Hi, my name is Pat Walls and I run Starter Story, a website dedicated to interviewing successful e-commerce brands and online businesses on how they got started.
I’ve interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs and learned a lot about what makes a business successful.
I’ve seen many common themes about what makes an online brand successful, so I thought I would write about the ones that stood out to me the most.
1. Brand Investment
Focus on building your long-term brand. It’s a very cliche statement, but most online brands don’t have this long term vision.
Building your brand takes time, through positive shopping experience from your buyers and word of mouth over many years.
In my opinion, the “brand” is what separates success from failure in the long term for brands. A strong brand also provides opportunities to one day sell your company.
And the best part -- as your brand gains value, you are able to charge a higher premium on your products. Your customers are paying you for your brand!
2. Manufacture your own products (eventually)
If you want to be profitable in the long term, you need to manufacture your own products.
Here’s the thing - if your product is generic enough that you can buy it on Alibaba, then someone else will probably do it.
When you don’t manufacture your own product, you have little to no control over the price and availability of the goods, and competition will be steep.
90% of the companies I have interviewed manufacture their own products.
3. Find a niche audience
What’s great about today’s world is niche audiences are growing like crazy on the internet.
There has never been a time like this before - entire companies are being built on markets that never could have been served before.
You could target fitness enthusiasts. Sounds pretty niche, right?
I think you can go more niche. How about people that go to the gym and lift weights?
Still can go more niche. How about people that do crossfit?
I interviewed Keegan Pafford, who generates $35k/month selling hand cream to crossfitters.
Another example is ATC Memes, they sell merchandise targeted for the air traffic controller industry.
4. Unique product
Similar to the niche audience, your product needs to be more unique than what you commonly could find on Amazon.
You won’t be successful selling white socks competing with Hanes, but you may be successful selling socks with one-of-a-kind designs on them.
It will be tough competing with Hallmark selling greeting cards, but you may have some luck selling prank greeting cards that sing happy birthday and are impossible to turn off.
Lastly, is your product something that is likely to be repurchased? If not, then the price and margin on the items must be really high like jewelry or furniture.
You should consider how often your product will be repurchased by the same customer.
For example, Ashley sells healthy pancakes that you can even put on a subscription plan.
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