I’ve always been of the mindset that the simple answer should be readily accessible for those that need it… if that is what you came looking for, here it is: ONE.
With that said, there is always the simple answer and a much more complex one.
In order to have a holistic perspective in any truth-finding, you should evaluate both.
That is what the intention of this post is; first, to establish what your focus should be in building your e-commerce Store and then implementing the appropriate marketing strategy.
As you begin to think about marketing your e-commerce store, you must first evaluate what your experience level in doing so, really is. Experience can be attributed to marketing specifically and your background regarding that, or it could also be viewed as your experience level pertaining to e-commerce in general.
If you have any previous experience in the marketing world, it will be extremely beneficial. Ad development and digital marketing, is considered one of the most finicky aspects of running your e-commerce store.
The ability to find success in the world of e-commerce, ultimately lies in your ability to be creative, thought-provoking and engaging in a blurry world of clutter.
If you are unable to creatively speak to consumer emotions and obtain action from a potential customer, your store doesn’t matter.
Your store doesn’t matter because if you can’t implement the statement above, no one will ever see it.
Many people I speak with everyday get caught up in the fact that they have been told they need “X” number of products, or esthetically their store needs to look a certain way. In reality, sure that matters – once you establish a flow of traffic – however, until then the primary focus should be on obtaining traffic flow.
As I’ve said before, as a dropshipper – you are a MARKETER in the supply chain, presenting the right products, at the right time, to the right consumer, in order to solve a problem.
Establishing an understanding of the world of e-commerce and dropshipping is important – never forget that. I just want to stress the importance of an education base and understanding of the marketing component!
If your background or education are marketing based, you are ahead of the curve – take advantage.
The importance of marketing experience or a need to study it, has been established. Now, let’s take a look at e-commerce and entrepreneurial experience. If you consider yourself in the introductory phase of e-commerce – you want to begin slowly as to not get overwhelmed.
What is the point of throwing a bunch of random products into a Shopify (for example) store – because they look good – and you hope that they will sell?
A big thing missing when it comes to junior or brand new e-commerce entrepreneurs is a lack of proper product research. Yes, you may be able to find unique products that you like, however, is there a market for them?
Do you have the data analytics to back up your assumptions – through tools like AliExtractor? Have you taken a final step to ensure product quality by ordering the items for yourself?
An issue that arises when e-commerce entrepreneurs sell several products without proper quality verification, is it becomes a customer support nightmare when consumers purchase unsatisfactory items.
By starting slow, you can not only be confident in your research, but furthermore, have the ability to learn the administrative steps required to run a legitimate and sustainable e-commerce store.
Seasoned – Evaluating Additional Stores
Having previous e-commerce experience can be essential when deciding not only what type, but how many products to place within your store. Any experience can be extremely valuable – have you ran an e-commerce store previously? Sold on Amazon or eBay? Or, potentially worked within a larger organization on processes pertaining to e-commerce?
As mentioned, individuals and teams that fall into this category – will have the upper hand and can go in with confidence when dealing with their digital marketing efforts, customer support inquiries – and of course, product research.
At this point, whether it be a one product store, niche, or general store – you will simply have to evaluate your goals when opening the store and what you’d like to accomplish.
Managing Expectations and Developing Direction
Let’s make some money!! Unless you are starting a not for profit business, of course revenue and profitability is the primary goal. With that said, in any business, it is going to take a lot of hard work, sometimes trial and error – and most common of all, failure.
If the greatest entrepreneurs of our time gave up during their first instances of failure, we wouldn’t have the excellent products, technology and services that we have today. Innovation and creativity take time, effort and most important of all – the belief that you can make it work.
Stay focused and always remember, this isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Not every video you’ve seen on the internet regarding the industry is a common occurrence… or fully truthful. Your best friend when developing the store will be strategic thinking and continuous education.
When setting your goals and direction for your store, always have a mindset for strategic growth. I like to use the analogy when speaking with Dropified customers – the majority of large businesses, whatever category they are, most likely did not start out with 100 – 1000 employees. Do not feel like your store needs to start with 100-1000 products. Strategic smart growth will allow you to learn, understand and ultimately give yourself a greater chance at success.
Start out with establishing a framework of your most ideal e-commerce topics and outcomes. This will shape what type of store you should build. The following are a few thoughts that will help you decide what type of store you should begin building:
- Do you have any hobbies?
- Expertise in a certain category or topic?
- A problem in your life that a product can fix, but you can’t find it?
- Passionate about certain groups that you’d like to support?
- Already have a brand that you would like to diversify?
There are several other questions you can ask yourself, however, this is the mindset you need to have when trying to discover what your best pathway in e-commerce will be. From there, the type of store will be an indicator of how many products you should have within it.
General vs. Niche
Once you have completed brainstorming your passions, what you are good at or simply what you are interested in; it’s now time to take that and determine which area would be the best fit for your e-commerce adventure. Of course, an experienced e-commerce entrepreneur most likely has a clear focus of what they are planning to open next, therefore, the brainstorming exercise may be less applicable.
