Online business ideas

Tips and ideas for starting an online business

€39 (excl. VAT) per month + referral fees
Online business ideas

Why create an online store?

In recent years, we have been talking more and more about online sales. You will have heard a lot about this already. For example, you should know that the area is highly competitive, because it is open and accessible to everyone. But also that there are many "success stories" from entrepreneurs. This process allows you to extend the visibility of your products beyond your city, your country or even your continent, all from the comfort of your own home. Opening doors internationally in this way has allowed many businesses to grow quickly.

But to get started, you first have to sell a product. And you have to know which one. It is the first essential step in any business venture.

It can be a physical item but it can also be an intellectual or cultural creation, or a service.

Once you have found your product, it is necessary to establish the profile of customers likely to be interested in it.

Understand what their needs and expectations are. This will allow you to adapt your communication with your customers.

Finally, you need to decide where to sell your products online.

There are generally two answers to this question: on your own website or on an existing e-commerce site. Both options have their advantages and their disadvantages, and they can even be combined.

Having your own website allows you to have complete autonomy and freedom to make decisions on your sales space. However, you have to develop it yourself or have it developed. Then, you have to attract traffic. That is where search engine optimisation and social media marketing comes into play. This is often expensive and time-consuming work. Finally, if you sell physical products, you need to set up a payment system and manage all of the delivery logistics.

Selling on an existing business site offers numerous advantages.

For starters, you can take advantage of existing traffic. Therefore, you don't need to worry about SEO work.

Also, the payment system and the organisation of product deliveries and returns are generally taken care of.

Finally, to make yourself stand out, these sites often provide access to internal advertising tools that are easy to use. This is the case with Amazon, for example.

These advantages can save you a lot of time and effort when starting your business.

However, a bit of preparation is needed before getting started. You must fully understand and learn how the site where you want to sell your products works.

Each site has its own requirements, costs and deadlines. Ignoring them means you run the risk of your store being blocked because of rules that you might have overlooked. Once well informed, selling products online on a reputable site can be an excellent option for growing your business. For example, Amazon has enabled many brands to grow quickly.

This is the case with NutraVita, a dietary supplement distributor that launched entirely on Amazon. They brought in a designated Amazon consultant, who helped them with their decision-making. Every year since 2014, Nutravita has expanded its product portfolio by 50%.

This is also the case with Arcade Retail, which launched on Amazon in 2016 to sell sports products, jewellery, household appliances and cosmetics. The Fulfilment by Amazon programme, which takes care of delivering and storing their products, has been a big part of the brand's success.
Launch your online store with Amazon

Launch your online store with Amazon

Selling products online on Amazon means having possible access to hundreds of millions of active customer accounts around the world and millions of unique visitors per month.

That being said, such a well-known brand can be intimidating for beginners. Many entrepreneurs wonder if they are too small for Amazon. In reality, they are not. The site offers a solution for all types of entrepreneurs, regardless of the size of their business.

If you want to join Amazon, you have to choose between the two basic plans available: the individual plan and the professional plan.

The first is for individuals who sell fewer than 40 items per month. The second is for businesses that plan to sell more than 40 items per month.

To register, you need:
  • A business email address or an Amazon customer account.
  • A credit card that can be charged.
  • A valid passport or proof of ID.
  • Your business registration information.
  • A VAT number.
Depending on the nature of your business and its country of establishment, you must register for VAT.

Once you've registered, you'll have access to your "Seller Central" account. This allows you to manage your account, add product information, list products, update inventory and manage payments.

It's also where you can list your first product.

To get started, you need the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) for your item. If you don't have one, you can request an exemption (depending on the nature of the product) or buy a code from Amazon.

Then, you need:
  • An SKU (stock management unit — this is a seller-specific product number).
  • Find a title for your product.
  • Prepare a description of your product and bullet points listing its features.
  • Have images of the product.
  • Look for relevant search terms and keywords.
With these elements, you can then prepare the product detail page.
Don't overlook the description; this should contain keywords that you have chosen carefully, in order to increase the likelihood that customers will find your ad.

