Launching an online business can offer advantages over other methods. There are none of the overheads associated with running a retail store, and you have more flexibility to do business at your own convenience. But many online businesses struggle to make money.
We asked Nicole Sherwin and Joseph Itzkin, founders of online vitamin, mineral and supplement company Vitology, how they are selling 500 bottles of product and clocking more than 1 200 unique visitors monthly just four months since launching.
Does your business model lend itself to an online store as well?
1. Why did you choose an online business model?
There’s massive growth in online. Overseas, a big percentage of people are already doing most of their purchasing and transacting online. This is a trend that will continue based on the convenience and simplicity of the model. We are a bit behind the curve here, so we complement our online model with direct sales.
2. What did you do to ensure a successful launch?
It’s all about maximum exposure. We partnered with the right PR people to give us that. We also found the marketplace receptive to our business model and that helped us gain a lot of free editorial in traditional and online media. We embraced all forms of social media with great success.
3. How did you assess your market?
We both know a lot about health and wellness, and there’s a strong market for our products right now.
Also, before we launched we discussed our business model with many friends, family, business mentors and people whose business savvy we respect, and used this to gain insight and fine-tune our offering before we launched. As with any business, however, we’re still adapting and making changes as we go along.
4. What is unique about your products?
It’s a premium range that is only available online or from our brand ambassadors. We offer a lifestyle health solution.
On our website we have an ‘ask the doctor’ section where people can access expert health advice and we also have a health assessment which people can complete to enable us to recommend the best products for their needs. We want to partner with people in their quest for better health. This is not something that is offered in the retail environment.
5. How has the monthly subscription offering helped?
Vitamins need to be taken daily, which is why the business lends itself to a subscription model. That’s been identified as one of the top ten worldwide trends for 2014 and we’re the only ones doing it in this market so far in South Africa.
The subscription model allows clients the convenience and ease of home delivery without the hassle of going to the shops and purchasing product every month, and it guarantees repeat business.