The modern digital seller is spoilt for choice when it comes to starting an online business. The problem is figuring out the best products to sell.
If you’ve come here hoping to see a list of things you can drop ship, you’re going to be disappointed.
Instead, we’re going to discuss how you yourself can find something people want.
So…what to sell online?
Let’s make this clear at the start – being an eCommerce entrepreneur isn’t always sexy. The online market is already flooded enough with cheap garbage.
The top selling products on eBay are usually electronics. The top selling products on Amazon are usually cheap clothes. The best products to sell online are already being sold online.
If you can’t re-invent what’s already there, you need to think of something else.
The more a product is in demand, the harder it will be for you to be seen in that market.
To find something that will sell and really be noticed, you need to get a little creative. You’re going to have to start on the other end of the scale.
A niche is a small section of the population that are actively engaged or involved with one topic.
The keyword here is small. By selling a product that is desired by a certain niche, your marketing efforts are easier. It’s much simpler to establish market dominance and create a top-selling item.
Being a niche seller makes you a master of one thing, rather than ‘kinda ok’ at lots of things. When you are seen as a pro at one thing, everyone in that niche sits up and pays attention to you. By selling the best possible product, you create a long lasting and reputable online brand.
Let’s look at Overdrive Straps. They sell guitar straps. Yep. Guitar straps. Nothing but guitar straps. And they sell online only.
Being able to focus on the development of one product (rather than a whole product range) has let the company become the go-to strap company for guitarists of all levels, including some pretty big names.
By creating the best product they possibly can, they’ve created a top selling product. In doing that, they’ve become masters of an industry.
Some musicians currently using Overdrive Straps are Mastodon, The Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect Circle and The Mars Volta.
By creating a quality product and focusing on a small niche (professional musicians), growth has come quickly and easily. Word of mouth marketing has taken care of itself. With big names showing off their work, Social Media and Social Proof is a breeze!
Using a similar concept when looking for the best product to sell online means it will be quicker for you to start making a profit and easier for you to scale up your business as it grows.
Sell something durable, lightweight and small
Shipping and handling is a nightmare as it is. By selling a product that is simple to ship, you save yourself a lot of headaches in the form of returns.
- If you decide to sell a product that can easily be damaged, make sure that your T&C’s and returns policy is clear. Bad reviews from unhappy customers will destroy your reputation.
- Aim for a uniform shape. If your product is shaped irregularly, postage will become more difficult. If your product can fit into a square or rectangle box, you’ll eliminate more postage costs – and headaches.
- Size does matter. Selling furniture or large pieces of art? Delivery will be difficult whether it’s the other side of town or the other side of the country.
- Think free postage. If your product is small, postage will be cheap. Free shipping is a deal sweetener for online buyers. If you can factor postage costs into the sale price, you will increase a customer’s average cart spend.
- Storage can be expensive. If you plan on having large quantities of a product on hand before you sell them, make sure that you have the physical space to store them.
Lead people into temptation
Not everything that we buy, we absolutely need.
I’d rather spend $30 on a nice bottle of whiskey than buy myself new socks for winter.
I need one but I want the other.
People behave irrationally and our levels of consumer debt attest to that.
Buying online comes with a certain level of anonymity. Being anonymous removes the guilt from impulse buying and may even justify it.
The best product to sell online is one that a buyer considers an affordable luxury.
Not often is ice cream portrayed as something healthy or beneficial to someone’s fitness. Instead, it is marketed as a ‘luxury’, a temptation or even an obsession.
By understanding the temptations and obsessions of certain demographics, you can sell a product that people find satisfaction and validation by indulging in. Quite often, people shopping for products that are ‘guilty pleasures’ are impulse buyers.
Finding a product that is seen as a luxury, guilty pleasure, a rare purchase but an emotionally satisfying purchase can be a goldmine.
Use the local culture.
Melbourne, Australia, is known for its awful looking seats on the train system.
Yet someone has taken this pattern, put it on a t-shirt and is selling it online.
The target audience? Any Melbournian that’s used the train system. Such an original idea has drawn the attention of FM radio and prime-time TV broadcasts – the kind of publicity that can’t be bought.
Uncle Reco is another innovative Australian brand that’s selling online. They’re best products are unique, to say the least.
They’ve taken imagery and memories from the early 2000’s and put it on clothing – in a vulgar, yet humorous way.
