When you’ve been thinking about running a business from home, the question of what to offer immediately comes to mind. Sure, you may offer a service like business consulting, but what if your interests lie in physical goods? Perhaps making handicrafts or cornering a specialized niche is what you wish to do?
Running a website with an e-commerce store is entirely different from a service-based site. It’s significantly more complex with multiple products being shown in the catalog, setting current pricing, applying any discounts, and factoring in options like sizing and colors. Also, delivery options, stock level confirmation, and other aspects need careful handling too.
To provide some guidance in this area, we have put together this primer on selling physical goods from home when you’re completely new to it.
What Physical Goods Will You Sell?
Will you create or manufacture the goods yourself?
Being the Producer
If you’ll produce them, how will you do it? What materials and machinery will be needed? Also, where will this take place? Think about the space requirements, any noise generated during production, and whether you’re permitted to operate this way from home or will require business premises with the correct zoning.
Purchasing the Goods
For physical goods that you’ll purchase, are they going to be imported, shipped across the country, or sourced from local providers? There are different considerations with each, including import duties, shipping costs, and lead times.
Will you have one supplier or several? What if there’s a sole supplier and they have a supply chain issue or go out of business? Avoid relying on a single supplier because it could become a single point of failure.
How Will You Secure the Inventory/Stock?
When you receive the physical goods – or have them ready – where will they be stored until they’re ready to be dispatched?
If you’re planning to do this from home, there’s a limit to how much stock can be stored in a living room, spare bedroom, or garage. It’s not going to be practical to keep receiving substantial deliveries to a home address for long. The neighbors will eventually complain.
It would be advisable to at least budget for moving your storage and delivery operation to a small warehouse and office facility if or when it’s necessary. This could be because you’ll need to operate from commercial premises or because the sales volume requires it.
Can You Handle the Customer Service Requirements?
Customers expect reasonably prompt replies to email inquiries and phone calls. They also will try to use a live chat feature if it’s available during office hours.
Excellent customer service is required to keep most people pleased. Some will never be happy and will request refunds for unexpected reasons. It’ll be necessary to act professionally and handle all types of queries well to receive positive reviews in Google and elsewhere.
Without a history of good reviews, it’s difficult to sustain an e-commerce operation for very long because potential customers often check the reviews before making their first purchase.
What Platform or Technology Will Be Used for the Site?
For many people new to e-commerce stores, using a platform that’s specifically for this type of operation is best. It removes the majority of potential technical issues and allows them to get up and running sooner. If you’re looking for a drag and drop interface to quickly set up a new site with your products, add images, set pricing and so on, then a quality platform is worth considering. They can tie directly into one of 100+ gateways to collect payments from customers, so linking to an existing PayPal or Stripe account is no problem.
As many customers will be using a mobile device, most ecommerce site designs are customized to look great on smaller displays. So, there’s no losing a buyer because the site wasn’t optimized for mobile devices.
Be Prepared for the Time Investment
While you may believe that you’ll only sell on a few products, you never know how fast things will take off. The number of sales may surprise you.
It helps to develop contingency plans should you start receiving a slew of orders over a holiday weekend or when running a sale. Bear in mind that customer service inquiries will increase too. Do you have a friend or family member who can lend a hand to get orders out in time?
Also, if you need to expand to a small warehouse/office combination, it’s a good idea to cost this out even if it’s not expected to be in the immediate future.
Starting a home-based physical goods business is a highly involved process and requires an interesting array of skills. Learning, growing, and adapting will be critical to your success.