I once consulted for a manufacturing company who had been experiencing a decline in sales over the past 5 years and couldn’t figure out why. Their product was more innovative than their competitors’, their pricing was less, and their customers gave them glowing reviews. 

I got to work performing an analysis and quickly found that the competitor was doing most of their selling directly to customers through an online store they had set up. At the time, my client’s product was being sold online by distributors, but not directly.

I thought the rather simple solution would be received with enthusiasm, but instead, the client had a list of reasons why they shouldn’t open an online store. Here are some reasons they gave:

“We have too little product variety.”

“There are sales people or distributors we don’t want to undercut.”

“The money to build a website capable of handling selling our product isn’t available.”

“We have no marketing power to get buyers to our website.”

“No one on staff is qualified to manage an online store.”

If any of these reasons have crossed your mind when considering setting up your own online store, then this is the series for you. In this series we’re going to take a look at the affordable and easy-to-use tools available to businesses online that make selling products easy. We’ll also share solutions for the problems that may be holding you back.

For the moment let’s discuss the cost and benefit of setting up an online store.

The start-up cost is low.

Ecommerce Logos

Since the dawn of the new millennium, over a dozen affordable ecommerce solutions have risen up to meet a growing need for small and medium sized businesses to be able to have their own online stores. Shopify is our current favorite, but there is also Big Commerce, Woocommerce, Magento and many more. For this series, we’ll be focusing mainly on Shopify because beginners find it easy to use, it looks professional, and is low cost.

However, there is one con about Shopify you should be aware of. Shopify hosts product images on a CDN which they state is for the purpose of achieving a fast loading speed. This results in image urls having “Shopify” in them and could hurt SEO. It is possible to host images on your own domain using a Shopify store, however, if you enlist help from a developer to create a subdomain, for example files.mydomain.com.

Despite the con, Shopify is still our favorite. To get started with Shopify you’ll have a few upfront basic costs. You’ll need:

  • A Shopify store, which is $29/month for the “Basic” level.
  • A Shopify theme. There are free and paid themes. You decide how much to invest based on the look you’re going for. 
  • High resolution photos of your products. You may opt to hire a professional. 
  • A basic photo editor to size photos for the theme. A free option we love is Canva
  • A way to accept payments, which are available to choose from when you create your store. The average transaction fee is 2 to 3 percent of the purchase cost. 
  • Someone to set up the store. You can do this yourself using tutorials, finding your way intuitively, or by hiring a professional.

The benefits to your bottom line are many.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of having an online store is that you can sell your products to buyers directly without the cost of a middleman (aside from those pesky transaction fees!). For some manufacturers, however, distributors and salespeople are necessary, a need which is accounted for in Shopify’s option to sell wholesale. Either way, an online store presents a user-friendly and professional way to present your product to a buyer. You can make product information available 24 hours a day and guarantee accurate inventory, host sales, make instant changes, and more.

Other benefits include:

  • Access to analytics that measure your buyers’ behavior as they move through the site allowing you to learn how to better market your product and close a sale.

  • The ability to use online advertising to build traffic to your shop.

  • Better search engine optimization (SEO). Each product has unique identifiers making your website seem larger to search engines like Google giving you more chances to rank well in results.

  • Control over how your product is presented to buyers.

Are you ready for more revenue?

Our Step by Step Guide to Getting Started with ShopifyThere is a whole new world of opportunity for manufacturers like you to sell your products online. With today’s software, like Shopify, getting started has never been more user-friendly. And even more importantly, you can easily launch your on-line store in DAYS — not weeks or months!

Free Access to Our New Tutorial Series!

And to make setting up your store as simple as possible, we’re giving all our readers free access to our new tutorial series: Manufacturers’ Guide to Shopify: Setting Up Your Store – Pt 1. This step-by-step guide covers what you need to know in order to create a beautiful, fully-featured on-line store for your products.