If your brainstorming session created a very obscure list, perhaps you are thinking of leaning towards a general store. On the contrary, having a clear theme will allow you to develop a niche, targeting consumers with aligned thought patterns.
General stores are often created for a few reasons. One is due to the inability to pinpoint something you are greatly interested in or want to place your focus on. Another, is the belief e-commerce entrepreneurs have regarding the “product testing” phase of their business.
Niche stores have a clear marketing focus and revolve around a product, category, ideology or brand (to name a few). Below we will explore different types of stores, so you can eventually determine what the best store type is for you. Each category will have a recommended product number and description of how the store can be built.
One Product Stores
As mentioned in the beginning – the notion that you need to have multiple products within your store in order to be successful is false, and you should quickly eliminate that from your mind. There is no perfect formula or step by step process to creating a successful store – as is with the case of product amount.
There are however, many cases of successful stores of all shapes and sizes – you just need to have a well thought out marketing strategy and a unique angle that consumers gravitate to.
Enter the one product store. As previously mentioned, one step to be taken in your product research is figuring out whether or not the product is unique and solves a problem. If you happen to come across a product that is both, along with “cannot be found at the local market”, you potentially have yourself what is considered a “winning product”.
Often times people will create general stores in the hopes of finding a winning product, however, with proper product research – you can find a product that allows you to open a store solely dedicated to it.
Business Case – Why a One Product Store?
Remember earlier, the discussion on experience level? That’s the primary reason that a one product store can be perfect for you. One product stores have the potential for success, just like any other type of store.
The benefit of going with the one product strategy, is that you can have streamlined focus on your marketing. Ad development, targeting and digital marketing overall, is an extremely tedious element that you will need to learn or continually enhance.
Every day, I speak with individuals that want several products in their store to make it feel more robust and eliminate the thought of a one product store, right out of the gates. The problem I see with this is these potential entrepreneurs immediately scatter their focus on multiple products that may or may not be successful.
What they and you need to do is harness that energy, complete as much product research as possible, and use a one product store as an educational opportunity. If you achieve success, perfect, keep going – perhaps you will be able to develop a focused niche around the product with accessorized or equivalent items.
In the next stage of growth, you will most likely evaluate beginning a focused niche. This is where you have a primary set of products with aligning accessories – all pertaining to the same topic. The number of products within your focused niche can differ greatly, however, 2-25 products is a recommended bracket to adhere to.
Let’s take the example of “sports”- that would be a general niche. Now we will take it a step further and select “golf”, and furthermore “golf training”. Now we have a narrow topic that can be considered a focused niche. This is a problem-solving category. You are attempting to build a store and a set of products around an issue or issues that are faced by the individuals that would demographically fall within the niche.
An example of this problem could be that golf is an expensive sport, requiring fairly large time commitments for practice – as well as the appropriate areas to do so. Now that we have a problem, it’s time to find a core set of products that can help alleviate this.
Perhaps products like digital swing assessment gadgets that connect to a smartphone, or chipping net and putting mat. Whatever the products may be, they all align – giving you the ability to market to one set of consumers who may be interested in all of your products.
Business Case – Why a Focused Niche?
Many people still haven’t found one product that they can revolve a store around, so I can understand the fear of starting so small. Personally, this is my favorite category for a store for a few reasons:
Solve a problem regarding something you are passionate about.
Many people don’t really have an interest in the products they are selling. Unfortunately, over time this will be extremely mind-numbing to look at every day – in the event you are not being as successful as originally planned.
Opportunity to utilize personal expertise.
Transitioning from the reason above, of course with passion regarding a topic, comes an element of knowledge. Since you have exposure to the topic over time as a consumer or as a professional perhaps, you can then utilize that expertise or understanding in not only communicating with your customers via support, but also via digital marketing.
Focused marketing efforts.
As stated throughout this post, your digital marketing efforts are of utmost importance in driving traffic to your e-commerce store. With that, not all traffic has the ability to convert well do to misaligned marketing efforts. With focus on your product offering, you have the ability to master Facebook ad targeting (for example), eventually gaining traffic from your ideal customer.
Average order value and customer retention.
Now that you are generating higher quality traffic from highly targeted ad sets, you have a much greater opportunity to increase your average order value. If you are solving one problem with a slight diversity in the products aligning with it, chances are your ideal customer will be looking for more. To accompany this, you can start building a more focused brand with emotional connections to your customer – in turn you have a greater chance at customer retention and increasing the lifetime value.
Most dropshippers and e-commerce entrepreneurs don’t really segment niches – it’s usually a general store or a niche store. That said, niches can be extremely variable in terms of size and targeting potential. For those reasons, I have decided to segment focused and general niches to give you a bit more context when deciding what store is best for you.
