Selling Supplements Online in 2021: Our Ultimate Guide
Valued at approximately $123 billion in 2019, the global dietary supplement market is projected to accelerate at a CAGR of 8.2% until 2027.[i] Health-conscious consumers and a considerable shift in lifestyles and eating habits can only push these figures higher.
Selling health supplements online is increasingly popular due to its low cost and high consumer reach model that promises significant profit.
Before we even talk about how to sell dietary supplements online, let's take a quick look at the important things to aim for when starting a supplement line -- and that comes with its own set of challenges:
- Investments in infrastructure
- Setting up a distribution channel
- Understanding and implementing federal and administrative guidelines.
- Setting up a strong customer service infrastructure.
- Putting a comprehensive sales plan in place.
Devising and implementing an effective marketing strategy is the key to the success of your supplement business and focusing on the following aspects can make a huge difference:
- Identify your target audience and their pain areas that you can address. Find out where they go for their information; map their buyer journey to understand their shopping behavior.
- Design a cost-effective customer acquisition model.
- Perform a comprehensive competitor analysis. It will make your product stand out in the market.
- Base your formulation process on the insights from all the analytics that come before this.
- Identify the right supplement manufacturer that possesses relevant experience and a proven track record of success.
- Design compliant, quality and eye-catching label and packaging.
- Decide on short, relevant and unique brand and supplement names.
- Craft an effective supplement marketing plan — leverage influencers, fans and social media, etc.
- Design an effective fulfillment plan.
- Create a sales strategy and pricing structure and start selling. Your brand and marketing should be effective enough to make your supplements stand out in the crowd and create a strong online presence.
The kind of customer experience you offer can also give you a competitive edge, and considering minute details can go a long way:
- Quick loading of the site on a mobile device and a computer is the first desirable experience you can offer your clients.
- Then comes the ease of navigation and site search.
- A picture is worth a thousand words - and it is especially true for online shopping!
- Less is often more – too much text, images or videos can clutter customer’s screen and distract them from making a purchase.
- According to experts, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, with 84% trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. What's more, 68% of consumers form an opinion after reading approximately one to six online reviews.[ii]
- Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Offer multiple contact channels. In case you want customers to sign up for email, make it obvious.
- Follow up immediately. Make it more personal than just a sales pitch.
- Make the check-out process as simple as possible.
Quality holds the utmost importance as a high-quality and dependable product builds brand awareness and grows customer-base.
When it comes to creating your product, working with a contract supplement manufacturer is more advantageous than attempting to create a supplement product on your own. You need to know that dietary supplement products must be manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practices or GMPs mandated by the FDA.
When selecting a supplement manufacturer, be sure to ask how long they’ve been in business and confirm that they manufacture their products in facilities that are GMP Certified. Besides the legalities, you’ll save a significant amount of money on machinery and infrastructure by partnering with a manufacturer.
Additionally, most supplement manufacturers these days provide turnkey solutions including:
- Labeling and packaging design
- Storage and warehousing
- Order fulfillment
In an industry where a broad range of factors like the complexity of formulation, order size, raw materials availability and more, dictate the amount of lead time, contract supplement manufacturers can be your go-to partners.
Selling Supplements Online
How to Sell Nutritional Supplements Online?
There are a variety of ideas for accomplishing this:
- Form an affiliation with a larger nutritional supplement company to sell their products.
- Utilize an auction site for selling supplements.
- Alternatively, you can build your own website for selling your supplements. Several online store builders are available in the market that can help you build your own website easily with just an internet connection and a great business idea. Some of them are Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, Wordpress, SquareSpace, Weebly, and many more.
- Leverage the e-commerce boom - sell your supplements on online retailing sites like Amazon, eBay, etc.
- Become a direct-marketing supplements company distributor and let them create a site for you.
Enjoying the insights so far? There's a lot more that we'll cover in this article, including:
- Legal/Regulation Issues: Legal Compliance for Selling Supplements Online
- Why Making and Selling Your Own Supplements Online is Profitable?
- Do You Need a License to Sell Supplements Online?
- What is Allowed to be Claimed on a Supplement You Sell Online?
