Businesses have suffered tremendously in wake of the global pandemic. No matter how good the products you are offering or how delicious the food you are selling, business is still going to be impacted greatly. If you are a wholesaler who target both business and consumer markets, bulk sales would be greatly reduced as businesses are not stocking up because of a huge lack in buyers.
Now, more than ever, if you are business selling products and services, you really need to offer the option of eCommerce in order for your business to stay afloat. This article would not go into the technicalities of setting up a store the platform of your choice would have comprehensive tutorials to cover most of what you need to know. I would explore mainly the reason (why) and approach you can consider taking.
Should you set up your own eCommerce store or sell at the marketplace (eg Amazon, Lazada, Shopee)?
If you could, I would advice to have both options. This means you can:
build a eCommerce platform in your website to be able to offer the option to sell products directly,
set up a store in popular eCommerce platform to sell your products.
For example, take MrDIY, a popular store selling anything and everything from hardware to daily use items. In Malaysia, MrDIY has its own eCommerce store attached to its website as well as having a store in Lazada MY where they have listed thousands of products for sale. where they have over 80k followers.
Why setting up your own eCommerce store is useful:
1. Increase the potential and reach of your business
In a physical store, you are limited by geographical reach. In traditional business, the objective is to open as many branches as possible to reach the maximum number of customers. But in today’s online world, that is no longer the case.
Your business or brand may have its own loyal customers or potential buyers who could your website through organic search or recommendation. The buyer intent is strong, ie most people who lands in your eCommerce site on your website already have the intention of buying from you.
3. No competition
If you put up your store in the marketplace like Amazon, Lazada and Shopee, you are competing with many other sellers who may be selling similar products with you. These platforms will not feature your products exclusively. Even though they may have a dedicated page for your business, at the side bar or recommended products, they would still feature other products that would cause potential customers to click off.
When I was browsing through Lazada looking for MrDIY, it kept recommending similar products with the merchant which I thought was from MrDIY but ended up at another seller.
Having said the above, it is still useful for you to set up a store at popular eCommerce platforms.
Why you should set up seller stores in popular online marketplace:
1. Huge audience
Huge popular market place already have large number of visitors with buyer intent (intention to buy something). Most of the time, people would not suddenly think of visiting your website to browse items. In order to drive people to your website, you need to spend money on marketing, TV, paper ads, in store banners, Facebook and Google ads in order to drive in visitors.
Whereas popular ecommerce platform gets visited everyday by people who wanted to buy something. If they know your store is there, chances are they will also look out for the promotional items.
At the same time, you can also attract new potential customers to your store.
2. Huge huge cost savings
If you run a physical store, there are lots of overhead costs ranging from utilities, rental, staff, cleaning services, etc. You need to hire enough staff to help out with your store to cover your operational hours.
Whereas if you manage eCommerce stores, all you need is pay for one or two staff with technical knowledge to manage and run your store. Maybe additional staff to manage and pack your orders.
Bear in mind that with less than 5 people, your outreach is the entire country and possibly international as you can engage courier companies to help deliver your items nationwide. Compare this to having additional stores spread all over the country and then spending huge sums of overhead for store rental, maintenance and additional services like cleaning. Also each store would require a store manager, assistant, cashiers and other workers to run and maintain the store for you.
With this, instead of considering to open more physical stores and outlets, you may want to consider improving your current eCommerce infrastructure and web presence, as well as developing an efficient logistical system to store and distribute your products.
That is why you hear that a one man show can make like 6 figure income through running eCommerce stores alone. Usually they don’t stock the items themselves but adopt models such as dropshipping or print-on-demand.
3. Customer preference to shop in such platforms
It is something that most of us can relate to. Usually if you wish to for shopping, which one do you prefer- to a shopping mall or drive to some obscure place where the shop is located?
Nowadays shopping malls have good parking facilities, safety, wheelchair friendly, ample clean washrooms, children internal playground, fully air conditioning that makes it comfortable for any age group to visit. But most of all, you have various shops operating within a mall ranging from clothings and accessories, food, groceries, speciality stores, etc. There is everything for everyone. You can see a huge volume of business difference between the same shop located within residential shoplots vs shopping malls.
It is the same for online shopping. For me, I prefer to check out the reviews before buying an item. We know that the company cannot delete the review in a marketplace. Also, people prefer more choices, like going to a shopping mall.
4. Higher sales potential through affiliate programs for other people to promote your product
Popular marketplace like Amazon, Lazada and Shopee offers their own affiliate program. These marketplace allows bloggers like me, YouTubers and influencers to promote your product. Yes, you can also set up your own affiliate program but you would need to hire a full time staff to manage your affiliate program- everything through developing the program, training materials, outreach promotion, answering queries, etc.
Wheareas popular market place already got these systems set up well. For example, I sometimes blog about brands that I love. And I am also sign up for affiliate under companies like Amazon, Access Trade and Lazada. When I find out that the brands I love have a store there, you bet I will link to their store. If a customer clicks through a link from my site and make a purchase at the marketplace, I would be able to earn a small commission.
It is really time to move into eCommerce. Some businesses have this foresight a long time ago and have step up their online outreach, web presence and online store than to opt to open physical stores. When you move on to online, your overhead cost will reduce which means you would be able to lower your price and remain competitive.
I have seen many business have gotten very creative due to the current pandemic. In Malaysia, we can now buy items like Penang lobak (previously you would need to drive up to Penang to eat it), chicken varuval and a host of locally made dishes delivered to your doorstep through platforms like Lazada and GrabFood. They also market via Facebook but for Facebook you would need to invest in Facebook ads (if not no one will find your Facebook page).
The current situation does not mean the end to your business. There is still hope and who knows, through moving out of your comfort zone, a new horizon and opportunity awaits….