginning. Continued engagement and re-engagement with your customer helps strengthen relationships and keeps you top of mind for future purchases. Here are some ways to make that happen.
1. Don’t forget to write (email and SMS marketing).
Using email and SMS can be an effective way to keep up with customers, let them know about new products they might be interested in and share upcoming promotions. Marketing during the delivery process can be an effective way to continually engage shoppers, and many brands forget to talk to customers about upsell while the package is in transit, missing the time when the shoppers are most engaged. There are tools that can help you make your outreach more effective.
- Optimize your messaging with Klaviyo and Omnisend. According to the National Client Email Report, the average email marketing program generates a 38x ROI. As a result, more than 59% of marketers cite email as their biggest source of ROI. Klaviyo helps businesses create memorable experiences across owned marketing channels — email, SMS, web and in-app notifications — by listening for and understanding cues from visitors, subscribers and customers, and turning that information into valuable, relevant messages. Omnisend is an ecommerce-tailored email and SMS marketing automation platform built to help your team drive more revenue without increasing their workload. Help convert customers with quick-to-build, highly-relevant emails & texts. Combine email with SMS and push notifications in cart recovery, welcome series, order and shipping confirmation or any custom automated workflows.
2. Retarget prospective customers.
Reminding customers about a product they left behind in their cart or even just when browsing can be a helpful conversion tool.
Reach shoppers on multiple channels with Sales and Orders. Seamlessly connect your BigCommerce store to Google, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook and Instagram and have your products imported and sent automatically while you wait.
3. Reward loyal customers.
At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of competition out there, and a loyalty program gives your customers one more reason to come back to you over trying a competitor.
Smile.io can provide you with a beautiful, branded rewards program. With Smile.io, you can launch a powerful loyalty program on your store in minutes with an engaging and real-time rewards panel that lives right on your store. A loyalty program gives your customers access to exclusive perks, attractive discounts and a fun way to engage with your brand every time they log into your store.
4. Keep them coming back.
What’s better than a one-time customer? A customer that comes back again and again, increasing their brand affinity over time and their lifetime value along with it. One way to achieve this is through subscriptions, and there are solutions to make that easier too.
Make recurring purchases easier with Recharge. Recharge makes it seamless to enable subscription offers. Merchants can manage subscription business within ReCharge’s powerful merchant portal all while enabling customers to fully manage their subscriptions directly from your store.
Ultimately, you and your customers want the same thing: to get your product in their hands with as little friction as possible. Your job is to simplify wherever possible and find efficiencies for them at every stage of the journey.
In this article, we shared a number of different solutions that can help you find those efficiencies from pre-purchase to conversion to post-purchase. However, your path to frictionless purchase will not look the same as another business’s, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Go ahead and place an order from your own website. Wait for the package to arrive at your house and ask yourself — does the experience make you want to come back?
If you’d like a little hands-on help figuring out how to remove points of friction on your site, we’re offering a free website assessment of your BigCommerce store.
Don’t have a BigCommerce store? Try one out today.
As one sage (and unknown) person is quoted as saying, “I will not be impressed with technology until I can download food from the internet.”
Perhaps that will be possible one day, but we must content ourselves with ordering almost anything we need online for now. Ecommerce, the buying and selling of goods (or services) on the internet, has become the convenient shopping choice for millions around the world — something most businesses in every industry have been quick to notice and embrace.
However, those businesses that haven’t were forced to reassess that decision when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Ecommerce is no longer a future proposition but an immediate necessity for survival.
According to Statista, 2020 saw retail ecommerce revenues top 431 billion U.S. dollars. Revenues are expected to increase to over 563 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. How can ecommerce businesses handle the incredible growth while also meeting higher-than-ever customer expectations?
IDC, a premier global market intelligence firm, has a new white paper, Better Together: SaaS Digital Commerce Platforms and ERP Help Organizations Grow Past Legacy Limitations, which declares that the answer is a combination of team effort and the right technology.
Regarding team effort, the IDC analysts write, “Meeting customer expectations is a team effort and is dependent on every area of an organization (e.g., commerce, customer service, HR, financials, supply chain).”
As to the right technology, the analysts say businesses must invest in an integrated cloud ERP and digital commerce solution, such as the native Acumatica for BigCommerce Connector, if they are going to mature and grow into enterprise-level organizations.
Before diving into what this seamless solution looks like, let’s first discuss what cloud ERP software is all about.
What is Cloud ERP?
To understand cloud ERP solutions, we must first understand cloud computing. A Microsoft Azure article provides a clear definition:
“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.”
Cloud ERP software, then, is software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows users to access Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software over an internet connection. A cloud-based ERP solution acts as a system of record for an organization. Data from the financial, distribution, CRM (etc.) systems converge within the ERP in real-time. The ERP acts as a centralized repository for all of the business’ data, integrates business processes, and provides a “single source of truth” for every employee. Additionally (and importantly), users can access the system anytime, from anywhere, using their browser-enabled device of choice.
As a general rule of thumb, if a business is relying on a legacy solution or several disconnected, cobbled-together systems to manage its complex inventory, multiple warehouses, and extensive financial requirements and is frustrated with the inefficient, labor-intensive results, then it’s time to invest in an efficient, automated cloud-based ERP solution.
Cloud ERP vs Private Cloud ERP
To fully understand cloud ERP solutions, we must understand the other ERP option available: private cloud ERP. Here’s a look at the two options.
1. Cloud ERP.
We’ve already established that cloud ERP options let users access their business applications that run on shared computing resources via the internet. This internet access allows users to integrate easily with third-party applications while also providing the agility and scalability businesses need in a dynamic economy. Cloud ERP vendors shoulder the responsibility for security, updates, and upgrades. Generally, businesses pay a subscription fee based on users or resources used (depending on the cloud ERP vendor).
2. Private Cloud ERP.
The main difference between cloud ERP systems and private cloud ERP systems is where the software is physically located. The software is bought, installed, and maintained in a business’ own facility. The organization’s IT department is solely responsible for deploying application software and for the ongoing upkeep and security of the software and hardware. Initial costs for software licenses and hardware can be prohibitive. Remote access, while possible, is not usually an integrated function. Instead, it may require help from a third-party application and device.
Challenges of Using Private Cloud ERP
All ERP options have their unique challenges, but private cloud ERP challenges are something businesses, particularly small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs), should pay attention to.
For example, private cloud ERP solutions can sometimes cost more to implement and maintain with a larger capital expenditure upfront. Businesses are forced to keep a full-time IT staff on hand. Private cloud solutions frequently require longer times to deploy, require more hardware to accommodate added users, and may lack mobile accessibility.
Also, private cloud ERP solutions are often legacy systems that lack modern integration capabilities. The result is siloed teams (marketing, sales, finance, and IT not on the same page) and customers suffer as a result.
When Does a Cloud ERP Make Business Sense for an Online Store?
Now that we understand the differences between the different ERP solutions available (and the challenges), it’s time to bring ecommerce back into the picture.
Ecommerce businesses require an ecommerce platform to get their products/services in front of their customers and into their customers’ hands. An ecommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations.
According to IDC’s Whitepaper, whichever ecommerce platform businesses choose, it must combine seamlessly and natively with an ERP solution—preferably, a cloud ERP solution.
“The most successful digital businesses are those that have an overarching digital transformation strategy and select ERP and digital commerce systems that are tightly integrated or coupled,” IDC analysts write. “Importantly, a future-proof digital business platform leverages modern SaaS systems built for the cloud.”
A cloud ERP solution always makes good business sense for an online store, and the benefits of cloud ERP systems bears this out.
Benefits of Using Cloud ERP for Ecommerce
In many cases, Cloud ERP solutions can provide faster implementation times, lower upfront costs, and real-time synchronized communication with ecommerce platforms. Cloud ERP solutions with an ecommerce vertical, like Acumatica’s Retail-Commerce Edition, provide businesses with numerous other benefits, including:
1. Flexibility and adaptability.
One of the biggest indicators of a business’ success is how they can flex with inevitable market fluctuations. With the right cloud ERP solution, businesses can make necessary customizations without the aid of a full IT staff, easily adapting their back-office business processes and workflows, as well as their customer-facing applications, to changing circumstances.
Additionally, each merchant operates in unique ways. Each has unique customer expectations, unique product data and sometimes complex but required order processing procedures. Again, through configuration and no-code tools, the right cloud ERP solution will adapt to the unique workflows that a merchant requires, rather than requiring the merchant to fit into the ERP’s software.
2. Better security.
Because cloud-based ERP software is hosted by data centers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, they have the resources SMBs may not have to provide top-notch security. The benefits of using a cloud hosting service include:
- Control of physical access to the equipment.
- Environmental protection.
- Protection against unforeseen disasters.
- Network intrusion prevention, detection, and audit tools.
- Regular system maintenance.
