Tag Archives: drop shipping

Targeting a Niche Market is a Way for Small Online Retailers to Sidestep Big Competition

The market dominance of the online retail giant Amazon.com and multi-channel retailer Walmart is a huge barrier for anyone who wants to start selling products online.  As a result, the big retailers can be found anywhere online. They offer a large variety of products at ridiculous low prices. Moreover, they promise to deliver products within a couple of days of ordering. And they take the return of products in their stride. So, how on earth can you, as an owner of a Shopify or Woo Commerce website, compete with Amazon and Walmart? The answer is to develop a niche market for your business.

What is a niche market?

A niche market is a small market segment with customers that have specific interests or needs 1. Contrast that with a mass market where retailers such as Amazon and Walmart target as many people as possible. As a result their product offerings are wide and deep and they target generic audiences all over the world. These large retailers that compete in mass markets seem to have unlimited financial resources to enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage with all aspects of the retail mix.

But, you don’t want to compete with Amazon or Walmart, do you?  Therefore it may be worthwhile to consider a niche market.

The characteristics of a niche market are as follow: 2

  1. The customers in the niche have a distinct set of needs;
  2. They will pay a premium price to the firm that best satisfies their needs;
  3. A niche is not likely to attract competitors;
  4. The niche marketer gains certain economies through specialization; and
  5. The niche has size, profit, and growth potential.

So, it’s looking good thus far! But how can you develop a niche market for your business?

How to develop a niche market for you retail business

Although niche marketing and market segmentation seems like the same thing, there is a fundamental difference. Market segmentation is a top-down approach, stating that it is “the process of breaking a large market into smaller and more manageable sub-markets.” By contrast is niche marketing a bottom-up approach, meaning that “the marketer starts from the needs of a few customers and gradually builds up a larger customer base.” 2

Five important elements of a niche market are: 2

  1. Positioning – offer a product that satisfy a unique need with the segment;
  2. Profitability – customers in the segment must be willing to pay a premium for your product or solution;
  3. Distinct competence – you should quickly be seen as an expert by the customers in the niche market;
  4. Small market segments – means that you can focus on the customers’ needs and pickup more quickly on developing trends;
  5. Adherence to the marketing concept – the philosophy that firms should analyze the needs of their customers and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition.

Next you must communicate with customers in you market niche.

Niche marketing

Many small and new retailers choose to operate in niche markets. They deal mostly in specialized or unusual products which cannot be found easily elsewhere like departmental outlet or supermarkets. These retailers need to be found in places where it is easy for customers to seek them out.

One of the places where customers can search for special products is the internet. Astute marketers in a niche market can, by using the right digital marketing tools, get right in the faces of their target audience.

The ability of online retailers to help customers locate, evaluate, and purchase a far wider variety of products than they can via traditional brick and mortar channels is an important characteristic of the internet channel. Active search tools allow customers to easily locate products they know they are interested in. Even more, they can help them to identify products they weren’t previously aware of. 3

Customers that are seeking unusual products are more likely to join online communities on social media sites with relevant topics. As a result, retailers may not only find and learn from customers in on social media, but positive feedback about their brand may lead to more site visits.

A great idea for retailers is to create discussion groups on their own websites. Get a couple of known influencers to publish or interact with your audience. This may give your brand an ‘expert’ states in the niche market. Equally important is regular and informed communication (a newsletter via email) to keep the attention of your special group customers.

