You know, I sometimes get so caught up in the whole idea of providing a great customer experience — which is what the my Zasm site is all about — that I forget to mention the most basic issue of all.
If you are selling something online, or offline, you need to feel it is something terrific that people love.
And while this has always been my focus — all my online businesses started with a product I, my wife, or a friend loves — all too often at internet marketing events and other marketing forums I hear people focusing on the opportunity (making money) with no care at all of the quality of what they sell.
What brought this back to mind was a conversation I was having with someone in an ecommerce group I recently joined. I thought I was being helpful on a domain and PPC issue, and asked after a bunch of emails what exactly they were trying to sell (furniture was all I knew).
And they told me they were doing a build to order furniture site, based exactly on one already on the web that takes orders, has the stuff made in China, then ships it to the US and ultimately is delivered to folks. He said it did $5 million, so he wanted to try his hand at it.
I wanted to know how this worked, so I did some research and within minutes I found a site with 36 people posting complaints about this site. For shoddy furniture and workmanship, long shipping delays, and allegedly outright lying and fraud.
This was the model they wanted to exactly replicate? Where you screw your customers to make money?
And while I can’t say this is something that is endemic to all drop ship ecommerce models, I do think the more products and skus you carry, the more this is an issue. Since you may not have had a chance to try out much, if any, of the stuff before selling it.
In contrast, I don’t sell many different products — I concentrate on just a few that I test out with real people before selling. And I make sure that people like the product before I carry it. These days, I do a test where I give people my cost on the product basically in exchange for their pledge to write a review after using it for a few months.
I know that my process may sound way too time consuming and cumbersome to many who want to just start selling in ecommerce. But if you begin your business on a foundation of selling crap like this furniture site with 37 complaints, you shouldn’t be surprised if your business just doesn’t have any long term viability. I guess if you just want to make some short term money and don’t mind ripping off folks that this is ok, but I personally hate this and feel it is one of the reasons people feel uncomfortable buying on the internet.
Yes, folks should be careful about who they buy from. And understand that these sorts of sites with no badges of credibility (no BBB membership, or Shopping.com (now Ebay Commerce Network) etc.) may be a problem . Too often people are brought in by the cheap prices these types of sites have, and in these cases there is a nasty downside to these low prices.
In the furniture site, for example, they do offer a return policy — but you have to ship back in the original packaging in like new condition. And shipping furniture at consumer rates by common carrier is so expensive that this makes the return policy not worth the paper it is printed on. In addition, you could send it back, and they may well then say it isn’t like new — and your out the cost and the shipping.
So please be wary buying from these sort of sites offering no proof of their customer service and these sorts of extremely customer unfriendly policies. For the money you are saving, you are running the risk of getting taken.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of starting a drop ship business, it is important to try out the products you will be selling to make sure they are the type of quality you are looking for — and ones customers will love. This will give you the good foundation you need in order to have a real business with longevity, rather than just a quick scam to fleece folks for a bit before moving on to the next thing.