I've spent the past few weeks selling police, tactical, and hunting equipment to people online (Ebay and Amazon) and to locals in my town. I use a few decent drop-shippers and haven't had too many logistical problems. I built an Amazon store, use Ebay, and have searched for other channels on which to sell. The problem I've found is that the commissions and fees paid to places like Amazon and Ebay cut my margin so thin that the profit isn't worth the time.
I'm not in a position to spend the time or money necessary to build a decent webstore with streamlined checkout and a great ad campaign. In the tactical gear and hunting equipment businesses it seems necessary to offer TONS of products on a single website if you want to compete. I have access to enough products through a few different suppliers, but I don't have the means to stock inventory and only two of my vendors drop-ship. I also don't have the manpower or time to constantly keep up with the inventory count for numerous websites and innumerable unique products. So here is my idea:
Build a website that is a place where customers can request a certain item. Concentrate mostly on SEO and Affiliate Marketing (build a couple of landing sites, work hard on SEO, and do some old-fashioned advertising on forums and such). I list the brands I offer and types of products I sell on the website. Customers fill out a short, easy form letting me know exactly what they want (gives me their email address and allows me to follow up with an offer). I invoice them (using PayPal, for my protection and theirs), and ship the product as soon as I receive payment. I would also continue to list on ebay, mostly because it would be cheap advertising for the site if I talk about it in every listing.
I realize that this process adds an extra step relative to normal online checkout procedures. I would make it clear to customers that my lack of overhead (since I don't have a webstore or pay Amazon/Ebay level commissions) allows me to sell my products MUCH cheaper than any other online retailer. In fact, I've found that I can beat the prices offered on most of the large sites by as much as 5%-20% on each item.
Do you think this is a good idea? Is there anything I might be missing? Any advice or constructive criticism is appreciated.
P.S. To see a basic idea of what I plan to do, check out my Amazon store. The idea I'm talking about above would be a bit like this, but without any actual product listings or a shopping cart. The only way to buy on the page I've proposed is to fill out my form and request a quote (no order too small, though). Mainly check out the "Direct Buy" section. Also remember that in my proposed site I would add a script for an actual "order request" box.