3. Can sustain business growth.
When businesses grow, they expect their business management solution to grow with them, but that’s not always possible. Legacy solutions have a difficult time keeping up with the constant technological innovation we see happening every day.
Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, receive consistent updates and upgrades. These improvements allow ecommerce businesses to remain competitive and open the door to continued growth.
4. Compatible with many tools.
Regardless of what a business sells or what service it provides, it needs to integrate with critical business applications, such as those provided in the Acumatica Marketplace. If a business needs to extend the Acumatica platform, Acumatica more than likely has a technology partner that can help them do so.
For example, BigCommerce for Acumatica allows businesses to receive and process orders, manage inventory, set prices, and process inbound logistics all in Acumatica.
Steps of Cloud ERP Implementation
By now, connecting a cloud ERP solution with an ecommerce platform for ecommerce business success may be sounding like a wise decision. If so, there are a few steps to take when choosing and implementing a cloud ERP solution. It’s important to note that cloud ERP providers may differ slightly in the number and naming of steps, but the end result is the same: ecommerce success.
In step one, ecommerce businesses should take the time to research their options thoroughly. Comparing and contrasting the many cloud ERP systems on the market today may take some time but rushing through this part of the process could lead to making a poor choice.
One easy way to research and then evaluate options is by using an evaluation checklist, such as Acumatica’s Business Management System Evaluation Checklist. It helps businesses compare the features and benefits of different vendors based on five categories: Productivity, Functionality, Technology, Value, and Risk.
Using this checklist (or any like it), checking out what technology analysts have to say about various cloud ERP options, and reading customer reviews will go a long way toward helping businesses find the right system for them.
Step two is installing the software. This first requires the assembling of an internal team to help with the installation. These teams often include an Executive Sponsor, a Project Lead (or Project Manager), a Technical Lead and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
Within this step is the need to define your requirements. For Acumatica customers, requirements are classified as essential, desirable, not an immediate need, and nice to have. The result is a list of features and functions that are affordable and fit the timeline for the project.
The migration of data from the old system to the new is a complex process, but a checklist can help make it orderly and defined. Acumatica’s data migration checklist is a good example:
- Ensure all existing customer contact information is accurate and up to date
- Remove incorrect or redundant data (discontinued vendors, contacts no longer with the company)
- Remove incorrect or out-of-date company data (old part numbers, discontinued products).
- Set up your Acumatica database
- Map your legacy ERP data to the new Acumatica database fields
- Transfer the data to the new system
- Test the new system to verify all legacy data has been moved and is accessible
- Verify new data can be added to the system (new product information, inventory item location, new customer information)
Before any new product or service is placed into the hands of a customer, it should be tested and approved. Cloud ERP vendors will have their own methods and procedures for developing a test plan, but most test plans will test each requirement within the system.
The testing may follow these general guidelines:
- Objective: purpose of the test
- Requirement: the specific requirement being tested
- Setup: required system configurations to carry out the test
- Procedure: step-by-step process to carry out the test)
- Test Data: if necessary—an SME can produce this and test data should represent real-world situations
- Expected Result: the results that should be produced if the system is performing according to requirements
- Pass/Fail: determines if the test was successful
- Comments: added observations, system behavior, and partial successes
Training is an incredibly important step. If users and system administrators are not trained correctly from the beginning, they may not get on board fully and the new cloud ERP system will not be utilized to its full potential.
The cloud ERP vendor should provide training assistance as well as the training courses and documentation needed for a complete training experience.
Deployment is also called “go-live.” This is the big day (or days), and the cloud ERP vendor will be on hand to hit the go-live button.
The first decision during this step is deciding when to go live. This is typically on a day or days that will impact the business the least. From there, businesses will need to decide if they want to activate the new system and deactivate the old system simultaneously, if they want to move forward in a phased approach, or if they want to have the systems running at the same time.
Whichever activation method is chosen, the end result is a business running on a flexible, mobile cloud ERP solution…but there is one more thing.
After the excitement of a successful go-live, there are always questions and further assistance, such as the possible need to integrate with third-party and custom applications. The cloud ERP provider should be on hand as the business continues to refine their business processes and for any ongoing support needs.
Ecommerce businesses are experiencing a booming economy and are anticipating even further growth in the years ahead. However, to fully enjoy the benefits of such an economy, these businesses must be efficient, flexible, and adaptable, which is possible when they adopt the right cloud ERP solution that natively integrates with the right ecommerce platform.
“Already at an all-time high, the rate of change in the global economy is expected to continue accelerating over the next decade,” IDC analysts write. “To adapt to this change and remain competitive, B2B and B2C merchants need modern front-office and back-office applications that are tightly integrated. Such tightly integrated applications provide resiliency so that merchants can adapt to hurdles with agility instead of waiting for their systems to catch up.”
The combined forces of BigCommerce and Acumatica will bring much needed automation to ecommerce businesses, helping them streamline their many business processes, compete within a growing domestic and international marketplace, and ultimately, succeed in today’s marketplace.
Many moons ago, merchants embarked on long journeys to far away lands.
Traveling in caravans, sailing on schooners or riding atop of a horse, fearless traders wandered many miles from home to source products the local folk had never seen before.
Historical trade routes such as the Silk Road, the Amber Road and the Trans-Saharan Trade Route crisscrossed the globe and linked unique communities with one another.
Today, merchants can take the same amazing journey without leaving the comforts of their homes. Thanks to the increase in global connectivity, sourcing and trading products has become much easier.
What is Product Sourcing?
Product sourcing is the process by which a business attains stock to sell. To find marketable inventory for your online store, you can explore manufacturers, wholesalers, artisans and other types of creators and businesses who produce merch for sale.
Typically, the product sourcing process includes:
After reading this post, you’ll learn where to find product suppliers for your online store, what things to consider during negotiations and how to stock inventory your consumers will love!
Types of Product Sourcing
The world of supply is wide-ranging and wonderful. But it’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of research.
To keep your search productive, prioritize the following five sourcing vectors:
- DIY products or services
- Manufacturers or wholesalers
- Trade shows
No option is inherently better than another, but there are a variety of factors to weigh when determining which works best for your business — and for you.
1. DIY products or services.
In 2020, the global handicraft market was valued at $647 billion.
From solo artisans producing exquisite handmade jewelry to acre-wide ateliers weaving heritage Persian rugs, there are many curious options you can explore.
Or perhaps, you are eager to join the maker economy — a movement of people, producing their own products for sale. If you have your hands itchy, this can be a great starter.
Another angle on DIY? Consider selling DIY kits and supplies to others. That’s what brands like Artbeads do — sell customers the joy of crafting their own jewelry!
Advantages of selling DIY products:
- One-of-a-kind products, competitors cannot replicate
- Full control over product quality
- Ability to pivot to new ideas fast
- Direct control over inventory
- Growing consumer interest
Disadvantages of selling DIY products:
- Potentially higher cost of goods sold (COGS)
- Constant need to source raw products
- Extra production space required
- Limits business scaling abilities
A Checklist to Get You Started
Flea markets, craft stores, estate sales, established retail businesses or even friends and family could provide you with raw materials for reworking. Determine what you need, where you’ll get the supplies and how much they’ll cost.
Decide on your pricing.
Materials and labor will present the bulk of your costs. But there are some operational costs too such as product handling, packaging, shipping, marketing, etc. Make sure that you pack these all into the price to take home a good Return on Sale (ROS).
Calculate how long your products take to make.
Mind the manufacturing time frame. Or else you risk having unbalanced stock. In addition, you need to decide if you will make items on order or keep stock on hand.
Determine how you’ll ship orders.
Will you be running to the post office yourself or hire a shipping service? Where do you plan to ship and how much should you charge? Write down the answers.
Learn what it will take to ship.
Give thought to packaging, since it will have downstream effects on total costs and could create shipping challenges later on. Look into companies like Noissue, which make it possible for your packages to reflect your brand feel. After all, the rise of the “unboxing experience” could have a long-lasting effect on your customer experience.
Consider where you’ll store your inventory.
Even if you’re small enough to legally run your business out of your home, that probably won’t scale with your business. Look into alternatives like renting a space, opening a retail storefront for BOPIS or using a 3PL.
Make a plan for communicating timelines.
You ought to set expectations about the turnaround times for products and orders. Add quick notes in your product description. Plus, in your shipping and returns policy. Then, reiterate it in your transactional emails. It’s best to be upfront and transparent so your customers feel confident purchasing from you.
2. Manufacturers or wholesalers.
Working with a manufacturer or wholesaler means you’re hiring a third party to provide the product for you:
- Manufacturers can either produce custom goods up to your specs or sell their standard stock (with customizations)
- Wholesalers merely supply you with the inventory they have sourced themselves elsewhere.
Either is a good option if you can’t produce the goods yourself or when you are ready to scale your DIY manufacturing. Also, it’s a great way to diversify your inventory and carry other brands, popular with your target audiences.
