How to Sell Other Companies' Products Online
By Victoria Duff
Online retailing presents a way to start your own business, and affiliate programs can help you offer many different products without the expense of buying inventory and fulfilling delivery. The reality is that whether you re-sell products you buy wholesale, or affiliate with vendors to market their products on your website, growing your business and keeping your suppliers depends on how successful you are in making sales on your website.
How It Works
Setting up your website using the right e-commerce technology, and choosing the right affiliate programs, will make the difference in how successful you are in online retailing. Traffic is the key to a successful online retail business. Whether your visitors come, return or recommend your website to their friends is governed by your product offerings, the ease of doing business, your customer service, product information, reviews available on your site and marketing. Meeting these qualities can be overwhelming without the assistance of technology.
The Technical Set-Up
The tools you use can determine the ease of set-up, maintenance, marketing and transactions on your website, which helps you retain vendors. Select a responsive content management platform, meaning it displays on both desktops and mobile devices. Build your own site if you can program, or use a template or theme designed to handle e-commerce. Some website templates make obtaining a merchant account and accepting credit card payments easier.
One way to populate your site with products entails affiliating with manufacturers and retailers who have products you want to sell. The value of affiliate programs is that they can eliminate your need to invest in inventory, and your affiliated vendor might even handle delivery, marketing and content. If your site presents niche products, like Oregon organic-produce products, set up individual affiliations with producers of organic-produce-based products in Oregon. If your focus is broader, join affiliate networks such as ShareASale, Commission Junction or LinkShare. They each represent dozens of retailers and manufacturers, in all categories, who want their products presented and sold on your website. To learn more about affiliate programs, consider attending one of Affiliate Summit's two annual trade shows where you can meet representatives from the major affiliate networks and individual companies offering affiliate programs.
Handle Purchase Transactions
The ease of handling purchases depends on your e-commerce technology. Such solutions are often included in themes so choose an e-commerce theme that presents tools you will need. A simple shopping cart means you handle all transactions, including ordering from the supplier and arranging delivery. Consider using an e-commerce solution that automatically links to your suppliers who handle the delivery themselves. You will be paid the difference between your price and the product's wholesale cost, or you will receive an affiliate commission. Each affiliate program has its own commission structure, so factor that into your decision of which affiliate programs to sign.
Market to Attract Traffic
Marketing to attract visitors is vital to maintaining good relationships with your vendors. Offering a wide variety of products with no particular unifying characteristic puts you in direct competition with the largest online retailers. However, presenting depth in a niche product category, such as organic foods from Oregon or jewelry made from titanium, makes you easier to find when a potential visitor searches online for the specific product. To improve your search engine visibility, add your own product descriptions, reviews and a blog that discusses the niche your products represent. This is search engine optimization, or SEO, and it's key to driving traffic to your site. Other ways to market your site are through posts to social networking sites and by frequent newsletter mailings. Create a mailing list by requiring your visitors to register on your site and opt-in to receive your newsletter or promotional emails. You can also pay for traffic by joining an ad network. All of this helps to support your attractiveness to vendors of products you want to carry on your site.
Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.