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How To Build An E-Commerce Business Without eBay or Amazon. [Blueprint]

SparksCW

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There’s a lot of talk about eBay & Amazon businesses and the true risk associated when you sell products from other brand(s).

I’ve seen first hand how eBay & Amazon sales can change drastically and we’ve been working hard to safeguard our business from online business from competition.

Whilst I don’t profess to be an expert in this, we have made good ground and are nearing $100,000 / mo. in direct website sales in one niche and have lots more to put into action for next year.

I thought now is a good time to share some of my learning…


The Problem


You want to sell online, but you’re not in a position to create your own products so you’ve no choice but to sell products made by another brand.

There are likely other companies selling the same products.

The manufacturers are a business as well though, they need to make money and want to grow just like you, so they will sell to multiple companies, they might sell direct, and they might sell to Amazon. Either way you’re not going to be their number 1 priority. Sometimes you are in direct competition with them.


They are not in business simply to make you money.


Sooner you understand that the happier everyone will be.

We have always sold mostly from our own platforms, but for 2017 we were selling a fair amount on eBay and Amazon. In mid 2018 we woke up one day to see our top selling brand had now sold directly to Amazon and our main competitor had put product into FBA as well! There were numerous new competitors on eBay which was also affecting our sales.

6 Months passed without a single sale of this product on Amazon.

We’d lost revenue and a channel of about $8000 a month in a growing market. To this day Amazon sales still outweigh our direct sales of this product and we sell a lot more than $8000 / mo now, imagine if we ONLY sold on Amazon?!




So why are we still growing strong as a business??


I have learnt that above all there is a simple strategy you need to follow, it won’t work for every single product, some are true commodities and need a different strategy but for semi-technical, considered purchases this is what I’ve learnt so far…


1. Create your own brand... sounds simple but I really mean it. Create your own brand with your own website, your own social media channels etc. Do this from day one and focus mostly on this. If you just sell someone else's products then don't build your business around their brand or based on eBay / Amazon. It will not last. Be you, not them.

If you for instance sell car cleaning stuff and your main product range is AutoGlym, then DON'T make yourself look like AutoGlym. Create your own brand, create your own offer. Make it clear to your customers they are buying you, your expertise, the extra value add that YOU offer but the others don't. You just happen to recommend product X by AutoGlym over the competitors...

Amazon may be the most trusted and can deliver super fast but you can’t call them up and discuss the best way to safely clean your new Mercedes!

Remember, your offer is not your product. With a better offer you can still win in a crowded market.


2. Add Tangible Value - you'll see those words on these forums daily but do you truly know how to add value??

Create guides, create YouTube videos, create blog posts, make the product easier to sell, take your own pictures (product, lifestyle, how-to), write your own product descriptions, look at the pain points of your products before/during/after sale, fix/improve them then add it to your offer and shout about it.

Make your "pillar posts" focus on the problem and the solution rather than mentioning specific brands and concentrate on tangible assets such as verified reviews, content, case studies, video, ebooks etc. Use blog posts and landing pages for manufacturer specific content.

All of this will 1) show you as trustworthy and knowledgeable 2) keep people on your site and signing up to your funnel and 3) it’ll create customers who buy time and time again, not just one off sales.

Perceived value beats price every time. If you’re not winning sales then the customer doesn’t perceive your offer to be the best. (or they aren’t finding you)



3. Don't start a price war. This is hard, and we were leading with an X% amount off discount and it did generate some more sales for sure, but we are closing more sales since improving our offer and adding more value.

There are people selling our main products for less, I'm sure we do lose out on some sales but we're getting pretty decent, valuable customers.

We went through a period of offering 10% off first order, it ate into margins, we switched back to £10 off but with a better “offer” and sales have not been affected negatively. We typically gave a 10% discount automatically on phone orders, not sure why?! We stopped doing it and no one really stopped buying because of it. Quite often you don’t need to discount.

Create the value, stick to your guns. Don’t get me wrong you need to be competitive, but you don’t necessarily need to be the cheapest.


4. Be better at marketing. Not everyone buys on Amazon, and with a lot of products you can add far more value and close sales without even considering Amazon. For us personally our direct website sales completely eclipse any third party sales we were making. When we lost out on those Amazon sales it was a blip on the radar, not something we were going bust over, however I see a lot of people who rely so heavily on Amazon, if this happened to them then their whole business is wiped out overnight. Pretty scary.

Instead build a decent website with all the value add and content above then create a proper marketing campaign built around a funnel.

Create an eBook guide to your products (lead magnet) make it genuinely valuable, spend some time/effort and money on it to make it the best. Then exchange it for peoples email address.

Understand the time before purchase for your products, Follow up with automated emails, Facebook retargeting etc. in timescales to suit.


Show don’t sell. Remember that the best selling product is usually the one the customer knows about. Not necessarily the best product.


5. Accessorise & up sell - most products can benefit from other products, for instance if you sell car cleaning formulas then you'll quite likely be able to sell buckets and if you can sell car cleaning formulas and buckets then you'll sell them even easier in a car cleaning bundle containing all the kit you need to clean your car in one buy now button.