The broader the category the more it aligns with the category of a general niche. For instance, as discussed in the focused niche, we started with sports and wound up continuing to streamline our focus towards golf training. Sports would be considered a general niche alongside categories like camping, baby products, women’s or men’s fashion, music… the list goes on.
Pinpointing a number of products for a general niche is difficult because you want to keep your focus and alignment, but since the category is much broader, you could end up with just as many products as a general store. There is nothing wrong with starting out your general niche smaller, perhaps around 25 products – and eventually growing from there to include more.
Business Case – Why a General Niche?
The business case for a general niche is almost identical to that of the focused niche. I’m a big advocate for niches, simply because of the ability to focus – even focusing on something that may be wider in scope. With a wider scope, you can still have more highly targeted marketing efforts – you are simply going for the athlete, outdoorsman or the mother, rather than extremely specified problem solving as indicated above. Expertise can be applied well in a general sense, ensure you utilize this to the best of its ability.
Rather than thinking more products within a certain category, think – the ability to solve more problems for a set of aligned consumers. In doing this, you have an excellent opportunity for cross-selling and bundling items with some element of association.
Through my daily conversations, this is the scenario where I attempt to guide potential e-commerce entrepreneurs. This should be the aspiration of their successful store; once achieved, they can begin opening multiple stores with the same mindset and focus – eventually, they could gravitate towards a general store – however, this is rarely my recommendation until they have achieved that level of e-commerce expertise.
A general store when it comes to dropshipping, is simply a store that covers multiple categories that are not aligned or overlap in any way. Many general stores I see daily will include categories such as fashion, pets, camping, cosmetics and so on. General stores are often started as e-commerce entrepreneurs are utilizing the multiple categories in order to evaluate success in certain niches before making a full commitment.
General stores have the potential to teach you a lot about the marketability of several different product categories, thus making them sought after by many junior dropshippers. I will however, say that I am not a huge fan of general stores – especially for a junior dropshipper and will evaluate that below. However, if you do have plenty of experience and understand digital marketing, there is a great opportunity to build a brand and develop a highly successful general store. If you decide to do so, you will typically find a set of core products from each category that you are marketing and accessorize, adding products that align in the category alongside your feature product. The result, perhaps you have 25-100 products in your general store – some very experienced e-commerce entrepreneurs will go well beyond 100, more on that below.
Business Case – Why or why not a General Store?
When leaning on experience of talking to e-commerce entrepreneurs every day, I can confidently say that many begin with the desire of a general store in the beginning. Often times, the gurus of YouTube or different types of blogs state that if you are new to dropshipping – you should open a general store. Primary reasoning for this, is the belief that it helps you select the niche you want to focus on down the road, quickly evaluate different sets of products, and ultimately learn as much as you can in regards to dropshipping.
The truth is, what really ends up happening with junior e-commerce entrepreneurs is they have very scattered ideas when it comes to product decisions and marketing efforts.
Many people think – “the more products I have, the better opportunity to sell something!” Couldn’t be further from the truth… As I have said many times throughout this article is marketing is EVERYTHING. If you don’t have the ability to focus an ad set development around a certain type of consumer, it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain quality (converting) traffic.
For seasoned veterans in the space – general stores can be fantastic. Some of Dropified’s most successful clients run general stores. That said, once you know how to produce quality marketing around a successful set of products, it can be done. Anyone can run a general store, but it takes a ton of well thought out strategies with primary (“winning”) products in order to do so.
In the end, you can make the best decision for yourself – my recommendation will always be harness in your focus and place energy into strategic product research and quality marketing campaigns. Hundreds or thousands of products will pull you into different directions – you don’t need to be AliExpress or try to compete with Amazon.
Focus on a small set of products where you can ensure quality over quantity. Find a group of consumers that you have expertise alongside – and ultimately, focus on something you are passionate about! No matter what, this will take hard work, creativity, trial and error – starting with a general store will not be the freeway to success. Appropriate product research, education and being adaptable to change will be the recipe for an increased opportunity for success.
Final Thoughts on Store Type Selection
Every document you will read regarding store types will most likely have differing opinions – one type being better than the other and vice versa. The truth is, there is no right answer when it comes to store selection and type. There is only a set of strategic decisions that will allow you to achieve success – those will align with whatever store type you choose.
As recommended throughout this article – your primary focus should be educating yourself on marketing and speaking to the emotions of a target set of consumers. The reason I tend to coach our clients toward selecting an appropriate niche in the beginning is simply due to the ability to narrow in focus on a set of products for a specific set of consumers.
If you can, find a category or niche you are passionate about – utilizing your experiences and expertise. From there, you can think about problems within that niche that need solving and are challenging to find products in order to do so.
When you figure out what that is, make sure this product isn’t easily found at the local store – too many dropshippers attempt to sell generic products without success. Consumers are willing to wait for products that cannot be found immediately. If they solve a problem – they will wait.