There are a ton of different ways to start a business online, and one of the most popular is selling physical products.
If you ever considered setting up an e-commerce store or selling on Amazon, the very first step in that process is coming up with the ideas for the products you plan to sell.
If you were considering starting the private-label journey, you'll want to take a look at this guide for how we select successful products to sell on Amazon as well as in our own e-commerce stores
- Before You Start Researching Your Product
- Brainstorming Ideas
- The Basic Criteria for a Winning Product
Before You Start Researching Your Product
Before you dive in and start researching your product, I wanted to quickly cover two questions that we often give about this process.
What’s The Goal For This Process?
The entire goal for the research phase of this process is not to fly from a to z, but rather to find a list of 5 to 10 product ideas that give us the potential for success.
It's not uncommon to start off of the list of several dozen or even 100 ideas, and trim that down to between five or 10 as we work our way through the vetting process.
If we are able to complete the research phase with five potential product ideas to take to manufacturers, that should be considered a success.
How Long Should It Take To Find a Winning Product?
As with most things in life, there's no one size fits all answer for how long it should take you to find a product that has the chance of being successful on Amazon.
That being said most people can find several successful ideas within about a week of starting this research process.
Keep in mind that when we are talking about a week, we don't mean 40 hours worth of research.
Rather, it's usually an hour or two a day spread out across that week using the process that we outlined below
If you are one of the lucky ones and find a product right off the bat, that's awesome, but keep digging and make that list of ideas even longer.
If you're one of the unlucky ones who doesn't find a product right away, don't give up, use the methods we outlined below as ideas and jumping off points and with a few hours of research, chances are you'll find a few product ideas as well.
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that this product research phase is only ONE phase of the process, after we find a few ideas, we need to work through the rest of the process, before we can even think about selling the product.
Completing the entire process (not just the research phase) can often take 3-4 months. Don’t let that discourage you, just keep that time frame in mind, so you know what is and isn’t realistic.
While it is possible to find great opportunities, by blindly clicking around different websites, we've found that there are a few tried-and-true approaches that help us come up with a good jumping-off point.
The first of these approaches is what we call the list method.
The List Method:
Just like it sounds, the list method involves physically taking a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and creating lists of product ideas that you can then research using the criteria above.
We suggest that you start with five different lists which will describe below.
Grab a sheet of paper and start by creating a list of things you are passionate about.
Don't worry at this point if these are products or niches, just jot down as many as you can think of.
For me, I'm extremely passionate about cooking, pets and being outside as much as possible.
Five to complete this exercise those three would be the first things that popped in my head and would be immediately written down into the list of my passions.
I could then take the time to pull products out that I enjoy using for each of those three things or I can leave them as is and use them as a jumping-off point to do more granular product research inside of the Amazon platform itself.
The second list of things is your hobbies, hobbies are slightly different from passions because there are things that you actually do and enjoyed doing (whereas passions are simply things that you enjoy).
While there may be some overlap between this and the passions list, take the time to write down anything that comes to mind as a hobby that you or anyone in your family is involved in, even if you think it may also be included in your passions list.
The third this you should create is a list of problems you and your family have had in the last year or so that a product could help resolve.
For example, if you found a hole in your drywall or had a stopped up toilet, both of these things could be resolved by a product and should be written down on this list.
Additionally, if your son broke his arm or your dog had surgery, you should write that down on this list as well, because there are a variety of products that can help resolve that problem.
More obtuse things, like problems in your marriage, would not necessarily be a good fit for this list because a product would not be able to help solve them.
The first list is probably the most overlooked and is almost always the most useful.
This list is what we call the touch list and just as the name implies, this is a list of everything you touch over a certain period of time.
The best way to fill out this list is to carry your pen and paper with you over the next 24 to 48 hours and simply write down everything that you touch.
While this may seem silly, you'd be surprised at the number of things you interact with on a daily basis that could turn into great products on Amazon.
For example, do you make your coffee with a French press? Write that down.
Did you grind your coffee before you put it in the press? Write down the coffee grinder.
In one simple act in the morning, we've already found two possible products, not to mention the coffee mug, the content near restored the coffee in, and anything else we used to do nothing more than make our simple morning cup of Joe.
If you extrapolate that out over the next day or two, you'll likely end up with a list of several hundred ideas many of which are unique to you and your routines and could make great potential products.
Do not skip this list, it may seem like an overly simplified exercise, but a huge number of successful Amazon sellers have found at least one successful product using this method.
After you got through the touch list exercise, one other list you may wish to make is a list of your past purchases.
After all, chances are if you've bought something online, whether it's on Amazon or anywhere else, that a large number of other people are making that same purchase.
Take a few minutes to go through your Amazon purchase history over the last few years and don't forget to check your email inbox for any receipts for purchases you made on other websites.
