Many embarking entrepreneurs see the ecommerce quick rise to success as an opportunity. An opportunity to make bank. And rightly so! While the US retail industry is growing by 3%, the ecommerce industry is growing by 15%. Meaning that ecommerce is taking over part of the retail industry’s market shares. Small, independently owned businesses are taking away sales from mega corporations like Walmart, which are now scrambling to get it back through ecommerce.
With ecommerce growing every year exponentially – in 2015 it was valued at $371 billion, and is expected to grow to $523 billion by 2020 – it makes a lot of sense to get on this rocket ship. But with one big caveat – you have to make something people want to buy.
All too often we see stores being launched just for the sake of launching a store. Jumping on a fad, riding the hype wave, while not being entirely committed to the product they’re selling. The underlying principle being “build it and they will come”, that once they launch a store, then the dough will just start rolling in.
But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, the CEO of Shopify noted that up to 50% of Shopify stores are serious – generating any traffic outside of their hometown. And I would say that that’s a very conservative estimate. It would be safe to say that an even smaller percentage manages to make a sale. Even so, by this statistic you have a 50/50 chance of totally flopping if all you do is open you store.
We’ve identified one foolproof way to create a product that people want to buy.
Create something that you want to buy
Create something that you yearn for. Though this seems simple, it turns out it’s difficult to implement. Not only something you want to buy, but in an environment you want to buy in. That includes a crisp website design, upfront information on the quality of the product, shipping information, having an SSL certificate, a social media following that shows your product is desirable, to up its actual desirability factor, etc.
But most importantly, you should be selling something that you would buy this very second.
Avoid the shortcuts – do the work, validate the product, guarantee the sales
All too often, ambitious wantrepreneurs look for shortcuts. They think of something that could sell, not necessarily something that will sell. They jump on trends, because it will make a quick buck. Though there’s no problem in seeing an opportunity in the market and jumping on it, the problem arises when the product’s quality is compromised for the sake of a quick launch. As a result, the sold product can be sub-par, and often not interesting enough to be bought.
The solution – validate your product.
Product validation: testing market interest in your product to mitigate risk before a significant investment of resources.
Ask yourself this: Do the t-shirts you’re making make you want to wear them all the time? Do they move you the way you want them to move your clients?
Because that is the one foolproof way to make sure that your product will be in demand. If at least with a specific target audience (aka something like you!).
How to validate a product idea – Startup Vitamins’ example
You may have heard of Startup Vitamins. It’s a super successful online store that sells inspiring business quotes on posters, t-shirts, mugs and more. These products can be found in major tech offices all around the world, including LinkedIn, Google, Zappos, Nike, and even the US Congress. And more importantly, it’s made by the same team that made Printful. Here’s Startup Vitamins’ story.
Five years ago a large IT company in the small country of Latvia moved into a new building. It used to be an art gallery, and had all of these spacious walls to display art on. And so the founders, Lauris Liberts and Agris Tamanis, set out to find startup-appropriate posters to decorate their new office, and inspire employees at the same time. After searching the internet for posters that met the minimalistic design principles of the company, they came up with nothing.
Being the entrepreneurs that they are, they decided to make their own. And the logical thought that leads all of the Draugiem Group‘s business ventures is:
If we need it, chances are someone else does.
This then is the validation that they need to build a new product. And so Startup Vitamins was launched.
Core validation philosophy: “if we need it, so do others”
This philosophy permeates every single one of the Latvian tech mogul’s business ventures. It has also lead to a successful company, comprised of over 12 businesses and 120 employees (not even counting the Printful employees in California!).
This is one form of validation.
This is a way to ascertain that there is indeed a need for your product. You will discover whether or not there is anything else like it on the market yet that fully addresses that need. So by following this rule, you know by default that there will be room for you in the market. Often people enter an oversaturated market, and then wonder at why their store is having trouble making sales.
An important factor to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be first to market. You just have to be a little different. Your have to have a unique value proposition. That can be, are you of higher quality, are you cheaper, are you faster, are you better, are you different, do you serve the need slightly differently, etc.
Not being first to market – how Printful got started
Similarly to Startup Vitamins, Printful was also created by the same principle – if we need it, chances are others do as well. And Printful has since gone on to be a leading print product dropshipper.
Here’s how that happened.
While running Startup Vitamins, we often got request from other companies to print their posters as well, because they liked our print quality so much. Our initial response was – absolutely not! We’re not a print company!
But where there’s demand, there is also opportunity.
And so we created Printful. Not because Lauris Liberts had this genius unique idea – there were other printers doing the same thing – but because those existing companies weren’t good enough for us. We needed full automation, complete hands-off fulfillment, total technical integration, and communication for when there are unexpected obstacles, like out of stock items, imperfect printfiles, etc.
As a result, we created a company that so many other aspiring entrepreneurs needed to create their own successful ecommerce stores.
The true key to success
The surprisingly simple to guarantee that people will want to buy your products: do what you’re passionate about, create what you want yourself, just make it better than the competitors.
Header image: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GETTY