- Selling Supplements on Amazon
- Leverage Social Media: Selling Supplements on Other Social Platforms
- How to Sell Supplements on Instagram?
- How to Sell Supplements on Facebook?
- How to Sell Supplements on eBay?
- How to Sell Supplements on Pinterest?
- Selling Supplements on Your Website
- The Takeaway
We asked our internal team and several external industry experts for their opinion on selling supplements online, and based on their feedback, we created the following infographic:
Is Making and Selling Your Own Supplements Online Profitable?
Simply saying - Yes, making and selling your own supplements - vitamins, minerals, probiotics, etc. online is profitable. Why? Here are the reasons:
- The Internet has given start-ups and legacy brands huge growth opportunities.
- You don't need to invest in a brick and mortar store.
- Online channels are not bound by limitations like time and are available to their customers 24 x 7.
- Online channels are easier and cheaper to maintain, and the revenue earned through them continues to rise.
- You can sell to both domestic and international consumers.
Legal/Regulation Issues: Legal Compliance for Selling Supplements Online
You are selling health supplements that will impact your consumer's health in one way or another. This is why there are several legal aspects put together by the government to ensure the supplements are manufactured and sold in the right manner. The moment your supplement enters the market, the FDA would be right there – keeping an eye on the label, ingredients, advertising & marketing, and everything that your supplement does.
Taxes - A business' tax consultant can handle tax implications that arise out of online sales.
International Sales - While working with international markets, you need to check the product compliance with the country's laws concerning imported products, customs, sanitation and other important factors. A business attorney who is familiar with the country's market can help you check the regulations that must be met.
The process of importing from other countries into the USA involves prior consultation with the quarantine department, preparation of import notification documents, the arrival of goods, important notifications, quarantine inspection testing (as required, as the product should pass testing to be allowed into the country), issuing of the receipt of custom clearance, and domestic distribution.
Partnering with a cGMP manufacturing facility that can supply the necessary quality documents can help you secure international distribution.
Do You Need a License to Sell Supplements Online?
With an increasing number of Americans taking dietary supplements each year, nutraceuticals are subject to comprehensive regulations to safeguard quality and safety.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stringent regulations for selling dietary supplement products under the Supplement Health and Education Act 1994. As regulations applied to dietary supplements differ from those applicable to conventional drugs and food products, supplement manufacturers are legally bound to meet all the rules and guidelines set up by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act 1994 (DSHEA) and FDA.
If you plan to create your nutritional formulas and manufacture your supplements on your own, you need to obtain your own certifications, additional insurance and may want to consult a business attorney beforehand.
Alternatively, you can work with a supplement contract manufacturer who is already certified and has the required resources to manufacture and label your line of supplements or your nutraceutical brand. This allows you to forego the need for licensing and logistics completely.
What Are the Rules of Selling Supplements Online?
The methods you utilize to sell your herbal, vitamin, workout, and other nutritional supplements online is up to you. You know your target audience and may have an idea about what may or may not work for them. But you need to build your selling strategy around these rules:
- Misbranded or adulterated dietary supplements and ingredients are prohibited from being marketed. Manufacturing firms are responsible for the safety evaluation and correct labeling of products before marketing them.
- Post its introduction into the market, the responsibility for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement lies with the FDA, and they don't take even the most minor slip-up lightly. FDA actively sends out warning letters to companies that mislabel their products – intentionally or unintentionally. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, FDA sent out 312, 219 and 226 warning letters respectively to various organizations for misbranding their products. The numbers speak a lot!
- You need to abide by the laws and regulations for selling supplements and adhere to the manufacturing and labeling guidelines in the US.
- Accurate labeling and packaging of supplements are imperative to avoid violations. Making false claims should be avoided, too. Choosing to ignore these rules and regulations can land you in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Under DSHEA, the onus of determining whether the ingredient is a new dietary ingredient and notifying the FDA about it lies with the manufacturers and distributors responsible for proving the safety of the new ingredient.
- The rules also depend on the online platform. For example, an e-commerce website like Amazon requires you to have your supplement's first picture to be placed against a white background. Similarly, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest might have their own terms and conditions. So, as a brand owner, you must be well-informed about all such aspects.
