Starter brands are finding the UK online retail market an increasingly tough space to sell their products in.
Specifically within the consumer electronic accessories area, the saturation of the market is one of the main reasons for this. There are over 90 million live mobile contracts in the UK, resulting in increased competition due to easy access to Far Eastern manufacturing and 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.
From our experience, brands can experience growth of up to 300 percent year on year with a strictly online strategy, often utilising the support of smaller chain and independent bricks and mortar outlets and ultimately pulling away from high street only retail. In this era of multi-channel it is more important than ever to adopt the correct channel strategy.
Here, I outline some basic principles for starter brands to follow in order to be successful online.
What’s your channel strategy?
Consider which strategy you’ll be focusing on – early. 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, seeing it best 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 and a clear direction needs to be mapped out.
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 brand’s product needs to be too good for the consumer to turn down – it should sell itself. Unfortunately not every business person is in the same position as Steve Jobs in that they can simply tell us what we need!
Is the product unique enough? Whether through price point, special features or stand-out branding, does the brand 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.
Great customer service
If feasible, offer free shipping as a basic principle. If not, 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 offer PayPal as a payment method will cover both you and buyer from fraudulent transactions, for more peace of mind and a seamless customer journey. Part of the customer service element should always include follow-up – usually via email. Always make sure the customer is left happy that safe in the knowledge that they bought from you. Don’t be afraid to always ask for customer feedback in a public domain.
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 utilise 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 for an extra fee it is often worth using the sub title feature that eBay offers. 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 SEO. A wider point on SEO is knowing how to position your product online without blowing your finances on AdWords!
Stock management and forecasting
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.
Work with or via Amazon
Consider working 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. Use it to your advantage! Have a strategy where Amazon is part of online and controlled to your advantage. Amazon is a good way to expand your reach across Europe with a great partner program in FBA. Brand representation on Amazon is paramount and if nothing else, brands should use it as a marketing tool.
By Vijay Kanda, online brand strategy manager at Activ8
Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.