The Internet is primarily used to communicate, entertain, educate and research. It is thus no wonder that nonperishable, information-intensive products – including computers and software, books, travel, consumer electronics, magazine subscriptions – are the most popular online products at present. Content-rich sites, subscription-based sites to advertiser-supported sites focusing on a wide range of topics, have been sprouting all over the Internet.
Services such as hotel reservation, air travel and investments have successfully translated themselves to the Internet.
Unique services such as Online driving schools have been prospering. Some states in the US have set up online payment sites for Government services. Residents of a state can log on to a common site to pay all bills and other expenses, such as parking tickets to the local/County courts.
However, all kinds of services cannot be run entirely on the Internet. The Internet is less effective when face-to-face selling is needed to close a deal. The Internet can give lots of preliminary information that’s useful in setting the scene for the closing. But the actual closing takes place offline – i.e., not on the Internet.
Products can also be marketed and sold successfully on the Internet. The kinds of products and services that sell best on the Internet are those that take advantage of the convenience of the Net. Remember that convenience is the primary reason why consumers flock to the Internet in the first place. People can shop any hour of the day at any site. They can avoid crowded stores, irritating sales clerks, and even avoid pickpockets.
Offbeat or unusual products and services often attract online attention and sell strongly. You would generally not try to sell items people can get at the corner store. Thus, few toothbrushes are sold on the Net; the same thing with daily food and beverage purchases. But special cheeses, rare cigars, Turkish plates, long-aged wines, even diamonds, can and do sell on the Net.
Most products sold by catalog and mail order also sell well on the Net. However, people tend to buy only those products that could be shipped at a reasonable price. Higher shipping costs diminish the price competitiveness of online products and turns-off a lot of potential buyers. In fact, high shipping costs is the primary factor that discourages people from buying online more than any other single reason. An Ernst and Young report shows that 53 percent of online shoppers are concerned with shipping costs that are too high, compared to only 19 percent who are concerned with credit cards being stolen.
As an online merchant, you have to work out the advantages as well as disadvantages of selling either products or services. However, in the recent past, online services have known to flourish. Nevertheless, if you chose to sell products you need to rethink your product offering if the total costs of the product and the shipping are higher than what is offered elsewhere.