To be honest, I may be a marketer but even deeper down is my love for just selling stuff.
For me it all really started in 2012 when I had the idea to launch a t-shirt brand called “Heading 370” in my college dorm room. It was a t-shirt company focused towards the general aviation market. I was a budding pilot and I wanted to provide the industry with super high quality t-shirts and clothing. I began to learn the ins-and-outs of eCommerce during that two year project. It ultimately was the leading reason I began questioning if college was right for me and ultimately lead to my dropping out. I was able to make a deal with a leading pilot shop retailer who also carried my shirts in their stores. This is when I realized that my shirts had little to no profit margin and instead of pivoting my brand, I ended up closing up shop.
After that two year “experiment” of a business, I began getting into the creative services world. I was good at branding and marketing, and hey people wanted to pay me for it. But my heart has always somewhat missed the eCommerce space.
That is why the time has finally come to again get back into eCommerce!
Since Life Nomading is all about helping fellow nomads in finding ways to generate different forms of income, travel more, and live out your lifestyles and passions… I figured I would turn this new eCommerce project into a journey and case study for anyone else to use to start their own venture in ways to generate income.
So without further adu, let’s get started into the first step of starting an ecommerce business…
What the hell are good products to sell online?
This is the question a lot of people face when they know they want to get into the eCommerce world. It’s also the question I had when I decided I wanted to make another go at the eCommerce world.
When deciding on what good products to sell, I believe there are really three distinct different ways to decide on a product or category.
You can either…
Fill a Need
There are plenty of “needs” in the world. From needing to find a way to open a can of tomato soup to finding a way to feed your cat while on vacation, this is an essential segment of opportunity to sell products to people. Products that ease their needs.
Fill a Passion
If you are a human, then you likely have a passion or hobby. My passion is flying airplanes and my hobbies include baking, learning about coffee, golfing, etc.. Passions and hobbies are great opportunities for eCommerce businesses.
Likely if you have a passion you will be able to know more about the products you sell and in result you’ll be a step ahead of the game in those regards. Plus this is a huge brand win as well. It adds a bit more authenticity if you decided to build out a solid brand around your eCommerce business.
…last but certainly not least you can…
Fill a Niche
When googling “what product to sell online”, I bet 100% you will find a ton of tutorials on how to find an underserved niche portion of an industry to sell to. This is a brilliant strategy and one that can really be lucrative.
A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.
Neon glow in the dark fingernail polish, wooden handle scissors, extra small face tissues… these are all ridiculously silly examples of niche products, but who knows they could have potential ;)… The point is these products are more specific than just nail polish, scissors, and tissues.
Sometimes I feel people can get to bogged down in spending so much time researching for the “perfect” niche, that they forget to actually start SOMETHING. This is typically the case with me when using this strategy.
Since there are plenty of niche product eCommerce tutorials out there in the world, I am not going to attack this route.
*Disclaimer: I want to take a second to let you know that I am going to be as transparent as possible through this process. You will be able to follow along through my failures and successes, nothing I do will guarantee success because at the core, success is a result of you taking action for yourself. Use this info, experiment and build your own awesomeness!
So what product am I choosing?
Okay so it’s time to decide what good products to sell for my eCommerce venture.
Quite frankly, I decided to take the passion/hobby route for my eCommerce business. I will also preface this by saying that I am still a newby when it comes to the industry I will be selling to. What I do know is that my age group is quickly becoming more picky about this product and industry and also there are a ton of different products in this industry.
As you can see I haven’t shared what industry or product I am selling yet. I will reveal this in a future article but first I want to share some of the criteria that I used to ensure my product and industry provided a future growth pattern past my first initial products.
Are you struggling to figure out a good product or industry to pick?
If you’re not typically a curious person when it comes to being self aware to your surroundings, this can be the first struggle you may face with your product ideation journey. That’s totally okay!
First, I would recommend that if you are struggling to decide on an initial product idea, implement some behavioral habits that will help retrain your brain to stay curious about your surroundings. To do this write down 10 ideas each day on a piece of paper like James Altucher does. This will help your brain to become more aware of opportunities that may lie in the world for you to sell to.
Eventually, if you do this enough you will see that you are much better at coming up with ideas. For me, it’s usually hard to shut my brain off in product ideation, to the point it annoys people around me when I am always wondering what the margin is on this thing and that.
I would say at this point, build up a list of product ideas that have to do with your passions or hobbies anything and everything is totally fine at this point. Below we will begin to whittle your list down to what will be the best possible option for eCommerce selling.
Let’s now test your product ideas!
Cool, so you have a list of ideas for different products you want to sell. The next step to choosing if your products are good products to sell on your eCommerce website, Amazon, eBay, etc… is to “vett” them in the more simplified Ian vetting process (I should trademark that 😉 ). Typically if you are searching for an awesome niche product you would be spending a bulk of your time in this portion of building your business.
Personally, this part will take you a few hours depending on how many ideas you have and it should make getting started go much quicker.
