Changing with the Times In recent years, online shoppers have gotten more computer-savvy and more comfortable making purchases over the Internet, and their expectations have grown. They know what they’re looking for and they have more choices, so they’re more discriminating about where they’ll shop. That’s why it’s important for online sellers to adapt the way they source products and give their customers what they want. Fortunately, some new trends have emerged in product sourcing that are ideal for the home-based retailer: • Vertical Product Sourcing Consumers want to buy from e-stores with specialized product lines. Lisa Suttora, of WhatDoISell.com, defines vertical product sourcing as “going very deep and very narrow into a product line…focus[ing] on an even narrower niche.” For example, if you sell general home décor, you might concentrate on teen home décor or home décor made from organic materials. But make your products closely related—variety stores don’t work well online. • Target a Demographic Consumers want differentiation, so you as a seller need to look at what makes your business unique and sets it apart from every other e-store. Focus on your customer base—design your web store and word your listings to be appealing to your target market. Give them information relevant to them—if you sell old movie memorabilia, post articles on old film stars or behind-the-scenes tidbits that will give your customers a reason to come back. Do something to add value to your website and make it stand out. • Cater to All Seasons Everyone knows that snow boots sell best in the winter months and pumpkin décor sells best in the fall. But most people don’t realize that almost every product sells best at a particular time of year. You can maximize your sales by constantly adjusting your line-up to the changing seasons. For instance, if you sell tableware, start catering to wedding shoppers around June—carry certain types of silverware, napkin-holders, toasting flutes, etc. If your core products are season-specific, find related alternatives for your standard products’ off-season. There’s no reason to lose out on sales just because it’s chilly out. If you sell lawn furniture, you might not sell a single grill in December. But you might do quite well with heat lamps, or other products for people that want to spend time enjoying the outdoors. • Source Multiple Venues While there’s nothing wrong with working with particular wholesalers on a regular basis, be sure you don’t get stuck in product sourcing rut. If you don’t utilize the many available product channels, you don’t make the connections you need and you don’t expose yourself to the many highly specialized products you may not even realize are out there. Consider integrating localized sourcing. Many brick-and-mortar stores in your area may be interested in having an online presence but be unsure of how to get started. Says Suttora, “This represents an opportunity for the e-commerce sellers who work from their home or out of their office to partner with these other companies and it can greatly increase people’s income.” It’s a great way to strengthen your product line without increasing your overhead.

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