Are you unsure where to sell your product or service? In a world with seemingly endless sales channels, identifying the right ones for your business can define your success. From traditional retail to virtual e-commerce platforms, University of Utah alumni and e-commerce entrepreneur Josh Hadley walked through what to consider when selecting the most compatible channel for your product and ideal customer in a recent workshop.
The workshop was provided as part of the Lassonde for Life program, which is open to all University of Utah alumni and provides free, lifelong entrepreneurial support.
Josh Hadley has an MBA from the David Eccles School of Business and is the host of the Ecomm Breakthrough Podcast and founder and CEO of Hadley Designs. His career began in a leadership development program at American Airlines. While Hadley was employed at American Airlines, he and his wife started a custom wedding invitation business that they worked on together in the evenings. Since then, their business has pivoted into a stationery empire with over 1,300 products.
Hadley used his experience and knowledge of pricing to explain how companies can determine their value. Hadley reviewed different sales channels for marketing your product, and how to determine which one is right for your business.
Here are the things Hadley recommends entrepreneurs consider when selecting a sales channel:
Brick and Mortar Retail Storefront
Offering the tangible experience, the instant gratification, and the personal customer service, a physical store is still a classic choice that holds many benefits. However, be aware of the high operating costs, limited reach, and inventory management challenges that come along.
Direct to Consumer (D2C) Websites
Platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce can help you keep your storefront open around the clock. Enjoy higher profit margins without intermediaries and collect valuable customer data to fuel your future marketing efforts. Just remember to tackle the challenges of generating your own online traffic, shipping and fulfilling your orders, as well as managing your website’s technology and security.
eBay, traditionally known as an auction platform, offers its credibility and large customer base to sellers. With built-in trust and various selling formats, it’s an excellent option for collectibles and used items. Keep in mind the hurdles of shipping and fulfillment, the fee structure, and the limited control over branding and customer service.
Etsy has become a well-known online community supporting small businesses focused on selling handmade and custom products. While it offers a niche customer base that is interested in unique items and unconcerned with shipping times, you will be impacted by a controlled fee structure and high competition among sellers.
As the world’s largest online marketplace, Amazon offers an expansive customer base. Benefits of selling on Amazon include built-in trust and convenient fulfillment services. However, be prepared to compete among many other sellers and accept limited control over fees, branding, and customer service.
Catering to mom-and-pop shops, boutiques, and more, wholesale platforms like FAIRE, Bulletin, Handshake, and NuOrder offer an opportunity for large-volume sales and broader distribution. Given the nature of wholesale business, this sales channel may result in lower profit margins, dependence on retail partners for revenue, and potential payment delays. In certain circumstances, this channel may also require more capital investment.
Choosing the Right Sales Channels
To identify the perfect sales channel for your product or service, consider the type of product you sell, where your ideal customer shops, and how much control and investment you want in the business. Hadley recommended “meeting the customer where they are” and not exerting effort to make them change their ways. Evaluate your product’s compatibility with specific channels, as certain items excel on particular platforms and may not be effectively sold on others. Assess your available resources, including time, money, and personnel, as different channels demand varying levels of investment. Consider your branding strategy and whether you need control over your brand image and customer experience. As some channels require you to relinquish more control, you may need to decide what to prioritize. Lastly, analyze your profit margins, factoring in all costs, such as shipping and fees, to ensure financial health and sustainability.