Sick of using Qoo10? Well, we are.
Don’t get us wrong. Qoo10 is great for making small business.
We decided to create a storefront outside of the e-commerce platform so that we can create our own brand.
When you are using Qoo10, you are known as a “Qoo10” seller. It is generally harder to build a brand unless you managed to dominate and monopolize the market.
Most customers are “hit-and-run”. They buy and forget your existence. Most platforms also make it in a way that all sellers are almost the same.
At least, I find that it is very difficult to distinguish yourself from other sellers. Even if your customers come back, they probably look at purchase history.
The way to do it… is to start a website on your own.
A quality website with superb service or products can build your reputation. Look at how some blog shops have evolved into popular stores in Singapore. They didn’t sell on Qoo10 (maybe they did). They have a website. They build a brand.
When you do extremely well, people will remember your website. The next time they want to purchase the same product, they will go back to your website.
But… you are also potentially losing some benefits that e-commerce platforms bring in.
You will need to make sure that you are alright to lost those benefits and bring them to your store on your own.
I have been there and I have done it. It is difficult but definitely doable if you put your heart into it.
Here are the 4 things that you need to know when you move away from the e-commerce platforms and start your own website.
1. Losing Huge Traffic
One huge advantage using those e-commerce platforms is that they already have traffic to their websites.
Most people will go straight to those platforms when they want to purchase something.
Think of your own searching habit: Do you google for a cable or do you go to Qoo10/Lazada to search for one?
In marketing, this kind of traffic is what we called as leads. A lead is generated when a customer is interested in buying your item. We need more of these leads before we can even talk about conversion and sales.
The customers came into these platforms already know what they need to get. Most of the time, you need to convert these leads into sales.
You don’t really have to worry about traffic since the companies have already built a huge traffic to the platform.
When you start your very own website, you will need to find ways to drive traffic to your website.
Let me tell you… it is really not easy to drive a traffic. It requires a large amount of effort in marketing. Different products require different strategies. What works for company A might not work for company B.
I tried to be as general as possible here so my readers can benefit from the concept instead.
In general, you need to promote your brand. You must know your target audience and start from the appropriate platforms. For instance, you don’t go new parents Facebook groups to promote your lego collections.
Personally, I advertise on social media like Facebook and Instagram. We used to have at least 50 visits (with no effort in marketing) to each product on Qoo10. Even if we can only convert only 1% of the 100 visits into sales, we are still making some money every day.
When we first started our new website, we are only receiving average 10 visits a day. That’s a whopping 5x drop from Qoo10! It makes sense since you are now isolated from a big e-commerce traffic.
Advertising on social media helps to increase the visitor rate. We put up requests on Instagram and target only specific age group and gender.
Of course, it is also an art to put up right visual to lure people into your call to action.
But that’s not enough. We will also need to let ourselves into an ecosystem such that people know we exist in the first place.
Yes, you advertise your products to targeted audience.
But you must also grow your fan base by interacting with relevant users/groups on these platforms.
You can, of course, put a link on Qoo10 and lead them to your page strategically (e.g. additional 10% discount on your website only).
Remember, you need to leave such a deep impression on the people such that when they think of a specific product, they will remember your website first.
Otherwise, they will just return to Qoo10 every time whenever they need a new cable.
2. Increasing Operating Cost
When you start a website, you will incur additional cost to operate it.
In order to start your website, you will need to pay for hosting fee and domain fee.
A web hosting is a place for you to store your files, images and website information. On the other hand, a web domain is an address to your website (e.g. http://google.com).
Sometimes, you can find a bundle to get both at a cheaper rate – pay $x/month minimally a year to get a free domain and some hard disk space for web hosting.
If you are interested in getting a country specific domain (e.g. something.sg), you will also need to pay more (S$ 49/year vs S$ 15/year -> domain name only!).
I got my domain from Exabytes for S$ 4.90/year during a promotion. They do have other plans for small business. If you need any help, just comment on this post. I will try my best to help!
