Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Want to grow sales online? Don't just list. Sell.

At a gathering at a friend’s place some weeks back, I was introduced to a businessman & his sister. When the host introduced me to them, his immediate response was “Oh Digital Consultant eh? E-Commerce and all that? But, does all this really work? My sister too tried some of this e-commerce thing but nothing much happened you know?”

His sister went on to explain how she had tried to expand her small family business online by listing some of their products on marketplaces. They employed a few local artisans who made handmade gifts with local designs which they then sold to some local shops and foreign buyers who regularly bought a fixed quantity. Wanting to grow the business, she had listed on 4 different marketplaces but sales were far and few in between and she had almost given up on online.

My first question to her was “So you listed your products on marketplaces. What did you do to sell?” She had no answer. So I asked her how did she sell currently, and she said that she didn’t and those who bought came to them and picked up a lot in one go depending on the designs and then repeated the orders from time to time. They bought regularly and so the business had been since decades. When she listed on marketplaces she was hopeful of being able to showcase the products to a larger audience and sell more and grow the business. But that had not worked.

So I explained – “Imagine if you sent your products to one of the large retail chains in your city to sell. What would you think would happen? Would your products sell?” “Yes” she replied. “If they were visible and the sales people were trained to explain the intricacy of the work and that it was all handmade, and if the pricing was right, we could sell”.  Then I told her “Now multiply that one retail shop and the probable sales by a few hundred times and more and that is what an online marketplace is. However just like in an offline retail shop, in online too your products need visibility, introduction, special pricing to increase sales, and a lot of other effort.” “All you have done so far is list. Now try selling” I added. “Think as a potential buyer would, and then go on to list your products. And this time list so as to enable discovery, bring out the wow, don’t just show but showcase, price it right and then go back and do it over again, and again till you get it right and you will start selling.”

She took my advice seriously and got back to me for more details later and did implement some of what I had advised. Just a few days back I got a message from her that she was now selling in a week what earlier took her more than a month to sell. And this, while she had not fully been able to implement everything as yet (I had recommended automating some things by implementing available software solutions and a few other things that she was still in the process of finalizing).

I have altered the story here a bit for the sake of simplicity and as I don’t want to name any one person or brand but this is not the first time I had met sellers like her. I have been approached by seller’s time & again, some existing brands and some new ones, and the issues is the same. Excited by the digital story they go out and list items on marketplaces, but sales don’t really grow much. Some had even tried starting their own e-commerce websites and some form of marketing too but it had not really helped.

The key problem with most of such sellers in the online space whose business I have helped turn around, is that they thought all they needed to do was to list. Of course there are other issues such as delivery and handling returns and customer feedback etc. but not selling is what I found common to most. And that is critical.

So if you are a seller who is struggling to grow sales on marketplaces, my first input to you is “Don’t just list. Sell.”

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