1. Does the product have accessories or other products?
Lets face it, whatever product you want to sell is just the starting point for your eCommerce business. When vetting products you want to eliminate any product category that may not lend itself well to selling other products related to your niche down the road. For example, if you decide that you want to sell golf bags, golfing has A TON of other products that you can offer your customer base down the road. Golf balls, tees, clubs, gloves, etc… the products are endless.
On the flip side, if you are selling custom car keys (idk) the likelihood that your customers that found you for that specific product will be in the market to buy a car online is slim. Sure, they may be more apt to purchase a car wheel cover or window shade, but you are in for a tougher battle for those upsells.
So always be thinking, what will my customers want after they make their initial purchase.
2. Eliminate ideas by retail price tag
I have to admit, this criteria can be bent. But truly you need to be super diligent about your profit margin on your products. I will get into more detail about what your margins should look like, how you can calculate those, and how to price products in future articles, but right now I want you just to be thinking about what the product retails for typically.
The big thing here is to think… “Okay, this product retails at $20.00, hmmm I wonder if I can source it for half of that or better…”
Margins are everything to eCommerce business. With so many variables at play like shipping etc, you need to be sure that you can carry a healthy profit on any product you sell… duh!
I would recommend eliminating any product that retails for less than $15-20 to the consumer. This is not a hard and fast rule, but if you have a long list of ideas, use this as a way to whittle.
3. Is your product large, heavy, or extremely fragile?
A huge disqualifier for me is the cost of shipping and the logistics that come with heavy or fragile goods. It fully depends on how you plan to run your eCommerce website, but regardless heavy or fragile products are going to end up costing you a lot of margin in the long run and are better left untouched if at all possible.
4. Check Google Trends
Google Trends is an interesting place to go when you are researching what good product to sell online. It’s more of a guide than a decision making tool but it certainly helps.
First go to www.google.com/trends
Then type in the general form of what you are thinking about selling.
For this example, lets say I want to sell golf balls.
As you can see here, dating all the way back to 2004, “golf balls” have slowly decreased in popularity on the internets. This chart is not so dramatic that you should lose faith in it if you were looking to sell golf balls, but it has decreased none the less.
The more interesting part about this graph is the consistent yearly changes.
So what does this mean?
Well, golfing is a seasonal business. In the summer more people are golfing than in the winter months… duh ;). Keep this in mind for your product, it could be a huge oversight.
So if I were thinking about selling golf balls and I were to get into this niche in a colder month, then it would be much harder to make sales than say the summer months.
Take Google Trends seriously, but also know that there are many more variables at play than just this tool. You see, Google Trends runs off relative data from past years.
So be wise, understand that this is highly valuable for products that are “trending” especially. You will be able to gauge if you are still in a good position to capture market share, or if the trend is flattening out.
5. Begin to care about keywords & SEO
As a digital marketer by trade, SEO and keywords are a living breathing reality in my day-to-day.
For the novice eCommerce goer, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In layman’s terms, it means that the content you are producing on your website is optimized to be discovered by people searching for your products or services in search engines.
I will be dedicating entire articles on how I will be attacking keyword research and SEO for my eCommerce website. I will be showing the techniques I plan to experiment with so you can use them to grow site traffic as well. However, right now I want to tell you why this is important in vetting your potential product ideas.
Sort of like with the Google Trends tool we discussed, knowing how popular your product is in search engines is another form of validation.
Let’s run a quick test…
At this point you are likely totally confused, have no fear let’s work through this.
So above I opened a tool called Long Tail Pro, what this software does is quickly lets me see anything and everything I need to know to do keyword research on the fly. I love this tool and highly recommend it to anyone entering the space, it’s one of the best investment I have ever made.
Anyway, so a full tutorial on this later but here is the quick and dirty.
First, I added my product idea “golf balls” into the program and let it work it’s magic to generate all of these 801 keyword results that pertain to golf balls.
Next, I sorted the terms by Suggested Bid because this lets me see what advertisers are competing most for in the paid advertising space for this product. For this example I can instantly see that there is a ton of competition in the custom corporate logo ball world. The highest costing keyword is “corporate logo golf balls“… golf ball businesses are paying up to $7.48 PER CLICK to be at the top of Google search results.
This makes me think that there could be a lot of money in selling more B2B golf balls than B2C. This is interesting… I hadn’t even thought of that until now seeing it in Long Tail Pro.
That is just one of the very basic functions of researching product opportunities with Long Tail Pro… I hope that gets you excited for all of the opportunity a tool like this can give you as an eCommerce marketer. It gets me amped!
There’s so much data here to look at. On one hand, you could see that this niche of golf balls is super competitive and on the other you could see that B2B margins must be pretty good if they are shelling out $7+ bucks a click to get people to their website. It’s not science, it’s more about interpretation and then testing these assumptions.
Do you have a good product to sell now?
I hope that by this time you have your list of product ideas narrowed down to at most two or three. In the next article we will be exploring how to go about selling and sourcing your products. This may help you in picking the perfect product from your short list.
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Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or additional insight to help fellow Life Nomads get their footing in product ideation!