This is the third of a series of articles about How To Build The Perfect Online Store.

Part 3 The Question of Branding

Should your online store carry established branded products or should you attempt to create a brand name?

We learned the hard way about the importance and difficulty of branding. We made an attempt to start an online store selling body lotions and body oils with our own brand name. We had excellent products and a really good supplier who had advanced labeling facilities that allowed us put our own brand label on the products at very little extra cost. Our problem was that our products were competing with huge companies like Bath & Body Works as well as the up-market cosmetic companies who spend millions on building their brand. We were able to get many visitors to view our site but very few sales resulted.

We believe there is a place for new own brand oil and lotion products but not as an online store. They can be add on products to other product lines that customers already trust but have a much better chance in conventional outlets rather than online.
Reluctantly we had to close down the site – a costly but valuable Coupons lesson. Our conclusion from this exercise is that it is foolhardy to try to launch a new brand with limited resources into a market with many established brands. Just think how difficult it is to get your kids to wear sneakers with a little or unknown brand mark.

You may be able to create a new brand in markets that are not dominated by well-known brands. It is possible build your own brand in niche markets. We came across a good example with wheat grass products. The people involved have built up a highly successful online business selling this comparatively little known health food product. The two or three online sellers of wheat grass products have effectively created their brand awareness from nothing.

We would not discourage anyone from trying to find such niche products but it is really difficult to do. Thinking of them is one thing but then you have to source them. Often your potential source of niche products will be promoting their own brand. If you can make or assemble the products yourself, you have a much better chance, particularly if you have specialist knowledge and a pioneering enthusiasm.

We followed a different path with our chosen product, wine decanters. We chose a brand that was already established but still on an upward growth trend for reasons of style and quality. We had the added protection of its being a niche market, so unlikely to attract the attention of really big hitting consumer brands.

The advantage of selling a branded product is that consumers can research the product for themselves and satisfy themselves that it is a reputable item with a track record. The danger of this is that by researching the brand the consumer finds a source for the product that he/she prefers to our offering. This raises two important points that we deal with in later articles in this series. Firstly the perfect online store must provide so much information that the potential customer does not feel the need to leave our site. Secondly we must make our offering so competitive that our offering cannot be beaten by the competition.


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