Ready to start an e-commerce store?
Well, before you start building a website or marketing — and of course start investing in inventory — you need to have an idea for the product.
First, you need to make sure it is profitable. You cannot run a business without profit. You probably already know this, but it's a common mistake that most beginners often make.
They dipped into an ingenious idea and forgot to test its profitability.
Without knowing the profit, don't think, write a business plan for your e-commerce store.
Second, you need to find a good niche. Major e-commerce sites like Amazon and Walmart.com have tons of products for sale. So what makes yours different?
You need to find a specific kind of product first.
How do you do it?
Understand product and market opportunities
Start with different types of products and market needs. The truth is there is no "right" answer to choosing the best product type - but there are some guidelines you can use to improve profitability.
There are two types of products you can sell - commodity products and niche products.
Commodities are products with few differentiating factors. To a large extent, these commodities include traded commodities such as oil, wheat or steel. But the same concept applies to the products you sell.
For example, if you choose to sell white t-shirts, you are selling merchandise. Your t-shirts are no different from T-shirts anywhere else - most people will buy based on price.
If you're competing on price, this isn't a bad choice. Walmart and Amazon thrive on discounting such basic items.
But for most e-commerce store owners, this is not a wise decision. Amazon and Walmart have the advantage of scale. Companies worth billions can afford a few cents per purchase. But for just about anyone else, it's a surefire way to end up going broke.
Instead, develop a niche product.
Going back to our t-shirt example, if the product is basically the same from one seller to another, the opposite is true for a niche product - every seller is different. You can make your own unique design to differentiate it from other sellers.
This means higher prices can be charged. Note that the cost is about the same as a pack of shirts on Amazon. This helps to know when you start pricing your product.
That's the value of niche products. Because you're selling something unique, consumers won't buy at the price (at least, to a different degree).
So you can charge more and make a decent profit.
With that in mind, how can you find a great niche product? There are as many methods as there are ecommerce store owners, but we'll focus on the ones that have proven to be the most effective.
How to find great product ideas in the real world ？
Start with the real world first.
Yes, the internet is a tempting place to research products, but it also has some drawbacks. First, most people start there. This means they leave plenty of opportunity for real-world market research.
You can even invite these people to get updates if you want - who says you can't build your email list to do market research?
Second, what you find on the internet is usually second-hand. This means that the data you discover is not generated by the customers who purchased the product, but is based on the impact of those purchases.
(It will make more sense once we dig into this.)
But when you get into the real world, you can talk to people who actually spend money and find out what they like and don't like.
Identify or create products that solve problems
First consider the problems you often encounter. You can also ask friends, acquaintances or complete strangers!
You'll find plenty of products that solve common problems.
Case in point: a pepper spray bottle is not easy to carry around, especially when running.
So, what should you bring if you're jogging around town? A simple pepper spray bracelet solves this problem with an easy-to-carry protection on the wrist.
The ideal problem-solving product is usually so simple that you'll wonder why it wasn't thought of before.
It's a great place because it means people with the same problem will ask why they don't already own what you're selling.
Things you are already passionate about
Not all products solve the problem. Some projects are inherently fun for a small group of people.
If that group includes you, this is the perfect way to build your ecommerce store.
The more you know about your niche, the faster you can bring your product to market. If it's a product you already use, you'll save hours, weeks or even months of research time.
Here's a tip: If your product is listed as a category on Amazon, you have a good chance of success. Someone is already making money, and so can you!
To find profitable areas, list your hobbies and interests. But look deeper. Understand the products you spend money on, not just the general category.
For example, you may realize that you are interested in fitness. But if you have a gym membership, you probably won't spend money on equipment like barbells and weights.
But if you're paying $100 a month for new activewear, that's a very lucrative niche.
Potential niches and interests include electronics, books, clothing, office supplies, sporting goods, pet supplies, tools and accessories.
Products you and your friends love or hate
Products you love or hate are a great opportunity for an ecommerce store. Knowing what makes a product unique is a great way to create a niche for yourself.
First, write down the products you use regularly.
Next to each, write down all the problems you can think of about the product. These problems can be small inconveniences or huge flaws in the design.
Alternatively, you can also write down something you would like your product to have but don't currently have.
Finally, write down all the ways you think the product could be improved.
- Is it design?
- its packaging?
- What does it do?
Many of the best and most innovative companies were founded out of a desire to improve existing products or fill gaps in the market.
You can also ask other people's opinions, or think about what your friends are complaining about. Connect with friends via social media and ask them to share their thoughts on the products they've purchased.
Be careful too. When you're around friends and peers, observe their reactions to the products they buy and use.
Ask what challenges they face with their products in a specific niche. Ask them what products will make their lives easier, what they want to buy, and what they can't find.
Discover opportunities with keyword research
Now is the time to take a deep dive into what the internet has to offer.
A quick warning before we start - don't waste too much time researching more than you need. Of course, it's a good idea to do your research before finding your exact selling point. But don't get so caught up in the analysis that you can't move on.
I know beginners who have spent years researching but never tried it in real life. Don't be that person.
That said, we'll start with keyword research. This will tell us what people are looking for and how we can find or create products that meet that need.