Whether you bought these things for yourself, a loved one, or as a random gift, they all are potentially good product ideas and should make their way onto your list.
Using Amazon to Find Product Ideas
It may sound a bit silly, but spending a few minutes cruising around Amazon can actually help you find a whole bunch of product ideas to take to the evaluation stage.
Start By Looking at Categories:
- Navigate to the “Shop by Department Tab on the Amazon home page.
- Click “See All”, at the bottom of the list.
- Take a few minutes to find a category that might interest you.
Doing the Research:
Once you have found a category that interests you, open it up to the category page by clicking on it.
In this example, we will be looking at the “Hunting and Fishing” category, but the same steps will apply to every category.
Just like on eBay, once you are at the category level you will be able to navigate to subcategory pages using the menu on the left-hand side.
Be sure to take a look at the hyperlinks under the category name as well, these are generally the top items being looked at in that category and can be a potential gold mine!
Once you drill down into a sub-category page, in this case, “Fly Fishing Equipment” you will notice even more options along the sidebar (allowing you to niche down further if you want) as well as a new set of “Hot Search Terms” below the sub-category name.
Keep in mind that as you explore these “sub-niches” Amazon is showing you the top products that fall into that sub-category.
This strategy of “niching down” as we explore the sidebar and hot search terms are the best way to find a product that will help you meet your goal of 10x10x1.
Using eBay to Find Product Ideas
Using eBay For Product Research In addition to all of the great products you can find just by browsing around on Amazon, eBay is another great resource for finding product inspiration.
Start by navigating to eBay.com and browsing the all categories section:
- Open the “Shop By Category” tab
- Select “See All Categories” and begin to browse
Doing the Research: Once you have found a category that catches your eye, open it up and start to drill down.
The easiest way to do this on eBay is either by using the search bar (if you know what product you’re looking for) or simply start to navigate through the various options in the sidebar.
When you look at the category sidebar, you will see a variety of great options in the sidebar.
Each one of these could spark a product idea (or even BE a product) that you can private label.
If we drill down one step further into one of these sub-categories, in this case to “Massage Stones and Rocks” we will be greeted with a product search page that has a very similar look and feel to Amazon, but often has different products!
Now, let’s take a deeper look at an eBay listing and see what we can find out about these products.
Each eBay listing has several pieces of information that you may want to grab:
- Keywords in the title: Take a look at how the listing title is crafted and write down the keywords, so you can search for them on Amazon later.
- Number of Units Sold: Located just above the “Buy It Now” button, this will give you an idea of if this listing is moving a product or not.
- Item Description: Take a few moments and read through the item description, this is a great way to gain additional insight into keywords and other product information, like dimensions.
- Check Their Other Listings: By clicking on their username, you can view all of their other listings on eBay.
This is a great way to get ideas for additional products or product add-ons.
Take a few minutes today and look around on eBay for product inspiration, we promise you won’t leave empty-handed!
The Basic Criteria for a Winning Product
Once you have your lists of ideas, it’s time to dive in and see if any of them meet the criteria for a winning product.
While there isn't a one size fits all set of criteria that works for everyone in every situation, there are a few general “rules of thumb” that you should follow.
Fits the Right Price Point:
While there isn't a perfect price point, just like there's no perfect product, we usually suggest that you find a product that will sell on average for between 25 and $50.
In most markets, finding a product that fits this price point not only means that we will have a large enough profit margin on any given product, but also that we won't have to spend an arm and a leg during the sourcing process.
While it's impossible to know at this stage exactly how much the product will cost to source, we can typically expect it to be about a third of the selling price.
Multiply that by several hundred or thousand units and it's easy to see why (especially the beginning) we want to keep our search limited to products that fit this price point.
Additionally, this price range is full of products that meet the 10x10x1 criteria that we like to use.
What is the 10x10x1 Method?
At its core, the 10x10x1 Method is designed to help us find one product that makes 10 sales per day with a minimum of $10 in profit.
Essentially, rather than focusing on all of the nitty-gritty details of product selection, we can use this method to shortcut the process by finding low competition products with high-profit margins.
It's also very easy to see how this method scales, from $100 in profit per day to whatever your profit goals are.
People Want To Buy It
Obviously, we only promisors products that people want to buy.
While the 10 x 10 by one method gives us a good rule of thumb to follow, we need to take it one level deeper to understand that there is enough demand to support us as a seller of a particular product.
Typically, we would like to see a minimum of 10 other sellers that are selling 10 units per day of the same product we are looking to sell ourselves.
While all it may sound counterintuitive to be looking for competition that selling, this lets us know that the market is not dedicated to a specific brand and that there is enough demand that multiple people are going to have success selling in this market.
How Do You Know How Often a Product is Being Sold?
