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The opinions of entrepreneurs' contributors are their own.
2020 was a tough year. Worldwide. Everyone can agree on that.
However, in the business world, product-based store owners who rely on their products to be on store shelves or right in the hands of their customers have left slight bruises. In the early days of the pandemic, which saw lockdowns, restaurant and shop closings, and the slowdown in domestic and international shipping, many had to find new ways to market their products and get them to consumers.
As the country slowly re-opens, it is time to reassess what is working and what is not. Surely, the lessons and adjustments made in 2020 to stay afloat could be spruced up as new marketing techniques in the future.
So the question now arises, how can business owners identify and create additional revenue streams that will bring the greatest and best value to their business? Here are 5 examples of new revenue streams for product-based businesses in 2021.
Print-on-demand products enable business owners to put finished products up for sale in smaller batches. Why is that significant? Business owners who use print-on-demand do not need to invest in large inventory. You can test new product categories without any financial risk and only pay for products when customers place an order.
Partnering with companies like Printed Mint or Printful enables brands to diversify their product line without putting a strain on cash flow. You select products from their collection, customize them with your art or design work, and then add the products to your online store. Printed Mint or Printful prints and ships the products directly to your customers when orders are placed. There are few financial risks involved in selling products through print-on-demand channels, but there is a lot to be gained.
Pro tip: Print-on-Demand is also great for service-minded companies that want to add products to their offerings.
Related: Web to Print: As an Entrepreneur, Think About It
Create subscription products
Subscription products saw a sharp increase in 2020, particularly in the areas of fashion, beauty, cooking, arts and leisure. Subscription products are a great way to increase recurring revenue while creating a better customer experience for your audience.
Let's look at quip, an oral health company. Customers have the option to make a one-time purchase or set up automatic refills of toothbrush heads, toothpaste, mouthwash, or floss. Subscription customers receive free shipping and automatic delivery of the articles in the desired period. Easy and stress-free for the customer, great recurring income for quip.
Another option is subscription boxes. Kiwi Crate, Raddish Kids, and Paper Curator send out curated activity boxes every month for those interested in science and technology, cooking, and scrapbooking. FabFitFun ships full-size products in their seasonal boxes, which are shipped quarterly. Subscription boxes combine several products, appealing activities and offer your customers a unique experience.
Individual or packaged subscription products can be shipped monthly, quarterly, or any frequency that makes sense for your products, brand, or customers. But run the numbers carefully, taking into account not only the tough cost of making the subscription products, but the time it takes to market, source, package, and ship your subscription products to customers.
Related: 5 Tips for Growing Your Subscription Business
Create a paid membership community
People around the world continue to come together about common interests and hobbies. The desire for connection and community has never been stronger, and product-based business owners are prepared to make it possible.
Rhino Parade, a NYC-based stationery and gift company, recently launched Rhino Rally, a postcard protest club that aims to make activism creative, personal, and accessible. Customers can choose from three membership levels, and each level includes educational content, physical products mailed to members, and an online community. Rhino Parade took a single product – their protest postcards – and created a monthly membership for like-minded customers to network, learn, and get active.
Peloton is another example. They sell exercise equipment, but they also have a digital membership community that provides access to their workouts, coaches, playlists, and connections with other Peloton users. Membership brings customers together to improve the experience of using their products while creating enthusiastic fans in the process.
What are the common interests, hobbies, wishes or needs of your customers? How can you create an exclusive experience that engages your product and allows connections while charging a monthly fee?
Enhance your online sales channels
Even though you may already have an ecommerce website to shop at with all of your products on it, now is the time to get creative with how you sell online.
Where does your audience hang out? If you're not sure, check Google Analytics to see where most of your website traffic is coming from.
If your customers find you through Instagram, check that your Instagram posts, stories, and videos are shoppable. If your customers are coming from Pinterest, you might want to invest in Pinterest advertising. If your customers are coming through word of mouth, you may want to create an ambassador program.
Familiarize yourself with what is already working and discover how you can generate more sales with minimal effort.
Related: 3 Things You Need To Know About Starting A Product Business
Diversify your wholesale customers
I teach brands how to get their products on the shelves of large and small retail stores. My clients sell to Target, Nordstrom, Container Store and Barnes & Noble, to name a few. They also sell to independent brick and mortar stores around the world.
Wholesale is a volume game. To be successful in wholesale, you need to diversify your wholesale partners in size and type of business.
Don't overlook the smaller, independent retail stores as wholesale customers. You order more frequently and pay on time, and you can build long-term partnerships with these stores as you usually work directly with the store owner.
Be creative about the types of stores that will go well with your products. One of my clients sells greeting cards and her best wholesale account is a car wash. She ran into this buyer at a trade show, and he happened to place a really large order, then another, and those orders have been going on for years. Car washes were a retail segment she had never considered before working with this account. Stay open to opportunities.
Despite the great upheaval we saw last year, businesses will continue to start, grow and prosper through 2021 and beyond. Keep using your creativity, going further into what works for your business, and going beyond your comfort zone to test new opportunities. Now is the perfect time to do something imperfect.