Dan Rawson started his online business, Spot On Nuts and Bolts, after he saw a gap in the market to help people find the right alloy wheel nuts and bolts to fit their cars. Dan shares advice about the importance of a generous returns policy, and how in-depth market research will help you start a successful online business.
When did you start selling online and why?
I’ve been selling online for quite a long time, but I started this business about two years ago. I was working at a wheel refurbishment company, working on their web presence and looking at ways of expanding what they do, and I stumbled across a market for nuts and bolts that they weren’t interested in pursuing.
It had to be an online business because it’s very expensive to have an actual premises to sell from, and you wouldn’t get the footfall. With something so specific people go online and search for them, and we have customers all over the country.
I started selling on eBay because it was something that I had worked on for a long time in various different jobs, it’s the quickest and easiest to get up and running. It was going pretty well on eBay, and I thought Amazon also had a lot of potential so I started selling on there after about a year.
I set up a WooCommerce site about the same time, but it’s an ongoing project that I’ve been building up. Eventually, I want the website to be my number one selling platform because I’ll save on fees, and it would be good to have an independent web presence. I want to create a blog for it as well, to make it as much a useful resource for customers as a sales channel.
What have been your biggest challenges selling online, and how have you overcome them?
Customer service has been quite difficult. What we sell is pretty niche, and most people that buy from us know they need a set of bolts and just find one that they buy without reading the description properly. It’s definitely our number one challenge, and there’s no real way of overcoming it, you just have to improve the information on the listings as much as possible and be willing to help customers out.
I have a 100 day return policy to give customers peace of mind, and use 48 hour returns with Royal Mail. Almost all of the issues that arise can be resolved with a simple exchange for the right product. Eventually, I hope that my own website will become a resource so that customers can easily identify what they need for their cars.
What are your top recommendations for people starting out selling online?
It’s really important that you do thorough market research before you start. Firstly you need to see if there’s a market for what you want to sell, and then you need to see how saturated the market is. I previously built a business around consumer electronics, and it was going great until the big shops like Tesco started selling on marketplaces and it became saturated.
When you’re thinking of selling online, you need to check out your competition, know that you can be competitively priced and that you can actually sell it.
You should really know your product as well, it’s no good just selling something you know nothing about. If you can’t answer a technical question about your products it’ll undermine your businesses reputation.
Why do you use Zenstores?
It’s saved us time and helped us with the move over to Royal Mail 2D barcode labels. Initially, I was using eBay to generate invoices and labels, and then logging into Amazon and WooCommerce to process those orders, and it was pretty long winded and slow. It got more and more difficult to keep on top of and eventually got to the point where I was spending several hours each day sorting orders and printing labels, that’s when I started looking for third party software and came across Zenstores.
There’s also the added bonus of being able to track all my orders in one place. I use it more than eBay, if there’s a problem with a delivery I just log in to Zenstores to find out when and how it was sent.