So let’s say you decided to go for service providers like Shopify to host your website. Such service providers eliminate the need to hire a freelancer to do web design.
But of course, you will also need to pay them a monthly fee. It costs around USD 29/month for a small business to get a website up just in a few days on Shopify.
The downside is your website will look like any other people who used the same layout. But that’s okay. If you know nothing about coding, it is still the best way to get started.
Personally, I use Digitalocean to host my website and Namecheap to buy my domains.
Each website costs about SGD $12/month.
Yes, it is cheaper as compared to Shopify. But it also means that I have to put in more effort and time to maintain the websites.
What you need to remember… is that the cost of maintaining the website will also increase when your traffic increases.
For example, you might need to pay more for the storage space as you add more products to the website.
Besides operating cost, you will also need to prepare marketing budget. You might need to start paying Facebook/Instagram to advertise your products.
Depending on how far you want to go, your advertisement fee can be as cheap as S$ 1 for 7 days or S$ 10 for 7 days or even S$ 100 for 7 days.
This is a crucial step for you to generate more leads. Sometimes, I feel that it is inevitable to pay to generate leads unless you are working in a very niche area.
There are also things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to worry about when you start your own website. All these can also be paid in order to rank better on a search engine.
Hence, it is inevitable to pay some money so that you can have a bigger base to generate more leads. But it is really up to you how you can convert these leads into proper sales.
3. Increasing Need For Good Packaging
Raise your hand if you are guilty of using photos online for the products on your Qoo10 shop.
Raise hand again if you sell the product without repackaging!
I’m guilty. But I can feel for you.
Sometimes, it is really very difficult to take product photos given a limited resource. It is even harder to repackage the entire product. Even if you want to do it, you have no idea how to start.
However, when you start a website to create your own brand, you will need to make sure you are providing good quality products to the customers.
We have to face it. Most humans are visual animals. We like things that look really nice.
Why do you think some people don’t mind paying a premium price for Apple products?
We took our products from China. Yes. China.
The first thing we did is to punch our own label on these products so the origin of the product becomes less obvious.
Think in this way: Given two same products, one labeled in Chinese while the other labeled in English, which looks better?
The next step is to repackage our product. Instead of using the cheap plastic or boxes from the supplier, we source for our own packaging materials.
We make sure each product is packaged and presented nicely to our customers.
It really helps to leave a deeper and better impression on the customers. And this… is exactly what you need to develop your brand.
4. Increasing Need To Retain Customers
Remember I told you that you will suffer a huge loss of traffic, right?
In the beginning, you will need a way to drive traffic on your own. Once you are able to get the traffic on track, you will continue to work on two things:
- Convert traffic to sales
- Convert sales to loyalty
Getting a customer to remember your brand is one thing… making sales is another strategy… now the ability to get a higher percentage of returning customers is another.
Honestly, this is the portion I find the hardest. Most of the time when you drive traffic, the customer already has some initial interests in purchasing the items.
To convince someone to purchase something in mind is easier to convince someone to believe in your brand from nothing.
Let me share with you one of the simplest methods I did to retain our customers.
We invite our customers to join our mailing list. In return, we will send them promotion codes every now and then.
The customers are happy with their promote codes. I’m happy with my mailing lists. When I send them a new promotional code the next month, most of them will open and visit the website again to look for new items to buy with the promotional code.
This philosophy revolves around a very simple idea. Yet, it can yield us more than what we are expecting. Imagine having 100,000 leads readily on your hand… all you need to do next is to fire up a campaign and sell your product.
Having a website is very different from selling on e-commerce platforms. Basically, you have the complete control of your website.
You make it nice, make it ugly, make it fast or make it slow. At the end of the day, how you control your website will be the main gist of driving traffic and making sales.
Just like other posts, I hope this can help to give some insights for people who are thinking to start a website. Remember, your commitment will be much higher. This means that you will have more to think and more to work.
If you guys need any help technically, feel free to drop a comment below so that we can all learn and have some healthy discussion!