Finally, you need to choose your delivery method. This is either carried out by you or the Fulfilment by Amazon service.

Once you're set up, Amazon provides you with a variety of tools to help you take your business to the next level.
Product ideas to sell online

Product ideas to sell online

As we saw earlier, the first problem to solve when getting started in e-commerce is to find out what the best products to sell online are. Entrepreneurs are all looking for the winning product. The one that is on trend and sought after by customers. Many new sellers get stuck on this issue for a long time. However, the solution often proves to be quite simple. You have to start by looking at what sells best on the big e-commerce sites. This will allow you to make an initial selection of products that may be of interest to you.

If you want to sell on Amazon, it would be useful to consult the best-selling products page for the French store.

Their best sellers usually include:
  • Clothes
  • Computer products and accessories
  • Watches
  • Pet supplies
  • Products for babies
  • Beauty products and perfumes
  • Shoes
  • Handbags
  • Office supplies
  • Household appliances
  • Accessories for cars and motorcycles
There is also the option to sell second-hand items, as long as they are of good quality. It is a relatively easy domain to access and can be used as a first experience of online sales. Many consumers sell used items in this way to make their previous purchases profitable but also for ethical and environmental reasons. This trend is particularly noticeable with clothing.

This same type of market exists for electronic equipment, books, games, toys etc. Similarly, there is a market for selling rare items. There is no shortage of collectors around the world and some enthusiasts are willing to invest significant amounts to be able to get their hands on a specific piece. For artisans and even artists, there is also the possibility for them to sell their own creations online. This field generally includes original creations across clothing, accessories, jewellery, artwork, candles, skincare products, decorative items, food products etc.

But the biggest area of online sales is manufactured items.

For this, you do not have to create your own products. This is a possible solution, provided that you have a large amount of start-up capital. Manufacturing objects on an industrial scale generally requires a significant investment. Fortunately, there are other ways.

Many sellers partner with manufacturers to order unique items that are marketed under their brand. This is a cost-effective solution, provided you find the right partner.
Build your own brand on Amazon

Build your own brand on Amazon

If you decide to open an Amazon professional seller account, it is recommended that you register your brand on the Amazon Brand Registry. This option unlocks a suite of tools that can help you to stand out from competitors.

In this way, A+ content makes it possible to provide more enhanced content than with Amazon's basic description. The site provides an exhaustive user manual.

Posting videos has also become possible. Customers usually like this.

Tests, such as A/B testing, can be applied to product descriptions. This allows them to be better optimised at a later date.

Finally, it is possible to grow through advertising. You can then promote your product offers. They will appear as ads placed on Amazon's search results pages.
Amazon Handmade

Amazon Handmade

For artisans and creators, Amazon has created a dedicated service called Amazon Handmade. It aims to guarantee the authenticity of handmade goods.

In order to provide the best shopping experience for its customers, Amazon audits and selects the artisans who want to join this programme. It ensures that the seller creates products that are made by hand.

To join this service, you need to be an independent seller working alone or with fewer than 20 employees. Then all you have to do is open an Amazon professional seller account and apply to join Handmade.

If approved, you can create an Amazon Handmade store for free.

Amazon does not charge monthly professional seller plan fees. There is only one fixed fee of around 12% per sale.

Handmade also allows its sellers to offer customisable and unique items.

What is Amazon Launchpad?

Amazon Launchpad is a programme dedicated to unique, innovative and sustainable products. It is ideal for start-ups or small and medium-sized enterprises with a single point of sale.

You don't need an Amazon seller account to apply for membership. Simply complete an online form and submit it to Amazon, who then reviews the applications on a case-by-case basis.

