How to Find What to Sell Online and Start Generating Profits
Do you want to open an eCommerce store but aren't sure what to sell online? Let's dive into how to find the best product to sell online and market it effectively to your target audience.
The eCommerce world is booming. If once upon a time, it was unthinkable to purchase a product from someone on the other side of the world, today, that is an everyday reality.
In fact, e-retail sales account for 14.1% of all retail sales worldwide. Moreover, it's expected more than 95% of all purchases to be conducted via eCommerce by 2040.
But the rise of eCommerce also means fiercer competition, a more saturated market, and customers looking for outstanding customer experience.
But don't get discouraged. Even if the competition is fiercer and the market is saturated, there are still over 2 billion digital buyers in the world. And many of them make an online purchase once a week or more frequently.
So, how do you find a product that will sell well, but won't cost you thousands to market in a competitive niche?
We've prepared a comprehensive guide that will walk you through every aspect of how to choose what to sell online and successfully market the product to your target audience.
What Products Are Selling the Most Online?
There are two major types of products: commoditized and niche products.
The commoditized products are the products every person needs on a daily basis, such as food, clothes, toys, or furniture, for example. The commoditized products market is huge, but also quite saturated. Moreover, it's "ruled" by some of the major eCommerce giants like Amazon and Target. In other words, breaking into this market would be challenging.
The niche products are one-of-a-kind products aimed at a specific demographic. They're unique and offer something different than the standard commoditized products on the market.
Unlike the commoditized market, the niche market is not as saturated and doesn't have such a large consumer base. The good news is that as these products are more unique, some of them even hand-made or sustainable, you can potentially earn more per sale.
How Do I Decide What to Sell?
Find Niche Products That People Are Passionate About.
There are some evergreen niches that will always sell. In these evergreen niches, there are people who will always be willing to pay for you to solve their problem.
Some of these niches include:
- Diet and weight loss.
- Making money.
Why are these niches evergreen? Because they sell what people want on a profound and fundamental level:
Yes, these niches can be highly saturated, but they're also massively broad, which means there's plenty of room.
Find Products That You Are Passionate About.
Another option is to build a business in a niche you're passionate about. For example, if you're passionate about hiking, one fantastic idea is to start selling hiking gear.
Even if you eventually decide to start selling products in a niche that doesn't interest you that much, it's not all so bad.
Once you build a successful business and make a substantial profit, you can focus on your passions. You'll even get to enjoy your passions more as you'll be under no pressure to make money.
Research Ideas in Google Trends.
Google Trends is a useful tool that lets you know the seasonal trends of certain products. It can be a great method for choosing what to sell online and get on the right path.
By using this tool, you can do a quick search and discover a popular and skyrocketing niche.
A word to the wise: when looking for a rising product, make sure you change your range from "past 12 months" to "2004-present." It will help you get a clearer view of whether a product's search volume increases or decreases.
Here’s an example of a rising product in Google Trends: yoga ball.
The picture above shows that there has been a rising popularity of the product since around 2012. However, this doesn't mean that you should start building your online business based on this trend. It's important to monitor this trending product for some time to see if something changes.
Here's an example of a product with a steadier search volume over the years:
As you can see from the photo, the term "espresso machine" has had a steady search volume, with a few ups and downs over the years.
However, for the most part, the search volume for this niche is pretty stable. This shows that the espresso machine niche was, and still is, quite popular.
Interested to see how a declining search volume of a product looks like in Google Trends? Here's an example:
As it's apparent from the photo above, Blackberry mobile phones reached their search volume peak in 2008, and everything went downhill from there. Meaning, Blackberry mobile phones are no longer a good business idea.
Expand From Your Main Product.
Let's say that you ran a search on Google Trends and found that espresso machines are a steady business. You surveilled the search volume for a few months and decided to start your business selling espresso machines.
But now you want to expand your store to include more products.
What do you do?
You use Google Trends again to find related products.
Simply type "espresso machine" into Google Trends and scroll down to the bottom where you’ll find "Related topics."
Here, you can see that people also search for products such as milk frothers, coffee beans, French press, coffee grinder, and shot glass. So, if you decide to expand the product collections in your store, adding these products might be smart.
Look for a Product That Has a Specific Group of Consumers.
Let's imagine that your audience are the conscious consumers. If you do a quick search, you'll come to studies such as the survey by Neilson, which found that 48% of US consumers say they would most certainly or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.
In other words, conscious consumers are interested in learning more about how a specific product is produced and sourced. They won't buy a product that's not vegan, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free.
Meaning, for every plastic straw producer, there's a producer that sells vegan and eco-friendly reusable drinking straws.
A specific audience is a great business move because people in this group are passionate about a cause and are willing to pay more if it helps their cause.
Here are a few great niche ideas for 2020:
- Eco-friendly versions of everyday products.
- Preplanned meals.
- Marijuana and CBD products.
- Handmade & minimalist jewelry.
- Pet food.
