Recently I decided to take a closer look at E-commerce. Having worked almost entirely on B2B cases so far (except for some app development projects), I decided it’s about time to see what the B2C side of the business looks like. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown in Germany I had some free time on my hands and after looking into dozens of (mostly) pointless blog articles about online marketing, I decided in order to get a better understanding it was probably best to build an online shop myself.
The decision was made quick and send me on a hunt for a consumer product that I could sell. Very early I stumbled upon Instant Ramen Noodles. Still heavily underrated in Germany, the product has a history of trending online and a reputation of being fairly popular with a consumer group that I was familiar with and had access to – University students. Having found a suitable product that was easy to obtain and which promised some sales, I started to build the shop.
The project provided a steep learning curve, aswell as a deeper understanding of the technology involved. As I also learned some things that I didn’t read in any articles, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing what I learned building an Online shop for Ramen Noodles as a weekend project in 2020.
1. Differentiate yourself from other shops
I strongly advice you not to eat as many Instant Noodles as I did in preparation for this project. But I advise you to have a good understanding of your retail product. This is especially obvious if you´re trying to convey a convincing value proposition on your website.
As we had people trying different Instant Noodles, we found the there are huge differences in taste and that the flavor is also dependent on the preparation of the meal. Yet most other sellers almost purely focus on the most crucial product information like the the list of contents or nutritional data. We concluded that a good product offering would consider a pre-selection of great tasting products and a description that includes information about taste and suggestions for preparation. This kind of product understanding might help you to differentiate your service from other shops online.
2. Try to find a product that attracts a customer base that you have access to
While it´s really hard to find a good niche market for a B2C product nowadays, there are other factors that you should look at when deciding for a product. What really differenciates you from other sellers out there might not be the general market access, but surely to some extent the limited marketing budget for your project. Wheather your a solo starter or within a company, there is always someone out there who can spend more on fancy designs. Starting with some generic growth from within your own network is never a mistake.
3. Choose your technology wisely
Honestly, setting up an online shop is not as hard as it used to be. With a variety of options like Shopify in place, the struggle of building your own platform has been reduced substantially. The most relevant decision you will have to take is which of the many services or frameworks you want to use. Here I would advise you to make compatibility with Plug-ins and relevant services the most important factor for decision making. We decided to go with a WordPress installation and used the popular WooCommerce Plug-in to set up the shop. With this solution in place we had a almost infinite selection of Plug-ins to choose from.
The hardest part was designing the page and filling it with content. This really determines if your website can set itself appart from other similar webshops.
4. Automate as much as you can
This sounds pretty straight forward. If you don´t want to be working full time for your online webshop you should automate as much as you can. For this we used a set of usefull plug-ins and services. The most relevant include “Blog2Social” (a Plug-in that automatically pushes content to social media), “PDF Invoices and Packing Slips” (WooCommerce Plug-in that automatically generates invoices and packing slips) and other cool extensions. After setting this up, the only thing we really need to do is buying, packing and sending the right products.
5. Use corporate shipping options
There are a lot of different carriers to get products to your customers. We decided to go with DHL as they have a good reputation and a really easy online contract service. This means with just a few klicks you can become a corporate client and get special rates for your shipments. In this way you can offer competitive shipping prices from the start.
In Germany they even offer an online calculator that instantly shows you how much you can save. The only thing you need is an estimate on the expected shipment volume. Definitely a recommendation!
6. Find and explore new ways of distribution
Generating sales can be very exhausting. Especially if you have to compete with countless other shops offering the same or similar products. Good content and regular activity on social media might work, but will take a lot of time and effort. If you do not have a considerable marketing budget, it might be a good idea to try new ways of distribution. This is why we introduced Instant Ramen Boxes for Co-Working Spaces and offices. These offer delicious Ramen Noodles whenever you need them.
Conclusion: Have fun building stuff!
In a project where success is highly dependent on customer acceptance and the online visibility of your products success is never guaranteed. It is very important to focus on the most crucial success factors and to ensure having the right skills to do the job. Especially if you do not have a big project budget!