Before the current pandemic, selling online was a nice to have; now it is a must. On one side, the pandemic has dramatically reduced the amount of spending on recreational activities, such as hospitality, and on the other, people prefer to shop online instead of queueing in front of a physical store.
As a result, ecommerce has spiked this year.
The first to take advantage of this paradigmatic shift have been influencers, or anybody with some form of online presence. That is of course a must-have fo selling online, as any business needs clients to start with, and ecommerce is not different.
Yet it is not sufficient.
If you are used to online marketing, you already know that shooting videos, posting pictures, or writing articles is tough. Producing and delivering products to your customers is even tougher. It may be easier at the beginning, but, as volumes grow, you need a solid supply chain to serve your customers without disruptions.
Here are three tools that you can use to accomplish that, starting from the one requiring the least level of commitment to the one requiring the highest.
1. Start Out with Dropshipping.
You may have heard of B2B2C, that is, essentially, dropshipping.
Once upon a time, if you wanted to sell goods, you needed to produce them yourself. That meant a lot of money needed to be put in physical capital, such as real estate, machinery and equipment.
Well, dropshipping allows you to avoid any involvement in the physical supply chain. When you receive an order on your online store, this is immediately processed by a dropshipping platform (such as Shopify).
The platform forwards the order to a third-party manufacturer, and then delivers the product to your customer’s door.
With a zero investment in fixed capital, you can literally power your online store with consolidated manufacturing capacity and logistics capabilities.
2. Source Products with B2B Marketplaces.
The only problem with dropshipping is that you end up having a somehow overwhelming partner, i.e. the dropshipping platform, which essentially controls your supply chain, and gets a good chunk of your revenue for running it.
Therefore, as you start seeing some level of predictability in your sales, you may start thinking that you could buy goods directly by yourself and store them somewhere you can control.
You may still feel unsure about how your business will play out eventually, so you want to stock goods for six months, for example.
The best way to do this is to get accustomed to online B2B marketplaces. We all know Amazon.com, the largest B2C online marketplace in the world. Well, B2B marketplaces work in a similar way: you find the goods you are looking for, you place an order in bulk, and the platform delivers the goods to you.
That last point is so convenient especially when you buy from abroad (and you probably will since most suppliers are in Asia). Yet buying from abroad is a minefield, with so many things that can go wrong, usually regarding goods quality, logistics, regulations, payments. Using a reputable B2B marketplace can give you much more assurance than doing it alone.
Examples of such marketplaces are Alibaba, DHgate, EC21, eWorldTrade, go4WorldBusiness, Global Sources, TradeKey, and Made-in-China.
3. Find Suppliers with E-partnering Platforms.
If you are successful, your sales will grow so fast that you do not even make it to stock the goods that you already have to order some more.
In that case, there is no point in buying wholesale. You are ready to sign up your own supplier that will manufacture whatever you need, with no orders to be placed and no intermediary in between.
The problem is: how do you find long-term suppliers?
As always, technology comes to your help. In fact, there are dropshipping platforms, B2B marketplaces, and e-partnering platforms, which are the ones you will use to find your business partner.
These platforms connect businesses based on what they are looking for (example: need commercial agent, looking for manufacturing agreement, etc), not on what businesses buy or sell on a single transaction.
If B2B marketplaces look like Amazon.com, e-partnering platforms resemble classified ads websites such as Craigslist.
Examples of this type of B2B portals are Opportunity Network, Globartis, Enterprise Europe Network.
You can use such websites in two ways. The first is to post that you are looking for a supplier with certain requirements, such as production capacity, quality (eg. ISO 9001 or HACCP), location, cost, and any specifics that your business might require.
Alternatively, you can examine several suppliers’ profiles and connect to the ones you deem more appropriate for you.
We’d be lying if we said this would be an easy process. Platforms may help you by providing as much information as possible, but at the end of the day you will have to perform the due diligence and carry out the negotiations with your potential supplier.
The beautiful thing is, once you find it, you can go full speed with your orders and let your business skyrocket.
The next step is buying out the supplier and integrating the production within your business but, hey, let us give it some time!