About a year ago a friend visited me from abroad for a month. I was really excited to have him over and made all sorts of arrangements for his comfort. The day he arrived, he asked me to get him a cell phone number so he could communicate with his family. I knew that wasn’t a very difficult thing to do, in fact it was a twenty minute ordeal for us. But what I didn’t realize was, actually how much simpler it has become to purchase a cell phone plan. We drove for less than a mile and in that one mile radius we found at least 25 different options to choose from, which ranged from small prepaid networks to expensive high def cell phone providers.
We ended up spending about $40 for a full month of service with sufficient internet to last him the month. The cell phone plan cost $40 and the sales rep waived off all activation and other charges for us, after much arguing. Great sales rep, huh? Well… not really! This was actually the fifth store we had walked to… within a mile’s radius! Each store was selling the same stuff with its own prices.
I don’t blame the reps at all. They are paid commissions for selling the merchandise. They earn their living by selling more and more… to customers who walk into their store. While we were there, I looked at all the accessories like cell phone cases, headphones, and Bluetooth speakers displayed beautifully on the walls. Sadly, most of the racks were still full, as if no one had bought anything from the racks for days. I wondered why. The store was brightly lit from outside and had a pleasant ambiance, making it accessible to customers. While we were there at least 5 customers walked in. Then what was it that still kept the racks full?
I thought for a moment, and then asked the sales rep. His response was no surprise, “they all have so many options to choose from… if not here they will go next door to purchase a different kind of phone case, I can’t let them leave…” And that made so much sense. When I have 20 different stores or even 5 different stores to choose from within a walking distance. A stress for both the sales rep and in-line retail business owners that can easily be avoided
I was already into the ecommerce business at the time, so I started to compare the situation to mine. Or something similar. I figured this was no different than what I had been accustomed to as an online seller, apart from the hustling. Well, I used to hustle as well, but in matters of price matching or deal launching and many atimes, adding new variety to my inventory.
But one thing really stood out for me. My hustling was so much simpler and comfortable. I didn’t have to convince anyone to buy my product, I didn’t have to adapt to such a exhausting approach to sell my products, nor did I have a time constraint; the store operated only between 8am and 6pm. Moreover, I didn’t have to be on my feet all day long to make a living. I figured e-commerce is the new world of selling.
So, naturally, I wanted to test out the same displayed products these stores were selling on my storefront. To my surprise, it opened up new horizons for me. I understood, why there are so many cell phone stores in every city. Their products are cheap and easy to find. Honestly, most of the products were already being sold for a price I was not able to compete with. But the magic of online/virtual stores is you can have hundreds and thousands of products to sell. And cell phone have uncountable accessories to jump into.
So I sold and profited from selling cell phone accessories, especially all sorts of cell phone cases and little accessories. The new product line worked out great for me. In fact, I decided to launch my own design of iphone cases. Which did not turn out too well due to very high competition. However, I learnt that when a product is so inexpensive, it is better to buy it from other brands and resell it, instead of getting stuck with your own inventory and spending money to promote it. The hassle of ordering from a manufacturing plant is quite hectic at times, especially if you are new in the business. The idea is to make money by selling the inventory, not have it stuck.
Since then, I have helped expand multiple in-line stores to grow online, and their revenue stream has been a lot steeper than before. You might be able to lower in-store prices, but you cannot compete with the walk-ins (number of customers) online.
Going back to my discussion with the cell phone store sales rep earlier. He knew his customer had 5 other options within the same vicinity. Please understand that 99% of these customers live within that 1 mile radius. The highest amount of people found within 1-mile radius is NYC, Times square. The sales rep potentially had 10,000 or 15,000 customers to sell to. My online store, however, has the potential to cater to 10 million customers a day. Amazon.com is said to have 10 million visitors a day. The amount of opportunities selling online are crazy. And I can do it all by myself. I don’t need a sales rep or multiple reps to be my store face. Even if I get only 1% of the number of daily customers on amazon only, I can sell a lot more than I need to make my ends meet. Even Times square doesn’t provide that kind of a walk in into your store.