You might be in ecommerce or thinking of starting. You want to work for yourself and be successful on your own terms. I get that. But how you get there is important and will decide much of whether you will truly succeed and get your name recognized or not so much.

Then how to make it work in ecommerce?

Not with dropshipping

Starting an online store is becoming easier and easier so practically anyone can be dropshipping from China. This means too many stores sell the same stuff and if you look at the websites, you will see they don’t try to differentiate at all. They even use the pictures provided by the manufacturer because they usually don’t see the products they sell.

This said, you should be asking yourself - who buys from them? Well, lots of people and no-one in particular. That’s because such customers buy impulsively, usually through paid ads, when they see discounts. Discounts may be real or fake, but those people are not loyal to brands or shop, they just want a deal and a cheap product.

And while this model is likely to continue working for this target group who don’t care about quality, there’s one very serious problem with it: it doesn’t make big margins (profit) and the seller has to find new customers all the time since they switch for the next good deal.

So dropshipping is not a business model that can take on a snowball effect and grow exponentially while you sit back and relax.

Better product means higher margins

On the other hand, if you sell different products, such that cannot be found for cheap from Chinese factories, you have chances of capturing people’s interest.

Original products are best.

Not “novelty” stuff, simply proprietary product that you come up with and make/ have made to your specifications. I know it sounds hard, but let’s think.

  • Do you as a customer feel there’s a gap in your need? A product that you make your life easier, but doesn’t exist (at least in your area)?

  • Can you think of a way to improve an existing product you know well as a consumer? Something you use everyday?

  • Even if you don’t have product design, engineering, or culinary background, whatever your idea is connected to, can you suggest innovative improvements to the existing design and functions?

If yes, you might be onto a good idea and it’s worth testing it. New angles on old products are all the rage now and consumer brands of the future are redefining traditional products and industries like cosmetics, personal hygiene, food delivery, clothes shopping and even travel.

When you are creating something new, you control the quality, the materials, the labor and the whole purpose. You can choose to make cheap textile wallets or expensive handcrafted leather wallets. You can choose to do a healthy meal delivery or just a basic one.

And guess which one sells for more?

Usually innovative, original, artisanal, handcrafted and other proprietary items sell with high margins because of their quality, research invested, brand name and originality. And most importantly, because no-one else sells exactly the same product.

My point is that when you make your own product, you dictate the rules.

Success means standing out

With your own product, you will be able to cut the competition short because they compete on price and you offer a new solution - and hopefully quality.

People rally around innovation so you have the opportunity to build a community. Your brand can become a household name because it is different - that’s what natural deodorant Native did, starting out as a one-man show and growing into a P&G brand selling at Target.

The interest by consumers in DTC brands signals traditional product are boring and outdated so there’s room for new players.

What’s in it for you?

You could be remembered as a visionary of a certain industry like the founders of other direct-to-consumer brands: Emily Weiss of Glossier, Andy Dunn of Bonobos, Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa of Warby Parker and so on.

I know when thinking about starting your own business, coming up with a whole new product of your own is a huge idea, but it is a strategic decision you have to make at the beginning: what do you want to sell - other people’s stuff or yours that can be good and profitable.