For this, you can use some different tools. Or seek help from chinaandworld.
Let's start with brand terminology.
For example, if you're interested in sneakers, you might include Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Puma.
We'll return hundreds of keywords based on these brand names. You can use it to learn about styles, uses and even colors that people are interested in.
One downside is that it is difficult to create a niche from branded products. At the end of the day, Nike shoes are a commodity.
(Unless you have exclusive rights to custom designs or something.)
We can use basic product terminology to find interesting concepts to sell.
It's a good idea to start small, but keyword research can also help you find niches with room to expand as your ecommerce store grows.
If you're in a well-defined niche, you probably have a good idea of who your competitors are. This is great news because you can study them! You can then take that information and compare your brand to others in the space.
For example, if you're selling coffee, there are a few looming brands that dominate the industry: Starbucks, Folgers, and Maxwell House, to name a few.
(I realize these supermarket brands may not be on par with your luxury roasted, custom grown, organic free trade coffee beans. But clearly these companies are doing the right thing and we can learn from them.)
A lot of their trending keywords are just brand names - which is to be expected from any well-known company.
But along the way, you'll find interesting keywords like "chocolate raspberry coffee" and "how to use french roast."
These are phrases you can use to develop your product or explain your product in an explanatory essay.
You can learn a lot about how people perceive your product by searching for alternatives.
For example, hydration packs such as CamelBak are not as popular as water bottles. Instead of scrambling to find data on water bags, look for water bottles.
Adding features people want to a water bottle—like warmth, cooling, and motion orientation—is a concept you can add to your hydration store.
Discover hidden gems through online trends
If you want to be at the forefront of new products, you need to follow online trends like a hawk.
This can be risky because sometimes a popular product ends up being a fad. (If you built a whole business around the Pokemon Go craze a few years ago, you probably wouldn't be in business.)
But with risk comes opportunity, and trends can tell you where the next big thing is. Many companies that jumped on the bandwagon early have remained profitable for years.
If you want to find a profitable niche before everyone else, trends are the way to go.
Research Google's recommendations
Google has two tools for finding popular products.
First, use Google's search suggestions to find what's trending right now. Start by typing in words related to your niche, then check Google for suggested results. These ideas are now recognized as common search topics at Google.
Another method is more direct - use Google Trends to see how search terms have performed over time.
Enter your terms and click "Search terms". (There are usually category options, but search terms are best for comparison purposes.) They're a fad that peaks for a few months, then plummets. That's the kind of product you don't want to sell. After a few years (or even months) this fad will dry up and you will no longer have clients.
Look for ongoing trends.
Follow industry leaders
Sometimes, industry insiders spot new trends before others.
If you follow these people, you can take advantage of the product before it becomes popular.
To do this, you need to find blogs and publications that are specific to your niche. These places stay on the pulse of new products and are a great way to stay up-to-date on what's going on.
When you are in the product idea stage, check these sites regularly—at least once a week, several times a day.
The goal is to find concepts before they become mainstream.
Follow product review sites
Once a product hits product review sites, it has become somewhat popular. But it can be a great opportunity to find out where the product is going before anyone else starts selling it.
To use this strategy, find review sites in your niche.
These might be sites reviewing products in different areas, but all centered on one theme.
Depending on your niche, you can find other products on similar sites.
It's a great way to find new products and see what's trending.
Research what others use, buy and complain about
If you want to reduce the risk of a new product, find something that people already use. Small improvements to an already popular product are the surefire way to launch a successful product.
Later, you'll learn about the best places for people to buy things. But first, here's what you need to look for.
Brand opportunity. Many product categories lack any strong branding. This is especially true, the cheaper the product, the less pleasant the buying experience and the lower the status the product offers.
For example, cars are expensive, can display status, and have an exciting buying experience (test drive, view parking, etc.). Toyota and Maserati rate owners differently.
But pencils are cheap, they don't represent identity, and they're easy to buy—just grab them from dollar store shelves. Because of this, few people can tell the difference between pencil brands like Ticonderoga, Dixon, USA Gold, or even Walmart Casemate.
There are opportunities in niche markets without unique brands. If you create a new pencil brand, you can differentiate yourself from other "boring" niches.
If you create the "perfect pencil for a carpenter," you can create a unique brand and charge more for it.
If possible, look for a niche where there is a branding opportunity.
A product of vanity and guilt. If you're looking for high profit margins and a dedicated fan base, consider selling products that are attractive or unwanted.
When we need a certain product (think soap, gasoline, or printer paper), we usually buy it based on price. But when it comes to vanity products (think gadgets, cars, or wine), we often spend more than necessary.
Apple computers, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Jack Daniels are more expensive than their niche counterparts. But they created a brand name as a status vanity product that people were willing to pay extra for.
If you're creating a brand for yourself, try to establish the same type of luxury status as the products you sell.
Look everywhere for opportunities. Finally, don't be shy about finding places for product ideas. They show up when you least expect them, so you need to pay attention.
When you're in the discovery phase, think of everything as a possible product. Going to the grocery store with friends and casually surfing the Internet can both lead you to the perfect idea.
Keep your senses sharp to see the myriad product ideas around you.