- Cruelty-free beauty products.
- Camera and photo accessories.
Make Sure the Timing Is Right.
Starting a successful business also means paying attention to the seasonal trends of a product. As we saw in the examples from Google Trends, every product has its peaks and dips. Well, these peaks and dips can greatly influence your monthly sales.
For example, during high season, there will be greater demand for a specific product, and competition will be fiercer. During dip times, sales will drop.
Let's say you decide to sell knitted scarves. If we do a quick search on Google Trends, we can see that the demand for knitted scarves peaks during December and January, and it's the lowest during the spring and summer months.
Maybe you decide to start your online business in July. As the demand for winter scarves doesn't peak until November, you may be feeling discouraged and scared that you chose the wrong product.
However, starting your business in July might be a good idea. You'll have a few months to build your knitted scarves business so that when November/December arrives, you'll be ready to go.
Just do your research beforehand so as to know what to expect.
Sell Products That Solve a Problem.
Every entrepreneur is excited about the product they're selling. But customers don't really care about the product. They want their pain to be relieved or their home to be improved, for example.
In order for a customer to give you money, you'll have to tell them how your product is going to help them solve a problem.
Don't sell a microwave by saying that it costs $50 cheaper than other microwaves. Instead, say how your microwave will cook their food faster than other microwaves out there.
Don’t sell your product. Sell the solution.
For this, you need to think of a product that will solve a person's life. A good place to start is by reflecting on the problems in your life or the people around you.
You can also think of a product that already exists and add some improved features to it.
As an example, let's take the well-known skincare company The Ordinary.
The company completely changed the way people think about and buy skincare products.
What did the company do differently?
Instead of confusing customers with a complicated list of 20+ ingredients with made-up names like Pro-Xylane, The Ordinary'sproductsonly contain a few active ingredients. These active ingredients are ingredients that have been used and understood for years, like vitamin C (a brightening antioxidant), retinol (a fine-line fighter), and hyaluronic acid (a hydrator). No fancy fragrances, no celebrity ads, and no exaggerated promises on the bottles.
The company made it easier for customers to understand what ingredients each product contains, with clear and straightforward explanations of how those specific ingredients help the skin.
Simple, yet powerful.
How Can I Start Selling Online?
Build an eCommerce Store.
One way of selling online is by building your own eCommerce store.
Having your own store gives you more freedom and the opportunity to design your store as you have imagined.
If you decide to build your store, you have two options: hire a developer to build your custom store from scratch or build your store with an eCommerce platform such as Wix or Shopify.
Creating a custom eCommerce website may be more expensive.
You'll need to pay an experienced eCommerce shop developer to build your store, and you'll need someone to maintain and upgrade the site throughout the year.
This option is also time-consuming, something you may grow to detest as you'll want to focus on the business side of your company and not the technical.
Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce come with every feature you need to run a successful eCommerce business. Using ready-made platforms, you can start an online business with a nominal cost and in a few days. You can also customize the store as per your requirements at a very reasonable price.
Here's a chart of the 10 best eCommerce platforms along with their cheapest monthly plans:
bloggers and hobbyists
businesses that need a wide range of sales tools
medium and large enterprises with deep enough pockets
creating a store with attractive design
$26 per month
companies looking for an easy way to sell online
$17 per month
companies looking for an easy way to sell online
$17 per month
small companies that aren't looking to scale up soon
businesses that want more control over their site
To sum up, there are dozens of eCommerce platforms to choose from, all with their own set of pros and cons.
The best eCommerce platform for you will depend on the nature of your business, your preferences, budget, and the size of your store.
For example, Wix is best suited for businesses looking to create an attractive-looking store while WooCommerce is a top choice for bloggers and hobbyists looking to expand into eCommerce.
BigCommerce, as the name suggests, is best for companies looking for a scalable solution and a range of built-in features.
And if you're not the tech-savvy type, consider choosing an eCommerce platform like Exai where a team of professionals will build and manage your store for you.
Sell via Social Media Platforms.
Selling on social media platforms has become highly affordable, popular, and convenient. With Facebook'sMarketplaceand Instagram'sShop Nowfeature, social media platforms are making it easier for online store business owners to sell their products.
Social media platforms have a large consumer base that spends hours and hours every day online. Here are some statistics:
- In 2020, an estimated 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide. (Statista)
- 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers are active social media users. (Emarketer)
- Users spend an average of 3 hours per day on social networks and messaging. (Globalwebindex)
But how do you know which social media platform is right for your business, or whether you should consider multi-channel selling?
The answer to that question lies in the type of product you're selling and your target persona.
Do a quick research and see on which platform your target group spends the most time.
For example, Facebook can be a right platform for any business. Why? Because it has a massive audience reach, offers targeted advertising, and provides powerful analytics.
If you're selling a visual product like let's say yoga leggings, Instagram can be another great platform for doing business. It's highly popular with the younger generations and has a very appealing visual aspect.
