•If you want to set up your own online store than you probably already have some idea of business, product range and potential customers of your online store. Think about exactly what kind of products and prices you will include in your shop. Is it worth it to open a specialized online store or perhaps your rural business should rather be offline? Or maybe you can use both online and offline channels, but just make sure you have considered all pros and cons.
•Selling products online requires answering one basic question: where? First of all you have to decide if you want to implement your own online platform or if you don't have the time or money to create your own selling platform you can use third parties online selling platforms like Etsy, Amazon, eBay or even Facebook where you can sell directly to consumers without having a website of your own. Making use of these alternatives it is a vital part of a business' sales strategy.
•Choosing where to sell products online requires evaluating the fit between channel and product. Finding the right fit means having a strong sense of the company's products and its customers (What are you selling? Can it be sold online? Where do your customers buy? Will they buy online?), as well as an awareness of who uses various channels. That is why we strongly suggest you to start by defining your mission, vision, products, corporative brand and identity and costumers before starting with online selling.
There are some key principles in selling online. Some of them are based on common sense and others are related to online selling.
-Trustworthiness: make sure your customer can trust you and your products.
-Consistency: make sure you are consistent with your corporative image, mission and vision.
-Usability: make sure your customer can easily access your products and knows how to use them.
-Quality of products and of sale process: make sure the sale experience is positive.
-After sale assistance: make sure you provide personalised assistance to your customer.
Online related issues:
-Pictures: make sure your products are presented through appealing pictures.
-Language: make sure your contents and translations are meaningful and simple. If you use translations make sure they are done by native speakers and target oriented.
-Online support: make sure you do not loose your customer while using your online platform.
-Security channel: make sure you provide https:// security protocols for economic transactions.
-Privacy policies: make sure you respect data protection laws managing your customers’ data.
-Logistics: make sure you have all shipping and logistics costs or restrictions well explained.
Advantages and disadvantages
•The advantage of using own online selling platform is that you can control the entire process and selling experience since the very beginning and you can choose if you want to provide an intimate shopping experience and familiar customer relationships or prices and features that you want to highlight for your products.
•The disadvantage of using own online selling platforms is related to initial set up and maintenance costs, as well as some logistic issues. If you have only few handmade products and your ROI is not big you might want to opt for third parties selling platforms.
•The advantage of using third parties selling platform is related to traffic and exposure as well as limiting troubles in selling online as you can give it a try and quit immediately if you are not convinced. You can start with these platforms and see if your product is well accepted and your ROI is good enough to think about going on your own. Sites like Amazon or Etsy attract individuals who are prepared to make purchases, whereas it is harder to generate meaningful traffic in your own website or channels. It can be a process of trial and error, and you can add a mix of social channels to a traditional website to get more traffic, more customers and potentially more sales.
•The disadvantage of using third parties selling platform is related to fees, that you have to pay to advertise your product that inevitably reduce your ROI, and to high competition in terms of products and prices.
•The power of choosing the right channels lies, in part, in defining correctly different types of customers. People shopping on Etsy, for instance, are primed and ready to buy unique handcrafted items. Whereas, Amazon and eBay have their own types of customers and work well for certain kinds of products. That is why it is so important to define your products and costumers before starting to sell online. If you have a rural business where you manufacture your own product, then Amazon/Etsy/AliExpress can be the best choice. If you are a reseller of existing brands, eBay might be easier for you, especially at the beginning. Just make sure you choose your channels wisely.
•Website. A website is the cornerstone of most small rural microenterprises online presence. Since people do not know you, make sure your contents and pictures convey your best corporative image.
•Shopping cart software. Any time you sell something online that is more complicated than one single item, a shopping cart helps. Check with your website hosting company to see what they offer. Make sure your platform runs on a secure communication channel https:// as it will enhance trust in your ecommerce.
•Payment processing. Whether it's Paypal or the credit card processor that you use for in-person transactions, you'll need to figure out how you are going to take payment online.
