Note from Razib Ahmed: This is a blog post written by Hasan Khan
- First of all one needs to decide what products / services they are going to offer. Don’t jump guns, take your time. Look what other people are selling to know the trend. But you don’t want to follow someone. You could end up selling Blankets at the end of winter because you saw someone selling them very well last week but forgot to check the calendar!
- Check the sources of the products / services. Do a market research of the items like prices from other online sellers, their payment policy, store policy, delivery policy and so on. This is to make sure you are not planning to sell something @ 200tk where an existing seller is selling it @ 100tk already. Please think out of the box. Don’t think online selling is all about selling USB memory sticks, fancy key-rings, wallets or LED torches. You can sell anything and everything ; just have to be legal stuff!
- Decide how you are going to handle the logistics. You know ins and outs of the internet, but once you start selling physical goods you will have to deal with the logistics. Are you going to stock the items, if not when and how you wish to collect the items, how long it will take, when do you pay for the goods, how are you going to get paid, how are you going to arrange deliveries etc.
- Make a plan where to operate the store from like Facebook, existing marketplaces (olx, ekhanei etc) or your own website. If you want to be in the game in the long run, please do not think you can do that with a Facebook store, or by selling in OLX. You will need your own website where you have total control.
- Find out how you are going to open those stores, who is going to do it for you. There are several important things to keep in mind. Design & layout of the store, user experiences etc. I wish to write in details sometime soon.
- Write down your store terms and conditions in bullet points. Divide them in Sales, Delivery & After Sales categories. Being thorough will help you from confusing your customers and confusing you as well. Try to offer a great customer service. Keep all windows open. Let them call you, chat with you, text you, email you and even come and collect their items. Remember the customer services in the telecom companies few years back? They invested loads to provide a great experience. Now they all make money by doing the same!
- Decide on how to manage the day to day operations. Try to learn technical aspects of the store as that will help you a lot. For example have an online chat option in your website, keep the window open in your browser. There could be a confused customer who wants to buy a bracelet from your store for his wife but didn’t know which size to get so wanted to know ask someone! Lucky you! You can answer the customer queries in the middle of the night and get a sale!
- Making a budget at this stage is important. Remember to keep a provision for your mistakes in budgeting as you will probably miscalculate costs / expenses when you do it for the first time.
Reasons one should think positive in opening an online store;
Well there are many
- People like to try new ideas, so there are loads of people out there who would try your store to buy their next underwear.
- Buying online is convenient for most people. Don’t only think about your neighbor who works for the government office from where he can come out at 3. There are people who barely get any time in their daily life to go out to buy a pair of socks! Sell some good socks at a good price, chances are you will make good money!
- It works out cheaper. Yes, things are cheaper online. There are mainly two reasons behind this. One, the cost of running virtual stores are quite smaller than a physical store as there is no rents or utility bills to pay. You dont need expensive furnitures or spend a fortune in painting & decorating, the plugins you buy to make your web store look beautiful come at fraction of those costs. If this makes you happy, some of the brilliant plugins out there are free as well! Two ; online stores have to be competitive and prices go down when the sellers are competitive. A customer only needs to open another browser window to compare prices of a product with your competitor seller. If you are expensive, you loose out on that sale! Buying things online works out cheaper for the buyer too. Going to a market (or several markets) to buy one thing costs money and time. The delivery charges are quite nothing if you compare with just one way CNG fare!
- Online stores gives wider choices of products & services. For example, if you are good in drawing and currently don’t have a good job, chances are you wont mind making some money by giving art lessons to kids. You can run a door to door art class without any monthly commitment. The parents can book your service for their kid on a friday afternoon when they want to go to the movies. Same can be done by providing Child Minding service as well. Another thing we all know, we can sell local products to people living in the other side of the country, one can not do that with a physical store.
How can we do a proper research :
Well that is a tricky question to answer. Depending on your circumstances this will vary. Depending on how you think, this will vary. You can hire people to find out things for you, better if you do it yourself. You can do some of the research online while watching tv, but you will have to go out and about to find some of the information.
Is there a scope of selling something Unconventional?
Hell yeah! If you can come up with the idea of the next big thing you are going to make a fortune. Please remember the product & services you want to sell has to be legal. Don’t plan to sell any age restricted items (knifes, alcohol etc.) as there could be nasty consequences. As i said earlier, online trade is not about selling USB sticks or leather wallets anymore. You can sell seasonal products (vegetables in winter), occasional products, groceries, and loads of services. You can also consider to go in collaboration with an existing physical store to open an online store.
Few more things:
Do everything at your pace, in your own style till the day you go operational but be professional from that point onwards. Remember, you will learn new things everyday and there will be surprises.
There are many more aspects to keep in mind. After sales, customer services, customer feedbacks are a few to name. Hopefully i will write up soon! Let me know if you want to ask anything in particular.
Writing this from my experience of opening and running a successful online store for over 3 years.
About Hasan Khan :
Hasan Khan, manager of a hardware store based in North London where we sell a wide variety of products ranging from small nails to big power tools. I transformed the business by selling products online.
I love to read, follow Manchester United & trends in technology. My favorite time of the day is when i put my daughter to sleep!
I also go by the name Shawon. Studied Finance & Banking at Dhaka University. Worked briefly at a stock broker in Dhaka Stock Exchange and moved to the UK to study accountancy but gave up half way as i thought i would be better off in business.
Most recently am quite excited to write for the new entrepreneurs and would love to hear your feedback.
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/hasan.khan.714