Many online brands today choose to go the direct-to-commerce (DTC) route. They commission goods directly from a vetted manufacturer and have them ship the products straight to the customer without any intermediaries.
By the end of 2021, ecommerce DTC sales in the US are poised to reach $21.15 billion. You probably heard about DTC startups, now valued at billion dollars, such as Away, Casper and Warby Parker among others.
But there are many more small and mid-market companies, pursuing the DTC route. Burrow is one innovative example. The modular furniture retailer managed to reduce their product manufacturing prices by a sizable notch by working as a manufacturer.
Sourcing products from a wholesaler or distributor has its perks too. As you can immediately access a wide selection of inventory, compare prices and negotiate bulk purchase discounts. Moreover, you can stay in better control of supply as you’d be dealing with one company, rather than many people at once.
Advantages of working with manufacturers and wholesalers:
- Great deal of assistance with production and supply
- Ability to scale product catalog and carry more brands
- Access to new niche products and custom goods
- Risk diversification and minimization
Disadvantages of working with manufacturers and wholesalers:
- Higher startup costs — you need to pay for goods before making a sale
- Inventory risks to account for
- More paperwork and contract negotiations
- Most have a minimum order quantity (MOQ) you need to meet
A Checklist to Get You Started
Find a supplier.
If you’re looking for a product to buy in bulk, you have several options:
- Partner with local businesses or artisans. Or approach another brand with a direct offer.
- Look for foreign small business suppliers on platforms such as Alibaba or eBay.
- Partner with an existing company to take their business online or from B2B to B2C.
- Building relationships with makers on Instagram or on social media communities.
- Browse local or international wholesale directories such as Etsy Wholesale, Wholesale Central or Closeout Central.
If you’re looking for a manufacturer to make your products, you can easily research options online. Remember that finding the right partner can take some time, so don’t get discouraged.
Vet the new business partner.
Next, you’ll want to check references for the manufacturer or wholesaler in consideration. If you’re doing business with someone, make sure they are legitimate.
Reach out to others who have used the manufacturer or wholesaler. Maybe do a little digging at the Better Business Bureau. It’s a good sign if the company you’re researching asks for information that proves that you have a legitimate business, too. Be prepared to provide necessary licenses or tax information.
Evaluate your supplier.
Be sure to ask the following questions of each company you’re considering:
- What will the total cost of production and shipping be? Are there any potential hidden fees?
- How long will it take for them to create, fulfill and ship the product?
- What does shipping and inventory management look like? Will you need to ship and store or is that included as part of their service? What are the timelines and conditions? Do you have control over package branding?
- What do the contracts and terms look like? Is there any wiggle room for things your business or customers need? Is there an evaluation period or terms for termination?
- What do support and communication look like? How frequently will you be updated on information like inventory, product changes or even discounts?
- What are the minimum order quantities (MOQs)? Will you have to commit to a certain number of units or spend a minimum amount?
Once you’ve found a contender or two, order several sample items you plan on selling. Before you sign on with anyone, make sure their products meet your expectations. While some manufacturers will charge a fee to send you a sample, you can often negotiate a deal to only pay for it if you keep it.
Weigh your options.
Don’t rush with the decision. You want to ensure you’re making the right choice in terms of price, quality and market demand. But that doesn’t mean you should sit in research mode forever. Worst case, you pivot and go another direction.
Dropshipping is a method of product sourcing where another vendor fully fulfills a customer order. Essentially, you only list their inventory on your ecommerce website, while the dropshipping partner handles everything that happens after the sale — packaging, shipping, etc. This way you don’t have to deal with the inventory.
Dropshipping is a great option for starting a new online store. But it also works for expanding the product catalog of an existing store.
You may be surprised to learn that 12% of Amazon FBA stores with annual revenues of above $1 million use dropshipping.
Pros of dropshipping:
- Wide selection of new products to choose from
- Low-cost and fast way to start a new online business
- No inventory risks or extra inventory management overheads
Cons of dropshipping:
- Lower profit margin — you need to sell a lot to make a good profit.
- Competition with other brands, sourcing same products
- Little control over product quality
- More challenging return process for customers
A Checklist to Get You Started
Here are the steps to find a dropshipping supplier for your store:
- Find some dropshipping companies
- Check their references and reviews
- Evaluate product options in terms of price, MOQ, sizing grid
- Ask about customizations and branding options
- Determine the feasible delivery timelines and returns process
- Ask for samples
Finally, pick one partner and get going! Read more about starting a dropshipping business.
Today, you have a double advantage when it comes to dabbing into marketplaces. You can browse locally in-person or source globally online.
All-purpose online platforms such as eBay, Aliexpress, Etsy, are great ways to discover more goods for sale. In particular, if you plan to sell:
- Vintage and pre-loved items
- Artisanal products
- Decor and art
- Handmade goods
Or pretty much any other type of trending item, local consumers are dire to get! If you are looking for quality products in a specific vertical, you should also head to niche online marketplaces. For example:
- Houzz — home items and decor
- GAME — toys, collectibles, computer games and hardware
- AbeBooks — new and second-hand books
- G2A — games and electronics
- StockX — mainly clothes, electronics and collectibles
- Reverb — music instruments
- Taobao — China’s peer-to-peer marketplace, selling clothes primarily
- Discogs — vinyl records, CDs/DVDs.
Finally, don’t discard local markets you have access to. From garage sales to private estate sales, farmer’s markets and annual fairs, there are many places to cultivate relationships with potential suppliers to procure the best-sellers!
Pros of using marketplaces:
- No minimal order quality
- Fast way to source small, but diverse stock
- Easy ordering process — no legal paperwork
- Ability to locate unique items
Cons of using marketplaces:
- Your pay higher retail prices, rather than wholesale
- Limited stock availability
- Unpredictable shipping times
- Requires regular commitment for replenishing stock
A Checklist to Get You Started
When it comes to using marketplaces for product sourcing, you need to remember several things:
- Have a good idea of what you are looking for
- Inquire about current stock volumes and opportunities for replenishment
- Negotiate discounts and aim to build long-term sourcing relationships
Similar to wholesaler search, read reviews and evaluate different stock ordering options.
Remember, many sellers on online marketplaces are no pros and may have limited access to products. If some products are sold out, but you already have a customer waitlist, this can be problematic.
On the other hand, online and physical marketplaces are a good way to discover small manufacturers, budding entrepreneurs and emerging brands to partner with. These can turn into long-lasting allies for your brand and help you scale into multi-brand operations!
5. Trade shows.
Trade shows were effectively designed to connect suppliers and distributors with prospective brand owners.
So it’s always a nice place to mingle in search of new private label products, manufacturers without an online presence or product ideas, new to your target market.
2020 wasn’t a tradeshow year. But the industry is gradually bouncing back. Some of the confirmed product trade shows for 2021 include:
- Ohio State Fair 2021
- The Ultimate Women’s Show (multiple locations)
- Los Angeles Christmas Cash & Carry Christmas Gift Show
- Big Boys Toys 2021 – The Innovation & Luxury Lifestyle Exhibition
- COUTURE Las Vegas 2021
- Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show 2021
So mark your calendar and consider attending!
Pros of trade shows:
- Access to a host of different suppliers at once
- Ability to see and feel the product in person
- Novel and innovative products
- Faster pace of supply deal negotiation
Cons of trade shows:
- Extra travel and attendance costs
- Intimidating process for first-timers
- Many suppliers prefer to work with bigger brands
A Checklist to Get You Started
Trade shows can be overwhelming. So get there with a clear agenda in mind. Specifically decide:
- What products do you want to buy?
- How much can you spend per item?
- How much inventory are you looking for in total?
- What MOQ is fine with you?
- Can you charge a good profit margin based on the price?
- Is the product unique?
- Is it easy to ship?
- Can you add a bundle or upsell it with current stock?
- Is there sufficient demand? Is it too competitive?
When approaching sellers, prepare a quick elevator pitch for introducing your business and your needs:
- Describe your experience and your business size, target market and past experience with product sourcing.
- Explain what products you are selling and what you are looking to add to the mix.
- Indicate your ability to buy — how much inventory you plan to get.
- Then pass the ball to the wholesaler and prompt them to talk about their business and goods.
This easy conversation opener can help you make a bunch of valuable connections in no time!
Finding a product to sell online no longer requires dodging robbers and escaping pirates.
But to get the best goods for trade, you still need to venture into the new territories, online or in-person.
Product sourcing strategies are aplenty. You just need to choose the optimal approach (or experiment with several!) and keep your research activities well-structured to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Sourcing Products for Ecommerce FAQs
1. How do you source a product for selling online?
Typically, you have three main options. First, make the product yourself, hire a traditional manufacturer or on-demand provider. Secondly, find a supplier — dropshipper, distributor or wholesaler to provide you with products. Finally, you can use any combination of the above, as well as partner with local physical businesses that are not online yet.
