As we know, value added resellers (VARs) buy products from distributors/manufacturers, add their own value (services) before finally selling it to end customers. Being a competitive industry, VARs often find it difficult to earn adequate margins. Many VARs are thinking of taking their business online due to immense opportunities created by the rapid growth of ecommerce. As a VAR, taking business online can be a profitable venture, but you need to be aware of things to do before choosing an Ecommerce software.
Here’s what you need to do before launching your Ecommerce store:
Prior to Launch
Identify the Products to Sell
As a VAR, you are already selling products offline. However, you need to find out whether it is worth selling it online. Check the competition. Choosing the right products to sell online is critical to the success of your VAR business. Do enough research and identify products that are most profitable. Choosing a niche that is too competitive will make it difficult to stand out from established competitors. So, go for a specific set of products (niche) that are in great demand but low in competition.
Identify your Audience
Spending your marketing budget on the wrong audience can harm your business immensely. So before finalizing an Ecommerce platform have a clear target audience in mind depending upon the product niche that you have decided to sell. You have to be sure that there is a good market for what your business has to offer. Analyze your products/services and find out which specific group of audience will benefit from your business. You can even conduct market research through surveys to try and understand your target audience.
Choose the Right Distributor/Supplier
Once you have finalized your product offerings, it is time to look for the right suppliers. When choosing supplier ensure that their product portfolio matches well with your requirements. Also, evaluate their customer support services. Are they offering top-notch technical support? From sales help to technical support, their services should help you to add more value to your customers.
Also, find out whether the supplier has employed right technology to work with you online. For instance, does the supplier support electronic ordering? Is the supplier offering data feed services? Data feed allows automatic transfer of product data between two sources. This will eliminate the need to upload supplier catalog manually into your ecommerce backend. Also, check whether the supplier offers real time integration for price, availability and order status. This will enable you to view inventory and pricing information from the supplier in real time.
Evaluate their product pricing and bargain to get products at lower prices from the supplier so as to resell them at higher margins. Also, make sure that the supplier has a reliable network of shipping carriers so that the order always arrives on time.
As you know, value added reselling is a low margin business. Hence, it doesn’t make sense to rent warehouses to store your inventory. Hence choose a supplier that offers dropship services. In a dropship model, the supplier takes care of storing, packaging and shipping your products. That means, you can run your online store without carrying any inventory at all.
Set Prices that Maximize your Profits
When you are launching your business online, pricing is one of the most crucial aspects as it has a direct impact on your profits. If you price your products too low, it can boost your online sales but your margins will suffer. On the other hand, if you price your products too high, you will attract very small number of customers. This will not be enough to cover your costs. The aim should be to set a price that enables you to sustain your business comfortably. All in all, you have to implement effective strategies to price your products online.
Markup and Margin Pricing Methods
Value added resellers (VARs) usually use the margin and markup pricing methods to determine the selling prices of the products. When deciding your markup or margin, you have to keep your competitor’s pricing in mind. If your pricing is much higher than the competition, your customers are likely to go to your competitors. So before deciding the pricing that is right for your business, be well aware about your competitors pricing. You need to develop a competitive pricing strategy to win sales. In fact, you should conduct a thorough high-level competitive analysis and find out the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and use it to your advantage.
Keep in mind there are different pricing strategies that you will have to employ while running your business throughout the year. This includes discount pricing, price bundling, psychological pricing etc. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to pricing strategy. Decide your pricing strategy depending upon your business objectives, situation and customers’ purchasing behavior.
Building your Ecommerce Store
Choose an Appropriate Ecommerce Platform
Once you are ready with your product catalog and pricing strategies, it is time to look for an appropriate Ecommerce platform. You can either hire web developers and build your online store or take the help of any of the user-friendly ecommerce platform available to quickly setup and run your online store. These platform have all the necessary features that will enable you to manage your online business like a professional.
Setup your Merchant Account
In order to accept payments online, it is important to setup your merchant account. Having a merchant account will enable you to reach out to greater number of potential customers who are interested in buying your online products with a credit card. (Visa, Master Card etc.)
