1. IF YOU COULD OPEN AN ONLINE STORE WHAT TYPE OF PRODUCTS WOULD YOU SELL? DESCRIBE YOUR DECISION IN A FEW SENTENCES:
I actually am launching an online store right now--it should be up and running by the end of October. My business partner/roommate and I are selling wristbands that hold a key. We call the product Clave, which means "key" in Spanish, but in the context of "the key concept," not a physical key (llave). It's a play on words, because we want this item to be a key part of people's daily dress.
We noticed that for the past 4 years going to the University of Dayton, many students (mostly females) wear their house key on their wrist, tied by a hair tie, string, or other similar mechanism. Almost all students at UD get one house key (most students live on campus in University housing), but none have a really good place to put it. We decided to solve that issue and make a business out of it.
It took over a year to find the right supplier and tweak our design until we liked it. We are now finally in the production stage, working with a factory in China that specializes in bracelets and other magnetic jewelry. We should get our first order of product in about 4 weeks, and we plan to be ready to sell as soon as we get them. We have an LLC and a bank account, a tax ID, and everything else ready to roll.
We are creating an online store through the Shopify service. We plan on pushing the page hard through social media. We also plan on going out into the UD community and selling. Our hope is that word will spread throughout UD, then to friends of UD students from back home who are at different colleges, and so on. To market online, we will take some good pictures of friends modeling the bracelet and push it through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites. We will probably put the product on Etsy, as well.
Clave as a company has potential to be more than just this product, also. Once we have established ourselves and have a good following, we plan on introducing other products along the same lines. The next two will be a bracelet that holds a car key fob, and a bracelet sold with a door handle that allows for hands-free, RFID scan-to-unlock technology. These products will also call for an online push through social media, and we will sell them through our online store(s).
2. HOW DO YOU THINK THE INTERNET AFFECTS PRODUCTS PRICES?
I think the growth in popularity of online shopping has driven down prices over the past years. Due to the ease of getting products up for sale on the internet and targeting exactly who the customer should be, companies across the world are increasing sales. Really anybody can be a player on an online store as long as they have basic internet connection, a product to sell, and a way to ship it. There has been a huge increase in competition, particularly in clothing.
The increase in competition, again due to the sheer ease of putting one's product out there, has lead to lower prices. Manufacturers in one country may be able to sell a similar product at a lower price than manufacturers from another country, who may be forced to lower their price to stay in the game, and this goes on and on. This concept spans industries--there's nothing the internet can't affect.
Not only does this online competition affect online stores, it also affects brick & mortars. It is even more challenging now to get people to come to a store when they can simply go online on their smart phones and order what they need in a few clicks. When stores are losing demand, one thing they do is drop prices. So again, across industries prices have dropped because of the online presence of stores around the world making similar products.
As a consumer, I like this. If somebody on the other side of the world can make something just as good as somebody in my backyard, but can sell it to me for less, I'm going with them. At the same time, if the manufacturer around the corner has dropped prices because of the store across the world, that's good for me too. There is a plethora of information to compare between products online, including price, so consumers now have much more power to make decisions.
As a business owner and soon-to-be online merchant, this is not such a great thing for me. It would not be far fetched for a copycat to take my design and sell a similar product for less, which would most likely force me to lower my price and sacrifice some profit. At the same time, I was able to find a supplier in China by searching online, and the price I am paying for my product might be reduced due to competition that my supplier faces.
The market seems to balance itself out over the long-run, so I think the huge and growing presence of online stores on the internet are a good thing.
3. DESCRIBE ONE PLEASANT EXPERIENCE WITH A STORE (ONLINE OR BRICK & MORTAR):
My best experience with a retail brand was with Men's Wearhouse. I needed to get a suit, and wanted one that looked nice and fit my style, but couldn't afford anything too expensive. The store was not too crowded when I walked in, and I was helped right away by a sales associate. I told him what I was looking for, and he brought me right to the section I needed. He asked many questions to get a better idea of good options for me. I picked out several styles I liked and got pricing. When the one I liked the most turned out to be out of my price range, the sales associate found a suit that was very similar but much less expensive. I was then shown shoes, ties, shirts, and other accessories that match, and told about deals I could get by buying more. The tailor then took my suit adjustments, I paid, thanked the sales associate and left. A few days later, I picked up my new suit and was very happy with it.
This experience was great because the sales associate focused on what I wanted and didn't push me to spend more money. Though there was an attempted up-sell of the accessories, I felt the whole time that my needs were heard and met. I would definitely go back there for my next suit, and would encourage friends to do the same.
My worst experience with a retail brand was with Speedway. I'm a huge fan of Speedy Freezes, the convenient store's famous slushies, and went into a store one hot day to get one. Unfortunately, the sales associate at the counter was very rude. I did nothing to cause this, and I'm sure she was just having a tough day, but she was really snippy towards me unjustifiably. I paid for my slushy and left, satisfied with the product but unsatisfied with the experience. While I have gone back to Speedway for gas and slushies since, I will never step foot in this particular location again. I was completely turned off as a consumer expecting to get a decent retail experience. I was shocked at how the sales associate acted, and she damaged the brand in my mind a little bit. As somebody who has worked in retail, I find these experiences valuable as a lesson on how not to act. If I were the owner of the business, I would deal with that situation right away before offending more customers who may never come back.