Students sell stuff successfully online

By Amanda Aller
Managing Editor

When overwhelming course loads prevent traditional employment routes for college students, turning to the online market provides a useful way to clear through clutter for a profit, or sell a handmade craft.

E-commerce has become a huge part of the way people consume and sell goods. Amazon is the most valuable retailer in the world, online or not, with a market value of $250 billion according to CNN.

Amazon also allows you to participate in that impressive market, giving it another leg up on traditional retail giants.

The first step to selling successfully on Amazon is finding the right product. An ideal product is light and small, inexpensive to purchase and ship, and not seasonal.

“You may find an item that you think won’t sell but you’ll be surprised,” said Andrea Doucette, a computer science major at the County College of Morris. “I found some great finds in the clearance section of Walmart and made around a 200 percent profit.”

It’s a good idea to sell something that you wouldn’t normally buy, so you won’t be tempted to spend the money you could be making on the product. Another key is making your item as searchable as possible by being specific in its listing title or description. For example, you won’t just be selling a necklace, rather a sterling silver pendant clock necklace.

“The Amazon Seller app will become your best friend,” Doucette said. “Scan all the items you come across and try to stay in the top 1 percent of categories. You’ll make the most money within that margin.”

It helps to find a supplier, which should be contacted through an email address made specifically for that purpose. This will protect your personal email address from ad spam.

Alibaba is the largest online e-commerce company in the world, and is a good place to begin looking for a supplier for your goods. Filter your search by the categories most important to you, then pick from the top 20 to 30 and send a generic message, asking for a price listing of the product you want along with some samples of the product. You want to ensure that what you’re selling is quality.

When selling your product, make sure to ship the item immediately and do not use drop shipping when starting out. Drop shipping is the process where you pass along your customer’s shipping information to the drop shipper, who has all of the products in their storage space and sends them directly to your customer. Although this is very time and cost effective, it can be hard to find good drop shippers because there’s a level of trust that is needed, considering they’re selling the product to the customer, rather than going through a third party seller (in this case, you).

Start out by buying your products in bulk through Alibaba (after you’ve sampled them) and ensure a good relationship with your customers that way. After you’ve done this you can use websites like WholesaleCentral.com to find drop shippers or find them through your existing supplier. After you’re ready to ship your product, don’t forget to add a customized thank you note! A little gratitude goes a long way.

Once you’re ready to brand yourself, you should create a landing page (the website’s home page) through a website like leadpages.com. Conversion rate, the percentage of website visitors who buy something on the site, is the key here. Having a clever tag line can influence your conversion rate greatly.

After you’ve done this you can run an Adword campaign through Google, LinkedIn or Facebook. After you’ve set up conversion tracking you’ll be able to see which keywords grab your customer’s attention and which don’t.

Once you’ve taken all of these steps, you’re already ahead of the game. Remember to do your research by watching other people’s success (and failure) stories on YouTube or reading an in depth blog like startupbros.com. Through extensive research, prepare yourself for the pitfalls of starting a new business.

“Keep track of all tracking numbers and triple check addresses when sending out packages,” said Mihir Kansagra, management information systems major at CCM. “Returns must be accepted or Amazon will suspend the account.”

Keep in mind that once your supplier sends you sample products, it will take about seven to twenty days to ship. So be patient, plan ahead and get ready to kick off your entrepreneurial career!

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