How to Start an Online Supplement Store

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With health and fitness culture exploding at an incredible rate, we have already witnessed multiple brands such as GymShark leveraging this popularity to grow massively profitable businesses.

With people more aware of their overall health, there is also growing demand for supplementation, ranging from supplements that offer health benefits to those that support increased activity. In fact, the US dietary supplement market was valued at a massive $140.3 billion in 2020 – showing just how lucrative this space can be.

It’s no surprise then that many ambitious entrepreneurs want to start their own online stores. But with so much to think about it can be difficult to know where to start. But worry not! In this article, we’ll explore each step involved in getting your online supplement store launched and generating a profit.

1 Define Your Product Niche

With an industry worth such a massive amount, it can be easy to get carried away when opening your own supplement store. This can lead to store owners bulk buying products before they really know what they want to offer and who they want to target.

Answering the question of ‘who’ is always the best place to start.

Supplements are wide-ranging in their type and application. So, it’s always best to ask yourself who you plan on serving before you launch. Of course, once your shop is up and running you can always expand the scope of your target audience, but starting small allows you to build your store with laser focus.

Here are a few areas that are worth assessing:

Age and Gender Group 

Different ages and genders have different requirements when it comes to optimal health. These requirements can differ based on dosages, or may simply depend on their lifestyle and natural biological needs. For example, an active 65-year-old man is likely to require very different diet supplementation compared to an active 21-year-old woman.

Although you can certainly expand your offering in terms of age and gender, when starting out it can be beneficial to focus on just one age group.

Activity Specificity 

Although supplements are not exclusive to professional and keen amateur sportspeople, they are highly popular as a way to improve performance and reduce recovery time. You may offer different supplements depending on your target audience. Here are a few sports and activities you may target:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Hockey
  • Dance
  • Gaming
  • Hunting
  • Baseball

Practitioners of each of these sports have different goals and needs, and therefore will be looking for different supplements to support them. By picking a specific sport or activity you’ll be able to better target your audience.

Dietary Requirements

Many people have dietary requirements or preferences such as being vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free. In fact, some of these offer unique and potentially lucrative markets. For example, some surveys suggest that there may have been as much as a 300% increase in veganism in the US between 2004 and 2019.

You may carve a niche for yourself by serving one or more of these specialist areas.

2 Consider Regulations

Unlike medication and vaccines, dietary supplements typically do not need pre-market approval by the FDA. However, they are regulated by the FDA and require notification before going to market. You will also need to label your supplements according to FDA guidelines, report any adverse events, and register the facility where they are made.

In most cases, supplement stores will either resell branded supplements or buy ‘white label’ supplements. In these cases, you can usually rely on your suppliers to be FDA compliant – although this is always worth checking.

3 Create a Relevant, Memorable Name

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, especially for companies that rely heavily on their reputation for quality products like supplement businesses.

When setting up your supplement store, ensure you choose an easy to remember name that helps communicate what you do.

However, you’ll need to find a fine balance between a name that’s descriptive (e.g. vegansupplementsuperstore.com) and one that is short and memorable. As you’ll be starting your store online, you will also want to assess the availability of the domain name.

If you can’t find an exact match for your chosen name, try combining your brand name with a descriptive title, such as lionsmanesupplements.com or metaprotein.com.

4 Source Your Suppliers

Finding the right suppliers can make or break a business.

Once you know which audience you’re serving, you should be able to assess which supplements you need to supply them with. This can range from the basics – such as whey protein powder, creatine, and vitamins – to more specialist supplements based on your audience’s individual needs.

If you’re creating your own supplements, you’ll need to find a supplier of the raw ingredients needed to create them. On the other hand, if you’re reselling supplements you’ll need to find either a distributor of an established brand or a company that offers white labelled supplements that you can then brand yourself.

A few leading suppliers that are worth checking out include:

Although you’ll want to ensure you source supplements at a competitive price, it is important to ensure that you’re meeting your customers’ expectations in terms of quality. This is especially true when you are targeting the more luxurious end of the market.

5 Research Shipping and Packaging Options

Packaging and shipping is a huge aspect of running an online store that’s often overlooked.

Taking the time to assess what options are available to you will help you factor these costs into your business model. This is especially true if you plan on offering free shipping on your products, as it allows you to calculate how much each unit will need to be sold for to ensure a profit is made.

6 Create Your Online Store

So, you know your audience, you have a great business name, and you have made agreements with your suppliers – now it’s finally time to create your online store! The good news is, there are plenty of easy to use website builder platforms out there for you to choose from – but picking which one is right for you can be a little more tricky.

As you will be selling primarily online, we strongly recommend using a platform with strong ecommerce functionality. Some worth checking out include Wix, Shopify and BigCommerce, all of which offer everything you need to run a successful online supplement store without having to spend a fortune.

7 Make Your Store Stand Out

Once your store is live and you’ve uploaded all your fantastic supplements ready to sell, it’s time to get the word out to potential customers. After all, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your products and brand are – if nobody knows about you, then no one will be able to buy from you.

Regardless of your marketing and advertising budget, there are several tried and tested ways to create a buzz around your store. These include:

  • Social media (e.g. publishing engaging content on Instagram or Facebook)
  • Paid ads (e.g. targeting your audience with paid social media ads on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (e.g. publishing helpful written content on your blog to boost search rankings)
  • Print ads (e.g. ads in publications dedicated to your target sport)
  • Display ads (e.g. ads on websites dedicated to your target sport)

8 Develop Powerful Customer Service

Offering helpful, quick customer service is a great way to ensure ongoing success. This is especially true in the supplement business where customers will often require guidance and ask for recommendations on the best products to meet their needs.

Employing supplement experts to answer customer questions can be a great way to develop a position of trust amongst your audience. You may also want to employ customer service reps who can manage the admin and logistics side of the business, such as helping customers with issues and returns.

Capturing customer data such as names, addresses, emails, and past communication in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is a powerful way to save time and be able to serve your customers better.

9 Monitor and Leverage Supplement Trends

The supplement space is a fast-moving one. Although many of the ‘fundamental’ products remain the same, there is always a new ‘buzz’ supplement being talked about. A few recent examples of these include:

  • Lions Mane
  • Probiotics
  • CBD
  • Turmeric Coffee

Keeping an eye on what supplements are trending can help you unlock new and lucrative income streams, especially if you can beat the competition in supplying them.

10 Opening an Online Supplement Store: Summary

Starting an online supplement store can be a lucrative business. Here is a quick reminder of the steps involved:

  1. Define your niche
  2. Understand regulations
  3. Find a name
  4. Source suppliers
  5. Research shipping and packaging
  6. Build your online store
  7. Market your store
  8. Create a powerful customer service team
  9. Monitor and leverage supplement trends

11 FAQs

Starting an online supplement store can be a lot of hard work, but can also be incredibly successful. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Decide on your niche
  • Research regulations
  • Finalize your business name
  • Find reliable suppliers
  • Research shipping and packaging
  • Build and launch your online store
  • Create a marketing plan
  • Offer unbeatable customer service
  • Keep an eye out for trends

There are countless website platform options available to those looking to start an online supplement store. If you plan on selling primarily online then you will want to find an option that has powerful ecommerce functionality, such as inventory management and fulfilment tools – some worth considering include Shopify, Wix, or BigCommerce.

Other options may be suitable for those who don’t have complex ecommerce needs.

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