The number of products your business sells depends on you and little else, but it can be hard to make that product eCommerce choice. Do you want to focus on a single product or many? Are you selling mass-produced goods that you or someone else can personalize? Is each item going to be hand-crafted or unique? You’ve got plenty of options and flexibility in those categories, and each comes with some fulfillment needs too.
So, let’s take a closer look at the three most common product-based eCommerce options, what to know, and how these choices differ.
There are many single or unique product eCommerce businesses and stores that find great success online. Having a cornerstone or flagship product early on can make it easy to build a large fanbase when successful. Companies large and small achieve this, slowly branching out into variations on a theme. This might be true for your robotic vacuum, the first computer you owned, an electric bike, coffee press, and much more.
A one-product eCommerce store is often easier to create, though success isn’t certain. Here, your entire website acts as a unified sales funnel. Every page and button will move people down the same path. That way, you’re working on a single goal. Often, the interested audience keeps clicking while disinterested shoppers leave almost immediately. You get to focus on your most likely targets quick, fast, and in a hurry.
For a single-product eCommerce store, fulfillment is paramount. You’ve only got one product and message to gain a customer’s interest. Affordable or free shipping plus fast options can sweeten the deal. However, orders must arrive accurately and on time, or people have less reason not to cancel. With one product, you’ve generally got just one shot to get the whole thing right.
Many businesses start as more of a general or multi-product eCommerce store because it’s easier to attract a broader audience. Selling goods for various situations or multiple products to tackle the same concern are great ways to land different tastes, budgets, and preferences. Plus, you can be a single destination for a group or family to shop. It’s why your favorite burger place might also offer salads.
Categories can be related or unrelated, and many things drive that decision. You may choose products that target a specific audience or demographic group. Some stores sell everything from specific manufacturers because of an existing relationship. You might focus on pools, offering everything from trunks and floaties to chemicals, cleaners, and lifeguard accessories. Your favorite online beauty store likely also offers some home goods, apparel, and wellness products.
What’s helpful is that you can sell many different products and expand your reach. The challenge is that you need to curate pages and content across a broader set of categories. There’s more site work in this model. Unfortunately, there’s also more competition. You’ve got to work hard to gain someone’s attention and get them to open their wallet.
On the fulfillment side of things, a reliable partner is extremely important. As your SKUs increase, so does the complexity of your orders. You need someone who can accurately track all that inventory, guarantee accuracy of orders, and even guarantee that things are sent out on time. This is where trying to manage every aspect of a business yourself becomes nearly impossible. Find partners that can help you, and don’t be afraid to consider outsourcing. It just might save you thousands of dollars each month.
The unique-product eCommerce challenge
If you’re up for a challenge, then consider selling one-of-a-kind products. This isn’t just a single product eCommerce store; it’s a store where each item is different. Here, you’ll rarely have an SKU that’s repeated, and many inventory software systems will struggle to automate tasks. Every hand-crafted table or custom engraving is a lucrative opportunity, but you can only make it once and rarely resell if a customer returns something.
Two things set successful stores apart in this category:
- Products that are truly unique, such as custom furniture or unusual pieces of jewelry
- The ability of the owner/operator to create relationships
Surprisingly, relationship building may be the most important piece of this eCommerce puzzle. Before someone buys from you, you’ll need to establish trust and start the relationship so they think you can truly deliver. Then, you need a strong follow-up game to get reviews and ratings from your small section of customers. It’s tough, but you must leverage that relationship to generate the reviews, social posts, and other elements future visitors need to see to trust you more readily.
At the same time, you’ve got a lot of trust-building work going on behind the scenes. Suppliers for these products are rare, whether you purchase finished items or raw materials to create your own. Also, you’ll need a strong relationship with a 3PL that can handle objects of varying size, shape, and weight. It can be tricky to secure shipping discounts on your own when products aren’t uniform, so a partner is essential to controlling costs. However, depending on the product, inbound deliveries to a 3PL’s location can be tricky to manage.
Your best bet is to do some vendor shopping. Ask 3PLs questions like these to see who can support your operations and what specific expenses you’ll face.
A drop shipping difference
All of this changes when you start down the path of drop shipping your products. Much of your negotiating needs go out of the window because you’re not in charge of sourcing, producing, stocking, or shipping products. You create a storefront and link up with a manufacturer or wholesaler. Your operations are based on sales and marketing, while your partner handles the product eCommerce angle.
While this changes your role, it’s important to note that all three of our different product eCommerce categories apply to drop shipping. You can make it work with any offer. However, because you’re the “face” of customer interactions, you need valuable partners. Your supplier needs to deliver goods to customers reliably, which means accurate and on time. Products need to be the quality that you promise, and your customer services must act fast.
Drop shipping is sometimes positioned as an eCommerce-get-rich-quick option. Unfortunately, there are no such shortcuts. The best thing to do is to treat this as an extension of a complete business and prioritize those relationships. Think of your ability to sell as the “unique product” model, and you’ll be well-positioned for success.
And, say you decide to shift to managing more of the product-related tasks to your business — which should come with increased revenues and profitability. Red Stag Fulfillment’s door is always open to help you figure out the best way to fulfill orders quickly, accurately, and affordably.