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Running an eCommerce Business

eCommerce Essentials: How and Where to Find New Product Ideas

eCommerce Essentials: How and Where to Find New Product Ideas

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

3 months ago


eCommerce Essentials: How and Where to Find New Product Ideas

eCommerce entrepreneurs are typically big dreamers hoping to build a successful, profitable business from the ground up. However so many of these budding entrepreneurs fail to grow or even establish a business for one reason – they have no clue how or where to discover the perfect product to sell. Although we cannot offer one magic method that provides an eCommerce merchant with a fool proof product to sell, we can provide a step-by-step guide to help you locate and successfully sell the perfect product for your eCommerce store.  

1. The Type of Product you Want

When setting up a new eCommerce store or expanding your current one, it is essential that you plan what type of product you want to sell. This involves asking yourself a number of critical questions that will help narrow down what kind products you would like to sell in your eCommerce store.

These questions are based on a number of things that you must decipher as a merchant and are imperative in helping you find the right product to sell. These questions are based around your skills, needs and expectations for your store as well as specific characteristics of products. These all will help evaluate the appropriateness of a product to your business and make clear what you are actually able to sell and market effectively leading to you discovering what the right product for you.

There is a copious amount of questions that each eCommerce merchant should ask. Here is a few we suggest:

Do I want a product that is easily shipped? - Your answer could eliminate fragile, heavy, perishable or luxury goods if you are not prepared to deal with complicated shipping processes

Do I have the expertise to sell certain products? – High tech and mechanical products can be too much for an everyday, layman business owner to grasp therefore your understanding and expertise of a product could impact on your ability to sell it

What are current highly competitive/ waning/ rising industries? – Where the industry lies in the product life-cycle has a tremendous impact on whether it is a viable option which should consequently narrow your options

Do you want seasonal or year round demand for products? -  Your interest or comfort with only having a short stream of income versus a steady stream all year should affect your choosing of a product

What are you interested in? – Do you really want to sell a product you have no interest in? Selling something you have a passion for could be easier and more fulfilling

Although this is just a snippet of the questions to can ask, it does substantially narrow down what you want from your business and a product. It eliminates what product characteristics are deal breakers for you and shows what aspects you are comfortable with and could contentedly sell.
2. The Search 

Now that you’ve narrowed down what characteristics you actually want from a product you can start searching for an actually product to sell. Numerous online platforms have been set up so that eCommerce merchants can easily access wholesalers, view their wares and see what is on offer both domestically and internationally.

Where to Search:

There are numerous online platforms catering towards specific countries and the products they manufactured. Etsy and eBay are also platforms that can help you connect to suppliers. However, many eCommerce merchants looking to start up and grow also venture to Asian and in particular China to source their merchandise and there are several websites established for these markets. Alibaba.com is the most well-known but there is also DHGate.com and Global Sources to name a few that show infinite amount of products that available.

How to search:

Searching for products can be a long laborious task. It could take days or weeks until you find the right product for you. Here are a few tips to narrow down to the perfect product:

  • Try to establish what products are popular, on the rise or underserved in your market and use them as search terms
  • Don’t restrict your search – it’s good to focus on one area but don’t let it get too small or else you may be missing out on some interesting finds
  • Start broad and then go narrow - use wider terms at first and then narrow your search to find a niche
  • Don’t stop your search when you find one product, keep looking and build a list of 5 or 10 products that have potential

Record each product that interests you, how much does it cost, how much do you have to buy, potential costs involved, what price could you sell it at and other general observations you have about each product so you can compare and contrast to see what will best suit you

This should lead to you have a list of products that have great potential for your store leaving you to choose which one is best.


3. The Wholesaler/ Manufacturers

After you’ve whittled down your product choices and established what you actually would like to sell, contacting and beginning a relationship with manufactures is the next step. This can be a daunting and complicated step that many merchants are unsure about but by establishing what you are looking for and ask the right questions, it can be a smooth process.

Before contacting wholesalers it is paramount that you know the right questions to ask. Many shop owners just focus on questions regarding cost, which although are significant are not the only issue to be addressed. Asking about timings, other customers, insurance, guarantees, minimum purchases and so forth all are essential questions that help protect you from being burned at a later stage. We advise making a list of everything you wish to know so that you can ascertain what the manufacturer’s policies and procedures are and gain piece of mind.

When it comes to wholesalers it is best to reach out to 4 or 5 different ones at first. This will be beneficial for a number of reasons as you can compare and contrast all aspects of their businesses. It ensures that you are getting the best deal and quality from the manufacturer you eventually choose. 

Arranging a meeting and/or getting samples is the next step in building your eCommerce store. If your manufacturer is local then it’s worthwhile to meet and visit where your merchandise will be made to access the conditions and quality of your products while also helping build a relationship with your manufacturer. 

Unfortunately, using an international wholesaler often means you are limited in your access to where your products are being made. It is essential that you gain as many samples as possible of your products as this may be your only indicator of quality and assurance. 

In addition, when using international wholesalers there may be cultural differences that affect the way you communicate and deal with each other. Educating yourself about business practice in your wholesaler’s country will help deconstruct the cultural barriers. Alternatively, using an agent who deals with international wholesalers may be an extra expense but could save you time and money in the long term. 

Finally, all that is left to do is sell your product. These steps should hopefully lead to you building a prosperous, lucrative and successful eCommerce store. However, finding the perfect product isn’t easy. It’s time consuming, arduous and difficult. Choosing something niche that adds value for customers isn’t straightforward but by following these steps it is possible to find and market the right merchandise for your store. 

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