Skip To The Main Content

How to succeed in online retail

Online Shopping_detail

Starter brands are finding the UK online retail market an increasingly tough space to sell their products in, especially within the consumer electronic accessories area. The saturation of the market is one of the main reasons for this, with low-entry access to selling on sites such as Amazon and eBay. What’s more, the maturity of the UK market makes it comparatively tougher than other emerging markets for young brands to get their product noticed.

Following some basic principles can help small businesses and starter brands to be successful online.

Decide on a channel strategy


Consider which strategy you’ll be focusing on – early on. Are you building your brand solely online? Do you have an intention of expanding internationally? Does your product need an element of human contact on the high street, making it better suited to a multi-channel strategy? This is the first thing you should consider before even trying to sell. Without a clear direction, any starter brand will become lost.

Find a gap in the market


Consider whether the consumer actually needs your product. Whether its purpose is fun, fashion or function, to be an attractive proposition your product needs to be too good for the consumer to turn down – it should sell itself. Unfortunately not every businessperson is in the same position as Steve Jobs in that they can simply tell us what we need! 

Create a unique selling point

Is the product unique enough? Whether through price point, special features or stand-out branding, brands need to stand up against similar products in the market. There is a fine balance here – too basic and you’re behind before you’ve even started; too innovative and the consumer won’t understand what they are being offered – a major turn-off.

Provide great customer service

If feasible, offer free shipping as a basic principle. If you can’t, be sure to charge what is reasonable in accordance with your product. Using a tracked service gives the customer confidence they will get their product without any hiccups, and offering PayPal as a payment method will cover both you and the buyer from fraudulent transactions. 

Part of the customer service element should always include a follow-up – usually via email. Always make sure the customer is left happy and safe in the knowledge that they bought from you. Don’t be afraid to always ask for customer feedback in a public domain.

Work with or via Amazon

Across the industry there is a collective understanding that brands cannot ignore Amazon as a channel, even if they think they can go it alone with their own website, simply due to its sheer reach across multiple countries. So make Amazon part of your model and use it to your advantage. Amazon is a good way to expand your reach across Europe and, if nothing else, brands should use it as a marketing tool.

Content is king

When selling on eBay, for example, having an optimised keyword-rich title is hugely important to help your product stand out on a crowded platform. Be sure to use eBay’s 80-character limit, for a start. Make sure you associate your brand with hardware or other compatibility, so that it can be found easily. Consider what a buyer would type in the search bar when trying to look for your product and your brand, and it is often worth using the sub-title feature that eBay offers for an extra fee. 

Images can’t be overestimated – they should include product shots as the main image, packaging shots and lifestyle stills, if the product fits that purpose. Descriptions can easily be upgraded with some basic HTML which also helps with search engine optimisation (SEO). A wider point on SEO is knowing how to position your product online without blowing your finances on AdWords.

Sort out the stock

It may seem basic, but plan ahead to ensure you are never out of stock. The best way of doing this is to ensure you sell only what you have. Overselling can be detrimental to feedback across all online retail, so making sure you stick to a structured approach will mean your customers will receive what they ordered in the timeframe they were promised. Collecting money and then not delivering on time is a cardinal sin for online distributors.  

Vijay Kanda is online brand strategy manager at Activ8