2. How do I find ecommerce suppliers?
The best way to find ecommerce suppliers is to start with an online search. Browse wholesale directories, check online marketplaces, approach individual small business owners and artisans. If you want to carry a particular brand, talk to them directly about doing a direct wholesale deal.
3. What products are trending in 2021?
Trends come and go, but some of the long-stay ones include consumers’ interest in eco-friendly products (across categories), vintage and preloved items, plants and garden supplies among others. Hobby-related and DIY products see a spiked demand too as many people continue to pursue pet projects, started during the pandemic.
4. How do you source product materials?
If you plan to produce your own products for sale, look for raw material suppliers in your area (to reduce shipping delays). Browse online directories to locate nearby partners, then approach them directly. For some types of materials, online marketplaces can also suffice to purchase product materials in bulk with less hassle.
5. Which product is easy to manufacture?
Small-scale, non-complex products, requiring few raw materials are the easiest to manufacture yourself. These include candles, soaps, jewelry and accessories, small leather goods, small decor or furniture items, some types of garments, sweets, confectionery and other types of foods.
6. How do you source clothes for an online store?
The sourcing strategy depends on your store concept. For example, as a multi-brand store owner, you can curate clothes from local designers or place wholesale orders with international distributors. You can also partner with a small clothing atelier to produce private label clothes. If you plan to run a vintage store, estate sales, garage sales and online marketplaces are your best bet to find garments for sale.
7. How do I find American suppliers?
Start an online search among regional producers. Look in online manufacturing catalogs or supplier directories. Thomasnet, Clever Wholesale and SaleHoo among others have up-to-date listings of US suppliers — wholesalers and manufacturers. Also, don’t discard individual makers in your community.
8. Can I dropship from the USA?
Yes, any registered ecommerce business in the US can act as a dropshipper for another business or work with a dropshipping supplier. Just make sure you have a proper business registration and tick all the tax requirements. You also have plenty of tools and extensions to run smooth dropshipping operations both ways.
9. How do I find the best suppliers?
A structured supplier research process is key to finding the best business partners. Before you launch into search, determine how much inventory you want to purchase, at what price per item and what minimal order quantity you can afford. Research different suppliers with a request for proposal (RFP) document to get their input. Analyze the responses, read reviews and then order samples for an in-person inspection.
10. How do I find dropshipping suppliers?
Instead of going to popular dropshipping platforms such as Aliexpress and Alibaba, look for local manufacturers first. The idea is to find a small company that produces high-quality products but doesn’t do online B2B sales. Then you can pitch in to act as their digital storefront, while they do the supply and shipping.
In a perfect world, every single human would love your product. But, as we all know – life isn’t perfect.
We, humans, are unpredictable creatures when it comes to articulating what we like and why.
An online business owner’s job is full of guesswork when it comes to determining what products or marketing strategies will land with their target audience and which ones will not.
In 2009, Tropicana decided to change the looks of their famous orange juice carton. They designed a new minimalistic packaging in a slightly different color pallet and changed the logo.
Overall, the team spent over $35 million for rebranding and subsequent promotion.
And then…customers hated it.
Tropicana received a ton of consumer complaints on social media about the new design. People were frustrated with the company’s decision to emulate cheaper generic store brands.
In two months after the redesign, Tropicana’s sales plummeted by 20%.
The brand bit the bullet and restored the original packaging eventually.
This cautionary tale is a great example of why doing target market analysis is equally important for big and small businesses alike.
If it’s been a while since you last analyzed your market segments, this guide offers a must-do refresher.
What is a Target Market?
A target market is a portion of an addressable market you plan to sell your products to. The purpose of targeting (or market segmentation) is to help you identify the most likely buyer demographics and allocate marketing resources accordingly.
Furthermore, a target market can be drilled down to:
- TAM — total addressable market or all the people who may demand your products.
- SAM — the serviceable available market is a portion of TAM within your geographical reach.
- SOM — the serviceable obtainable market is a slice of SAM you can effectively capture.
SOM can be further broken down into specific buyer personas — fictional representations of your ideal customers, built around qualitative and quantitative data such as demographic information, personality insights, buying behaviors and other commonly displayed attributes.
Benefits of Target Market Analysis
Customer intelligence is key to understanding how you can market your online store in the most effective way:
Less than 40% of marketers are relying on consumer research to make the above decisions. Moreover, target market analysis also helps accomplish the following tasks:
1. Determine the markets that bring the most value.
Depending on your niche and operations size, the total serviceable obtainable market can be several hundred million, spanning over different locations, age groups and buyer personas.
Let’s take skincare as an example. The total SOM can include audiences such as “females aged 25-35,” “Gen Z men aged 18-25,” “eco-concerned consumers,” “people with sensitive skin,” “luxury skincare shoppers,” “budget-conscious students.”
These are a lot of different people with different needs and purchasing preferences. Which ones should you target and how? Target market analysis helps you get those answers.
When Bliss, a once iconic NYC spa, decided to make a major comeback in 2016, the first thing the newly appointed CEO Meri Baregamian did was commission a consumer research into the brand. Why?
In Baregamian’s words: “[Consumers] loved the efficacy of the products, but the two key complaints were that it was overpriced and they couldn’t find it anywhere.”
The team wanted first-hand knowledge about which distribution channels to target and how to adapt their pricing strategy to reach a wider market.
The analysis prompted them to fully re-design packaging, change some product names and cut prices by around 50% across the board. And that’s how the current Bliss brand and online store came to life:
2. Evaluate the viability of a new product.
Product viability research is the cornerstone element of target market analysis.
When there’s no solid demand for your product type, you can have a difficult time scaling your operations and end up with a lot of dead stock.
This type of consumer research is especially crucial if you plan to bring a novel product to the market.
Take it from the LARQ team.
Before Justin Wang launched LARQ — a self-cleaning, reusable water bottle — he experienced the dread of finding a good plastic bottle alternative first-hand. He had tried between 10 and 15 different reusable water bottles, but none felt quite right. This prompted Justin to conduct further market research and compare the staggering figures on single-plastic usage.
Eventually, the analysis prompted him to design LARQ. Then he tested his product concept by doing a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, which turned out to be a blast. Instead of $30,000, the team amassed over $1.3 million in backers support. The money went straight to product development.
3. Discover new exciting markets to test.
Target market analysis is also a proven tool for discovering untapped ecommerce niches and emerging market trends.
Last year was a great example of how rapid response to tectonic shifts in consumer behaviors can lead to successful pivots and break-neck growth across some sectors.
But even in more “ordinary” times, target market analysis can help you discover new audiences for your brand.
For instance, a 2018 survey of British female beer drinkers found that male-oriented advertising averts up to 48% of 18-24-year-old women from buying beer. Yet, many beer brands keep focusing on male audiences only and this is definitely an overlook!
With target market analysis, you can uncover such granular insights about micro-niches and specific buyer personas to improve your product range, brand positioning and marketing.
How to Identify and Analyze Your Target Market
Target market analysis is a deep-dive investigation into your audiences’ problems, needs, behaviors and preferences. Your goals are:
- Establish what problem your products can solve
- Understand who’s the most likely to need this solution
- Learn what secondary audiences are worth pursuing
- Test new marketing channels for reaching the identified segments
Now let’s zoom in on how to get the above done!
1. Gather intel.
Your goal is to collect two types of data:
- Quantitative insights — numbers, clean-cut facts and statistics about your targets.
- Qualitative insights — voice of customer (VoC) data, explaining customer sentiment, preferences, purchase drivers, attitudes and other psychographic traits.
There are many different methods for collecting this type of data:
- Customer surveys
- Focus group interviews
- Brand tests
- Customer sentiment research
- Pricing research
- UX research
- Product intelligence platforms
- Content analysis and more!
Choose an array of methods that will help you get answers to the following questions:
- Is the potential market for your product or service large enough?
- Do you need to alter your business idea to best appeal to this audience?
- Should you tailor your product or service in some way to maximize effectiveness?
- How can you target your marketing efforts to optimize reach with the most promising potential buyers?
The idea is to arrive at a clear-cut TAM-SAM-SOM, plus have some extra intel ready for creating buyer personas (customer profiles).
2. Create customer profiles and market segments.
A customer profile is a high-level summarized view of people who share similar demographics and psychographic traits, as well as share common behaviors.
Having detailed customer profiles is the first step to designing and optimizing customer journey maps — common purchase flows for your ecommerce store or omnichannel operations.
By knowing who your customers are and how they shop, you can fine-tune your sales funnel to better appeal to the identified segments.
Here’s the data you’ll need to create an ecommerce customer profile:
- Income level
- Education level
- Marital status
Then add psychographic criteria to go a little deeper and paint a more complete picture of your audience:
- Lifestyle preferences
You can obtain this data from your CRM system, customer support tickets, social media posts, surveys, interviews and an array of other market research platforms.
