The vast majority of Internet retail startups fail miserably. One of the reasons for this is because the people who start them don’t understand how important their product is to the success or failure of their e-commerce business. They think that if they build a great e-commerce web site, establish a social media presence, and work really hard, they can sell almost anything on the Internet. They’re wrong. When it comes to e-commerce, all products are most definitely not created equal.
But don't despair – the perfect e-commerce product is out there, waiting for you. You may not know what it is yet, but when you find it, it will be:
Your product has to be unique, or pretty close to it. If people can buy it on Amazon or in the big box store down the street then you are going to have a tough time attracting them to your store and convincing them to buy it from you.
2. Searched For
You can talk (and dream) about social media marketing and viral content, but in the real world, if no one is searching for your product on the major search engines, then there’s probably not enough demand out there to support an e-commerce business. The best way to find out how many people are searching for your product is to sign up for a Google Adwords account (it’s free), and use their Keyword Planner Tool to get search volume data for keywords that are related to your product (this is called “keyword research”). In general a high search volume is a good thing, but what you really want is…
…a respectable search volume for a keyword phrase that describes your product very precisely. So, whether you’re shelling out for paid clicks or fighting for organic rankings, you want to make sure that the keywords or key phrases you’re investing in describe your product as precisely as possible, to maximize the probability of a conversion (a click that turns into a sale). Imagine, for example, that you are selling French tablecloths. On Google people search for the word “tablecloths” about 40,000 times per month. They only search for “french tablecloths” about 750 times per month. But the probability of a search for “french tablecloths” turning into a conversion for you will be hundreds of times higher than a search for just “tablecloths”. Never forget that what really matters to your business is not the number of clicks you get, but the number of conversions, the conversion rate (the number of conversions per click), and…
…the cost per conversion. Which is why your product needs to be expensive, at least relative to your marketing costs. Again, in the real world you’re going to end up paying money to market your products on the Internet, and that money is going to come right out of your “gross margin” (profit).
Assume for a moment that your cost per conversion is $10, meaning you spend a total of $10 in marketing for every product you sell. If your product sells for $100, that’s not so bad – you’re only giving up 10% of your margin on marketing. But if your product sells for $20, that $10 cost per conversion is going to kill your business, especially when you consider that there will be other things that will nibble away at your margin, like…
We mean shipping. Whether you’re stocking and shipping your products yourself, using a third party fulfillment service, or “drop shipping” products directly from the manufacturer, wholesaler, or distributor, somebody has to pay for the shipping. If you’re paying for the shipping, it’s coming out of your margin. If your customers are paying for it, it’s increasing your price and making you less competitive. Shipping charges go up with weight and volume. So you want a product that is light and compact so that its shipping cost is small compared to its price.
It takes a lot to build a successful e-commerce business, and picking an e-commerce-friendly product to sell is by no means the only thing you have to do right. But it sure helps!