YouTube, on the other hand, offers a unique way to connect with your customers. You can turn your blogs into video content, visually show your products, or give your viewers press releases.
Sell on eBay and Amazon.
Suppose you don't want to be bothered with maintaining your own site, managing costs, and updating plugins and functionalities. In that case, you can always sell your products through some of the biggest eCommerce platforms, such as Amazon and eBay.
Here are some statistics to consider:
- Amazon has more than 300 million user accounts, and roughly 100 million Amazon Prime members.
- Around 54% of all product searches start on Amazon and not on Google or Bing.
- eBay is the second most popular eCommerce platform, with over 182 million active buyers.
- 35–64-year-olds make up 61% of eBay’s audience.
Selling your products on these platforms means free traffic, less time spent on building your own store, and less risk. But you can always choose to sell your products on these platforms, in addition to building your own store.
If you decide to do business through eBay, keep in mind that prices on this platform tend to be quite low. In other words, it can be hard to make a profit. Make sure you have a good product that you believe will sell in larger quantities.
Amazon is the high-end platform, and if you want to sell your product here, you'll have to go through a strict screening process. Prices here tend to go higher, making it easier to make a profit.
Additional Tips for Selling Online
Create High-Quality Product Content.
Many entrepreneurs tend to simply describe their products instead of explaining how that product is going to solve customers' problems and improve their lives.
Your product content must inform and persuade customers to make a purchase. The content must explain the features and benefits of buying the product.
A good tip is to always have your target persona in mind when writing your product content. Address your target audience directly and personally.
Think and answer these questions:
- What words does my target audience use?
- What words does my target audience hate?
- What questions does my target audience ask that I should answer?
Think of how you would explain to a customer that walks into your store why they should buy your product and put those words into your eCommerce copy.
A second tip is not to get overly excited about the product's features, and instead, say what's in it for your customer. How is that feature going to make their life easier or more enjoyable?
Here's an example of a bad copy where it's all about you and the company:
Strawberry Sneakers is a leading US athletic shoe company with a wide range of sneakers for men and women. We are proud of our creative designs and high-quality materials.
We are passionate about our eco-friendly approach, and we take great pride in our promise to help save the planet, one step at a time.
But customers don't care about you; they care about themselves.
So, you should convert that copy into something like this:
When you buy a pair of Strawberry sneakers, you'll feel like you're walking on clouds. The soft materials of the sneakers will wrap around your feet like cotton, and you'll feel confident to walk to the moon and back.
And when you wear our sneakers, you can be proud that you're keeping yourself healthy, and at the same time, doing the same for the planet.
This one overshines the other one, doesn't it?
Our final tip for you is to appeal to your readers’ imagination.
As your customers won't be able to hold the product in their hands or try it on, you need to write a copy that lets them imagine what it would be like to own your product.
Here's a short example:
Discover incredible baking, grilling, and roasting with a multifunction oven from PGM. Master new flavors, and impress your friends with a steam oven. See how it is to be in charge of charring the meat stuff and searing delicious slices of fresh pineapple.
Create a Strategy to Market to Your Potential Customers.
Ecommerce marketing is promoting your online business to potential customers by using a range of marketing channels. The goal is to bring those customers to your site,convince them to become paying customers, and retain them post-purchase.
You can have the best product on the market, but if you don't know how to sell it, no one will buy it.
Luckily for you, there's a wide range of eCommerce marketing strategies that can help you attract potential customers and convert them into paying customers.
- Content marketing: content marketing involves creating and promoting relevant, unique, and consistent content in order to attract and retain customers. It can include blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, white papers, and more.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO includes things like producing content with targeted keyword phrases, adding image ALT tags, and doing internal page linking with anchor text, among plenty of other things in order to rank well in search results.
- Paid marketing: Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a popular strategy for reaching to potential customers and getting them interested to buy your product or service. There are a few types of PPC ads that your online businesses can benefit from, including Paid Search, Display Ads, and Product Listing Ads.
- Email marketing: email marketing requires a strategic, thoughtful approach. The first step is to build a sizable email list by offering a weekly newsletter or giving something for free. The next step is to start converting those subscribers to paying customers. You can do so by sending them promotional offers, abandoned cart reminders, product updates, and more.
- Influencer marketing: this type of eCommerce marketing is pretty straightforward. You collaborate with a social media influencer who has a niche audience to promote your product. The influencer already has loyal followers who trust their recommendations, so when they promote your brand, it feels less intrusive and more reliable.
- Affiliate marketing: affiliate marketing companies sell products online for other companies. It means you're paying a commission to an affiliate website for any sales generated through them.
Choosing what to sell online in a saturated market with fierce competition is a challenging task. Especially if you have a tight budget, making a mistake can cost you your business and get you discouraged to "dust yourself off and try again."
Hopefully, this post gave you a tip or two for how to smartly choose the best product to sell for your business and get you started on your entrepreneurial journey.
Now, it's time to launch your online store and start driving traffic to your website.