Taking Brick and Mortar to the Web
Note: If you’re from the South Hills of Pittsburgh you’re no doubt familiar with Rollier Hardware on Washington Road (if you’ve been in Pittsburgh a while you were familiar with it on McFarland Road too); but did you know the family run business has a multi-million dollar e-commerce site called HardToFindItems.com? The bright guys behind it are my long time friends Brett and Derek Satterfield. I asked Brett if he wouldn’t mind sharing some of his wisdom through this blog and he graciously agreed, so look for a post, like the one below, authored by him from time to time.
I’m going to use this space below to share with you how I developed a flourishing Internet business over night by utilizing my families existing brick and mortar store. Along the way there have been a couple of key strategies that have helped catapult my e-Commerce business forward 1.) Targeting Niche Products. 2.) Google AdWords – Utilizing a Niche Approach 3.) Amazon.com’s FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) Program.
- Targeting Niche Products. Our online strategy is predicated upon selecting and marketing niche products. Instead of trying to list all of our products from our brick and mortar store online (like every other hardware stores), we decided to select only are more hard-to-find-items. Hence our name domain name, www.hardtofinditems.com.
The world of e-Commerce is fierce. Your competitor’s product is only a back click away. It’s equivalent to walking into our retail store, Rollier Hardware, and seeing Scotts fertilizer stacked up in one pile with our price on it and our competitor’s stack (Home Depot) right beside ours. For this reason, we decided to target products and brands that less companies are trying to market and sell online. This has enabled us to maintain more favorable margins and obtain better online visibility for the products we sell.
- Google AdWords – Utilizing a Niche Approach. If you’re somewhat familiar with Google, you know that a search result will display organic and paid search results. Ranking high organically is difficult and takes time. On the other hand PPC, or pay-per-click, can drive immediate traffic to your website. The difficult problem with PPC isn’t driving traffic; it’s about driving relevant traffic that will convert. To accomplish this, we deployed a niche strategy targeting brand names. For example, if someone is searching for “animal repellent” they are probably not ready to buy. However, if they search for “Deer Scram” or “PredaScent” (specific animal repellent brands) they probably already know what they want, they are just trying to find the best deal.
- Amazon.com’s FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) Program. I’m sure most of you have purchased something from Amazon.com, or at least you are aware that they are the #1 e-Commerce platform. This means they drive an enormous amount of traffic and users that are ready to buy!
While Amazon.com stocks and sells many of fastest moving products on their website, most of the products are still stocked by third party merchants. With the demand and volume that Amazon.com drives, it requires any third party merchant who wishes to compete to purchase, source and ship product in the most efficient manner possible. We found this very difficult at first. In many cases we could purchase the product at the same price as any other merchant, but we didn’t have the existing distribution and fulfillment center to efficiently pick, pack and ship product. That’s where Amazon’s FBA program came into play.
Amazon’s FBA program is a service that allows third parties to source inventory into Amazon’s warehouses, where Amazon will pick, pack and ship your product. This has allowed us roll right into Amazon’s competitive marketplace and compete. While more and more merchants are switching over to Amazon’s FBA program, there are so many products listed on Amazon’s e-Commerce storefront that many of the products still have yet to develop any FBA competition.
It won’t last forever, but for now Amazon’s FBA program has allowed us to drive multi-millions of top line revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars of bottom line profit.
Jon has asked me to write a series of blog posts covering the e-Commerce practices that we utilize to drive business, along with how I foresee the internet search platform playing out over the next 10+ years. Look for a future blog post from me covering how I foresee social media and amazon.com affecting Google’s search platform. My opinions differ slightly from Jon’s, so it should be a good chance for all of you to get a second angle on this topic.