The competition for online consumer traffic and sales has never been steeper.
92% of online SMBs claimed they had significant growth from their online channels in 2021.
If you plan to launch an ecommerce store this year, you’ll need a strategic sales and marketing plan to help you stand out. Moreover, you need to source the best products if you don’t manufacture them yourself.
Let’s explore how to find products to sell online and ensure they fit with your overall business strategy and budget.
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Do you love books, fashion, food, jewelry, or technology?
Do you have a hobby, like buying art or collecting dolls? Starting with your passions is often a great place to find product ideas.
More than 65% of participants in a Customer Thermometer study said that “being emotionally connected to a brand made them feel like the company or business cared about people like them.”
So the more you’re able to align with and communicate your passion for your digital or physical products through your online business, the better you’ll attract like-minded, loyal shoppers. It’s also critical to think about what the products that you want to source and sell will say about your business and brand.
For example, if you decide to sell organic, fair-trade coffee beans, you’re promising to deliver a product that is healthier for your customers while showing that you care about the people who grow and package that product. If your potential customers also care about those values, they’ll be more receptive to buying from a site like yours.
However, just because you like a particular kind of product, doesn’t mean there’s a market for it.
Business News Daily defines a product niche as “a specialized or focused area of a broader market that your business serves specifically.”
Taking the time to properly identify your niche helps you to stand apart from your competitors in a crowded online marketplace.
For example, if you love jewelry inspired by or from the 1920s and 1930s fashions but can’t find it all in one place online, you could build a small business that caters to that niche. Or, perhaps you want to sell trendy costume jewelry for young women to wear to work. It all comes back to your passions and which customers you want to target online.
Profiling your niche customers
Get as specific as possible when defining your niche target customers.
Create a document and identify everything from demographics like age range, occupation, and household income to psychographics like their personality traits, lifestyle, special interests, and values.
Using the costume jewelry example, your target customer could be a single woman in her 20s and 30s who works in advertising or PR and makes $30,000 to $75,000 a year. She likes to go out with her friends after work, belongs to a book club, is a foodie that watches baking shows, and cares about climate change and product sustainability.
Once you’ve completed your customer profile, research how they’re likely to shop for your products online. Small business owners can start by reading blogs and consumer studies published on sites like eMarketer, Econsultancy, and MarketingCharts.com. You can also get a lot of free information from news sites like Retail Dive, Digital Commerce 360, and the National Retail Federation.
Look for trends that reveal where your potential customers spend most of their time online and try to learn how they discover new products.
For example, are they more likely to research vintage jewelry through search or fashion and celebrity websites?
Are there specific subreddits and Facebook groups Do they follow influencers on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest? If so, which ones and what are those influencers saying about those products and styles? You can also send out an online survey to friends and family who fit your niche customer profile using Survey Monkey or Google Forms. You can ask them specific questions like:
- What do they love about that product niche?
- Which niche product trends are they looking for right now?
- What products in that niche are they most likely to research or buy online?
- What’s missing from that niche market that they’d like to see filled?
- How much would they be willing to spend on a specific niche product?
- Where do they typically learn about new niche products online?
- Which competitor sites do they currently buy from, and what do they like or dislike about those ecommerce sites?
- Do they buy their niche products from local, national, or global competitors?
- Would they prefer to have products shipped to them if they buy locally, or would they like to purchase products online and pick them up in-store?
- If they buy products nationally or globally, how much would they be willing to pay for shipping?
Giving them specific answers to choose from, rather than asking them open-ended questions, will make it easier for them to fill out your survey. Although, a combination of the two is often necessary. It’s also helpful to offer an incentive to get them to complete your survey, like gift cards and discounts when shopping with your online store.
Once you have all of your answers, it’s time to look for the right products that meet all of their needs.
As you prepare to source your physical products, think about the type of ecommerce business you want to create.
For example, many small business owners start with a dropshipping business model where you don’t need to make or store any inventory yourself physically. Instead, you’d source and curate the niche products on your site while your suppliers would store, package, and ship the items for you.
With a dropshipping business model, suppliers take a bigger cut of the profits.
However, dropshipping is a flexible and scalable way for a small online business to get off the ground quickly and affordably, with lower overhead costs.