What is Allowed to be Claimed on a Supplement You Sell Online?
If you own a supplement business, label and packaging design should be your highest priority. FDA does not allow any misleading statements. You cannot claim that your product will help your client achieve a certain thing unless you can back it up by conducting relevant scientific studies and trials.
You would be surprised by the exhaustive research and study that the FDA conducts around ingredients. As a result of this research, they allow certain claims on certain ingredients like saw palmetto, fiber, etc., and say no to others. There are three different types of claims - health claims, nutrient claims and function/structure claims. Please check out the FDA website for more information on the claims that are allowed. Check out this infographic for the top things to remember when designing an FDA-compliant label.
Another safe alternative is partnering with a company that has cGMP warehousing, distribution, customer support and sales systems in place. That way, you can completely focus on customers and drive more demand.
NOTE: There's no such thing as an FDA approved supplement. The brand owners are responsible for ensuring the supplements are safe before they enter the market. The FDA's role comes after the supplement has entered the market. Be sure to get your facts right - it's essential if you want your online selling journey to be seamless.
How to Sell Supplements on Amazon?
A product can taste success only when it reaches its target audience. Amazon, with its reputation for selling anything and everything, offers you the farthest reach, the biggest online platform to sell your supplements.
Despite the growing competition on Amazon, data reveals that it is still one of the best places for your supplements to be found and bought. In the 1st quarter of 2020, 53% of paid units were sold by third-party sellers on Amazon. According to a survey conducted in 2018, almost half the business on Amazon generated 81 to 100% of their revenues from Amazon sales.[iii],[iv] After all, who doesn't want to take advantage of the tremendous reach and influence that Amazon offers!
Without a strong digital presence and a good e-commerce platform setting in place, starting any business is a difficult option. Sell your supplements on Amazon for a wide customer-reach and ever-increasing profits.
To start selling your supplements on the Amazon Marketplace, all you have to do is:
- Sign up to be an Amazon seller - You need to set up an account.
- Know all you can about Amazon's dietary supplement policies.
- Learn the basics of fulfillment by Amazon.
- Get started!
Managing accounts on Amazon demands time and knowledge on the part of the seller as it has specific requirements for its marketplace. Marketers are also urged to publish authentic content, including product reviews, on their pages - trying to cheat the system by using "black hat" tactics could have catastrophic consequences.
Selling Supplements on Your Website
When your consumers don’t find something, they Google it. This is when selling supplements on your website can help. It makes your online presence visible to your target audience and helps generate revenue! Brand owners are building their own e-commerce websites because of the convenience and consumer preference to spend online. It also works as a cost-effective option that helps you be exactly where your consumers are – beating all the geographical barriers.
Bonus tip: Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and follows e-commerce best practices.
In addition to what I've mentioned above, this infographic covers my top 8 reasons as to why you should consider selling dietary supplements on your own website versus other platforms:
Leverage Social Media: Selling Supplements on Other Social Platforms
Today, leveraging social media is as important as having a great website, smooth checkout experience and a solid hold on search engine optimization and marketing! Now, with people spending a significant amount of time on and within social networks built around their interests, even the buying process has transformed Look at these average stats published by DigitalMarketing.org:
- U.S. adults spend 38 minutes on Facebook daily
- Individuals between the ages of 16 and 29 spend 3 hours daily on social networks
- Adults between the ages of 45 and 54 spend over 90 minutes on social media daily
- Millennials spend 2 hours and 30 minutes on social platforms regularly
The buying process is now more based on customers coming across things within the experience they have already created for themselves. Using social media effectively can be the magic key to your supplement business success. Here are a few tips for selling supplements on social platforms.
- The involvement of fans and the community can go a long way. Remember that 80% of profit comes from the 20% loyal customer base.
- Leverage stars and influencers, especially the rising ones. It is a way to increase your customers with their loyal followers.
- Identify a specific audience for your product.
- Look outside the obvious supplement markets; you might hit the jackpot!
- Think like your target audience, make it theirs and turn it into something fun.
