Alright, you’ve been thinking about starting your own online store and find products for it. You’re ready to get out of the rat race and escape the 9-5, or at the very least, start a side hustle you can call your own.
So first, not knowing what the sell is totally normal. This is without a doubt one of the most common barriers to entry, even for the most successful people when they’re getting started.
Second, it’s not even really that big of a problem, especially once you have some tools and strategies to guide the product ideation and evaluation process. It actually becomes really easy to figure out what you want to sell them whether those items are going to be profitable.
I know that brainstorming sounds a little cliche, but hear me out. Good brainstorming sessions aren’t just about catching ideas out of thin air and putting them down on paper or in a Google Doc, but instead, it’s about asking a series of questions that will put your mind in the right direction. When figuring out what you want to sell online, you should ask yourself a couple of questions:
- What hobbies do you have and what products are needed to support that hobby?
- What kinds of products do you find yourself buying for leisure or pleasure?
- What kinds of utility-based products like phone cases or USB cables do you find yourself buying to serve a specific function?
- What kind of products do you think are cool, but don’t have the lifestyle to justify supporting it?
I’d highly recommend keeping track of your different ideas in a spreadsheet or real-life notebook, so you can look at it later and identify any themes that may emerge.
2- Would You Buy It?
Do you want to sell things that you would buy yourself or do you just want to sell products that you know people will buy, without any concern for what those products are? So by now, you should have a few different product ideas, or at least found a specific industry like men’s fashion or office essentials that’s caught your attention. Once some themes have started to emerge from your brainstorming session, you’ll need to do some research to find out just how many other brands are selling and competing in the same space.
If there is a specific or product type you’d like to sell, search around online and see how other websites are pricing, advertising, and marketing the same products.
- How do they position it?
- What kind of photography do they use?
- How are they writing their product descriptions?
- What other products do they sell that complement that item?
You see, for most people, marketing and sales are something that just happens to them. There’s almost this disconnect in our minds that when we see products featured on a shelf or at a store or on a website, that these were deliberate choices made by another person with the sole purpose of getting you to buy.
But, when you can take a critical approach to analyse and to dissect those choices when you’re trying to figure out what to sell online, you can develop an appreciation for how that inventory was curated and how the design of the store brings everything together.
In an exercise, we’re trying is finding a niche store in your city or town, and just take notes on how different products are grouped near each other. One example is how surrounding this model and clay at my local craft store, you’ll also find various sculpting tools, project books, and accessories that enhance that sculpting experience. It’s also important to realise, especially when you’re starting out, that you don’t need to go big, to begin with. You don’t need to start a whole craft store if you want to specialise in just selling sculpting materials.
Websites like Instagram and Pinterest are fantastic for finding niche products to sell to validate whether or not those products generate a lot of interest. For example, I personally have an obsession with journals.
By just typing ‘journals’ into Pinterest, you can see a wide variety, from marble covered journals to classy leather-bound journals, productivity journals, pocket journals, to journals look like they were ripped straight out of a fantasy world. With just a single search, it’s easy to see not only how many varieties of journals there are out there, but how each style of a journal may also lend itself to that your own kind of store.
On Instagram, you can also search for key phrases related to the products you’re thinking of selling, and see if any important accounts sell similar products, or look like targets for potential partnership. Also, if you’re still unsure of what to sell, spending time researching the hashtag #ad can show you different products that Instagram celebrities are promoting on their own.
Oberlo Supply is a great place to find various products from multiple categories that you can sell through trust and dropshipping suppliers. Many of the suppliers in the Oberlo Supply network have rocks that are themed and related to each other make it easy to pick and choose which products we want to sell on your own website. Once you found the products you’d like to sell, simply click add to import list, and all the product details, images and descriptions will be added instantly to your Shopify store for you to edit. Oberlo Supply is one of the fastest ways to find products to sell online, and you can start adding products to your website in minutes when you sign up for the forever-free plan.
Now that you’ve been doing this research on what to sell let’s see if you can find some ways to gauge interest in your products.
1- Google Trends
Google Trends is an underappreciated tool by Google that allows you to see the trends in search volume for different key phrases over a long period. Typing a phrase in the Google Trends can give you an idea of whether that phrase is part of a rising trend, part of a fad, has a steady long-term interest, or is on the decline.
For instance, a search for the phrase ‘Matcha Tea’ reveals that this is a trend that’s been steadily on the rise since 2011 with interest peaking at the beginning of every year. This gives you an idea that the matcha tea market may be a good one to enter if the trend continues to rise, but since the trend has been continuing to grow for several years, there may be strong competition, with other matcha tea sellers.
The phrases ‘Fidget Spinner’ reveal a sharp increase and a sharp decline in interest over a short period of time. That’s because these products were part of a buying fad, and consumers couldn’t get enough of them at first.
Many dropshipping merchants are constantly on the lookout for these kinds of buying opportunities because if you can identify a buying trend early enough, you can cash in by being one of the first early sellers of a product that’s in high demand.
The counter to both of these trends, however, are fairly steady trends, such as the phrase ‘Diary’. Notice how the trend line is fairly stable over several years? That’s a pretty good indication that the market for diary products has reached maturation, and has proven itself over time.
There are pros and cons to a steady trend. In the pro column, you’ve got a product that has fairly stable demands, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll sell. In the con column, because the market has been validated to the point of a steady search trends, there’s likely a lot more competition, meaning you’ll have to work twice as hard to make sure your product and your website as a whole stand out, and the audience you’re marketing to is completely unique.
Finally, there are downward trends such as the phrase ‘USB Flash Drive’. Now, while it may seem like selling a product that’s on a downward trend is a bad idea, it may be a mistake to write that product often directly. Similarly to being the first to sell trending products, selling products that are on a downward trend could provide you with the “last one standing” effect, where your customers are happy to buy from you. Because they’re saying to themselves “I can’t find these online anywhere, anymore!”
2- Products to Avoid
Are there products you should avoid selling? There are really two camps of thought on whether or not there are certain products you should prevent. In one camp, some dropshippers will recommend to always be on the lookout for trending products or fad products like fidget spinners or hoverboards, because there won’t be as much competition in the beginning. So you can potentially tap into a big moneymaker before everybody else.
In the other camp, there will be dropshippers who recommend that you only operate in stable markets like fashion, fitness, phones, and beauty because they’re proven money-makers and will often have trending products of their own that will generate a lot of interest and demand.
Really, neither of these approaches to products are better than the other, and what kind of when it comes down to is your own tolerance and skill. If you know you can turn something like a fidget spinner into the “next big thing” then you should absolutely cash in. But if you’d rather only sell “safe” items like sunglasses, watches, and bracelets knowing you can make your products stand out over the millions of other options available, then that’s the route you should go.
3- Copyrighted Items
The only thing is you should really be absolutely avoiding or selling copyrighted items, or items that are restricted, banned, highly regulated or blacklisted by your payment processor. But generally speaking, just try to make it easy on yourself, and find products that don’t require a ton of extra work to sell.
Finally, you may have noticed I didn’t mention any specific products you should sell right now, and that’s because the list of top selling products is always changing.
Muammer is a Marketing Analytics Manager at Turkcell. His mission is to empower entrepreneurs and to help them achieve their goals. He also has a passion for illustration.