My website is https://gmerch.com.au
I'm in Australia and my girlfriend & I sell tube masks & handmade resin jewellery.
So first of all, some answers to questions you might have:
Why masks? In 2018 I got a job and my coworker was always wearing these fishing masks from https://safishing.com. He said he had about 50 of them, and he always wore a new one every time I saw him. I really liked them and bought 5, and over the next year I bought about another 10 because they were great. Another coworker started working there and he had about 30. I thought they were cool and I wanted to start selling them, so bought them in bulk through their wholesale program and started selling them at local markets and on ebay in 2019, and eventually I decided I wanted to make my own brand and sell my own, but wanted more of a peacock style (standing out rather than blending in). I hired a few designers in 2019 and told them what I wanted but they made designs I really wasn't happy with. In early 2020 I decided to make my own designs, I bought a 4-hour course for Adobe Illustrator and went through it, and eventually started making my own designs. When I had some designs I started sourcing samples and I got samples from about 10 different factories & importer/exporters. So my product choice had nothing to do with the pandemic, and although the pandemic helped by increasing sales for a while, overall I think it has been bad for business because everyone else started selling masks and it created a lot more competition.
Why resin jewellery? It's my girlfriend's hobby, she always used to watch youtube videos of people who made handmade resin jewellery, so I suggested to her to make some, and she has gotten pretty good at it. Some of the photos on the website aren't great, I've just bought a ring light from Amazon and I plan to take new top-down photos with that when it arrives this week. Most of this post will focus on the masks because they're my product and where I've done the most research.
Competition? Now so many places sell masks, but when I did my research in 2019 I identified these competitors, so these are probably the ones with the largest customer base and existing relationships with retailers: safishing.com (USA – fishing/hunting masks), holyfreedom.com (Italy – motorcycle masks), headsox.com (Australia – Indigenous artwork & motorcycle masks), sundayspeedshop.fr (France – motorcycle masks).
SA Fishing: Here's what they do: they advertise heavily on instagram & facebook (that's how both of my coworkers found out about them), and they always have a deal going that is "5 masks for $20 today only", but they only do express shipping and they charge more than express shipping should cost, and by the time you get to the checkout it costs $50 (AUD) for 5. They rely heavily on these tricks, but I believe they work. But I don't want to do such tricks. I decided to offer free shipping worldwide on all orders and build the shipping cost into my prices, because I value honesty, quality, and repeat customers.
Holy Freedom: Through my research I found that in South Korean motorcycle shops, Holy Freedom is the brand that they all stock. Almost any South Korean motorcycle shop will stock Holy Freedom masks and no other masks. I assume this is true elsewhere in the world too and that they are heavily in the wholesale game. So when considering my prices, I factored in that I expect to do wholesale.
Headsox: They are heavy on "charity" and "cancer" (on their website, facebook, & instagram) and honestly it feels scammy. As soon as I followed them on Instagram they blocked me immediately, so I believe the owner is emotional and probably relies on selling to friends and people in their local community. I don't think there's much that I can learn from this business.
Quality & price: I got samples from many factories & importer/exporters. The quality varied and the worst ones were $1 each on Alibaba (thin with faded printing), the best were $3 from an importer/exporter (thicker, stretchier with better printing). I went with the best quality because I wanted a product that I would use myself and that people would keep buying. After I consider shipping cost to me, trimming & packaging, and shipping to the customer, it costs a little under $5 to ship 1 product to a customer. So I went with the price point of $20 retail (with free shipping worldwide) with the plan to sell them for $10 wholesale. I think the pricing makes sense, but I think it's also true that if I had gone with the $1 products, customers wouldn't have known the quality difference until receiving them, so I could have gotten just as many sales (minus a few sales to repeat buyers, which there are some), or I could have gone for a lower price point, maybe $5-$10. The quality is important for me, but I wonder whether this could be a weakness of mine.
Plan? I'd like to build relationships with retailers like motorcycle shops & fishing shops or wherever, and get my products in there. I've gotten my products into a couple of stores so far by showing up with a display box of masks with signage, barcodes, and pricing etc and offering to give them stock without any money down, and to come back every couple of weeks and charge $10 to restock any products they've sold. That's going ok so I plan to keep expanding this and see how it goes. I've also tried various kinds of advertising, but they're either way too expensive and I don't expect I could get a positive ROI (street billboards want $1000/day, human billboards want $300/day, 700k instagram influencers want $1250/post, google ads are $1/click and that eats into my profit too much, instagram & facebook banned me from advertising for "advertising non-medical face masks" (like what kind of rule even is that?)). I'd like to get my brand out there more, but this is a big weakness and I don't have many ideas.
Theme? So here's something I'm worried about. SA Fishing is all about fishing/hunting, and that's how they market their products. Holy Freedom is all about motorcycles. Headsox is all about Indigenous artwork. I don't really have a theme other than "standing out". So it's a more general product, and less of a niche product. My designs are based on consideration of search terms that people might use when searching for masks (like clown mask or watermelon mask or pineapple mask, etc). Then I just made an abstract design that I was happy with. In a way, I've SEO-optimized my masks. While the established brands have darker, rustier, dirtier designs, I tried to go for clean, bright, fresh designs.
Packaging & Branding: While Holy Freedom has the best packaging, I went with packaging that would allow me to get it under 50g and be able to do free shipping worldwide. I also didn't want to put like a tiger or a shield or some other image as my logo, so I just went with the website URL. I think it's hypermodern and makes some sense. I think of it as e-branding.
Dropshipping? So the biggest feedback I keep getting is that my website looks like a dropship website, and people expect that it will take weeks to get their product and they expect it will be shipped from China. I don't do any dropshipping, the jewellery is handmade, the masks are all in stock at my house, I do the trimming, packaging, and postage myself. What is it about my website that makes it look like dropshipping? And what can I do about it?
Photos: As I mentioned, I bought a ring light and I plan to take better photos of the resin jewellery this week when it arrives.
Pandemic? I mentioned it before, that although the pandemic has been good for business, it has also been bad because now there is so much more competition. There were also so many scammers on facebook which caused facebook to implement unreasonable rules regarding non-medical face masks, which got me banned from advertising on facebook. Either way, it's just half the website and we're also selling jewellery.
Advertising/marketing? I really don't know how to go about it. All the options seem to expensive for me, google ads are $1/click or more and I've tried some campaigns that cost a lot of money and didn't sell enough to cover the cost of the ads. When I'm selling a physical product that only has so many $ profit and no recurring payment, it doesn't make sense to pay per click. I'll continue getting in stores, but my packaging and branding is optimized for online. I've gone with the lightest packaging for low shipping rates worldwide. My packaging doesn't stand out in a store. Still, I can offset this with good display signage. Anyway, how can I get my products out there?
So, how can I improve? What can I do better? And what am I doing wrong?
Thanks for reading!