Ecommerce Blog

Insights and analysis for better multichannel selling

Products To Sell Online

Finding Products To Sell Online

Photo credit to Flickr user katplum

Everyone wants to sell online nowadays, right? It’s the latest thing to be doing – and the potential really is unlimited.

However, most of us get stuck at the same point. What should I sell? Or, what else can I sell?

We’re tempted to sell “cool” things like iPhones and laptops, figuring that those products probably sell the best. And you’re right – sort of. These things do sell the best, but you won’t be able to get a piece of that pie.

Ridiculously popular items like phones and laptops require significant investment and infrastructure to sell. If you call up Apple corporate and try to become a dealer, they’ll probably ignore your voicemail after voicemail.

The key to finding products to sell online isn’t to look for what’s selling by the millions – that’s probably much more than we can handle from our home office or garage.

The key is to sell something that sells in the thousands or even hundreds. Something with a limited, but highly specific demand. Your product does not and should not be wanted by everyone. In fact, there should be a defined audience that’s looking for your product.

This defined audience can be hobbyists, people with a pain point they want to solve, people with a specific issue they need help with.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the more specific you are, the greater your likelihood of succeeding as a small business.

There are even a whole bunch of criteria you can pit your product against to figure out if it’s viable or not.

Back in the days of brick and mortar stores, location was important if you were opening a specific store. You needed to be exactly where you target customers were. If you had a general store, then you just needed to be where enough customers were.

In the ecommerce world, you don’t need to be anywhere. Your customers can find you wherever you are and wherever they are. So the more specific you are, the more likely a customer is going to identify with you and your store. If you are too generic, your customer may be a bit confused with your messaging – unless your name happens to be Amazon.

How to come up with ideas

So now that we’ve identified the kind of product we are looking for – a niche product that appeals to a specific and somewhat limited audience, let’s get into how we can actually come up with ideas.

The first place to consult is your little black book! We’ve all got business ideas inside us, just as we all have a novel inside of us. Think back and try to recall some product ideas you have come up with. They can be as corny or as cheesy as you like – don’t worry about the ‘cool’ factor.

Think of all the times you were looking to buy something but just couldn’t find it anywhere. There’s an idea!

Think of all the times you were faced with too many choices and just couldn’t decide which one would work best – there’s an idea!

Think of the times where you bought something only to be disappointed by the terrible quality and sluggishness of the product. If you can improve it, there’s an idea!

Think of the times where a product you used was good, but could be a whole lot better – there’s an idea!

Browse Amazon

Beyond picking those products from memory and out of the air, you can also browse the huge category trees that established shopping sites have.

If you go to Amazon, you can browse their full store directory to access one level of their category structure. But it doesn’t stop there. As you click on each category, a whole list of subcategories will open up on the left of the page.

finding products to selling online with amazon

Under each of those categories, you’ll get even more categories, sometimes down to 3 or 5 more levels.

Ideally, the deeper you can get, the more targeted and more niche you are looking at. Don’t really be worried about the number of products that are available for sale on Amazon in that category. Sometimes, a large number of products just goes to show that there is so much more demand for that product.

Remember, you’ll want to really, really niche down. So you are looking at something like:

Category => Subcategory => Subcategory => Subcategory => Subcategory… and so on

Amazon’s catalog is so huge that it will take you weeks, if not months to get through the whole thing, and by the time you do, you’ll have come up with lots of great ideas.

Browse eBay

Like Amazon, eBay is a name nearly synonymous with online shopping, and you can also browse eBay’s complete category structure to get some good ideas. eBay’s structure is somewhat similar to Amazon, but there are a few categories on eBay that aren’t there on Amazon.

finding products to sell online with ebay

Amazon sells a large amount of the stuff themselves, so they steer away from certain risky and shady items which eBay has no problem with because they’re not doing the selling themselves, so they’re not really responsible.

eBay’s category structure is a little less intuitive than Amazon’s to navigate, but it’ll still help you uncover lots and lots of cool niches.

Browse Kickstarter

Kickstarter is the place for innovation. People bring forth unique and interesting ideas and crowdfund them to production.

finding products to sell online with kickstarter

Kickstarter has lots of different categories – the two you want to focus on are “Design” and “Technology” – these are where most of the more “sellable” innovations and inventions are.

This is not to say that you should copy Kickstarter projects – you really, really shouldn’t! Instead, Kickstarter projects will open your eyes to new ideas and concepts that you can get inspiration from and build upon.

Browse Alibaba

Last but not least, look to Alibaba to find ideas. You may discover that on Alibaba there are more categories and products than you ever imagined, but if you can sift through Alibaba’s listings to find a nugget, you’re golden.

finding products to sell online with alibaba

For ideas, it’s better to browse Alibaba itself, not Aliexpress – Alibaba is the wholesale portal, and as such, it has a much wider selection of products.

From Alibaba, you may also discover a good B2B-type product to sell. B2B products are much easier to sell in theory than are B2C products. Generally, B2B customers don’t care as much about pricing, orders are in bulk, and there are a lot of repeat customers.

Find pain points

Some of the easiest products to sell online are products that solve a very specific pain point or problem. If someone is offering a solution to a thorn I have in my side, I’m going to want that solution. I’m not going to think too many times before pulling out my credit card in that instance.

Problems and pain points can be many. They can be personal, work-related, health-related, relationship-based, pet-related, car-related – the possibilities are just endless.

The best place to start brainstorming for ideas is of course your own experience or that of your friends and family. Just sit and think what problems they’ve needed solved, or what issues they’ve needed fixed – and see if you can develop a product around that.

Sentences that start with “I wish I could…” or “Wouldn’t there be an easier way to…” are good starting points to come up with ideas.

Find passion enablers

After pain points, your next best bet is passion enablers. We spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on our hobbies, and if you can find a product that targets a particular hobby, there’s something to look into.

Fishermen will spend tens of thousands of dollars decking out their fishing boats, pilots will spend huge amounts of money buying flying equipment and gear, and hunters will empty their wallets on the latest calls and hunting gear.

If you are looking for a passion that is relatively new and the market is still up for grabs, check out drones. They’re incredibly powerful and incredibly addictive. Drones are the in thing right now, so now is the time to get on that bandwagon.

That was just one suggestion – there are probably hundreds of other hobbies that you could look into that are up and coming. It’s always better to get on something as it’s in an uptrend rather than when it is in a downtrend.

Consider those embarrassing products

Another type of product that sells very well online is embarrassing stuff. Adult-themed stuff, weird health issues, and so on. These are products that people would rather not show their face while buying, so online is the place to go.

Of course, you’d then be associated as the “guy selling so-and-so”, but if you are OK with that, then go for it!

Look at a list of hobbies

Finally, if you are still short of ideas, consult this list of hobbies and think about each one – which hobby has a lot of potential products for it? Which hobby has potential for big spenders and repeat buyers? And which hobby seems underserved by the market right now?

In conclusion

This is a pretty comprehensive list of all the ways you can brainstorm to come up with ideas for products to sell online. Use this list, and spend time with each source of ideas. You’ll be surprised at the results you can get if you commit the time to doing good research.

Once you have identified a product, the next thing for you to do is find a supplier and decide whether you would like to manufacture, wholesale, or drop-ship. Which path you choose is up to you and depends on how much you are willing to invest and how much risk you are willing to take, as well as the availability of the product.

But remember, it all gets easier once you find the right product.

Shabbir Nooruddin Shabbir Nooruddin is a regular contributor to the Sellbrite Ecommerce Blog. He is an ecommerce entrepreneur and the founder of Bootstrapping eCommerce, where he writes about how to build a successful online business on a tight budget.