The bucket will be in your colours and logo and further reinforces your brand, your trust and realism and prevents people copying it 100% exactly. It can also be used for marketing “Show us your buckets” type stuff – loose example but you get the idea.

The big super stores usually sell TV’s for next to nothing and make their margin on cables, warranties etc. Apply that principle to your business (but ideally make margin on the lead product too!)

Supermarkets put sweets at the checkouts because they are cheap and easy to buy, you might not have gone there looking for them but you’re probably guilty of adding some to your basket…

Increase your average order size and your bottom line profits with higher margin, lower value add-ons.



6. Slight of Hand - ever seen a magician make something disappear into thin air? They'll usually distract you so you don't see what’s really happening.

How does that help you in ecommerce I hear you ask?!

Well most of the competition will typically focus on the core area. I.e. if you sell car cleaning stuff as per above example then they’ll focus on the car cleaning market as it seems pretty obvious…

However the world is a big place, the majority of products out there can be used by various different types of people in different industries, for different uses.

If everyone’s selling car cleaner focusing on the usual car market... why not try targeting other uses for the same product that might be less competitive? They won’t form your whole business but they’ll help grow sales in areas that other people aren’t even looking in. i.e. create content about cleaning boats, ride on lawnmowers, trailers etc. etc..

Or maybe you could package your products in different ways for different customers. i.e bulk cleaning packs aimed at taxi firms, specialist kits for motorbikes etc. etc.

Look for customers where your competitors aren’t.



Conclusion


If you create a strong brand that can be used as a resource, has high perceived value which turns into reality when you fulfil the order and you create effective marketing campaigns from low-hanging fruit to the micro-niches then you’ll not only sell more but you’ll create a more valuable business overall.

And most importantly, if you can’t sell that brand of car cleaner any more because they’ve done an exclusive with your competitor then you can relatively easily switch your product set and continue selling!



My Blueprint



This is what I’d do when I start my next niche site. It may not be right or wrong and it probably doesn’t cover everything but it’d be similar to this.

Once created most of this is automated and works for you 24/7/365 leaving you with more time to build the business, strategic relationships etc.

It’s a whole lot of work to launch this way but I believe, assuming the products are good and the market is there, it sets apart the winners from the failures and lets a new brand gain ground quite quickly against established competitors.


1. Create a brand (name, logo, colour scheme, style)

2. Create a website with well thought out navigation making it easy to filter through product and using keyword research to get a good understanding of the search terms which can be used as category titles, meta descriptions, category descriptions etc..

3. Add the core product range – write custom descriptions, take custom pictures (preferably not on a white background stock style - try to look different and more visually appealing than your competitors, even if you are selling the exact same product)

4. Add a complimentary range of products – repeat above, assign to product as upsells, cross sells.

5. Create bespoke bundles – one add to cart button, but one useful solution – again needs custom description and images.

6. Create help centre – cover all the core questions in “pillar” posts – very useful, well-designed content that answers all questions. This can also be used for marketing and social media.

7. Create inspiration – many ways of doing this depending on what you sell from case studies, application guides, look books, Instagram feeds shown on website, galleries, customer photos etc. Before you have customers then it’s going to be your own generated pictures and content. This can also be used for marketing and social media.

8. Create your offer and display it prominently (free delivery, 30 day returns, help centre, expert phone support, extended warranty, lifetime technical support, access to after-sales exclusive content)

9. Marketing (Build a funnel) – probably a lead magnet in exchange for email, automated pre-sales emails switching to after sales email in event of purchase (offering further advice on their purchase and encouraging a repeat purchase) this ties in with your marketing (PPC, adverts, YouTube videos, the list is endless here.

10. Be everywhere your customers are – FB retargeting for website visitors, add to cart no purchase and for purchased. Targeted marketing based on forums etc. etc. you can’t advertise everywhere so find out where your customers are and be there.

11. Get referrals and reviews – very important, get reviews on a third party platform so they are fully trusted. Have a points reward scheme and a refer a friend voucher. Include this in after-sale email, flier in package and on social channels. Do this from the start and you’ll grow much faster.

12. Stay in touch – regular mail shots with a combination of inspiration and selling (show don’t sell) regular social media work and keep the marketing going.

13. Third Party – Only now might I decide to list some stuff on eBay and Amazon under my own brand name. Ideally the brand name will easily be found with a Google search and the product packaging/manuals etc. should encourage a further action (i.e. go here for free guides etc.)

Most of all, show don't sell.

Show your customers what they can do with your product.
Show them how it will improve their lives/make them better/solve their problem.
Show them what life can be like after buying your product.

Hope there's some useful info here, a lot of this we already have in place which is why we're still holding strong to the competition but there's lots of refining and improving planned for next year to grow the niche further. We're also doing the same to our other website and so far seeing improved sales just by changing a few bits.

Next year is going to be exciting!
 

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Empires

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Excellent write up! Lots of gold value in here. Rep+

Going to bookmark this as I move forward with my business and incorporate it along the way.
 

Laughingman21

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I’m about to launch a store selling branded goods and I’ve learnt a tonne of useful info I’ll definitely be applying. Thanks
 

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