Buying Products & Managing Products for Ecommerce Stores.
To source product suppliers and distributors you can start offline by looking in retail and trade magazines, visiting trade shows, and approaching local and national brick and mortar companies. Online you can start with companies such as WorldWideBrands.com, or just search on Google for your products, using terms like ‘MP3 Player Distributor’ or ‘MP3 player trade suppliers’.
Popular Product Source Tool with Integrated Research Tools.
- WorldWideBrands: www.worldwidebrands.com/
Considerations when Selecting a Product.
If you have not yet decided on a product range to sell, consider the following:
- Is there profit in the product?
- Will your supplier grant you (full) exclusivity on the product?
- Is the product patent protected?
- Customer demand: what is Your product life cycle until people stop wanting it?
- Supplier: are they reliable, how good is their warranty & returns process, what are their long term plans?
- Is support and technical help available from your suppliers and how (email, phone)?
- How big is the product range? are new products planned?
When buying products, always start by asking your suppliers for trade price lists and bulk buy tier structures as they often give bigger discounts if you buy in larger quantities. When you are ready to order, always negotiate on their prices and ask what ‘special deal’ you can have for buying in bulk quantities. Tell them you intend to shift a boatload so you get a great deal. As your business grows and you spend more with your suppliers, continue to negotiate on price at least every 3-6 months.
Gray Imports or Replicas.
The internet is a hot spot for gray imports and replica products. A gray import is the genuine product, but sourced from a foreign market where prices are typically a lot cheaper and specifications are sometimes slightly different. The biggest issue with ‘true’ gray imports (not knock off clones or replicas) is the manufacturer’s warranty and whether this is honored. Gray market items are predominantly sold on the internet or through wholesale channels where it is difficult for the buyer to properly inspect the product prior to buying.
Establish the warranty period of each product. For example, many products come with a standard 12 months manufactures warranty. Generally, gray imported products will not have warranty cover. Therefore, it is important to clearly establish the warranty and returns process as inevitably some products will break down.
Check the Following with Your Supplier:
- Does your customer return directly to wholesaler or manufacturer?
- Do they return to you and then you return to wholesaler or manufacturer, or is there a third party company that handles or repairs your product?
- What are the timelines, logistics and costs on the above scenarios?
Number of Products.
Decide if you will sell a few products, hundreds of products or even thousands or tens of thousands of products. Selling fewer products results in less work and gives you more of a niche positioning of your ecommerce website. However, on the flip side the more product pages you have in Google or the other search engines, the more entry points your prospects will have, and the easier it will be for them to find your site.
Product Data Entry.
You can do this yourself or you can outsource this laborious process. If you outsource you may need to modify and improve the descriptions later—to add a sales edge. You will need brochures, images, descriptions and prices (where available). Your supplier may have all these in a spreadsheet CSV file, so you can import them directly into your ecommerce back-end admin for maximum speed.
Data entry of your products and real time stock updates of your products can be automated, if your supplier or distributer offers this service. Data feeds are a way of integrating a real time stock database—commonly including products descriptions, images and prices—from your suppliers’ main system into your website.
This is an ideal tool if you do not hold your own stock, and makes for optimum efficiency. Whenever your suppliers update the stock or prices change, this is change is immediately reflected in your website’s stock level numbers, and in real time on your live website. The large computer component companies use this model to keep on top of the rapid changes to stock levels. To do this manually—if you don’t hold your own stock—would be next to impossible, or would require full time employees in house or outsource, working around the clock.