With eCommerce in South Africa growing faster than ever before, and the ease of management of a running a small business online, the question regarding products often comes up. Which product do I sell? How much do I sell it for? Where do I get it from?
Here are a few tips regarding product sourcing when starting your own online business. These are generalised guidelines and will not be applicable to all scenario’s, but may aid in helping you decide on a product.
- Stick with what you know and what you are passionate about.
In order to successfully sell your product you need to be perceived as the expert on your product, and people need to be able to hear the passion in you for what you are selling. If you can convince people that you know best and your product is the best, you will sell. You are also statistically less likely to lose interest in your product if you are passionate about it.
- Try to keep your product as small as possible (as in weights and dimensions)
If you sell physical products, you will need to transport them, probably at more than one stage in your process. The bigger a product is, the more expensive it is to move, and this can eat into your profits and ultimately affect the viability of your business if you aren’t careful.
- The highest profit margin rules the roost.
This sounds greedy, but it is one of the biggest mistakes businesses make, and one of the biggest reasons why so many small businesses fail. As a small business owner, chances are that you will make mistakes, and those mistakes will cost you money. A healthy profit margin will help you to cover the costs of those mistakes, so your business doesn’t close down. It will also help you pay to market your products, and allow you some good margin for negotiating with resellers, distributors etc.
- Import vs sourcing locally.
Importing your products from other countries may be (and often is) less expensive than trying to manufacture it locally, but sourcing from a local supplier can have its benefits. I have outlined some of the key points below:
|Local Supplier||International Suppliers|
|Higher cost per unit (generally)||Lower cost per unit (generally)|
|Easier to manage quality control||Bigger order sizes mean more capital outlay|
|Customer returns can be facilitated easily||Customer returns come directly out of your stock (and your pocket)|
|Small orders can be less expensive||Stock availability can be more difficult to manage|
|Stock on demand||Remote contact with suppliers|
|Language barriers often come into play|
|No supplier returns|
Let your product and profit margin decide on what will be best for you. If you do decide to import your products, there are many importers who will be able help and advise you on the best course.
- Start small. Stay niche.
Once you have a product idea, buy a small order and try to get that order sold. Niche products are easier to sell, but your audience will be much smaller. With things like Google and Facebook though, getting to those niche customers is much easier than it used to be. You can track your conversions, and target very specific people with your product.
- Do your sums.
Do some basic sums on a piece of paper. Include these questions:
- What can I buy this product for?
- What can I sell this product for?
- What is it going to cost me to sell this product?
- How many can I expect to sell?
- Is selling this product worth my money and my time?
- Take the plunge.
They say cemeteries are the world’s richest places, because of all the great ideas people have had that were buried with them. Inaction is worse than failure. Once you have the product take the next step and work from there.
Once you have your product sorted out, setup your Shopify online store through uAfrica.com. An online store is a great way to sell your product, and it doesn’t come with the expensive overheads of a physical store.