As your business grows, you can add your own manufactured products to sell on your site to make a larger profit.
Identifying products you can sell without upfront costs
Where you source your dropshipping products depends on your chosen product niche.
According to SixAds.net the top dropshipping niche categories last year were:
- Home decor and home improvement
- Health and beauty
- Pet products
- Boho clothing and accessories
- Phone accessories
To find the top trending niche products right now, SixAds recommends looking at:
- The top Amazon Bestsellers for your niche product category.
- eBay Watch Count to see what the top eBay shoppers are adding to their “watch list” by keyword.
- SaleHoo Market Research Lab uses data from Amazon and eBay to help you find highly profitable dropshipping products to source and sell.
- Google Trends: Since most people start their shopping journey with a search, you can look at growth trends for specific product keywords over time.
- AliExpress Dropshipping Center to discover the top niche products to source and sell online via AliExpress.
Sourcing those products via dropshipping suppliers
You have many options to choose from when sourcing products for dropshipping.
Access a network of sellers via ecommerce marketplaces
One of the most common places to start sourcing your products is via an ecommerce marketplace that connects you to a large network of manufacturers and sellers. As mentioned earlier, the AliExpress Dropshipping Center is a good place to start.
Additionally, you can research and contact niche dropshipping marketplaces like BrandsGateway for luxury brands, Buy2Bee for clothing and footwear, UniqBe for IT and electronics products, Gold-N-Diamonds for jewelry, and Wholesale Interiors for furniture.
Choose high-quality niche products via wholesale supplier directories
Directories like InventorySource.com give you access to thousands of high-quality wholesalers and suppliers for niche product categories.
Keep in mind, however, that they charge a monthly subscription fee to integrate and automate the SKU data onto your site. However, some let you look at the content for free to decide whether or not you want to invest in a subscription.
Go straight to the source with brand manufacturers
You can also go straight to your favorite niche brand manufacturers to negotiate a partnership.
Be sure to ask about their revenue share model (e.g., how much of the sales revenue they would keep to store and ship the physical product to your customers), and compare prices among a host of your favorite niche brands. You’ll need to factor that number into your price, along with the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) to make a profit. Refer to our post on product pricing for help when developing the right ecommerce sales strategy for your small business.
Enable manufacturers and sellers to come to you
You can also make it possible for niche product creators to post and sell their wares through your site.
For example, Society6 created a platform for artists to affordably upload photos and sell their designs (e.g., prints on mugs, t-shirts, and socks) to the world. In this way, artists can reach out to them and post their products on the ecommerce site.
Sourcing products for your general online store
If you already own a retail store and plan to launch an ecommerce site, or you’re an online retailer that buys commoditized physical products (e.g., high-demand, essential items) and/or niche products to store in a warehouse, then you have additional options to consider.
In addition to the resources listed above, you can purchase your niche products from marketplaces like Alibaba.com and Amazon wholesale. You can also purchase inventory from wholesale partners like Costco.
To decrease your overhead costs, since you’re renting out a physical warehouse and covering your shipping costs, look for discounts when purchasing large product quantities in bulk.
Additionally, keep in mind that suppliers are currently dependent on manufacturing capabilities during the Covid pandemic. Check in regularly with your suppliers to make sure you don’t frequently sell out of items and keep customers waiting for long periods.
For help with your shipping strategy and setup, read: “Top notch shipping tips for your online store.”
Your online customers are out there
Once you’ve found the right digital or physical products to sell online and launch your ecommerce site, it’s time to build your brand and promote your online business.
From search engine optimization (SEO) to email, social media marketing, and online advertising, the GoDaddy blog can teach you how to launch, market, and advertise your small business ecommerce site to potential customers.
We also cover case studies on how businesses like yours are succeeding online and provide insights into consumer behaviors, seasonal strategies, and more.
If you don’t have a large budget, start with one or two marketing strategies that you know are likely to reach your potential customers and convert sales, based on your consumer research. Then, test and improve on what works. As your business grows, so too can your budget to drive more traffic and sales to your site.
For more tips and steps to take to succeed with ecommerce, check out: How to start an online store.