Also, remember that every industry, business and product is different. So these lists are by no means the end-all-be-all — think of them as more of a starting point to evaluate market segment size and opportunity!
3. Be specific.
If you ever did a paid advertising campaign on Facebook or Instagram, you know the level of granularity their targeting tools provide.
Your goal is to get as close as that.
Identifying a specific target audience helps ensure that you make decisions that are dictated by your customers, which sets you up for long-term success.
Drill down on who your audience truly is and study:
- Their attitudes,
- Beliefs and
- Pain points.
Understanding their age and income is the first step, but drilling down to the core customer problem is what will help set your products — and brand — apart from the competition.
4. Tap existing resources.
Using available online resources is a great way to collect secondary insights to back your earlier assumptions and augment first-party data — the one you obtain straight from your audiences.
However, the downside is that the research you find may not be as focused or useful as you’d like. So treat it critically and cherry-pick the most relevant insights.
Below are a few resources that will add more color to your research and help you get started:
- Quantcast provides free, accurate and dependable audience insights for over 100 million web and mobile destinations.
- Google Trends uncovers where your target customers are predominantly located.
- The U.S. Census Bureau provides up-to-date general demographics data.
- Big Four consulting firms such as McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture and EY among others regularly publish industry briefs and customer research reports.
- Ahrefs provides a keyword data analysis tool to help you identify popular searches and content/websites ranking for them.
All of this information will help you develop more specific customer profiles.
5. Look at the competition.
Competitive analysis is a must-do for launching new products.
Also, it’s a nice activity to repeat at least once a year to ensure your offers are more attractive and relevant compared to what others are doing.
Finally, competition analysis helps you establish better brand differentiation and develop unique sales propositions (USPs) for identified segments. For the latter, doing a quick SWOT analysis can be tremendously helpful.
Here’s how to structure your competitive research:
- Analyze the competitors’ positioning and best-sellers.
- Assess their pricing strategy.
- Go on social media and read customer reviews.
- Browse on-site and third-party reviews to see any missed opportunities.
Place the above data on your SWOT template as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Engage others on the team to brainstorm how you can capitalize on the opportunities and cover the gaps in weaker areas.
6. Conduct your own primary research.
Primary research — proprietary data collection and analysis — is a time-consuming step, requiring careful prep.
But it’s not one you can skip if you want to scale your ecommerce business.
Because this is the only way to truly listen to the voice of your customer and get answers to specific questions regarding your business.
Allocate the time and funds towards the following tasks:
- Run surveys: Social media polls are a great way to get quick answers to multi-choice questions (e.g. do you like product A or B?). Email or web-based surveys can help you collect more data — both quantitative and spoken insights for further analysis.
- Conduct interviews: Talk to consumers who might fit in your target market. Determine several prospects in your CRM that well represent the target segments. Then incentivize them to have a chat. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, ask the manager to engage with several shoppers.
- Assemble focus groups: Get feedback from a small group of consumers who fit your ideal customer profile via Q&A sessions and group discussions. Focus groups can be done online and in person. If you have a budget, you may want to recruit a company to conduct market research for you.
7. Look at your business in a fresh light.
Now that you have some serious insight into who you are selling to, it’s time to ask yourself a series of questions:
- Do you feel there are enough potential customers within your target audience to start a brand new business?
- Will your target market benefit from your product or service?
- Will this target market see a true need for it? Will they come back repeatedly to purchase?
- Do you understand what drives your target market to make buying decisions?
- Can your target market afford your product or service? If so, how frequently can they buy?
- Can you reach your market with your message? How easily accessible are they?
Going through these questions will help you better understand if you are ready to sell online or if you need to pivot your marketing focus (and potentially your products) to appeal to a different audience.
Target Market Example for Ecommerce
Let’s say you want to move into a competitive business of selling furniture online.
A cursory scan over public data showed that online furniture sales grew by 317% in Q2 2020. That’s a good first sign of demand, but will it sustain?
Another data point from Accenture also shows that among people who used to make less than 25% of their purchases online there has been a 319% increase in purchase volumes of home decor items. The sales teams also confirm increased interest among current customers.
Your next step is to learn the “what”: what matters to your customers when it comes to buying home items online?
When doing his research, Stephen Kuhl, CEO and co-founder of DTC furniture retailer Burrow found that their prime target audience is millennial consumers, aged 25-35. The team also learned that “ People want to know why they are buying something and why what they are buying is the best thing.”
This prompted Burrow to provide full visibility into how their products are made and what goes into pricing.
The team clearly communicates that they are not skimming on materials or craftsmanship, but offer better prices because they have optimized distribution and shipping strategies.
Speaking of shipping, Burrow also decided early on to emphasize its fast and free shipping without a purchase minimum in contrast to many competitors — a factor important for their young, urban-dwelling target customers who prioritize convenience.
The takeaway: Instead of trying to appeal to all, study a specific target segment. Learn what’s important to them and how you can solve their main problems. Build your customer experience and target marketing strategies around these competitive strengths.
The toughest part of target market analysis is letting go of your assumptions.
As tempting as it is to fill in the blanks, you should engage with your potential customers and conduct as much research as possible.
As your business grows, you should continue to evaluate and stay up to date with your target market.
Your target market is absolutely dynamic. It’s always evolving and taking new bends! So don’t forget to get back to the drawing board once in a while to reassess your targets and perhaps discover new promising markets to go after!
Target Market Analysis FAQs
1. What are the four main levels of target markets?
Geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioral data are the four research layers you should look at when analyzing a new target market. Using these four vectors you can segment the total addressable market into more specific buyer personas and develop a highly effective strategy for pursuing them!
2. How do you define a target market?
To define a target market you’d want to go after you’ll need to answer six questions. Who is your most profitable primary audience? What shared needs, traits and characteristics do they have? When are they most likely to need or buy your products? Where do they shop and get information? Why will they want to purchase from you over a competitor? How do they act and decide to buy?
3. What are the 4 methods of targeting?
The four popular targeting methods are mass targeting — the least effective “spray and pray” approach to getting in front of anyone within the total addressable market. Segmented targeting — a differentiated marketing strategy, aimed at adjusting your offers to specific audience segments. Personalized targeting — data-backed campaigns, aimed at specific buyer personas. Hyper-personalized targeting — granular campaigns, aimed at reaching specific prospects/leads.
4. What are the types of targeting?
Modern marketing tools let you target prospects on multiple levels based on their demographics, psychographics and behavioral data. The popular types of targeting include contextual targeting, behavioral targeting, remarketing, predictive targeting and personalized targeting.
5. How do I describe my target market?
The easiest way to describe your target market is by creating customer profiles, also known as buyer personas — data-based, succinct representations of customer segments you plan to target. A detailed customer profile features both demographic and psychographic data such as customer’s attitudes, beliefs, preferences, values, etc.
6. What are the methods of market research?
The two popular groups of market research methods are quantitative and qualitative research. Using quantitative research methods such as surveys, questionnaires, social sentiment analysis, price research, etc. you can get numbers and figures, explaining your market size, depth and composition. Qualitative market research methods such as customer interviews, focus groups, content analysis help you obtain spoken insights and feedback on consumers’ attitudes, values, purchase drivers, etc.
7. How do you conduct simple market research?
The simplest way to perform market research is to start small. First take publicly available (secondary) data about your market — size, trends, purchasing power, etc. Determine your preliminary TAM-SAM-SOM. Then analyze the competition in this space. Use the collected data points to make a SWOT analysis of your online brand. Then, brainstorm where you can get more primary data — direct customer feedback. Social media and online communities are a good way to start.
8. What should be included in target market research?
A target market research for an ecommerce store should feature data about the total addressable and total serviceable market you plan to reach. Put down data regarding the market size, consumer purchasing power, trending product categories, biggest competition, average prices among them, opportunities for differentiation. Then analyze your and competitors’ customer bases to determine which types of buyer personas are worth going after.
9. How do you target new customers?
The best way to target new customers is to learn what impacts their buying decisions. Go online and analyze reviews and social media posts around other products. Host surveys to understand what your targets struggle with the most and what matters to them when it comes to your product category. Don’t just focus on product qualities — scoop their preferences when on the overall CX.
10. How do you introduce a product to a customer?
The optimal way to introduce a new product to potential customers is to ensure its strong market fit. Take the time to analyze the customers’ sentiment around prices, branding, packaging and different product qualities. Compare what the competition offers and how you can do better. Using this knowledge, create a product launch campaign that speaks directly to your customers’ needs.
11. What is a segmentation strategy?
A market segmentation strategy helps you discern the total addressable target market into smaller segments, based on demographic, geographic or psychographic data, so that you could personalize your marketing and sales strategies to more precise audiences and gain higher conversion rates as a result.
