Having an idea of what you want to sell online is one of the first steps. But with more than half of all businesses failing within the first few years, you’re going to need a little more than just a shopping cart and clever design. Understanding your customers and what they want from you puts you in a great position to be where you need to be when they need you.
Where to Start
Marketing research is not as intimidating as it sounds. You don’t need special software or massive spreadsheets, typically, and you’ll have a better idea of the overall competition and opportunities you may never have considered. When you’re trying to figure out what to sell, you’re going to need to gauge the needs of various markets. This means checking out newspapers and magazines. Despite the fact that they’re not digital, the fact that certain companies are paying for advertisements in those media means that there’s a strong market for those products.
Trade journals are more for gathering insights and understanding the trends as they can help you get product ideas. Product directories do the same thing but with the additional option of helping you find suppliers. Wholesalers, drop shippers, and excess inventory liquidation suppliers have good photos and pricing information so you’ll understand more about how you need to spend.
Once you have an idea of what you’re going to sell, you’re going to need to understand your customer base. Demographics such as gender, age, ethnicity, employment status, and education level are statistics that will help you understand what this base has in common, and their traits. When you understand their attitudes, personalities, behaviors, and activities, you’re in a better position to appeal to them. Of course, price sensitivity is a factor for most shoppers and merchants. Depending on your product, you’ll have an idea of whether it’s a want or a need and how economical or high-end your shoppers may be.
Remember Your Competition
Unless you have a truly unique product that hardly anyone else has seen or heard of, you’re going to have a few competitors who are already up and running. When you find them, make a list of who they are and what categories of products they sell. You will have larger retailers who may offer the same products, in addition to smaller one. Check out their websites and sign up for their emails. You’ll be able to get ideas on presentation and content, and even upselling opportunities. By signing up for their newsletters, emails, and even following them on social media, you’ll get a sense of their appeal, marketing strategy, and their engagement frequency.
Why Niche Is Best
As a small startup, there’s no way you’re going to be able to compete with the big retailers who have the same products. As you do your market research, you want to make sure that you don’t choose products that they have in abundance, because if customers can get it in the store, they won’t need to buy it from you. That’s why it’s important to move from general products to establishing a niche. If you’re selling shoes, you may want to focus on shoes for people with diabetes as a niche. You can even add socks to your product lineup. The deeper your market research, the better your chances of business success.