How to start an online business with no money?

So, you have decided to start your own ecommerce web store. You have chosen the right products to sell. How much money do you need to get your business up and running? Can you get start your business with almost no money at all?

Starting at a real small scale is often the correct way to launch your business. Minimize your early cost commitments, and spend money only on things that directly impact your sales growth. Your lack of resources at this early stage and the constraints that they impose can be used at your benefit.

Here is what Clayton Christensen, one of the greatest management gurus of our era, says about the importance of starting real small. From Innovator’s Solution

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… pay careful attention to getting the initial conditions right. The only way that a new venture’s managers can compete against nonconsumption with a single product is to put in place a cost structure that makes such customers and products financially attractive. Minimizing major cost commitments enables a venture to enthusiastically pursue the small orders that are the initial lifeblood of disruptive businesses in their emergent years.

 

Another great proponent of starting real small is Jason Fried and his fellow entrepreneurs at 37signals. Their books, Rework and Getting Real are great reads for any entrepreneur. Here is how Jason conveys the same idea that I have described above –

 Do you really need ten people or will two or three do for now? Do you really need $500,000 or is $50,000 (or $5,000) enough for now?… Do you really need to build a factory or can you hire someone else to manufacture your products?… Great companies start in garages all the time. Yours can too.

Many of the successful ecommerce businesses that I know started at a really small scale. In a garage, with less than 10 products, selling online. If you are planning to start an online retail business, don’t waste a lot of money early on building a fancy website. And don’t waste money accumulating tons of inventory when you don’t even know how well you are going to sell. Instead, embrace your constraints and start real small. Start with a handful of products and use the most economic of all shopping carts to get your minimal website running. Use your relationships to spread the word and get a few early customers. Avoid tying up too much money in your business early on.

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Push vs Pull Marketing Strategies

Knowing the difference between push and pull marketing strategies is important when considering how to market your new product. If you are not careful in choosing the correct strategy for your product, your budget could take a big hit. When used correctly, your strategy can createimages consumer demand and effectively increase revenue.

A push promotional strategy essentially means getting your product in front of customers by whatever means necessary, or “pushing” it on them. The goal here is to ensure a customer remembers your brand. Retail world examples of this strategy in action are trade shows, showrooms, package design, and brand ambassadors handing out samples in the local retail store. The e-commerce equivalents are display ads and email blasts. This is a popular strategy that tends to be very cost effective.

On the other hand, a pull promotional strategy “pulls” customers into a product. This often takes the form of motivating customers with sales, coupons, or promotional giveaways. As a long-term strategy, businesses count on good customer service and a great product to keep customers coming back after the sale or giveaway has ended. Word of mouth referrals are obviously the cheapest form of advertising, so be sure to strive an incredible experience if your business decides to utilize the pull promotional strategy. Oftentimes, customers will pay a little more for better service.

Finally, remember to make it a habit to always ask a customer how they were referred to your business, especially if you are employing both push and pull promotional strategies. Tracking and testing different methods can eventually help you decide the best promotional method for your product or service.

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How much should I charge for my products – Perceived Value Pricing

Simply put, perceived value pricing refers to the buyer’s perception of a product’s value and how much they are willing to pay for it. A customer’s opinion of your product is more important to them than your product is so knowing what your customer’s needs are will bring you a long way in understanding how to price your item or service.

Use a perceived value pricing technique in your marketing efforts when introducing your product to the market. Customers will relate with the value if they are given a list of positive points about your product and the more points there are the more value the customer associate with the price.

Don’t be afraid to give as much detail as you can. If a customer isn’t fully aware of everything they would get they are less likely to purchase. Don’t miss out on a chance to make a sale because you didn’t build up the value for your product. Which bring us to our next point.

Don’t price it too low. We’ve all heard the old adage, “you get what you pay for”; believe it or not there are customers that are willing to pay a little more for a more durable, long-lasting, enjoyable product that will make them feel like they got their money’s worth. Pricing a product too low can actually backfire because the perception will be that the product is cheaply made or doesn’t hold the value needed to spend their money.

Keep in mind real value, which is the costs associated with how much it takes to produce to the product and how it will benefit the customer, when setting a price point for your product. You will set yourself up for a financial fall if you place more value on your product than your customers do. Keep it reasonable. You may think the hours and detail put in are priceless but eventually you do have to put a price tag on it.

