The online sales of supplements is a $3 billion a year industry that grew 13 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to industry analysis firm IBIS. To have success selling supplements online, you must drive visitors to your site and convert them to customers. Herbal supplements, vitamins and other nutritional supplements each have their special health-conscious user groups. E-commerce allows you to directly target and attract them to special products and promotions on your website. Always be aware that you must also comply with federal regulations.
Legally Selling Supplements
The Food and Drug Administration regulates the production and sale of dietary supplements, and you might be prosecuted if you don't abide by FDA regulations. The products you carry must clearly and truthfully list their ingredients and be produced in FDA-approved facilities. While you may display fact sheets from the National Institutes of Health and certifications from FDA-approved organizations, you can't make claims on your website or marketing materials that your supplements "treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure disease." You also can't suggest that your visitors self-diagnose their conditions and find relief using your vitamin, mineral, herbal, botanical, food or other dietary supplements.
Online Supplement Sales Industry
There are different types of online supplement sales. You can become an affiliate of larger nutritional supplement companies and sell their products; sell supplements through an auction site; build your own website with a shopping cart; or become a distributor for a direct-marketing supplements company that will create a site for you. Or, you could team up with doctors, personal trainers, weight-loss clinics, spas, salons and gyms to act as affiliates or direct people to your website. They can sell your products directly using your affiliate order forms.
Targeting the Right Visitors
As Baby Boomers age, reports IBIS, they are more interested in maintaining their vitality through nutritional supplements. The convenience of shopping online is a big factor in supplement sales because of busy schedules, extensive product choices and availability. Your offered supplements must appeal to the demographics and buying habits of your customers, so defining who to target is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your online sales success.
Promoting Your Site
To promote your site, get the word out, which involves posting nutritional information to social networking sites, health and nutrition discussion groups, and writing a blog about nutritional supplementation. Use search engine optimization, known as SEO, to rank your site high in search engine results for the types of supplements you are offering, using their ingredients and general health concerns as keywords. Or, advertise on sites that attract your target customer such as those that contain information about nutrition, health, beauty or fitness. Promote your site offline at local events where health-conscious people congregate by handing out brochures with your website URL. If you already have a health-products store, and want to expand your revenue base online, design a brochure that offers online subscription services for automatic delivery of supplements each month, and hand it out to customers.
Managing Your Online Business
Many manufacturers of vitamins, herbal and other nutritional supplements provide drop shipping, which allows you to forward your online orders for fulfillment by the manufacturer. This means you don't have to carry inventory. If you are manufacturing your own supplements, or buying from distributors, you will need space to house inventory and a process for packaging and mailing the supplements ordered. Plan for safely packaging liquid supplements and those that come in glass bottles and jars.
- IBISworld: Online Vitamin & Supplement Sales in the US -- Market Research Report
- General Nutrition Centers: Affiliate Program
- Natural Products Insider: Marketing Vitamins and Supplements
- Shopify: Sell Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements Online
- National Institutes of Health: Frequently Asked Questions
Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.