Wouldn't it be amazing to sell a million widgets on the web and become rich overnight? With a beta launch for your product it can help give you important feedback before you go big on investing in inventory. With a global customer base and a global virtual store, the sky is the limit. If you have a great product, it only takes a little work to beta launch you product for sale on the web. In this post I will cover beta testing you online store, online advertising, and product marketing materials.
Two disclaimers about selling products online:
- When you do business online you are required to follow all the federal, state, and local laws for doing business. If your not sure what you need, start with government site on small business: SBA.
- In computing, the term "beta" is used as (usually) the last release in the software release life cycle. It is sometimes referred to as 0.x in version numbers or x.x by where x represents a number. Typically it is the last version before the software is fully released to all actual customers. Last "test" release before the "released" production version. (wiki) I'm using it loosely to describe setting up your own system for testing your product with the implication that you will need to adjust and change based on the results before a full scale launch.
Selecting an e-commerce websiteThese days there are many options for an online store. Depending on the product(s) the type of store that you want might be different. (In this case I'm going to demonstrate the process with one product that has a few variations. The product is a card game. If you are interested in learning more about this sample product idea, check out my post on prototyping a product to sale on the internet.) I like to check out comparison lists to see what the main feature options are. In my case I have a commerce option from the marketing website I already have (squarespace). If you are starting from scratch you should check out the options. Honestly, the complexity for online stores is almost infinite. I hope that this brief outline will give you an a general idea of the process - but please keep in mind this has been simplified for the presentation format. In my case the business website on squarespace costs $192 + the % they take on sales.
Beta product design and initial inventoryIn order to fill out all the details on your new store website you need to have photos and details about your product. In my case the product is a set of cards. I needed to have the cards designed, printed, and packaged. (I'm a designer and an artists so I was able to use my own skills and graphics to save money. I have included estimated prices to help give you some idea of the cost.)
Budget for graphics/art for productI used 33 images for 33 cards + a designed a new logo. It's taken me 3 years of monthly vector drawings to come up with these 33 images. If you were purchasing graphics online you might get images for as low as $30 per image for royalty free - however they would be stock images that other people can also purchase. For original illustrations the price starts at about $250 per image. SO - in this case the cost of graphics would be from $1,000 - $9,000+ (on the low end).
Budget for graphic design and printingAs a graphic designer I looked at various printing options for my beta product launch of the card product. In looking for an affordable (and green) printing solution I came across the square business cards from moo. They let you print up to 55 different images on one side of your cards. (I suggest figuring out the costs before so that the designer has the printer specifications from the start. The last thing you want is to design something that ends up being too expensive to print - you might end up having to redesign the whole set of cards. I suggest using an excel spreadsheet to calculate costs: Shipping, Packaging, Printing...) Once the cards arrived I was able to take photos for the product pages. Below is a slide show of the graphics that were sent to the printer and also the photos taken when the cards arrived. It took me about a full day to create the first set of graphics - with all the materials the specifications provided. Estimated cost is $300-500 for card design. The photos were taken in about an hour when the cards arrived a week later - estimated $100. I designed:
- 33 cards + a coupon and instructions card
- Product photos
- Banner images
- Product video(s)