So just how do you set your value? Evaluate your position in your niche market and consider your customer’s perceived value. Don’t buy into the hype that you have to set your prices to compete with other companies. You’ll set your business apart by providing detailed product information and setting the value you want customers to perceive. They will follow your lead naturally but be careful to not hype up your product to being more than it is.

Be honest with your product and it will reflect through to your pricing.

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Where do I start selling online?

Excited about starting a business, but overwhelmed by all the decisions you need to make?

Don’t worry – you are not alone!Selling online

Starting a new business has become easier than ever. With the convenience of buying online, more people do a majority of their shopping on the interwebs. This has spawned a massive growth in online retail which in turn has led to numerous channels and options for selling online.

Figuring out what online channels to sell on can be confusing and even intimidating for someone who is looking to start an online business. Here’s our take on it to help you make an informed decision.

We segment online sales channels broadly into two categories:

  • Marketplaces – that have several multiple sellers. For example Amazon, Etsy, ebay
  • Branded web-stores – that have a single seller. For example bonobos.com, gap.com

Let’s take a look at some of the major factors to consider while deciding where to sell:

Audience

Marketplaces: The biggest advantage of selling on marketplaces, is that half the marketing job is already done for you. Millions of buyers visit Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and buy billions of dollars of merchandise every day. So getting an audience is not a problem at all when you start selling on one of these.

Web-stores: Having your own branded web-stores on the other hand puts the onus of doing the marketing and spreading the word on you – the entrepreneur. Which is not a problem, if you are Gap, Bonobos or Target, as you already have a brand presence. But for most fledging businesses this means spending a lot of time and money on raising awareness or generating traffic to your web-store.

Buying Experience

Marketplaces: Selling on a marketplace gives you very little, if any, control on your customer’s buying experience. Marketplaces like to keep the buying experience of their buyers consistent and this leaves very little room for businesses to tailor their buying experiences.

Web-stores: Selling on your own branded web-store, gives you complete control over the experience of your customers. All the way from choosing the color pallet of the web-site down to the shipping options you would provide to your customers.

Branding

Marketplaces: If you do decide to sell on a marketplace, you would be one of thousands if not millions of businesses selling there. This means you are competing with several other folks in differentiating your product and brand when you are getting started.

Web-stores: Since you are the only business selling on your own web-store, once people do find your website, you have a much bigger opportunity to build and establish your brand.

Margins

Marketplaces: Although marketplaces do get you access to millions of sellers, them come at a price. Marketplaces take a percentage of your sales which effectively reduces your margins on the products you sell and hence your overall profitability. To add to that, competition from other folks selling the same product does influence your margins

Web-stores: Selling on web-stores not only lets you take your entire order price to the bank but it also gives you the freedom to set the list prices for you products.

Customer ownership

Marketplaces:  Marketplaces have very strict policies that prevent sellers from contacting the buyers. Marketplaces invest a lot of time and money to build their audiences and do all they can to protect that investment. This does not gives the entrepreneur much opportunity on building a customer base.

Web-stores:  When someone buys merchandise from your branded web-store, or even visits you store, you have complete ownership of that customer – their contact information, buying patterns, etc. You are free to re-market, re-target and re-sell them.

Final thoughts

You could even start selling on multiple places at the same time. But of course, the more places you sell on, the more time and money you spend on managing those. As an online retail entrepreneur, you need to think through such trade-offs.

 

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$25. All you can ship. ‘Nuff said.

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We’ve got some exciting news to share with you about our shipping-only Ordoro Basic plans. Starting today, you can create shipping labels for unlimited orders, connect unlimited sales channels and add unlimited users for just $25 monthly! You read that right! Our Unlimited Basic Plan now just costs $25 per month. And to top it off, you also get access to the best USPS rates in the industry – up to 67% off for most shipments. What’s the catch you say? None! Just don’t stop shipping – Not even when you add more sales channels, have more sales or get more people to help you ship!

Not only has our pricing become more awesome, but we’re constantly adding new features to enhance our shipping and inventory management services. Just sign in, start a new 15-day free trial and see for yourself.

