The craze over selling goods online is a never-ending lure for wannabe entrepreneurs and rightfully so, with phenomenal success and growth of e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay. Screenshots of six-figure incomes and success stories across social media platforms boasting of freedom everyone was able to attain since he or she started.
The reality is quite the opposite – apart from a select few that jumped onto the wagon early on and built great brands around their products, that no longer is true with Amazon making it impossible for small-scale sellers to make a living on its platform with increasing commisions and not to forget, Amazon itself now flooding the marketplace with new brands. This leaves the independent seller with lesser margins per sale on top of decreasing sales in the wake of newly founded competition in the form of thousands of other sellers selling similar or counterfeit products, which in turn pushes for prices to go lower and the making it a vicious circle.
We ventured into online groups on social media platforms comprised of entrepreneurs who run online stores and we found one common theme, everyone was looking for solutions to a single problem, turns out, they’re confused as of why sales are declining/non-existent despite several attempts at optimizing store experience and discovery. The answer is – a majority of the times, the product offerings aren’t compelling enough for customers to make purchases – they wander off comparing one seller to another, eventually deciding to postpone/cancel the purchase or make the purchase from another seller/platform.
Is there an alternative? Well – Yes. Selling physical goods in today’s day and age doesn’t make sense on the smaller scale – while it is simple and accessible, it eats into earnings. Selling income has a lot to do with margins and depending on the scale, the more the merrier. Physical products have a cost involved in producing them and the distribution itself comes at a cost, leaving the margins thin.
Content is King
Selling content – something that can be replicated endlessly and only takes time and energy to create, is going to be the most profitable selling product for entrepreneurs. Another big moat that selling content has over selling physical products is very obvious – directly competing is going to be really difficult for niche and technical content. Content is mostly aimed at educating the end user for specific skills or a combination of them, which is going to be difficult once your potential users identify that type of content with a brand. A very good example is that of Masterclass – If Gordon Ramsay were to teach you how to cook, it’d be the only course you’d buy if you were ever willing to pay. What is prominent across these examples is the fact that there are very strong brands behind them, which is crucial when it comes to selling anything online. Hence to be noted is the fact that building a brand is more time consuming and resource intensive than creating the content to sell itself.
This isn’t a new practice. It exists in traditional forms as well, for example, authoring books, writing scripts for movies/plays, etc have been bringing in lots of money for people in the business, but until a few years ago, the mode of distribution was fairly limited and most of the resources had gatekeepers and high entry barriers. The internet has changed that drastically opening up access to the layman in form of easy access to the biggest audience, and the one that rewards entertaining and educating content. Today, you can publish an e-Book in a few clicks once you have the content ready, and in no time you’ll be earning handsome royalties on sales. There has been an explosion of content-driven platforms like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter which themselves make enormous amounts of money from advertising and same holds true for the people creating content on them. Some of the early adopters have moved on to become successful outside of these platforms as well, owing to their success within these platforms opening doors for them.
Another big difference between physical goods as products and content is the perceived value. Physical goods often degrade and lose value soon as compared to content, which can be stored for a lifetime and the value the user gets is often perceived to be high and lasting. The type of content that is often found to be really valuable is either really entertaining or is educational/inspirational. Proof lies in the fact that content falling under these two categories happens to be highly shared on social media platforms
Educational content marketplaces like Udemy also have had tremendous success – due to the popularity of the internet, availability of a wide variety of skills to learn from and economical costs associated have been a huge push for both the content creators and consumers. People you’ve never heard of, can teach you how to write code, create financial models, marketing strategies, etc., and these courses sell in tens and thousands each because no one cares to spend $10 on learning something new and in turn – the course instructors make a killing for talking to camera in front of a whiteboard.
Although there’s a contrast between the content backed by brands vs. Otherwise not– which is the perceived value of the content and hence the price users are willing to pay. Even though the market is big enough for both kinds of content creators but in the end, content that has backing from a strong brand can not only command a bigger price but also sell in greater numbers. And Content is not only sold directly but is done as an exercise for the brand building itself. Leaders with credible background often give away their content on social media platforms for free to build an online presence, putting themselves out there only to move forward and have paid associations with brands, speaking engagements, etc.
Content is spread and utilized in many variations of the ways mentioned in this article, only to prove how selling content in one way or the other provides an infinite amount of leverage if done the right way. The present and future of the internet is heavily going to be based on content. Hence the title – Content is the king(that rules over the internet).