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What Is a Mail Order Business?

Mail order businesses may offer free shipping to customers or allow them to choose their shipping method.
Clothing can be ordered from a catalog.
Mail order businesses have to factor in costs for packaging materials, such as tape.
Mail order businesses operate call centers that coordinate customer orders.
Many people prefer to do all of their shopping online.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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A mail order business is a business where orders for products are placed over the phone, through a catalog, or online. Sometimes, a business that also has brick and mortar locations will offer customers the opportunity to purchase products through the mail, but this does not make it a mail order business. This type of business usually does not have any physical locations.

A mail order business may reach out to customers in a few different ways. Catalogs are commonly mailed to customers, particularly when the business is just starting out. The customer may then flip through the catalog at his or her leisure, choose what he wants, and place a phone call or fill out a form to order the products. As the business develops a base of customers who regularly orders from the catalog, they may cut back on the amount of catalogs they send, only mailing catalogs to people who have ordered in the past.

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Online advertisements are another great way for a mail order business to reach customers. Advertisements can be targeted to specific customers based on what they search for. Customers may then go to the company's website to browse and order items. Online orders have become the primary business model for many of these businesses, because many people prefer to do all their shopping online, and do not wish to receive catalogs in the mail. A business of this type may also offer incentives such as free shipping to online customers.

In addition, customers are typically not charged sales tax on an order from a mail order business, unless the headquarters of the business is located in the customer's home state. This may change in the future, however, since more and more customers are doing all of their shopping completely through catalogs or online. Many mail order businesses offer free return shipping, to make it easier for customers to return or exchange items.

In addition, the customer is frequently able to choose the shipping method, meaning that it is possible to place an order, choose overnight shipping, and have the item the next day. Because there is no physical store for customers to visit, it is important that employees who work in a call center of a mail order business always provide great customer service and fix any problems quickly. Loyal shoppers of these businesses are often sent discount codes in their email to encourage them to continue to make purchases.

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Discuss this Article

oasis11
Post 4

@Suntan12 - I think that it is best to buy a mail order business that is for sale because this way you avoid the common pitfalls of early entrepreneurship and will not fall prey to many of the scams out there.

You can go to a business broker who helps people buy and sell businesses just like how a real estate agent or broker helps people buy and sell homes. They can find you the right mail order business opportunities for you.

You can also see the actual income that an existing internet mail order business brings in to give you the idea of what to expect. The business broker does not charge for the consultation. They make their money from the sellers not the buyers.

suntan12
Post 3

@Moldova -I have to say that I love the idea of ordering from a catalog than ordering online. I like to be able to talk to someone on the phone when I place an order because I usually have a question with respect to the shipping timetable that I can never figure out online.

The only downfall that I see is that the customer service representatives are not always friendly and sometimes they can be downright rude. I think that in a mail order business you have to make sure that the customers continue to be excited about your products when they place their order because I have cancelled orders because of the poor customer service.

Once I have a negative experience, I will never go back to that company so this is something to keep in mind if you decide to start a home based mail order business. Having a system to montior the calls of these representatives is important because you can't deny what is recorded on a tape. This is really common pratice in call centers so the employees understand that their calls will be recorded at random.

Moldova
Post 2

@Crispety - That is a good idea. I also think that if you are doing a mail order business from home it is a good idea to not only to have a great internet campaign, but you also want to advertise in trade magazines pertaining to your product.

For example, if you are marketing pet toys and shampoos you might want to meet with veterinarians, pet groomers, and pet shop owners that might want to buy supplies from you.

These mail order business ideas will get your name out there and bring you more customers. You can also look into a business expos and rent a booth so that you can meet prospective customers that will need your products.

Crispety
Post 1

I think that a home based mail order business can be lucrative but you have to be careful because there are a lot of scams out there. About 85% of the opportunities are scams and will ask you to invest money with the company and give out person information which you should not do.

You can really get a lot of help from your local SCORE organization. They are a nonprofit organization that pears up established business executives as well as entrepreneurs in order to mentor people starting out in a business.

These executives and business owners have specialties so you could be matched up with someone that has had an established mail order business from home. Their advice is really helpful because they have been there and done that.

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