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Introducing Ordoro FREE

freemium-heroA couple of months back we launched Ordoro Basic – a shipping only app for folks who wanted to use Ordoro’s UI and awesome shipping rate just for creating shipping labels for their web-stores and marketplaces.

Today we are excited to extend the affordability of Ordoro Basic by offering it for FREE!

For customers who need to ship out less than 50 orders a month, but still want the convenience of not having to copy and paste shipping and tracking information between your webstore and your shipping accounts, you can use Ordoro completely free of charge!

All customers in the FREE plan will get all the awesome features of Ordoro Basic and free email support. The FREE plan allows connecting to FedEx, UPS and accessing commercial base USPS rates: ~15% discounted over retail

And as always, if you want to add more sales channel, ship more than 50 orders a month, access our best-in-class Ordoro shipping rates (up to 70% discount) or use the advanced inventory management functionality of Ordoro Pro you can easily upgrade your account.

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Introducing Ordoro Basic for Shipping

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We’ve always believed that a successful online retailer needs a comprehensive app to manage their day-to-day operations. That is exactly why we set out to offer shipping, order management, inventory management, dropshipping and purchasing as a cohesive set of features from day one at Ordoro. Furthermore, we’ve focused on simplifying these complex tasks with our intuitive user interface and top-notch customer support.

Over the years, we’ve had trial customers tell us that while our app is awesome and truly a pleasure to use, it includes advanced features that they just can’t afford at that stage of their business. The price tag is too steep and they’re forced to go find a less-comprehensive solution that’s more affordable. Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we completely understand this decision, especially when just getting started.

Our focus on providing only a complete back-office solution means that we’ve turned away several of these early-stage, ecommerce customers.

But not anymore.

Today, we are excited to introduce Ordoro Basic: A shipping-only app, packed with the essential features that will help new merchants efficiently get their goods to their customers while allowing them to grow into using Ordoro Pro (our complete solution).

What you can expect out of Ordoro Basic:

  1. Competitive pricing plans
  2. The best USPS shipping rates in the industry
  3. The same level of usability and stellar customer support that Ordoro customers have grown accustomed to
  4. A seamless upgrade process when it’s time to harness the advanced functionality Ordoro Pro offers   

We hope you’re just as excited about this new journey as we are!

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Easier shipment splitting, SKU unarchiving, expand all rows and more

Here’s a recap of some of the sizzling new enhancements we’ve rolled out to Ordoro in the past month:

New Order Detail page

Easier shipment splitting

We’ve revamped our order detail page and it not only looks better and loads much faster, but it also makes splitting shipments a whole lot easier. It’s still in beta and we plan to deploy the new detail page to all customers by August 15th. If you want to be part of the beta testing, just reply directly to this email and let us know!

SKU Unarchiving

SKU Unarchiving

Need to resurrect some products that were once put out to pasture? No problem! We’ve added an unarchive button to the “Archived’ subsection on the Products page that lets you bring those items back to life!

Expand all rows

Expand all rows button

If you want to see the details of all orders, shipments and products at a glance, you can now expand all the rows on the list pages with a single click.

Delete shipments from the list page

Delete shipments button

Previously, it was pretty cumbersome to delete a shipment that was created by accident in Ordoro. We’ve remedied that and now you can delete shipments in batch on the Shipments list page.

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Ordoro Etsy integration is now live!

We are excited to announce the launch of our Etsy integration today. We have been beta testing this integration for the past few weeks, and we want to thank all our customers who helped us out through the beta phase, finding bugs and offering valuable feedback.

This Etsy integration is similar to our other marketplace and shopping cart integrations (Amazon, eBay, Shopify etc). We do the same data push-pull operations with the Etsy marketplace. Here are the main data transfer actions –

  1. Import orders from Etsy marketplace automatically. And then, you can create shipping labels at discounted rates through Ordoro.
  2. Import new products from Etsy marketplace automatically
  3. Update Etsy marketplace with the shipment tracking numbers in real time (once you create the shipping label through Ordoro)
  4. Update inventory stock level in your Etsy account automatically

In short, if you are selling products via the Etsy marketplace, then Ordoro will help you manage all your shipping operations, and help you keep your inventory up to date. But many of our Etsy customers also benefit from some of the advanced features that Ordoro offers –

  1. Automatically sync Etsy inventory with Shopify, Amazon and other sales channels. Yes, even though Etsy does not have SKU numbers, you can map each Etsy product to products from other sales channels in Ordoro
  2. Communicate with your suppliers for restocking raw materials and finished goods. Send dropshipment notices to your suppliers automatically.
  3. Kitting and bundling products

The infographic below gives an overview of all the connections inside Ordoro.