What does a hair drier left unplugged, a burning hoverboard and children’s audio voice recordings have in common?
These are three reasons why Amazon was sued over the last year.
The Amazon team navigated these crises with some grace and a lot of business law acumen.
Like Amazon, other online retailers should stay apprised of the online business laws and regulations they need to stay compliant with.
Whether you are a small business, startup or rapidly expanding mid-market company, your online operations are likely regulated by corporate, copyright and contract laws among others. Not to mention laws surrounding consumer protection and corporate governance.
There’s no rush to get a law degree. But you need to stay informed about the legal issues your ecommerce website may face.
Key Ecommerce Laws You Need to Know
Ecommerce is a relatively new branch of retail.
Similar to other types of online businesses, you need to comply with the general corporate laws and local and international laws applicable to your business. Additionally, you will need to comply with digital-specific provisions around web accessibility, data privacy and electronic payment processing that may be applicable to your store.
To stay on the safe side, you should invest the time to learn about the rights and wrongs when it comes to:
- Payment gateways
- Trademarks, patents and copyrights
- Shipping restrictions
- Age restrictions
- Business insurance
- Licenses and permits
- PCI compliance
- Customer privacy
Here’s a quick refresher on taxes from Tracey Wallace’s handbook on ecommerce taxation.
U.S.-based ecommerce businesses are bound to charge:
Sales taxes vary by state and separate locations in states. 45 states and Washington D.C. impose a state-wide sales tax. However, different cities, counties and “special taxing districts” may also add local sales tax rates, on top of state-wide taxation.
For example, here’s what’s included in Rhinebeck, NY sales tax rate:
Failure to properly calculate and collect the right sales tax amount can put a dent in your profit margin. Moreover, this leaves you stressed during tax season. So get to know your obligations in advance!
You can read more about state-by-state tax sales tax rules in Jennifer Dunn’s separate guide.
Import duties and taxes. If you import products from foreign-based suppliers (e.g. dropshipping partners or wholesalers) valued in excess of a certain threshold, your imports may be subject to customs duties.
Also, other tariffs and taxes may apply if you regularly ship in products in larger quantities. You can use the free U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) tool to simulate different scenarios.
Next, if you are selling products internationally, your foreign customers may have to pay import taxes and duties. You can choose to settle them on their behalf via pre-paid duties shipments, offered by some third-party logistics providers. Or you can bundle them into an international price. For example, European and Australian shoppers are accustomed to seeing all-inclusive prices.
Ecotaxes. To promote sustainability, many states are introducing taxation on activities and items that may be harmful to the environment. For example, under the California Redemption Value (CRV) Act, consumers have to pay an extra recycling fee of $0.05 for plastic containers under 24 ounces and $0.10 for plastic containers over 24 ounces. The state also has a pending proposal for a new ecotax, which would be charged on each individual item packed in single-use plastic. If enacted, it would take effect starting in 2022.
International businesses should also be mindful of local ecotaxes. For example, Europe is way ahead in charging extras for non-sustainable products, shipping or packaging practices.
Takeaway: To cover all your bases, talk to a tax professional or local tax authorities. These experts will be able to help you understand specific circumstances that may affect your product and give you insights into how you need to charge tax for your business’s location.
Keep in mind, too, that this information — and the regulations around it — are constantly changing!
2. Payment gateways.
Payment gateways are the lifeline for securely processing customer payments.
The keyword here is “security” as a payment data breach can lead to a major regulatory fine. Not to mention result in indirect losses associated with damage to your brand image.
Breaches are also common. For instance, last year one payment processor admitted to exposing over 1.5 million credit and debit card accounts in North America due to cyber attacks.
So stay vigilant when it comes to selecting a payment processor. Prioritize solutions with:
- DCI-PSS compliance
- GDPR compliance (for selling in Europe)
- HTTPS connection (SSL certificate) for all payment operations
- Integrated security and anti-fraud protection
3. Trademarks, patents and copyrights.
Trademarks, patents and copyrights are considered business intellectual property and, thus, protected by respective laws.
Here’s how the United States Patent and Trademark Office categorizes each of these terms:
- Trademark: A word, phrase, symbol and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
- Patent: A limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.
- Copyright: Protects works of authorship, such as writings, music and works of art that have been tangibly expressed.
In other words, if you take the appropriate steps with respect to your intellectual property, you may be afforded legal protections that prevent other brands from using your intellectual property without your consent.
Likewise, you can’t use the intellectual property of others without the appropriate consents. For instance, if you want to sell t-shirts with Star Wars characters on them, you will want to obtain the appropriate consents to avoid any legal issues.
Also, you may want to consider copyright protection for your ecommerce website. Some of the applicable copyright laws to keep in mind:
Takeaway: Obtaining a trademark, service mark or patent isn’t strictly necessary for ecommerce business owners but may provide additional protections. Yet, you need to make sure you’re not infringing on others’ intellectual property rights. Research with the appropriate copyright, patent and trademark organizations such as the US Patent and Trademark Office. They’ll help you start off on the right foot.
4. Shipping restrictions.
Ecommerce shipping can be mind-boggling at times since logistics companies have different rates, rules and restrictions for shipping different types of products.
Most shipping companies clearly note their restricted items. Some commonly-restricted items are:
- Alcoholic beverages
- CBD products
- Dry ice
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Hazardous materials
- Nail polish
Also, note that some providers may allow you to ship normally restricted items, but they will require some extra paperwork and fees. You’ll want to take this into consideration as you evaluate shipping providers and integrations.
For information on shipping internationally, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Electronic Commerce: Selling Internationally guide, which will help answer questions about taxes, duties and customs laws. They also have information on the shipping taxes, duties and imports.
Takeaway: Not all shippers restrict the same items. Research different providers to determine the costs and requirements for shipping your type of product.
Maybe you’re thinking of storing the clothing for your online boutique in a spare closet or packing your handmade jewelry in too many storage boxes to count?
While your determination is alive and well, believe it or not, your business may be too large to legally run out of your home.
If you’ll be holding substantial inventory, you should also check your real estate lease, deed or zoning codes to see if there are any prohibitions on running a business like the one you’re contemplating out of your home.
Even if you plan to run a small online business, some property laws can still apply to you.
Your local homeowners’ association may not be too keen on allowing a home-based business in the area if it doesn’t comply with the zoning laws or the homeowners’ association rules and regulations. Thus, you may be surprised to learn that you could benefit from having a brick-and-mortar location or warehouse in the early stages of your online business!
If you’re hesitant to open a physical business and cannot run your business out of your home, don’t fret — you have more options.
Try leveraging a partnership with a shipping and fulfillment company that specializes in dropshipping or 3PLs.
Bonus? By using a dropshipping or 3PL service, you reduce shipping zones, or the distance packages travel, which will typically reduce the cost of shipping and time in transit. A win-win for both your business and your customers.
Takeaway: Learn about home-based business regulations, applicable to your ecommerce niche. Pay attention to general business licenses, zoning restrictions and health and safety permits.
6. Age restrictions.
Anytime you launch a website, it’s absolutely required that it comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) — no exceptions.
This act includes quite a few regulations, but one that will likely apply to your site is the inability to collect any personal information from a child under the age of 13.
If you’re planning on selling a product or service tailored specifically to a young audience, you’ll need to abide by COPPA regulations. Or else, you risk regulatory fines of up to $43,280.
Also, check your country’s rules and regulations before selling age-restricted products through an ecommerce store.
Takeaway: Every country is different as far as their demands on how to run a business. Things get especially tricky when it comes to age restrictions on products. Do your research and stay on top of legislation to ensure your business is on the up-and-up.
7. Business insurance.
Business insurance isn’t always legally mandatory for ecommerce store owners.
If you operate as a registered business entity such as a limited liability company (LLC), your personal assets may already be protected. However, you’ll want to consult with legal counsel to ensure that’s accurate, as the laws may vary based on where you operate or where your entity was formed.
Even if that’s true for your situation, it may also be beneficial to get your business insured for
- General liability
- Product liability
- Professional liability
- Commercial liability
Remember the story about a burning hoverboard? Well, the family was allowed to sue Amazon even though the company acted as an intermediary for another seller who sold a faulty gadget. Product liability insurance could protect you against such scenarios. This type of insurance is especially important if you plan on selling products that are considered high-risk, like CBD.
Also look into professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance), which can protect your business against malpractice, error and negligence.
Takeaway: Business insurance can look expensive for new business owners. But it can save you more money if matters go legally awry.
8. Licenses and permits.
Depending on which products you decide to offer, you may need a business license to sell them.
As a rule of thumb, most states in the U.S. require you to have a valid seller’s permit if you have a brick-and-mortar business.
However, the requirements are different for online businesses. As LegalZoom writes:
“Unless you are selling products or services in a regulated industry such as health care, you don’t need a seller’s permit to conduct business online. But that may not be the case in your state and/or in your industry.”