Benefits of Niche Marketing

Kirsten McCormick in TriveHive lists the following benefits of niche marketing:

  1. Enhanced Customer Relationships. A small customer base has its benefits. So, when you are engaging with fewer people, you can focus on the quality of those engagements and on nurturing your relationships.
  2. Reduced Competition. When you have a highly specific product or service, there will be less companies out there with the exact same offering.
  3. Increased Visibility. Increased visibility is a benefit of niche marketing that not only leads to more customers but can also improve your online presence.
  4. Word of Mouth Growth. Another benefit of niche marketing is that it is very word-of-mouth-friendly. Indeed, people in a niche tend to be in frequent contact with others in that niche, which means more opportunities to get the word out about your business.
  5. Honed Expertise. Niche marketing requires more concentrated practice in one area, so it can really fine tune your expertise in a shorter time period. Hence the benefit of niche marketing is that it enables you to become an expert or thought leader in your niche.
  6. Less Resources. One important part of effective digital marketing is identifying and understanding your audience, which requires an investment of time and money on data and analytics tools. The benefit of niche marketing is that because you are confined to a specific person and a specific need, less focus is required on digging into your data to understand and keep up with their needs.
  7. More Fun. Businesses don’t always pick their niche and pursue it. Oftentimes, they accidentally find their niche in the process of serving their target audience.

Disadvantage of niche marketing

Because the customer base of a niche market may be small, the potential for the retailer to grow her business can be limited. However, says Ash Ome in DigitalDevelop.net “Despite a few disadvantages, the niche marketing with drop ship has so many advantages that will surely take your small business towards success.”

Concluding

The retail industry is in the midst of disrupting events that are shaping its future. Most Brick and Mortar retailers are adding the online channel to their business. At the same time are Pure Play online retailers adding physical stores to the business.

And then there is Amazon.com. But the answer remains to get a niche market for your business. That’s especially true for the millions of Shopify and Woo Commerce drop shipping retailers trying to make money in the online channel…

Read more: Thinking About Competing With Amazon.com? Think Again…

Notes

1 Choudhary, S. 2014. Rooting by niche marketing, International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences, 3(10):84-91.Contrast

2 Parrish, E.D., Cassill, N.L. and Oxenham, W. 2006. Niche market strategy for a mature marketplace, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 24(7):694-707.

3 Brynjolfsson, E., Hu, Y.J. and Smith, M.D. 2006. From Niches to Riches: Anatomy of the Long Tail, MIT Sloan Management Review, 47(4):67-71.

Images

Pixabay.com

Flickr.com

Drop Shipping in 2017 – Opportunities and Turbulence for Retailers

Drop shipping in 2017: Is drop shipping the ‘holy grail’ for struggling Bricks Mortar retailers? Or is it a retail business model that goes against what online customers demand: An easy, consistent and seamless experience.

According to Joel Padi writing in The Market Mogal, the young people in the UK choose increasingly to become entrepreneurs. This is because of the unpredictable economy, high study fees and a fiercely competitive job market. Joel says that some of the young entrepreneurs consider drop shipping as a “risk-free, low start-up cost, and profitable business venture”.

Josh Wexler, CEO and Founder of RevCascade, posting in the MULTICHANNELMERCHANT says that “Thanks to its inherent flexibility and low-risk nature, drop shipping has the potential to be your ultimate tool for merchandising and product curation”. However, Ed Kennedy cautions that with drop shipping, a retailer may put his/her good reputation in another’s hands. A real concern…

The drop shipping in 2017 will be discussed – does it offers opportunities for retailers, or is it too troublesome?

The drop shipping distribution model

The drop shipping distribution model is usually contrasted with the traditional retail distribution model. Comparing the two models is not without a good reason. Traditional retail distribution models require the retailer to buy inventory, and to store and manage it. This practice needs a monetary investment that serves as an important entry barrier to the industry.

There is no need for a retailer to buy inventory, or to handle it when using drop shipping.  Since the capital requirements starting a drop ship retail business is small, the barrier to enter the industry is low. Therefore, starting a drop ship business seems easy, but how easy is it to keep it open?