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More than just another integration

For us, building the Etsy integration was more than just about adding yet another sales channel plugin into Ordoro. It’s also about the importance of design in everything we do.

This goes back to the roots of Ordoro. We are very proud of the design focus that Ordoro has taken from the beginning. Our very first hire was matt_o who brought strong UI/UX experience to Ordoro. We deliberate every UI element, whether it’s on our marketing site or in our app. And that focus has paid off. Based on conversations I’ve had with some of our competitors, Ordoro has the best customer-count to employee ratio in our industry. That’s because our app is so easy to use that it is mostly self serve. Customers come to our site, register, and print out the first shipping label successfully in under 3 minutes. There is no handholding necessary.

Design is not just about how the app looks, it’s also about how the entire company works. For example, very early on, we decided that we will offer free unlimited phone support to all our customers. And that turned out to be a great decision because we set ourselves up to build an amazing app with minimal handholding which in turn lead to the overall efficiency of our company.

Naturally, we get attracted towards companies that are design focused. And Etsy stacks way high up in our list. Their platform has over 1 million active shops with over 25 million items listed, and yet it is easy to navigate and manage, and a pleasure to work on. It’s not just the skin that’s pretty, we could also see that design focus in play while building the Etsy API integration. The Etsy API was well designed, the API documentation was well crafted. And we were able to build out the integration quickly and easily. We have built a lot of integrations, and we know when we see a good API. From the software design point of view, Etsy and Ordoro have similar philosophies.

It’s not just us who feel this way, our Etsy customers do too. The overwhelming feedback during beta testing has been that Ordoro is the most user friendly shipping software they have ever used. And coming from these design-oriented artisans who sell on Etsy, that’s a great compliment for us. It further validates our strategic focus on design and confirms that design is indeed a strong differentiator from our competitors.

If you want to learn more about our Etsy integration, you can see it here, or you can sign up for a 15-day free trial to see it in action.

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Faster shipping labels, FedEx International, WooCommerce, Etsy beta and more

We’ve been working hard on one of our most requested features: better automation for creating shipping labels. Two weeks ago, we released a few components of this improved workflow and the initial feedback has been great. We have more good stuff on the way, but here’s a video and an overview of the new shipping label hotness that’s in the wild right now:

Create and print international labels from the shipment list page

Now you can create international labels in the same place you create domestic labels. No need to switch to a different workflow. Ordoro will also create all additional paperwork (such as customs forms), in one place via the popup modal.

Print multiple international labels all at once

Our printer selection dialog has been revamped to accommodate printing various types of labels and customs forms documents in batch.

FedEx International

As a bonus, you can now create FedEx International labels. Boom.

Bigcommerce weight import conversions

Our international users no longer have to worry about converting weights from lbs to kgs between Bigcommerce and Ordoro.

More Shopify and Amazon improvements

Tracking numbers will correctly write back to Shopify and Amazon when “Other” is specified as the shipper type. For new Shopify accounts, we automatically pull your warehouse address from Shopify, meaning one less step while setting up Ordoro.

WooCommerce Beta

Beta testing for our WooCommerce integration is going strong and we expect to officially launch it soon.

Etsy Beta

We just started beta testing our Etsy integration with users and so far, so good!

More shipping label goodness

You no longer have to worry about putting the wrong shipping label on the wrong box. All USPS labels now have the shipment ID printed on them and all UPS SurePost labels will also show the recipient’s name clearer. This means it will now be much easier to cross reference your labels with your orders.

What’s next?

Wrapping up the WooCommerce and Etsy beta releases

If you’d like to join the integration beta testing program for either of these carts, just email us and let us know!

Faster, streamlined order and shipment detail pages

The order and shipment detail pages will receive makeovers and be given some additional functionality.

Shipping rules!

As we port more and more of our app over to our new infrastructure, we’re getting closer to building a feature that allows users to automatically set shipping methods for orders.

 

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