As LegalZoom notes, you should always double-check applicable laws. So be sure to do just that!
Separately, you may want to look into a reseller license — a document that lets you purchase inventory in bulk or wholesale without paying local sales taxes. Having one could prevent you from paying double taxation (i.e. when you pay a sales tax, then collect it from your customers and pay to the authorities). With a reseller certificate, you may only need to collect sales tax when customers buy your products. Similarly, check with local authorities if you plan to partner with wholesalers and suppliers.
Finally, international sellers should also check with a local licensing department to verify whether they need any permits.
Takeaway: Apart from a sales tax ID, you may not need any other special business license to operate a small ecommerce store. However, to avoid any future issues, you should confirm that there are no business licenses required to operate in the jurisdictions you operate or transact in by confirming with the appropriate local regulators or consulting with an attorney.
9. PCI compliance.
Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) is a commercial security standard, introduced by a group of American financial services providers in 2006.
The goal of a PCI DSS directive is to introduce unified standards for securely processing card transactions and bring all industry participants to the same level of compliance. It covers both online and POS transactions, as well as card over phone orders and other types of card-not-present transactions.
Thus being PCI compliant doesn’t just mean providing a secure, encrypted checkout experience — you’ll also need to avoid storing any purchasing information on paper or via recording (e.g. if someone were to give you their card number over the phone).
Modern ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce already come with PCI Level 1 compliance baked-in for payment processing.
However, if you plan to use a third-party payment processor or an integrated POS system, inquire about their state of PCI compliance.
Takeaway: PCI DSS is aimed at ensuring better payment security. It serves as an industry “stamp of approval” for payment processors and other types of companies doing money transactions.
10. Customer privacy.
Ecommerce websites can collect a ton of valuable insights to create a data-driven CX for shoppers. But not all types of ecommerce big data are up for analytics grabs.
Data privacy laws around the world prohibit merchants from using customers’ personal identifiable information (PII) for analytics purposes. This includes full names, addresses, social security numbers, debit and credit card details, etc.
Also, some states and countries oblige online shops to explicitly ask for customers’ permission for collecting, storing and processing their data.
Two customer privacy acts ecommerce store owners should familiarize themselves with are:
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This law obliges businesses to disclose any information they have about the consumer, as well as a list of third-party that their data is shared with as per users’ demand. Customers can also sue businesses for any privacy violations.
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is an EU-member state-wide act that puts down seven must-follow regulations online businesses must abide by when it comes to customer data collection, storage and usage.
GDPR has been notoriously advertised as the “stingiest customer data privacy” law. Indeed, the violation fines are steep — €20 million ($24.3 million) or 4% of global revenue, whichever is higher.
But staying on the right side of GDPR isn’t that hard either. If you plan to sell in Europe, refer to the official GDPR resource website. It has a detailed FAQ section and checklist for businesses.
Takeaway: Customer privacy violations can lead to legal and regulatory action. However, compliance is a matter of due diligence and care. A number of ecommerce and marketing apps have in-built facets for ensuring compliance with data collection laws such as CCPA and GDPR.
Understanding the implications of online business laws is essential for the health of your business — and the protection of consumers who become your customers.
When you start your ecommerce business, take the time to learn about the tax, payments security, copyright, data collection and usage, as well as licensing requirements for your industry.
The above may sound like a lot. But this knowledge and investment in professional legal or tax advice will future-proof your business against legal calamities and costly operational mishaps!
Online Business Laws FAQs
1. What are online business laws?
Online business laws govern digital product and services sales, digital copyrights, as well as customer data collection, storage and processing. Such laws were designed to make online browsing and shopping experience safe, secure and fair for businesses and consumers alike.
2. How can I legally sell online?
To legally sell products online, you need to apply for a sales tax ID (number). Then, ensure that you are collecting and reporting all applicable state- and local-level sales taxes. Moreover, you need to be compliant with digital customer data protection acts such as COOPA, CCPA (if you operate in California) and GDPR (for European sales). Finally, research if you need any special permits or licenses to operate your type of business or if any other laws apply to it.
3. Do I need to start an LLC to sell online?
You can start a small online store as a sole proprietor. But registering an LLC may offer you better liability protection against legal issues depending on the laws in the jurisdiction that you form the LLC in and where your business operates. Also, a business entity is often necessary to apply for a reseller certificate — a document many suppliers and wholesalers will ask for to trade with you.
4. Are there products that I can’t legally sell online?
You can’t sell illegal items online as defined by your local laws, similar to brick and mortar stores. Otherwise, there are types of products you are restricted from selling without a special license such as alcohol, tobacco, fresh produce, medicals and pharmaceutical products. Also, some ecommerce platforms and marketplaces may have separate lists of items that are restricted from being sold on their platform.
5. Is a business license the same as an LLC?
No, these are two different concepts. An LLC is a type of entity — a way to form a new company. Business licenses are obtained on top of company registration. Depending on your jurisdiction, a business license may only be required for certain occupations or types of online businesses. Having an LLC does not exclude you from the need to apply for a business license if you are otherwise required to apply for a business license.
7. What are intellectual property rights in ecommerce?
Ecommerce store owners are bound by general copyright and trademark laws, similar to other types of businesses. These can provide you with legal rights to protect your website content against unauthorized distribution, wrongful usage and copying. You can also choose to take the appropriate steps to trademark your online store name, and in some cases, a domain name too.
8. What actions should ecommerce managers take to safeguard consumer privacy and security?
9. Why is privacy in ecommerce important?
Because the last thing you’d want is having a distressed customer or government authority going after your business with a lawsuit for privacy violations. The ecommerce industry is regulated by digital customer data privacy laws such as CCPA, Data Broker Registrations and GDPR among others. You must comply with the privacy laws applicable to your business in order to avoid potential legal penalties and reputational damages.
10. What states require sales tax for online sales?
Overall, 45 states and Washington DC have state-wide sales taxes for online sales made by/to local residents (businesses and private persons). Separately, almost every state has a sales tax nexus — a degree of connection between an online retailer and the state requiring the retailer to register and collect sales tax within the state.
11. What type of business license do I need for ecommerce?
You may not need any special business license, apart from sales ID tax registration, for your online store unless you are selling certain types of products such as medical devices, healthcare products, alcohol, fresh produce and other types of regulated products. However, it’s best to double-check the requirements with a local authority or a legal professional.
This material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, professional or financial advice. BigCommerce disclaims any liability with respect to this material, and the information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.
The information on this website is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney or other professional. Please consult your attorney or professional advisor on specific legal, tax, professional or financial matters. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed. This website contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; BigCommerce does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.
How can you expect to achieve results if you don’t know how you are performing at present?
How can you make sales if you’re simply having a stab in the dark whenever you try a new ecommerce marketing technique?
Good strategies require careful pre-planning. Good businesses learn from previous efforts and test future ideas to ensure a brighter future.
All of this comes down to one thing: ecommerce analytics. Analytics enable you to delve deep into the facts and figures, historical business data, and future forecasting so that you can make the most intelligent decisions for your business.
What is Ecommerce Analytics?
Ecommerce analytics is the process of accumulating data from all of the areas that have an impact on your store. You should then use this data so that you can comprehend shifts in customer behavior and online shopping trends.
Ultimately, you can make more intelligent decisions by basing them on data, which should result in more online sales being made.
Ecommerce analytics can include a wide range of metrics relating to the full customer journey, such as discovery, acquisition, conversion, retention and advocacy.
Source: PayHelm for BigCommerce
Types of Ecommerce Analytics
As mentioned, there are a number of different types of ecommerce analytics that you can use to inform your marketing strategy and ensure you are one step ahead of the competition. So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular types in further detail.
There is only one place to begin, and this is with data analytics that pertains to your audience. This will give you in-depth insights regarding the demographics of your audience, i.e. their gender, age, income, occupation, where they are based and what language they speak.
In addition to this, audience data should inform you of the different devices that your audience is using. Do they mainly access your store from their mobile phone or desktop? If it is the former, do they tend to use Android or Apple devices? This can give you great insights into how your online store is being accessed so that you can target your efforts accordingly.
Audience data gives ecommerce company owners the ability to alter how they conduct their shipping options and how they advertise based on the locations of their audience.
You are also going to have the ability to rethink the different topics you are covering and how your marketing content is being displayed on devices. This is where the types of technology being used and data regarding your audience’s sessions come in handy.
Another type of ecommerce analytics that you can use to power your business forward is data relating to the acquisition of customers. This is highly valuable because you will learn about how your visitors found you online and how they ended up on your website to begin with.
When using acquisition data, you will discover more about the sort of online marketing channels that are bringing the most visitors to your website. You will also learn what channels are driving the greatest sales or conversions.
You can also see first-hand which online marketing channels are bringing success — and which ones aren’t quite working.
