Too often, e-tailers think only in terms of carrying individual products. But according to Lisa Suttora, of WhatDoISell.com, “If you’re in the mindset of selling one product to one person, you’re thinking about making a one-time sale, not about building a business.” You’re not just vending product X—you’re creating a product line and giving your customers a reason to return to your site. Products with a Purpose When selecting inventory, it’s important you evaluate each potential item and identify the role it plays in your store. There are five categories that typically round out your product portfolio: 1. Meat-and-potatoes products. These carry a strong demand from your target market. They’re your mainstay, the cornerstone of your business. Providing a solid profit margin, they represent a large percentage of your overall revenue. 2. Cross Sellers. These are the add-on sales, the tackle boxes you sell with the fishing poles, the cosmetics bags you sell with the cosmetics. Each of these products has a different profit margin associated with it, but each serves an important function and contributes to your overall profit margin. 3. Up Sellers. “Upselling,” says Suttora, “plays right into a basic desire we all have—we like to have the best.” As a retailer, you need to offer your customers options. Surround the basic model with similar products that are a little bit nicer, a little bit pricier. Today, they may buy what’s on sale; tomorrow they may want the most expensive item—there’s no real way to predict, so make those choices available to them. 4. Rounders. It’s important to have those items that round out your product selection. It comes down to presentation, and to providing your customers a full shopping experience. If they purchase a sewing machine and expensive silk fabric with you, they’ll probably want to be able to complete their purchase right there, and get the thread and needles from your site as well. You might not make a large profit off of them, but it’s convenient for your customers and makes their buying experience more satisfying. 5. Loss leaders. Sometimes you sell products on which you’re just breaking even. You use them for advertising purposes, to bring customers into your store. Once they’re there, they’ll buy that product, and there’s a good chance they’ll also stay and browse. Hopefully, they’ll see the other, complementary items you’re selling and add more merchandise to their carts. Completing the Puzzle Every item in your line-up has a place in your overall product solution—they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. When deciding what to sell, ask yourself where each item fits into your product scheme, and what purpose it fulfills. Providing a diverse, well-rounded selection for your buyers gives them a motive to come back, and presents you with an opportunity to build repeat business.

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