I’ve been receiving a fair number of emails from entrepreneurs recently asking me to tell them what products to sell online. Obviously, if you’re thinking of getting into eCommerce, identifying what to sell online is the first step.
The problem is, this is something you need to figure out on your own. Selling a product online just because you see others doing it is not a great strategy. At best you’ll have a “me-too” product with some sales, and at worst you’ll end up hating your own store and you’ll shut it down.
That being said, you can’t sit around and wait for product ideas to magically come to you. Good entrepreneurs are proactive and they go out and find problems to solve. That’s what you need to do when looking for a good product to sell online.
In this post, we’ll look at some sources where you can find inspiration and discover problems to solve. These sources will help you generate ideas immediately. To make the most of this post, capture your ideas as they come to you. Note every single one down on paper or in Evernote, no matter how silly it first seems. At the end of the post, I’ll describe a process to find a unique twist that you can sell.
Passions and Pains
The best place to start is with you. Look around you and list the products you use every day. Are they perfect? Hell no! There’s always a better way to make those products. So find the ones you care about most and put them in your list.
Talk to you friends and family too. Ask them what products they use and what gripes they have when using them. Keep an ear open for product mentions when you’re hanging out with friends. If you hear them complain about how hard it is to find good makeup, you know there’s something there.
Look at your passions too. Do you enjoy running? Sell running shoes. Are you a globe-trotter? Manufacture a passport holder. Your passions are a powerful source of ideas because you care about them, and you’ll be motivated to create a business out of it.
Take the Minaal carry-on, for example. The company was started by two guys who love traveling but were frustrated with their carry-on bags. They found regular bags cumbersome and unwieldy, so they created their own! Even though they had no product design experience, their passion for travel gear and knowledge of current pain points helped them design a unique bag. Fast forward a few months, and they had raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter.
Don’t get mixed up between trends and fads. A fad is short-lived and people soon forget about them, while trends last for years and decades. An example of a fad is the Segway. It came and it went and the less said about it the better. Selling them online would have been a bad idea.
Now drones are a good example of a trend. They’ve been around for a while and still gaining popularity. Short of government restrictions or outright bans, the trend doesn’t look like it will slow down for a while.
Finding a trending product and getting in on the action at an early stage can set you up for success in the long term. Again, look at drones. There are so many brands now and at least 3 new ones on Kickstarter at any given time. But if you had spotted the trend a year ago, you’d be a top seller by now.
Here are some places you can look at to research trends. Note that just because someone says something is trending, doesn’t mean it actually is. They could just be talking about a fad. Do your own research when reading these publications, and come to your own conclusions.
Springwise – Springwise calls themselves the global innovation discovery engine. They have a free daily publication of the top three trends and business ideas from around the world, so go nuts digging through it!
PSFK – PSFK is one of my favorite sources of new products and innovation. They also cover trends in technology, business, design, and culture which gives you a bigger picture of global trends and allows you to think of products to serve the trend. They also have a yearly “Future of Retail” report which explores the changing forces behind consumer behavior and online shopping.
Trend Watching – Trend Watching publishes a free monthly briefing of global trends as well as local bulletins for emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For larger eCommerce businesses, they have paid services, premium content and consulting to help you expand your product lines and innovate.
Trend Hunter – Trend hunter is the world’s largest trend community and publishes new ideas every day. They crowdsource their ideas from community members all over the world and assign trend scores based on popularity, activity, and freshness.
Megatrends – This is the original trend prediction. It was published way back in 1982, but it’s amazing to see how accurate it has been in predicting trends that have occurred over the last 20 odd years.
The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook – This book teaches you to understand and track trends, and how to use them to design and develop products.
Non-Obvious – Rohit Bhargava is the guy behind the popular Non-Obvious Trend Reports, and this book is his step-by-step guide to collecting, curating and analyzing trends.
Marketplaces give you an idea of what products are selling well and allow you to determine if there’s any demand for your product idea. Head to any of the following marketplaces and see what people are selling. Some of the marketplaces also have regularly updated lists for trending products and best-sellers.
Amazon – Amazon is the most popular marketplace and a fantastic source of new product ideas. They have a Bestsellers section for the most popular products based on sales, as well as sections for hot products, Movers and Shakers, top rated and most wished for.
Ebay – On eBay you can see how popular products are based on how fast the auctions run and if there are lots of bidders. They also have a powerful research tool that allows you to track product demand and pricing.
Alibaba – Alibaba is the Chinese powerhouse that many eCommerce entrepreneurs depend on. It’s more of a B2B marketplace where retailers can connect with manufacturers, but it’s also a great place to find what hot products are being exported from Chinese factories.
GlobalSources – This one is another B2B marketplace where you can find products from manufacturers all over the world, with a large percentage of them being in China.
AliExpress – AliExpress is the B2C version of Alibaba where people can buy single products instead of sourcing in bulk. Again, you can see what products are popular and generate ideas from that.
Kickstarter – Kickstarter is perfect for finding ideas in new and emerging technologies or industries. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen products like 3D printers, electric skateboards and drone make their start on Kickstarter before becoming mainstream.
Etsy – Etsy is a marketplace for handmade or vintage items. If you have some skill in crafting and want to make your own products, check Etsy our for inspiration.
There are numerous blogs that curate and review interesting products. You may not find best-sellers like you do on Amazon, but you’ll find things like $10,000 watches and $20,000 speakers. It may inspire you to think of a really unique product.
• The Cool Hunter
• Cool Hunting
• Bless This Stuff
• Cool Material
• Gear Moose
Pinterest initially started out as a bookmarking site for products. The idea was to “pin” your “interests” and share that with friends. It’s grown into more than that now, but there’s still that heavy product focus. Similarly, other sites have cropped up around this idea of bookmarking and sharing interesting products. When you look through them, you’ll see what consumers want most and you can come up with ideas around that.
How To Use These Sources
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be a me-too product. That being said, you don’t need to invent a brand new technology. All you have to do is come up with a unique angle for a product that you might want to sell.
The unique angle could be a new feature. Have a look at reviews for existing products on sites like Amazon and see what people are saying about them. You might find people complain about the lack of a crucial feature in a product, or asking for certain features that aren’t there. That’s an opportunity you can cash in on.
Even a design upgrade will make your product stand out. Look at how Nest has been able to build a huge eCommerce business by selling products like thermostats. The only difference is that their products have a way better design than existing ones.
Another way to create a new angle is to pick a different business model. We’ve already seen case studies of stores that use everyday products and created a thriving business just by switching to a subscription model.
You can also try combining product ideas to come up with new ones. We already have pens that double up as USB ports, phone cases that also hold credit cards and dress shirts made from activewear fabrics.
And finally, if you just can’t come up with a new angle, but you really think there’s potential for a certain product, just go ahead and sell it. Good content, better marketing, and top-notch support are also differentiators and can help you beat the competition just as well as a unique angle.
What Are Your Product Ideas?
So hopefully you’ve been going through the sites listed and talking to people to generate new product ideas for your eCommerce business. Keep a running list like I mentioned earlier and when you find something you really think could sell, just go for it.
Too often we hold ourselves back waiting for the perfect moment or perfect product. It’s never going to come. You just need to jump into the deep-end and hustle like a real entrepreneur or you’ll never get started.
If you want feedback on your product ideas, contact us HERE and you will receive a free 15 minute design consultation.