If you are accepted into this programme, Amazon then offers you various tools to increase visibility and accelerate your online sales, with:
  • Strategic support including online training and resources, technical support and tailored advice.
  • Customer engagement tools like A+ premium content, help designing an advertising strategy or AWS credits.
  • Amazon Merchandising, allowing you to promote your products on Amazon stores.
  • International support from Amazon Launchpad teams located in nine different countries, opening up possibilities for global expansion. Amazon Launchpad has dedicated stores across various Amazon sites within Europe.
Amazon Launchpad sellers pay an additional 5% referral fee on each item sold, in addition to the standard referral fee.

Thousands of brands around the world have been able to take advantage of the benefits offered by Amazon Launchpad to increase visibility and online sales.
How to use Fulfilment by Amazon to deliver products around the world

How to use Fulfilment by Amazon to deliver products around the world

One of the secrets to Amazon's success is its highly efficient distribution system. Partner sellers can use this to their advantage via the Fulfilment by Amazon service. Those who use it have seen their sales increase by an average of 60%.

Fulfilment by Amazon takes care of the storage, preparation, packaging and delivery of your orders. It also manages returns and customer service on your behalf and can allow your buyers to take advantage of the Prime delivery service: free, two-day delivery.

To use this service, you must first decide which product you want to register. Not all products are eligible. Information about which ones are eligible can be found in your Seller Central.

Once you've made sure your products are eligible, you'll need to send them to an Amazon fulfilment centre. They will be packed, stored and sent there for each purchase made. This way, you will only have to focus on your sales, while Amazon takes care of the logistics.

There are two types of fees for Fulfilment by Amazon users: processing fees and storage fees.
  • The processing fee for each product sold.
  • Storage fees, which are charged monthly.
Processing fees vary based on the size, weight and category of your product. Storage fees are dependent on the space that your products occupy in the fulfilment centre.

The Fulfilment by Amazon Revenue Calculator tool helps determine the exact cost of delivering a product.

The Pan-European Fulfilment by Amazon service allows you to sell across Europe. Products are stored and sent from various distribution centres across the European Union. To use this service, all you need to do is let Amazon know which countries you agree for your inventory to be stored in. International deliveries will then be quicker and less expensive.

To date, the countries in question are France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Sweden.

When using the Pan-European programme, you must register a VAT number in each country where your goods will be stored.

Amazon offers resources and solutions for applying the necessary VAT. A VAT service is available on Seller Central to assist with European VAT registrations and returns.

Fees on Amazon

There are two registration options for a seller who wants to join Amazon: the individual plan and the professional plan.

The individual plan costs €0.99 (excluding VAT) per item sold, plus referral fees. The professional plan costs €39 (excluding VAT) per month, regardless of the number of items sold, plus referral fees.

Referral fees are calculated for each item sold. They depend on the product category. Most referral fees range between 8% and 15%.

You must then take into account the delivery costs of your items.

Again, there are two options: fulfil your products yourself or use the Fulfilment by Amazon service.

When you fulfil your items yourself, Amazon charges you delivery fees based on the category your product belongs to and the delivery service chosen by the buyer. Amazon sends you the charge amount in the form of a fulfilment credit.

Sellers with the individual plan use Amazon's set delivery fees for all products.

Sellers with a professional plan set their own delivery fees, except for products in the Book, Music, Video and DVD categories. Amazon has a specific fee table for these categories.

When a customer purchases an item, Amazon sends the professional seller a credit corresponding to the delivery rate.

The second option is to use the Fulfilment by Amazon service.

Amazon will then take care of packaging and fulfilling your orders, and will also handle returns and customer service on your behalf.

There is also a Pan-European Amazon Fulfilment service for selling across Europe.

For professional sellers, registering in the Brand Registry can provide more than €45,000 in potential benefits, such as getting a 5% discount on their first €900,000 of branded sales, free registration for one of their products on the Vine service to get up to 30 reliable reviews (worth €180), and up to 2000 free Transparency codes (worth €90). Vine is an internal Amazon service for receiving product reviews. Transparency is a product numbering service that prevents counterfeiting.

"Success Stories" on Amazon

Many entrepreneurs have created projects that have grown and been very successful on Amazon.