Apart from merchant account, you will also need a payment gateway that will enable you to charge your customer’s credit/debit card. After the payment has been approved by the payment gateway, the money will be deposited in your merchant account. You can use PayPal, a solution that offers both merchant account and a payment gateway.
Engaging Website Content
Having clear and enticing product images in your online store is equally important to boost sales. Displaying high quality product images on your site can turn a browser into a buyer. So consider hiring a professional photographer to capture perfect photos of the products. In case you are on a tight budget, contact your distributor/ manufacturer for product images and description. Another option is to forge partnership with rich content providers such as Etilize and IceCat for high quality data that includes images, short and long description, technical specifications etc.
Also, in case you have decided to do business with multiple suppliers, create an aggregated catalog that displays in-depth product information coming from different suppliers. One major advantage of having an aggregated catalog in a well-structured format is that you are able to access product data from a single place, instead of browsing through multiple sites.
Decide what strategy you will adopt to track website performance. Before starting your online store, it is important to have a clear idea about the method that you will use to track website traffic and conversions. An easy way is to use Google Analytics, a free online analytics tool that helps you to measure the success of your website. Just setup your Google analytics account and add a tracking code to your website. This will give you an early start in assessing the performance of your site. You can see potential errors that need to be fixed and pages that require more optimization. All in all, you get early access to actionable insights on improving your site.
SEO-enabled Web Pages
You need to consider search engine while designing your ecommerce store. Implementing SEO practices before launch will make your online store ready for search engines to crawl effectively. Many VARs think of SEO practices after the website is complete. However, they might have to spend additional money on redesigning the website to meet SEO requirements. So it is always better to implement SEO during store development. Identify keywords that are relevant to your business and add them appropriately into your website. You can also use rich snippets to make your website content stand out in search engine results pages.
Shipping as a Marketing Tool
A FuturePay 86% of online shoppers abandon their carts due to high shipping cost. So deciding the right shipping strategy for your online store can certainly help to improve conversion rate. Free shipping and flat rate shipping (single rate for all orders) are the two most common shipping solutions that have proven to increase online sales. In fact, free shipping is an effective marketing strategy to attract customers. Price and weight based shipping is another option to determine shipping charges.
While offering free shipping or flat rate shipping will boost your online business, it can also kill your profit margins. This is because you will have to take the shipping cost out of your profit margins to cover internal costs. In order to make free shipping profitable, you can increase minimum order value needed for free shipping. Another strategy is to add shipping cost in the price of the product.
Email newsletter is an effective marketing strategy that communicates any new information related to your company. This includes events, new product launches and special offers that would interest your customers. You have to select an appropriate email marketing platform to send out newsletter on a regular basis. You should be ready with ‘Welcome Email’ template that introduces your brand. You can make them sign up for your newsletter and announce when your store will launch to the public.
Setup your Social Media Account
In today’s times, a strong social media presence is critical for any business organization. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are effective marketing channels to reach out to potential customers. Setup your business page on these sites and share news of your site launch. You can post engaging content such as industry news and trends, stories about your business and links to product. Don’t forget to take the help of your existing network (family and friends) to promote your store. You can setup Facebook tracking pixel that enables you to track people who visit your website after viewing your Facebook ads. This data can be later used for remarketing & retargeting.
Prior to its launch, it is necessary that you evaluate your website thoroughly to ensure that everything is working as it should. A successful site launch is extremely important as it makes a very good first impression on your current and potential customers. Small issues like misspelled words or broken links can be overlooked. So from page content to functionality, check your website to the minutest detail to rule out for any possible issues.
Shane is an American writer for various digital news publications. After being in the ecommerce industry for more than 15 years, Shane has a good understanding of what it takes to make an ecommerce business successful. His articles give insights on the latest trends in the B2C and B2B ecommerce industry. His ecommerce coverage is robust and provides everything from best ecommerce platform to improving your website site. He also likes to cover newsworthy events related to business management software, customer relationship management (CRM) and Quoting software.