- Do most of your visitors come from social media posts?
- How many website visitors are you bringing in from email campaigns?
- What does the conversion rate look like for your blog posts?
- Do paid ads bring in most of your audience?
This data will prove pivotal in helping you to understand which marketing channels are the most profitable to your business so that you can determine where you should be focusing your resources.
“PayHelm has been invaluable in researching various data points in our day to day operations as well as sales performance. In addition, we are now able to more accurately tailor a compensation program for our sales associates” — Dan Pritcher, Co-owner, Eagle Mountain
Another type of data you should be looking at is information on your consumers’ behavior. Once people land on your website, how do they behave?
- What products do customers end up buying?
- How many viewers end up leaving your website straight away rather than exploring?
- What page do people click on first?
- What marketing content do viewers click on?
- Which products generate a lot of interest but very few sales?
- How long do viewers spend on your website on average?
These sorts of questions can help you to understand how your website is being used at the moment, so you can get a handle on the typical journey people embark on when interacting with your online store.
If you find that most visitors do not scroll through your inventory or that they quickly leave your page, you need to look into the page load times for your website. Could it be that your site is not loading quickly enough?
If users leave a page quickly, this indicates that they have not found what they are looking for. This could mean that your business type is not what they were expecting, and so there could be an issue with the keywords you are targeting in your marketing campaigns. Alternatively, it may mean that the content you are producing is simply too confusing.
All in all, behavior analytics are going to enable you to discover the parts of your store that you can enhance in order to boost your engagement rates and conversion level.
We have mentioned conversions quite a few times now, and this is another type of analytic you can use to power your business forward.
- When do online users convert into actual customers?
- How do online users convert into actual customers?
These are the two questions you are looking at when it comes to conversion analytics. When putting together your marketing strategy, you simply cannot ignore this part of it.
When you start delving deeper, there are many different things that you can find out.
- How long does it take a typical user to convert into a paying customer?
- Do customers tend to convert once a year or at multiple times?
- Do customers tend to buy items after one visit to your e-store or do they need to make several visits before they buy?
- Do customers tend to make repeat purchases?
- How many customers abandon their shopping cart rather than converting?
Knowing the specifics like this can help to impact your marketing messaging, so you can determine how to effectively engage with users and potential customers.
It is also important that you are aware of factors such as the average revenue your store receivers per every transaction. Plus, what is the average number of items that your customers buy in one transaction?
This data is important because it helps you to plot what sort of discounts and deals will most appeal to your current crop of customers.
“When we came to BigCommerce, we quickly realized that crucial data we needed to see on a daily basis just wasn’t there, or wasn’t there in an easily usable or accessible format. For us, we needed to see daily sales volume on the fly, but also have the ability to drill down and see product and order details and make sensible comparisons. With PayHelm, we can find almost any piece of data we’re looking for and export robust reports that tell us what we need to know to make the best decisions for marketing and procurement.” — Tad Roberts, Co-Owner & President, RC Hobby Explosion
5. Paid Marketing Activities
In addition to the four analytics we have mentioned so far, another key area to consider is your paid marketing activities. This will help you to figure out your exact return on investment (ROI) for various paid marketing campaigns.
- How much revenue have you generated from your social media adverts?
- Have you earned more revenue than what you spent on creating the ads and promoting them?
- How much revenue have you generated as a consequence of your pay-per-click ads?
- What about your email marketing campaigns?
If you do not assess your current paid marketing campaigns, you will only end up spending money on marketing efforts that are not helping your bottom line.
Source: PayHelm for BigCommerce
Why Do Analytics Matter for Your Ecommerce Store?
Now that you know what ecommerce analytics are, it is important to establish why they matter! Analytics are critical because they enable you to make more informed decisions that generate the best possible results for your e-store. To illustrate this effectively, we are going to take a look at some of the main benefits of analytics for ecommerce in further depth.
5 Benefits of Analytics for Ecommerce
1. Measure the effectiveness of your marketing and sales campaigns
Data analytics can assist ecommerce companies in measuring how successful their marketing campaigns are, as well as improving decision-making, gaining more omnichannel traction, and informing holistic marketing programs.
Source: PayHelm for BigCommerce
2. Evaluate the trends or patterns in data so you can forecast accurately
Ecommerce analytics give you the power to get a better understanding of how your business is performing now and how it is likely to perform in the future. This forecasting will inform everything from hiring goals and sales goals to making sure that the right products are accessible at the right time so that your customers’ expectations are met.
3. Optimize pricing, up-sell and inventory performance
With ecommerce analytics, you are going to be able to benefit from a granular picture of what drives pricing for every consumer segment. You can use this insight so that you are able to discover the best price points at the product level, rather than category level, so you can earn optimal revenue.
4. Use customer data to personalize individual experiences
Understanding how customers interact with your business is imperative to inform what sort of formats, content and channels appeal to and resonate with your target demographics. You can use ecommerce data analytics to help optimally position your products and improve the purchasing journey for all of your customers.
5. Inform your strategy with data-driven insights
Another benefit that is associated with ecommerce analytics is that you will be able to inform your strategy by using data analytics. This will give you great insight into what is happening within your business and the industry as a whole so you can figure out some vital market trends and possible risks that you need to mitigate.
Difference Between Metrics, KPIs, Analytics and Reporting
A lot of people tend to use these terms interchangeably, yet they are all different from one another. The key to a successful ecommerce business is being able to use all four in harmony so that you can drive the best results.
To do this, you need to understand what each one means, so let’s take a look:
- Metrics – A metric is a standard of measurement. For example, your bounce rate could be a metric.
- Reports – A report will summarize both past and current data. It deals with what happened.
- KPI – KPI stands for key performance indicator. KPIs are used for the purpose of measuring degrees of success by comparing actual data to forecasted data. This is why something happened.
- Analytics – Analytics tend to be used to predict performance in the future. How can we improve?
Ecommerce Analytics Best Practices
Now that you have a good understanding of how beneficial ecommerce analytics can be to your business, you will want to make sure that you implement this properly so that you can bring success to your company. So, how can you do this?
1. Gather all of your marketing data that is scattered across all platforms and channels
It can be a bit of a messy starting point, as most businesses will have data spread across various different mediums. However, you need to bring all of your data together so that it can be organized.
You may feel overwhelmed. It’s normal. Make a list of where you believe all of your data to be. Here are some examples of where you may find important information:
- Your BigCommerce store
- Email providers
- Customer relationship management platforms
- Google Analytics Enhanced ecommerce data
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
The list goes on and on, and it is individual to every company. However, the good news is that this data can be consolidated in a quick and easy manner. By using a pre-built data connector, you will be able to pull data from any source directly into Excel or Google Sheets. You don’t have to handle this process manually, which makes a huge difference.
2. Join the dots between your customers and the numbers
Don’t fall into the trap of simply gathering data because you feel like you have to. There needs to be a purpose. Simply looking at a sheet with numbers on it is not going to get you anywhere. However, when you correlate these figures with your customers, this is where the magic happens.
Marketing tools provide an excessive amount of data, but they have not been created for cross-channel reporting. If you just look at the data in isolation, though, you won’t be able to see the full picture. This is when errors and wrong decisions are made.
As your marketing stack gets bigger, all of your data being in one place will ensure you can establish a clear picture of the behavior of your users so that you can find areas for improvement.
3. Adjust data for seasonality and other trends
This may sound basic, but there are a lot of online stores that completely forget to temper their analytics against major industry events, trends, seasonality, or any other changes that are happening with the competition.
The key to this approach is making sure you do not only concentrate on what is happening at this present moment in SEO. This is because there is a long game to be played with SEO. As a consequence, you can paint in very little of the big picture if you only focus on micro-moments in the data.
4. Keep a close watch over your site’s shopping behavior flow
There are a number of key areas that you can monitor in this regard, including sessions with transactions, sessions with checkout, and sessions with add to cart.
If you notice that there is a sudden reduction in flow, this indicates that there is a problem with your checkout process and possibly you also have some issues with the speed of your website. So, analysis and monitoring of this flow are critical.
5. Track your product categories and individual products over time
Looking at granular product data is important for both your marketing and sales tracking efforts. Tracking your product category and individual product performance over time is going to enable you to discover what your biggest revenue drivers are. This is a great place to begin if you want to find out what products are performing well and which items are not performing as effectively as you expected them to.
Looking at the sales performance for all of your products within a specific category enables you to dive deeper. Look for the best-performing items that have the highest quantity purchased, highest revenue, and unique purchases so you can determine what your customers are really interested in and which products need a bit more love.
So there you have it: everything you need to know about ecommerce analytics and why they are so important for your business.
By using data, you can make more intelligent decisions that will drive your company forward and, ultimately, improve your bottom line.
This is the only way for you to determine what areas of your business are performing well and what areas require changes and improvements. If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.