As our favorite pastime (selling stuff online) continues to grow, sellers are finding more tools to help them along, and lower barriers to entry. While we believe in the power of simplicity for our software, the fact remains that from the super simple to the painfully complex, there are lots of programs out there to help you out.
From eCommerce platforms, shopping cart solutions and fulfillment services, to payment gateways, accounting software and analytics, to Sellbrite (shameless), today’s eCommerce retailer has to spend more time figuring out what software is best for them than actually setting up shop. While we <3 technology, and some of the new software out there is both clean, and helpful for the promising seller (see MailChimp, Retailr, AutoMCF), software will only take you so far in your quest to be the next seller kingpin.
So what do you REALLY need to do? What do you need to think about constantly, look for aggressively, dream about day and night? What above all else will make you a more successful seller?
One thing: inventory.
The key to Amazon’s success is not that they had great traffic, or great branding, or the best technology, it’s that they recognized the need for aggregating all products “from a to z” under one roof. Heck, they even did it the lazy way, asking for the help of marketplace sellers to provide the ammo to get it done. Now Amazon is widely known as a one stop shop for anything you need, because you are helping them provide the real secret sauce, the inventory management.
Selling products is becoming fiercely competitive. With automatic re-pricing tools (both on Amazon’s end and from 3rd parties) driving margins down, people having access to the same goods, reliable and affordable logistics, there is no telling when someone new will enter the game that you are already in and split the market that you enjoy up into smaller pieces.
The best way to capitalize on the marketplace system as we currently know it is to find new categories to branch off into. Selling books and media? Try out vintage goods (great for eBay!). Mostly familiar with electronics? Research some companies in a seasonal category and do a little biz dev. We come from a background dealing in e&o and distressed inventory. It used to be super easy because no one know about it, and times were great. Now it’s a game that’s catching on, and while there is still a great opportunity there (manufacturers come out with new products constantly, putting old product out to pasture), you have to be creative.
Set a goal for yourself to find a new category of products that are both new to your business and profitable. Even if they aren’t super exclusive, you will benefit from the experience of sourcing something new and the relationships you can cultivate.