July 2, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
2020 was a hard-hitting year. Worldwide. Everyone can agree on that.
However, in the business world, product-based business owners that rely on having their products on store shelves or directly into the hands of their customers were left slightly bruised. With the early days of the pandemic calling for lockdowns, closing restaurants and shops and the slowing of national and international shipping, many were left scrambling to find new ways to market and get their products to consumers.
As the country slowly reopens, it’s time to reassess what’s working and what’s not. Certainly, the lessons and adjustments made in 2020 to keep afloat could be polished as new marketing techniques going forward.
So now the question becomes, how do business owners identify and create additional revenue streams that are the highest and best use for their business? Here are 5 examples of new revenue streams for product-based businesses in 2021.
Leverage print on demand
Print-on-demand products allow business owners to offer ready-made products for sale in smaller batches. Why is this significant? Business owners that utilize print on demand do not have to invest in large quantities of inventory. They can test new product categories without financial risk, and they 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 stretching cash flow. You choose products from their collection, customize them with your art or design work, then add the products to your online shop. Printed Mint or Printful will print and ship the products directly to your customers when orders come in. There is little financial risk yet much to be gained when selling products through print-on-demand channels.
Pro tip: Print on demand is also great for service-based businesses that want to add products to their offerings.
Create subscription products
Subscription products saw a major surge in 2020, particularly in the fashion, beauty, cooking, art and at-home activity sectors. Subscription products are a great way to grow recurring revenue while also creating a stronger 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 on toothbrush heads, toothpaste, mouthwash or floss. Subscription customers receive free shipping and automatic delivery of items on the requested time frame. Easy and stress-free for the customer, great recurring revenue for quip.
Another option is subscription boxes. Kiwi Crate, Raddish Kids and Paper Curator ship curated activity boxes each month for those interested in science and engineering, cooking and scrapbooking, respectively. FabFitFun sends full-size products in their seasonal boxes, which are shipped quarterly. Subscription boxes thoughtfully combine multiple products, engaging activities and provide a unique experience for your customers.
Individual or boxed subscription products can ship monthly, quarterly, or whatever frequency makes sense for your products, your brand or your customers. But, diligently run the numbers and consider not only the hard costs of producing the subscription products but also the time it will take to market, source, package and ship your subscription products to customers.
Create a paid membership community
People across the world are continuing to come together over shared interests and hobbies. A desire for connection and community has never been stronger, and product-based business owners are primed to facilitate this.
Rhino Parade, a paper goods and gift company based out of NYC, recently launched Rhino Rally, a protest postcard club that aims to make activism creative, personal and accessible. Customers can choose from three membership tiers, and each level includes educational content, physical products that are 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 connect, learn and take action.
Peloton is another example. They sell exercise equipment, but they also have a digital membership community that provides access to their workouts, instructors, playlists and connections with other Peloton users. The membership brings customers together to enhance the experience of using their products and in the process creating raving fans.
What are common interests, hobbies, wants or needs among your customers? How can you create an exclusive experience that involves your product and facilitate connections while charging a monthly fee?
Enhance your online sales channels
While you may already have a shoppable e-commerce site with all of your products, now is the time to get creative with how you’re selling online.
Where does your audience hang out? If you’re not sure, check Google Analytics to see where most of your website traffic comes from.
If your customers find you through Instagram, look into making your Instagram posts, stories and videos shoppable. If your customers are coming from Pinterest, perhaps you should invest in Pinterest advertising. If your customers are coming from word-of-mouth referrals, you may want to create an ambassador program.
Lean into what’s already working and explore how you can generate more sales with minimal effort.
Diversify your wholesale customers
I teach brands how to get their products on the shelves of retail shops big and small. My clients sell to Target, Nordstrom, Container Store and Barnes & Noble, to name a few. They also sell to independent brick & mortar shops throughout the world.
Wholesale is a volume game. To be successful with wholesale, you need to diversify your wholesale partners in size and types of stores.
Don’t overlook the smaller, independent retail shops as wholesale customers. They tend to order more frequently and pay on time, plus you can build long-lasting partnerships with these stores because you’re usually working directly with the store owner.
Think creatively about what types of stores would be a good fit for your products. One of my clients sells greeting cards, and her best wholesale account is a car wash. She happened to meet this buyer at a trade show, and he happened to place a really large order, then another, and those orders have continued for years now. Car washes were a retail segment she had never considered prior to working with this account. Stay open to opportunity.
Despite the major shake-up we’ve had over the past year, businesses will continue starting, growing and thriving through 2021 and beyond. Continue tapping into your creativity, push further into what’s working in your business and stretch beyond your comfort zone to test new opportunities. Now is the perfect time to do something imperfectly.