Here are a few handy social media platform-specific tips:
How to Sell Supplements on Instagram?
With over 500 million active Instagram users sharing 250 million stories every single day, Instagram has become the 2nd most popular platform in terms of daily usage. If your target audience’s age is between 18-29, then selling supplements on Instagram might work out for you! Why? Because today's youth loves Instagram!
Here are a few tips that might help:
- Sell directly through shoppable posts.
- Add a CTA in your Instagram bio that links to the required landing page. In your posts’ captions, write– Link in the bio – so that your audience have the option to explore more about your supplement! Once you reach 10k followers, you get the swipe-up option until then you can put your link in the bio.
- Test and learn on all of the features that Instagram offers – posts, stories, live stories, reels, IGTV videos, short videos, everything. This even includes features like memories, boomerangs, polls, filters, and a lot more! Closely track what gets you the most engagement and proceed accordingly once you have enough data to work with.
- To increase discoverability, focus on including hashtags in your reels and stories too.
- Preview upcoming supplements in your posts, reels, and stories to pique interest.
- Put up tutorials about how to use your supplements and nutraceutical products. You can even conduct a separate Q&A about your supplement products and help your audience understand your product better.
- Add your customer’s photos – let them sell your supplements for you!
- Respond to comments and DMs as quickly as possible. A response time of less than 12 hours is ideal.
- Take advantage of paid ads.
How to Sell Supplements on Facebook?
With over 2 billion people using Facebook, every day, it’s obvious that every supplement brand owner wishes to advertise on this platform. To sell your supplements on Facebook, you need to first set-up your business page and then leverage all the features!
- Focus on not over-promising the health benefits of your supplements.
- Aim to get page likes first. Use a campaign to create a following for your page.
- Create half a minute videos about your supplements with Facebook Live. It plays automatically when people see your video post and helps you get more followers.
- Build trust and create attractive offers that are visually appealing and hard to resist.
- Tell story.
- Use Facebook Pixel.
How to Sell Supplements on eBay?
- Choose your words wisely.
- Start your auction at night. It has been observed that evening times are when more users are online on eBay.
- Ship intelligently and don't inflate the costs.
How to Sell Supplements on Pinterest?
- If you're already an e-commerce platform user - Shopify, Demandware, BigCommerce, etc. - you can use Buyable Pins – an easy to spot and simple way for pinners to purchase.
- Connect Pinterest's Rich Pins code to your website and Pinterest account. It makes it easier for both – you and your customers to pin your supplements.
- Use Promoted Pins – purchase ads based on awareness, engagement - drive traffic to your website.
- Utilize keywords effectively on Pinterest. Use them from your social media/e-mail marketing and search engine optimization. Test them by looking them up on Pinterest. Also, check for additional keywords that are used on the pins you get as a result and add them to your list.
Some general tips:
When devising your selling strategy on online platforms, it's important to remember that not every social network will fit your marketing strategy. Through patient testing, learning, and tracking, you'll eventually discover the platform(s) ideal for your products and brand.
- Identify your customer-type and select the social network accordingly.
- Create original and engaging content. There is no harm in re-posting or tweeting third party material if it's worth sharing. Bear in mind that the right type of material plays a crucial role.
- It is good to always be updated about and aware of expectations and norms of the community - opening a personal account can do the trick.
- Build your network with set timely goals. Search relevant social sites and find people using relevant keywords or discussing supplements. Start contributing by responding to their questions, sharing or retweeting them. By the nature of social media, it is usually friends of your customers who can wield the most influence. If they like what you have to say, they can do some selling for you.
When it comes to selling via social media, networking is more important than leads. If you take time to listen to what people are saying, you can strike meaningful conversations with the right people and offer just what they want at that moment. Winning the hearts of your audience always offers you an upper hand in the fierce competition of selling supplements online!
Selling supplements online is the next biggest and perhaps the most crucial process to put in place after setting up your own supplement line. Fulfilling the legalities and finding out the most profitable and hassle-free selling options online are the prime challenges in this phase. With a careful review of our guide and considering various factors, you can decide what suits you the best!