Interoperability (2) …another reason to bring your business online!

E-commerce has forever altered how retailers and brands identify, sell to, deliver to, engage and retain consumers. It is the great destroyer of traditional bricks and mortar retail, wholesale and operational norms in the consumer product world. But now, e-commerce may be poised to be its saviorforbes.com

In furtherance to the piece on efforts by GhIPSS’ (Ghana Interbank Payment & Settlement Systems) effort in making electronic payment a common and easy phenomenon here in Ghana, I would like to focus this time on ways businesses can engage online.

Keep in mind that the choice of goods or service to offer online is yours to make. As noted in previous articles in this column, online retailing is here to stay in Ghana. There are great indications of that. The new Ghanaian is going online for all things service and goods: meet him or her there.

Owners of businesses, who have come to terms with the increasing number of potential customers using the web, are responding by making their products and services available to those online users with web technologies

The earlier you get your business online or build one online the better. Always remember ecommerce is a business and the elements for success still apply: passion, planning, prudent management and great customer support.

Let’s say you have identified a product that can be sold online and are wondering how to go about it. The following approaches, as noted by a renowned online entrepreneur Shelby Larson, can get you started immediately.

Drop Shipping

With this method you can easily own a simple website (online storefront), or these days a simple social media account can do the trick. There is no need to stock the product, which in many cases is very expensive or needs big capital to do so.

You simply have to identify someone one who has stock, or an existing store owner, and come into an agreement with him or her. Within the agreement you must establish beforehand what your exact commission will be on every item sold through your channel. All you have to do is to display the item on either your website or social media page such as Facebook. If anyone expresses interest and confirms an order, you quickly get the owner of the stock who will do the packaging and shipping for you.

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In some cases, in order to protect that business line, you do the delivery yourself.  You don’t want the owner of the stock taking the business from you by proposing a better offer next time to your client. If you can’t trust the stock owner in this regard, then prevent the stock owner from contacting the customer.

Let’s do the simple analysis here: a store owner at Makola sells beautiful ladies’ bags, both wholesale (GH¢150) and retail (GH¢200). You come into agreement with her and display her goods online. As soon as you confirm an order, you pick it up at wholesale price (GH¢150) and mark up (GH¢50) and sell at (GH¢200).  If you can sell about 10 bags within your circle of over 2000 Facebook friends, you can make an extra GH¢500 a month. As your sales increase, you also scale to reach a larger audience and get bigger margins.

The difficulty here is that you don’t control the inventory, and the stock owner can easily disappoint you.  But as business grows you can begin to maintain a few inventories so as to mitigate stock shortage.

 Wholesaling

Sometimes trying to occupy every section of the supply chain can be a herculean task, and you might end up not doing so well. If you have identified a very good product and your survey shows it will sell, you can import these and store them in bulk quantities in your own warehouse or a rented one.

If the manufacturing is done right here in Ghana, then you simply purchase in bulk and store. Using your online store-front, you can invite retailers who will serve as intermediaries between you and the final consumers. Your website can be a membership portal for retailers who meet your set criteria.

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In some cases, you can take the burden of order fulfillment and shipping away from the retailers, if you can afford to. Most times, you are tempted to retail – especially when you come to know the bigger margins some of the retailers are making off your product. Always acknowledge the fact that the marketing strategies adopted by each retailer might be different and may cost them some extra cash or effort which you might not know about. Your margin however grows as you sell in larger quantities.

This model indeed requires you to have some big capital to sustain it. If that is out of the way, success will be yours.

Manufacturing

If you have the capital and have come up with a product that the Ghanaian will readily consume, then you can also go into actual manufacturing.

In most cases you don’t have to own your own factory to have the product manufactured. You can outsource the manufacturing and have it labelled as you want. Your part in this online business model is to have an army of wholesalers who are ready to take your goods as soon as they are ready. You don’t want to stock for a long time. A good website which can even direct interested retailers to find wholesalers will be helpful.

If you have enough capital, you can do mass marketing to get traction for your product. Always remember you have the greatest responsibility to protect and promote your brand online and offline. The wholesalers and retailers down the supply chain can easily switch brands as the market dictates; you can’t easily afford to do same.

There is enough playing ground for existing and many more who would like to join the online business ecosystem here in Ghana

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