While the only people who know exactly how often a product is being sold on Amazon, is Amazon themselves, there are quite a few useful tools that we can use to get a good estimate.
Our favorite tool for this is JungleScout.
JungleScout is a browser extension for Google Chrome that allows us to view estimated sales on any product result page inside the Amazon ecosystem.
Once the extension is installed, all we have to do is search for any given product and then click on the jungle scout extension and they will give us an estimate, based on their extensive database, of how many sales each product on that page is generating.
We can use this data to give us a fairly accurate estimate of what the overall demand is for this product.
If we see that at least 3000 units are being sold per month (10 sellers selling 10 units a day over 30 days equals 3000 units), it's usually safe to assume that there is enough demand for us to enter this market.
The second important criteria, after you found a product that falls into the recommended price points, is whether or not the demand for this product is seasonal.
While there are a variety of ways to tell whether a product will only sell during a certain season, our favorite is to use Google trends.
if you go to trends.google.com and search the main keyword for the product you are considering, you'll be presented with a graph showing the seasonal searches for the product you've entered.
In the example below, if we were considering sourcing a garlic press to place on Amazon or Google trend for this product would let us know that it is not seasonal.
While there clearly is some fluctuation in different parts of the year, that's common with most products, we don't see a big spike and then a fall to essentially zero searches.
This can give us the confidence we need to know that a garlic press is not a seasonal product.
On the other hand, if we run a search for something like winter gloves, we can see a good example of something with seasonal demand.
What we see in this trend chart is a large spike starting around September and continuing high through January and then falling off a cliff towards the end of February.
While it never truly falls to zero searches, it's always winter somewhere, we can see that there would be a large difference in the demand for this product between January and July.
This is an example of the chart we would not want to see, as seasonal demand, which means we will only have sales during certain parts of the year.
As a general rule, it’s almost always better to have consistent demand because it makes inventory planning easier (not to mention, consistent sales mean consistent revenue!).
Fits Standard Sizing:
Amazon, like most platforms that help use online, charges different amounts for shipping and fulfillment fees, depending on the size and weight of the product.
While they change the specifics of the different tiers from time to time, Amazon essentially uses one of two main classifications for the way that they implement these.
A product can either be standard size or oversized, there are different tiers inside of these two main tiers, but as a general rule standard sized products will always cost us less in fees to fulfill than oversized products.
To fit into Amazon's standard tier a product must weigh less than 20 pounds and the box may not have a side longer than 18 inches.
Making sure that our products meet these requirements, means we will pay less in fulfillment fees and have a higher profit margin.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with selling oversized products, they're typically more of a pain to source and you need to plan for the additional fees caused by it being categorized in the oversized here.
The Shoebox Test
Instead of getting bogged down in the details and using a laser tape measure and a digital scale to think about every product, you are considering, an easy rule of thumb to follow is what we refer to as the shoebox test.
Essentially, if a product would easily fit inside of a shoebox (and we don't have to worry about falling through the bottom, like a dumbbell) it will generally be considered to be a standard-sized product and would meet our criteria for this section.
The Product Isn’t “Perfect”
We have a good idea of how frequently our product will sell, whether or not it is seasonal, and we have a good idea of its size, we need to take the final step and make sure we can launch a better product than Artie exists on the market.
To understand what works well and what's not working with the existing products, take the time to click into the listings of your would-be competitors and read through their reviews.
While it's generally safe to ignore the five-star reviews (they're not very helpful) and the one-star reviews (usually people that are just complaining) the two, three, or four-star reviews can be a gold mine for things that our competitors are doing well and giving us ideas for how to improve on where they have fallen short.
By reading through these reviews, we can get a good idea of what our customers like and don't like about existing products and take those ideas to our manufacturer (in phase 2 of the product sourcing process) to create a better product than what already exists.
If you look at the example above, you'll see three reviews that give good ideas for ways that we can improve our garlic press over the competition.
While one of these reviews is simply complaining about stickers, making sure our manufacturer doesn't put any stickers directly on the product, will result in a better customer experience.
The other two reviews in this example give us good design ideas and have us take a look at a few additional competitors, to understand what's working and not working in the market.
The ideal product will have several of these complaints or suggestions inside of its product reviews.
If all of our competitors have nothing but five-star reviews and glowing customer experiences, this can be assigned to avoid the market.
The rule of thumb to keep in mind is that an already perfect product is not the perfect opportunity for you.
After you’ve taken the time to run each of the ideas you came up with through the winning product criteria, chances are you'll have a few ideas that meet the criteria and a whole list of ones that don't.
Fear not, this is a completely normal part of the process, and rather than focusing on the ones that didn't make the cut, it's time to focus on the winners.
At this point, we are going to take our list of winners (the products you had ideas for that also meet the criteria laid out above) and move them into phase 2, where we will begin to search for a manufacturer to help us in this product creation process.