The opinions expressed by Entrepreneur members are their own.
For an entrepreneur, finding the right product to sell can be a daunting task. This is perhaps the most important step in building a successful business, and choosing the wrong product can seriously limit your company’s potential. I have successfully launched three different brands over the past ten years, ranging from cat furniture to masquerade masks and suspenders (various as far as I know). I have made quite a few mistakes during this time, but I have also mastered the process of choosing the right product to sell, which I believe can work for anyone starting an ecommerce business.
Before we get into the actual steps, here are the four criteria I look for when identifying a potential product to sell:
The product is hard to find on Amazon and in the US in general: As you dive into the turbulent waters of e-commerce, you want to give your business a chance to win and not compete with the biggest fish in the pond.
Easy to send: As your company grows, delivery efficiency can make or break your business. First, do yourself a favor and focus on products that can be delivered and stocked at a reasonable price.
Its retail value is $100 or more: Higher priced items will help you generate more revenue as a small business compared to low value, low margin items that require large scale to be profitable.
It has something special or unique: Pretty clear! Your product must grab the attention of potential customers online. If he takes good pictures, you are already ahead of the rest.
A personal example is my feline brand DTC. crest + paw. When I adopted my cat in 2016, I was disappointed by the lack of quality cat furniture on the market. The offerings on Amazon and the big box stores were ugly, poor quality, and generally lacking in inspiration. I sensed an opportunity and started researching. Here are the steps I followed:
Related: How to Choose Your First Ecommerce Product
Step 1: Brainstorm
The first step to finding the right product is to brainstorm. Take the time to write down all the ideas that come to your mind, no matter how wild or crazy they may seem. There are no consequences at this stage, so it’s time to get as creative as possible. This process can be done alone or with a group of friends or colleagues, as sharing ideas with others can often lead to new and interesting concepts. Feel free to use conversational AI tools like ChatGPT to get the ball rolling.
One of my favorite (and frankly underestimated) brainstorming techniques is to search Reddit for souvenirs from a specific country or region. For example, if you search for “Japanese souvenir ideas on Reddit”, you might find some unique items that are highly valued but hard to find in the US, such as high quality kimonos. Just remember what you are looking for high quality souvenirs (i.e. items that retail for over $100), not knick-knacks or novelties.
Once you have a list of potential products, start a new Google Spreadsheet to keep track of all your ideas. At first, this document should include the product name and a brief description, but as you delve deeper into your research, you can add details such as estimated manufacturing costs, potential retail price, and any other relevant information.
Step 2. Narrow the Circle
Once you have a list of possible products, it’s time to weed out weak ideas and identify promising ones. At this point, SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush become invaluable. By entering a product keyword, you can see other related keywords that people are searching for. This can help you identify potential niches or products that have high demand but low competition.
Before settling on a product to sell, make sure there is enough variety and search volume in the general category. Instead of focusing on a single keyword, look for broader categories that are in high demand. This will help secure a market for your first product and you can continue to generate new sales as you expand your product range.
Let’s say you start in a niche (like kimonos) but then expand into a broader category (like Japanese-style clothing) as your business grows. This will allow you to establish yourself in a certain market before entering other areas. Think of it like growing a tree – the initial place to plant should be good, but there should also be room for the tree to grow as it matures.
Related: 6 Key Things to Consider When Bringing a Product to Market
Step 3: Connect your ideas with your passion
Finally, it’s important to choose a product category that interests you. Building a successful business takes time, and it’s important to enjoy the work you do. If you are passionate about the product you are selling, you will be more motivated to put in the time and effort to grow your business. Sure, the US kimono market could have a lot of potential, but if fashion bores you, you’re doomed to failure.
There are opportunities!
The world of e-commerce is competitive and absolutely huge. There are thousands of new products on the market every day, and I can guarantee that the vast majority of them are nothing special. This is because identifying the right product to sell and targeting the right audience is really hard, but by starting with these three steps, you can at least give your fledgling business the best possible chance of survival.
Don’t forget that it’s 2023 and we have so many very powerful tools to help us, whether it’s ChatGPT for brainstorming or using Ahrefs for keyword research. Use these tools, define your niche, and you’re on your way to building a successful business.
Related: Before you fall in love with your big idea, find out if it wants anyone