This is the case with Un air d'Antan, who sell perfumes, body care and hygiene products. They had a difficult start, with many rejections from the major traditional distribution networks. Four years ago, they turned to digital solutions, including Amazon. Since then, their turnover has increased fivefold. Thanks to Amazon Pan-European, they now operate in five European countries, without having to face logistical import and export constraints.

It was a similar story for Chabiothé, who sell organic teas and infusions. Their founder had created an online store but it had little visibility. So he decided to sell his products on Amazon. Their sales then exploded overnight. He then joined the Fulfilment by Amazon Small and Light programme, which allowed him to take advantage of Amazon's logistics and save on delivery costs. Amazon also manages customer billing, saving him precious time. Thanks to Amazon, Chabiothé is growing by 30–50% each year.

The final example comes from Windhorse, an ethical ceramics company.

David Richards marketed a range of top-quality ceramics across Europe. His products quickly became a big success but this unfortunately made him the envy of others. Counterfeits began to appear. David then launched the Windhorse brand on Amazon and protected it through Transparency. This service authenticates the origin of a product and prevents the sale of counterfeit goods. Since then, the brand has gained credibility and continues to grow.

These stories show how the numerous services that Amazon offers can address the various issues that a business may encounter. You can find numerous stories online of entrepreneurs who have grown their projects using Amazon.

More information about selling on Amazon

It is generally believed that the first 90 days are the most important when launching a project. That's why Amazon is advising sellers to make a "Perfect Launch”. It is in fact the use of five sales programmes, to be followed in this order:
  1. Register your brand in the Brand Registry.
  2. Enhance your product detail pages with A+ content.
  3. Get set up with Fulfilment by Amazon.
  4. Automate pricing on your listings.
  5. Create ad campaigns, coupons and/or deals.
To succeed on Amazon, you need to have a good understanding of how the site fees work. Sellers pay a referral fee on each item sold. Amazon deducts the percentage of referral fees applicable to the product from the total selling price. The total sale price is the price paid by the buyer. That is to say, the price of the item plus delivery costs and potential gift wrapping costs.

For this same reason, you must choose the delivery service that best suits your products. Either to send them yourself or use Fulfilment by Amazon. Calculating your delivery and storage costs helps you to correctly set the price of your items in order to be able to make a profit.

Lastly, be sure to take VAT into account in the final sales price, as well as additional selling costs such as advertising or costs from other optional programmes.

Conclusion

Starting a business has become much easier, thanks to the e-commerce boom. Large sites like Amazon can be a great way to get started. This is proven by the many "success stories" from entrepreneurs who have tried it. Whatever your idea, why not give it a go? The conditions for selling products online have never been better than they are today.

FAQ

I have registered with an individual selling plan. Can I turn it into a professional one?
Amazon selling plans can be changed or cancelled at any time.
What types of products can be sold on Amazon?
Some product categories are open to all sellers, while others require a professional selling account. A detailed list of products that require approval is available on the Amazon website.
Do I have to register a trademark to sell on Amazon?
No, this is not mandatory in any way. However, registering a trademark with the Amazon Brand Registry allows you to access specific tools that can take your project to the next level.
What are Amazon's different programmes?
Amazon offers numerous programmes that address the specific issues that different types of businesses face. All of these programmes are listed here.
How much does it cost to sign up for the Amazon VAT calculation service?
The Amazon VAT calculation service is offered free of charge to all sellers, as long as they meet the basic eligibility criteria.
How much does it cost to sign up for the Amazon VAT registration and declaration service in other European countries?
With this service, Amazon helps you with the registration process to receive your VAT numbers. Your tax returns are done online and are fully automated. This service is free for the first year.
Can I join the Handmade programme when I already sell my products on Amazon?
Yes. Apply to join the Handmade programme. Once approved, you can also list your products on Handmade.
Can I sell internationally with Handmade?
Handmade allows you to sell in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish stores. You can apply to sell in other countries by connecting to your central server.

Start selling today

€39 (excl. VAT) per month + referral fees
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