•Email support. You will need to have an email address where customers can contact you if something goes wrong, if they want to change their order, or if they want to return something. Make sure costumers feel comfortable and that they can trust you
If choosing a sales channel becomes overwhelming, it never hurts to turn to experts. A variety of consultants and businesses specialize in getting your products where they need to be.
Having your products in as many places as possible is a key strategy. People use social media to talk about products. Social media is another avenue in which retailers can monetize their presence, and it should be a strategy that all retailers consider.
Storefront Social is one of the growing number of businesses that specialize in setting up stores on particular online channels -- in this case, Facebook.
Whatever channels and strategies you choose, it is important to research, adapt and be flexible. After all, tomorrow's channels differ from today's, but the basic principle of knowing your business and your customers will hold.
Make sure you know who your customer is and where that type of person shops. Just make sure to be patient and understand that your ranking on that particular channel and revenue will improve as long as you have done your researches successfully, provide a quality product, and have exceptional customer service.
7 Sales Channels to Sell Your Rural Products
Here are seven of the most popular indirect sales channels:
1. Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces, which include platforms like eBay, Etsy, Amazon and others, are popular indirect sales channels used by businesses of all sizes. As a small business owner, you probably will have access to customers only in your immediate vicinity. By selling through an online marketplace, you can reach a wider net of potential clients who might otherwise not even know that you exist. As an added bonus, using this channel can help cut down on your marketing costs.
Distributors are mainly wholesale businesses that specialize in selling to retailers, not directly to consumers. Because they have an incentive to sell your products for you, distributors save you money on hiring and training a sales force to market your products to their customers.
There are limitations that you should keep in mind. Because distributors mark up goods to make a profit, they may not be ideal for companies selling lower-value products. You will have to make sure that your product is priced sufficiently below its suggested retail price so that a distributor—and their retail partners—will be willing to carry it.
7 Sales Channels to Sell Your Rural Products (3 – 4)
3. Foreign Distributors
There are various benefits of using a foreign distributor, including the opportunity to gain access to new customer bases around the world. Additionally, foreign distributors handle customs formalities and paperwork, leaving you more time to focus on operations. If you use translations make sure they are done by native speakers and target oriented.
4. Affiliate Sales
Affiliates are individuals or companies that sell goods on other businesses’ behalf. In exchange for their services, affiliates receive commissions on sales. While affiliates help businesses reach larger and more varied customer bases, they tend to charge high commissions for their services.
Moreover, some affiliates have been known to participate in fraudulent practices like false advertising. Evaluate any potential affiliate before choosing them to sell your product.
7 Sales Channels to Sell Your Rural Products (5 – 6)
5. Outsourced Sales
Many small business owners are normally time poor. With that in mind, a number of companies opt to outsource their sales needs to other businesses rather than handle them in-house.
One of the benefits of this sales channel is its flexibility. Companies can choose to outsource a particular aspect of the sales process, such as lead nurturing or supporting a specific event or product launch.
6. Value-Added Resellers (VARs)
Most common in the tech industry, value-added resellers (VARs) purchase a company’s products, then alter or otherwise enhance them before reselling them to customers. A good example is a computer manufacturer, such as Apple or Dell, who each purchase processors from Intel in order to manufacture its respective computer.
Because VARs often perform technical tasks that would be beyond a customer’s capability, they can open up new audience bases for your products.
7 Sales Channels to Sell Your Rural Products (7)
Catalogues are still an effective way to target certain markets for physical products. Not only do catalogues offer an attractive alternative for customers to view products, but they also let you entice more traditionally minded buyers as well as those who can’t or won’t visit your storefront in person.
When choosing a sales channel, there are multiple factors to keep in mind. Not only do you have to assess how your competitors are selling their products, but you should also consider the costs of these various methods in addition to customer preferences. Once you determine the ideal sales channel(s) for your business’ needs, then you can add any complementary marketing efforts and watch your products fly off the shelves.
Distribution channels for eCommerce market
Here is an interesting video explaining distribution channels definition, eCommerce and eBusiness definitions, it also covers some examples of eCommerce platforms.
What are distribution channels?
Here is an interesting video explaining the different ways in which goods might reach the consumer.