Coolabah cask wine was just about the first alcoholic drink for every Aussie teenager under the age of 18.
Take the unique cover art that everyone recognises, change some of the imagery for copyright purposes, put the image on a t-shirt and dress and start selling it online. Suddenly you have a product with a target audience of any Australian between 18 and 35. The best selling product is often a novelty, an ‘inside joke’.
Want to try this for yourself? Think of things that were familiar to your demographic or location growing up. Food, public transport, movies, pop culture in general. Just be sure to change imagery or wording enough for copyright purposes.
Be more than a product…
And sell a service.
By offering a service as well as a product, your brand becomes more valuable to your target consumer.
Schmidt’s Knives offer high-quality kitchen knives, as well as a mail-in sharpening service.
If there is some kind of maintenance or repair required for what you’re selling, offer that service. This enables you to make money from your time and not just a product. People that already own a product similar to yours become your target customer.
Consider the following:
- Sell kitchen knives and offer a knife sharpening service.
- Sell antiques and offer a valuation service.
- Sell decorative prints and offer an interior design service.
- Sell headphones and offer a cable replacement service.
If the product you sell is something people usually only own one of, offer a service that disposes of the old one. (Mattresses, furniture, clothing, cutlery).
Want to keep it online? Offer your time as a service, in the form of audits or some kind of consulting.
Still, haven’t found your best product to sell online?
- You sell phone cases for $3 after buying them yourself for $1.50. That’s a fantastic 50% profit. But for the time and energy spent fulfilling each order, you make a whopping $1.50. If you sell one every hour for a week, that’s a total of $252. Not including other expenses. To easily make a profit, you want to sell products that start around the three digit mark. That means investing time and money in finding your products to sell. The capital to do so many not always be there, so consider a business loan if need be.
- What skills do you already have? What do you love? Being able to make money off something you already know and love makes life easier – and much more enjoyable.
- Everything old is new – Antiques. Frequent thrift stores, buy good quality products and restore them. Often a little elbow grease and research are all that’s needed to make a huge profit on something. Some of the top selling items on eBay are mostly second-hand antiques.
- 3d printing is a boom that’s still going. Invest in a good printer and materials and create made to order products. Alternatively, create your own solutions to pain points. The best selling products are those that solve problems. Sell your 3D designs online.
- Subscription boxes. Buy a wide range of products that compliment each other and put them into online subscription boxes. Eg, every month for a fee, women get mailed a range of cosmetics they’d never consider buying individually.
- Can your work be customized or personalized? Profit margins and sentimentality will be higher if someone can have it just the way they want it.
- Selling something consumable that people need to buy regularly, makes creating return customers much easier. Some of the top selling items on Amazon are household consumables. Experiment with a loyalty program.
- Fan bases are built upon passion and die-hard fans. Browse online forums to find problems that fans of certain topics have. This leaves you open to guest blogging opportunities.
- Spend time where people talk – online forums and Facebook groups. At the time of publishing, the UK postal service is changing their prices for small parcels, throwing the Etsy community into a spin. Solve these problems.
Mark Santer, Besthomegadget: “We’ve worked with several smart home re-sellers, and I strongly suggest to focussing on quality and trends when choosing products to sell. Also, a wise seller should commit to the following two things before going into the market: keyword research to identify demand and competitors research to identify the difficulty of entering the market”.
Still can’t think of a best selling item? Check out Reddit, it can be a goldmine for entrepreneurial minds:
Products posted in here are things that consumers truly appreciate and want.
- Be original and specific- Doing the same thing someone else is doing is fighting an uphill battle – especially when selling online.
- Become the ‘go to’ product in an industry, rather than a Jack of all trades.
- Don’t copy others – you set yourself up for competition immediately.
- Be more than a product. Find a way to offer a service that gravitates around your product – this adds to your brand’s value.
- Use psychology & emotion — Sell things that people like to splurge, indulge in or spontaneously buy.
- People have fond memories of their ‘younger days’. Leverage nostalgia.
- Selling a product that can be shipped easily and with a low cost means fewer headaches for you and your customer.
Finding the best products to sell online isn’t an easy task. It requires an investment of time to see what people want. Get creative, put on your Entrepreneurial hat and you’ll soon find yourself doing things that no one has done before!