Having a great product is only one part of the equation for a successful business. You also need a solid plan to deliver that product to customers. Fortunately, you have more options for getting your product to the end user than you may realize, and depending on what type of business you run, you may be able to use more than one avenue for fulfillment. Here are some of your options:
Ship it Yourself
If you’re operating on thin profit margins, you will save money by packaging and shipping your own products. You have many options, but here are three of the most well-known shipping services, along with the benefits they offer small businesses.
- The United States Postal Service (USPS): Find out how much it will cost to ship your products by visiting the USPS’ free postage price calculator and entering the required information. In addition, if you use one of the expedited services like Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, or Global Express Guaranteed, you can schedule a free pickup during regular mail delivery times.
- FedEx: You can order FedEx supplies online for no cost. (From the Ship tab, click “Order Shipping Supplies.”) You can use the online management tool to keep your account information and address book up-to-date, track shipments, pay your bill, and run reports. You can schedule pickups online, too.
- UPS: Get a price estimate and estimated delivery date when you use UPS’ online estimator. You can also use one of three shipping applications to help streamline your shipping operations.
Use a Drop-Shipper
If you plan to open an online store, but don’t want to carry a large inventory, you might consider drop-shipping. Some wholesalers allow online businesses to sell their products without having to purchase them upfront. Then, when you make a sale, the drop-shipper packages the product and ships it to the customer for you. The online business keeps the difference between the wholesale and retail price. Look for wholesalers at sites like TradeKey.com and Alibaba.com.
Create a Click-to-Brick Program for Your Retail Store
If you own a retail business and are looking for additional ways to distribute your products, consider offering a click-to-brick option for your customers. With it, your customers can order and pay for a product online, and then pick up it up next time they’re in your store. What’s more, customers won’t be limited to buying only during store hours — they’ll be able to shop at your business 24 hours a day. You’ll have to establish a website with a shopping cart to get started. You can find an e-commerce solution at Shopify or Volusion.
Form a Strategic Partnership With Another Business
Another way to distribute your products is to form a strategic partnership with a non-competing business, and market your products through it. Starbucks is a master at forming strategic partnerships to sell its products. It first formed an alliance with Barnes & Noble Bookstores to offer in-house coffee shops, and then teamed up with PepsiCo to offer bottled Frappucino blended drinks. And that was just the beginning. You don’t have to own a big business to take advantage of this distribution method. Simply look for a non-competing business where such an arrangement could benefit both of you.
Make Use of Distributors
Finally, you may decide that selling to retail customers isn’t the best business model for you. For instance, if you manufacture products with a wide appeal, you may do better financially by selling to a group of distributors, and letting them sell the product to the public. This distribution method can work for any size business. For instance, if you make gourmet brownies, you can open a brownie shop and sell directly to the public, or you can manufacture the brownies and sell them to distributors such as restaurants, gourmet food stores, and grocery stores.
You don’t have to settle for only one of the distribution methods listed above. Think about all of the ways you can get your products into consumer’s hands, and then devise a distribution plan that will benefit your bottom line the most.