The pros and cons of drop shipping in 2017

Drop shipping, as with any other retail business model, has its advantages and disadvantages:

The advantages of using drop shipping for existing retailers are according to Josh Wexler as follows:

  • Increasing volume with existing brands – launching a drop ship program largely takes the responsibility of shipping and fulfillment off your shoulders;
  • Selling new products from new (and existing) brands – your product mix and brand offerings can be drastically expanded and diversified with virtually no risk;
  • Testing new verticals – drop shipping can mitigate risk to the point where retailers can test out merchandising with entirely new verticals, not just products and brands;

The disadvantages for retailers using a drop shipping system are according to Strategy Plus:

  • Processing your orders can become difficult. The time between selling a product and getting it shipped can take long. Also, there are many conversations and actions that need to take place before it gets sent off;
  • Not having all of the product information is problematic. As you never actually handle the products that you are selling, you have no realistic idea of what they are like;
  • Customer service issues. Drop shipping removes the responsibility of shipping but, sadly, it also removes a large part of the customer experience from your control;
  • A vast amount of competition is everywhere. Finding great drop shipping products means they generally will come with competition from other retailers in your sector.

How should retailers practice drop shipping in 2017

In a time where many Bricks and Mortar retailers are closing shops because changes in the buying behaviour of their customers, a drop shipping distribution model may provide an outcome. Indeed, drop shipping has the power to build a retailer’s eCommerce site and increase product offerings with little capital investment.

However, Peter Zaballos, Chief Marketing Officer at SPS (quoted in the MULTICHANNELMERCHANT) suggests that before retailers decide to add drop shipping capabilities, they should consider the following six questions:

  1. Do I have the infrastructure needed to support it? Drop shipping involves many moving parts and requires flawless orchestration between retailers and suppliers. Communication, collaboration and efficiency are key to meeting the promise made to consumers.
  2. Do I have the right internal resources in place? Managing the increased document flow drop shipping requires may tax your internal teams. It’s critical that you have systems and processes that can support increased volume.
  3. Which of my suppliers have drop shipping capabilities? While having a relationship with a supplier that offers drop shipping makes it easier to add this component to your merchandising strategy, it is not a necessity.
  4. How will I receive reliable, accurate product information? Today’s digital consumers rely on detailed product information when making purchasing decisions. To ensure you provide such information, gather item attributes from your suppliers.
  5. How will I maintain service levels? Drop ship agreements require collaboration and trust in order to ensure customer expectations are met. From the start, foster and encourage open dialogue and set expectations, requirements and goals.
  6. In what way will I manage returns? Even with accurate product information and a good shopping experience, returns are inevitable and must be planned for. First, determine what to do with merchandise that is returned. Will it go back to the warehouse or the supplier, be discounted and sent to store shelves or sold elsewhere?

Concluding

Although the start-up costs are low with a drop shipping business, it’s not so easy to run it. Websites such as Dropship.com and Shopify as well as other applications run by the wholesale suppliers will mostly give entrepreneurs a seamless start. However, what happens there after will require all the ‘guts’ and determination to keep going.

Then there is the ‘the paradox of choice’. Jeremy Hanks, CEO of Dsco said recently in Practical Ecommerce that “customers overwhelmed by product variety end up just window shopping.” Joel Padi writing in The Market Mogal advises that when starting with drop shipping, specialization in a niche market could prove to be the key to a profitable start-up. By reducing their focus, first-time entrepreneurs can narrow the target market, reducing advertising and marketing costs.

Finally, to do successful drop shipping in 2017, the retailer must maintain control over the entire customer experience, including how transactions and communications take place, says Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder of Mirakl (Internet Retailing).

Image: Pixabay

Read also:  Drop shipping retail in 2016

 

 

Drop Shipping Retail in 2016

The author of this blog has previously reported on hard lessons that he’d learnt when trying to do drop shipping (How-not-to-start-your-online-retail-business). Has anything changed with drop shipping since three years ago?

What is drop shipping?

Just a quick reminder what drop shipping is:

Drop shipping, according to Shopify, is an online retail model where a retailer doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a retailer sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the retailer never sees or handles the product.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of drop shipping?

Joel Padi, writing in the Market Mogul has recently commented on drop shipping. He mentioned the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • It is easy and cheap to start an online drop ship business – you only need an e-commerce website;
  • No capital is needed to secure a premises and to buy inventory;
  • The costs for the retailer only starts when the customer has paid for her order;
  • The drop ship retailer can operate from anywhere at any time.

