On Jul, 17 2019
When it comes to running and marketing an e-commerce store, selecting the best products to sell in order to maximize revenue is key. But where to start?
Here are some practical tips on how to find the best e-commerce business ideas, where to source the best e-commerce products to sell, and how to monitor if it’s all working.
Finding the best products to sell
There is more to market research than chasing the next fad or doing focus groups. Let’s go over the four different layers of research every company should do to choose the best product range for their site.
1. Find your niche
First things first, you need to find your niche – a specific market for a particular product that you can target. Be strategic about this decision, but don’t overthink it. Gauge customer interest by searching for common keywords and queries that users type in and looking at what your competition is selling. There are loads of SEO tools out there that you can use, for example, the Moz Keyword Explorer or the SimilarWeb market intelligence tool.
2. Identify trends
Secondly, pick a few trending products within your niche that will help drive sales. Reddit’s r/technology, GoogleTrends and Trend Hunter are all good places to start discovering trends. However, be careful not to confuse a trend with a fad (a short-lived craze that doesn’t have any long-term value).
3. Work on your brand
Next, you need to start developing your brand. Your brand is what makes your e-commerce store recognizable, and it influences the range of products your business is going to stock. Strike a balance between the products expected of a brand in your space – but be sure to have a flagship product that can make your brand stand out. There are lots of ways to make sure that your brand stands out in a crowded market: for example, you can start leveraging social proof (reviews and testimonials from your customers).
4. Research products
Finally, it’s time for you to research specific products and get down to some essentials like pricing, differentiation potential and other factors – which we will cover in the next section.
Understand the needs of your customers
In order to select the best products for your customers, you need to be able to understand what is driving their needs. What kind of problems are you trying to solve for them?
To help you understand the three kinds of products that you can sell online based on customer need, let us use Steve Chou’s drugstore metaphor:
- Products that are like candy. They’re cheap, don’t solve a problem but bring immediate pleasure. Examples of candy products would be toys, games and novelties.
- Products that are like vitamins. They fill an emotional gap or long-term need, but their benefits are hard to express. Examples for these kinds of products would be vitamins, fitness equipment and makeup.
- Products that are like painkillers. They fill an immediate, urgent need, like diapers, razors or eyeglasses.
Notice how each of these three categories have different levels of urgency. Candy products are often fads that come and go: there’s a good chance that sales will take a deep dive once they go out of style. Vitamin products are less risky, but their buyers are in much less of a hurry to shop than customers looking for painkillers.
Identifying the painkiller products of your chosen market niche can help you narrow down your product range and become a savvy e-commerce store owner.
Choose your product sourcing method
As you get closer to sourcing your products, you need to define your margins, see what is available and take seasonality into account. But what options do you have?
Here are the three main methods of product sourcing that you can consider:
- Self-made products that are produced in a home or artisan environment. This means more control, but keeping up with demand and storing inventory become key costs.
- Dropshipping. In this arrangement, you can sell without storing inventory and the main product costs will often involve “drop fees” and transactional costs. We’ll tell you more about dropshipping later on in this post. To learn more about dropshipping there's a list of courses you can take at Udemy.
- Products purchased from a wholesaler or manufacturer. This traditional model gives you a balance of control and flexibility, but also higher overhead than the other two options.
Each of these methods has different costs and margins - which will affect your pricing and competitiveness. You can further narrow down what you are going to sell in your e-commerce store by looking at those margins.
Once you’ve done that, also research the margins of different products categories. According to the PriceMole Countdown, the 7 highest margin products of 2018 were fashion items, electronic accessories, furniture, e-cigarettes, groceries and online food delivery, books, and jewelry.
When picking what products to sell in your e-commerce store, don’t forget to take into account seasonality (you wouldn’t want to stock fresh Halloween pumpkins in December). Use dynamic pricing to help you adjust to seasonality and other pricing factors in real time and start getting acquainted with price optimization tools.
Test and optimize your products
Once you have your product range decided, it’s time to get it out there into the world. There are a few strategies for testing out a product range.
If you don’t already have your own e-commerce store, but are looking to get into the industry, dropshipping is an option. It means that your store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock, but buys the items from a third party and has it sent directly to the customer. It’s a minimal risk solution: if something doesn’t sell, you won’t be left with a warehouse filled with unsellable inventory.
Before you decide to go with dropshipping, do some research on what products to sell with this method. According to Cloudways, the best drop shipping products to sell include slime (!), neck phone holders, magnetic charging cables, pocket language translators, waterproof phone cases, moon lamps, etc.
The concept of A/B testing is well known in email marketing and website design, but it can also be useful to optimize product selection. At its most simple, it means offering different product pages to customers arriving from different sales channels. It’s an experimental tactic for retailers that can be of great help when trying to optimize sales.
Mistakes to avoid
Once you’ve set up your store and you’ve figured out what products you’re going to sell, go through this checklist of common mistakes to avoid in the presentation of your product:
- Quality over quantity: make sure your stock is focused on your niche
- Highlight product reviews
- Keep an eye on your margins and keep prices competitive
- Optimize your pages for search engines (do an SEO analysis) and avoid duplicate content
- Use clear, high-quality images and clear, informative copy in your product descriptions
If you would like to learn more about how to select products or any other help with getting the most from your e-commerce store, let us know by chat or email.
For more, check out our post on how to build a six-figure e-commerce business in five easy-to-follow steps! It has practical tips and links to free tools to help you set up an e-commerce store or get the most out of the one you already have.