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A quick guide to finding a product to sell online

5-minute read

Corissa Nunn

9 November 2020

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Planning to join the wave of entrepreneurs who make money finding products to sell online from the comfort of their couch? You might be onto something. Ecommerce and direct-to-consumer industries have been on the up for decades, and coronavirus has shifted the balance even further.

First though, you’re going to need to tackle some challenging questions. What are you going to sell? Not just any product, but the right product, and one that’s logistically viable? Our four-step guide is here to help you get up and running.

How to find a product to sell online: step-by-step

1. Decide on product ideas

A lot of stars have to align for you to make money from selling products online. For one, there’s an element of luck and timing involved. But the other defining factor between success and failure is this: are there enough people who are willing and able to pay a high enough price for your product that it’s going to be worth your while?

To find the answer, there several routes you could go down. Let’s unpack them one by one.

Look for an unmet need in the market

At the start of 2020, almost nobody was selling face masks to non-medics. Let alone fashionable face masks.

And it doesn’t have to be front page news either. The opportunities for creating niche products for a specific target audience are limitless.

But where do you start? Online communities are goldmines for this. Try looking at hot topics in Reddit, or if you already know your general area of interest – for example, maternity – check out niche communities such as Mumsnet. What are people complaining about? Could a product solve their problem? Do they seem frustrated enough that they’d be willing to spend money on it?

If you’re new to the world of qualitative research, The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is a quick (and valuable) read to help you avoid making some common mistakes.

Scratch your own itch

Have you tried to shop for something online and have found yourself disappointed by the range, prices or availability in front of you? Chances are you’re not the only one. If it’s something you feel passionate about, even better.

And there’s another upside to this approach. When you’re personally interested in the product, you’re more likely to persevere through the highs and lows of selling it.

Considering trends for the best products to sell online

If you’re looking for popular products to sell online, one way to join the bandwagon is to find out what’s trending.

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • scour the social sphere for trending hashtags. You can instantly see what’s popular on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Thinking longer term? You can monitor the trends over time (just search the internet for “social listening tool”)

  • use search engine tools to find products. For example, Google Trends lets you see what people are typing into Google (bear in mind, it’s not great for unearthing very niche lower-volume trends. For that you’d need to use the analytics in Google Ads. There are lots of non-Google tools out there too, but it’s an easy place to start)

  • check out the best-selling products on other marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. All of them have a range of lists showing what’s trending and which products are in high demand – across different product categories, as well as for top sellers within product categories. If you’re wondering where to sell online, too, these marketplaces could be a good place to start

Pick a product category with a high margin

Branding tends to play a big role here. The look, feel and name of your product has the power to increase its perceived value, even without changing a thing about the manufacturing process or quality of the item itself.

Products that are considered to have high profit margins (especially for businesses that manage to crack the branding) include jewellery, vaping and e-cigarettes, furniture, and alcohol.

So if you’re not particularly drawn to selling a product that meets an unmet need in the market or scratches your own itch, this could be the strategy for you.

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2. Check that you’re able to source and deliver your product

Once you’ve settled on your idea for the product you want to sell online, you’ll need to get hold of it.

You have three main sourcing methods to consider:

  1. The DIY option – where you take charge of everything yourself, from the design to the manufacturing to the marketing to the delivery. For example, buying a sewing machine and the materials you need to make coronavirus face masks, for example.

  2. Custom manufacturing – meaning that you work with a manufacturer to develop your product to your desired spec, they produce it for you, then you manage the rest of the process.

  3. Working with a wholesaler – in this case, you’re not involved in developing the product. You simply buy a manufacturer’s existing stock from them.

For the last two in this list, dropshipping is an option. This means you never actually take physical delivery of the product, and you’re not responsible for shipping it out to your customers either. It’s handled by the manufacturer directly.

3. Test the water before you go all-in

Think you’ve settled on the product you want to sell online? It’s tempting to get caught up in the excitement and rush ahead. But to avoid the disappointment of launching to crickets (not to mention wasting money on materials and marketing), you’ll want to gauge that you’re on the right track first.

A quick way to do this is what’s known as a “fake door test”. Build a landing page that describes your product as if it exists already, set up a few paid ads on search or social to drive relevant traffic towards it, and have a call-to-action on the page for people to leave their email and sign up for early access. If nobody signs up, it’s a sign that something’s up. And if you’ve done your due diligence to research the demand for the product, you might just need to fine-tune some of the details.

Remember, the one thing you shouldn’t do is ask friends and family whether they’d buy it. Any answers (however well intentioned) are unlikely to reflect the market at large.

4. Get the right insurance

Did you know that if your product and it causes injury or damage to a customer or their property, you could be held responsible?

The level of risk here varies depending on the type of product you’re selling. For example, electrical goods can catch fire, and mistakes on food labels can lead to allergic reactions, and face masks can present a choke hazard to children and pets.

That’s why product liability insurance exists.

Getting the cover you need to protect you against the unexpected, from legal claims to medical expenses, could cost as little as a few pounds a month.

Want to protect yourself when selling a product online?

As one of the UK's biggest business insurance providers, we specialise in product liability insurance and protect more trades than anybody else. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored quote?

Start your quote

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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