Disadvantages:

  • Low margins – because entry is easy and many of the products is from the same manufacturer;
  • Intense competition – thousands of websites offering the same products. Drop ship retailers must invest many dollars and lots of time for prospect customers to buy from them;
  • Lack of quality or brand control – drop ship retailers are totally depended on the drop ship suppliers for quality or brand control;
  • Availability – most of the drop ship retailers purchase their products from a few suppliers. Retailers can occasionally expect to find products are out of stock after an order has already been placed;
  • Shipping issues – the cheapest source of drop ship products is from countries such as China. Typically this results in a month-long wait on deliveries.

Has anything changed with online drop shipping retail the past three years?

To answer my own question – no! The alternative to drop shipping is for retailers to find a niche product to trade online. Customers are looking for niche products online because they have a specific need for them. Retailers may therefore ask a premium price for satisfying those specific needs…

Visit eBizplan for more on online retailing

Image: nchannel.com

How Not To Start Your Online Retail Business…

It seems so easy to start your online retail business. There are however a number of pitfalls as I have discovered recently venturing the unknown.

This is how my disastrous journey to start an online retail business started:

Carefree

I have money than are not working for me…

Having some money laying for months in my “personal” business bank account, I’ve decided it is time to use it to start my online shop. Reading everyday about the success stories of eCommerce entrepreneurs and the usual “rag to riches” case studies, and with money in the pocket, I needed little convincing to jump at this opportunity.

Eagerness

Taking the leap into virtual richness…

Rationale – if you want to start an online shop, you should look online to start your shop. That is just what I’ve done. It was however disconcerting when surfing the web “Starting your online store” resulted in 1.3 billion hits on Google’s result page. Well, if “starting your online shop” generated so many hits on Google’s search result pages, then surely there must be some success stories on the web about people that started their online shop in a similar way that I’d dreamt of…

Justification

The process of opening my first online shop was a lonely one…

When you are on your own, there is no strategic brainstorming sessions or a meaningful debate that usually takes place when an organisation starts a new venture. The internet served therefore as justification for my decisions in the processes of opening my online shop.

Eventually I found out that the internet is not the best source for justifying opening your new online business…

Confirmation

After giving myself the go-ahead to open my online shop, I’ve started with the process…

Which was rather simple – on Google’s the first result page I‘d clicked on an ad: “Osell Makes Your Online Business Dreams Come True! Largest Wholesale Catalog in the World” (sic). After viewing their catalogs and variety of products, and support – I’d never thought it would be so easy getting a drop ship supplier of my online shop.

Eagerly I‘d registered as an “Osell user”…

Communicating with Tracy

Once I’ve registered with Osell, a personal consultant was appointed to me…

Tracy and I had email conversations about what products I want to sell, what type website I needed and that I needed to pay $600 to integrate OSell’s catalog to my website. Tracy inquired every day about the process, urging me to get my website, saying that every day counts and I am losing money the longer I wait…

Then it started to cost me money…

Starting my online retail business

If you want to start a business, there is start-up costs involved, even if you start online retail business…

To do business with OSell my immediate start-up cost was as follows:

• E- commerce website – $1000;

• Skype – $100.

With everything in place, I’d contacted Tracy to unlock my first online shop…

Moving the goalposts

Tracy confirmed that integrating OSell’s catalog into my website will be done without any problems. However, when I’d asked her for OSell’s banking details to pay my $600 for integrating their catalog, she told me that I have to do it on my own or hire local IT professionals to do it for me.

Tracy nonchalantly mentioned that the $600 is actually a subscription fee. I’ve decided to pull the plug right then – because if OSell is starting to move the goalposts it may be the order of the day.

OSell made me feel like a fool…

Website for sale

The juncture with OSell has put my online shop prematurely in the market – any buyer out there? Sorry, no catalogs though…

Image: flickr.com