Amazon sellers and experts weigh in on how to pick a good product to sell online: ‘Sticking to durable goods is the way to go’

  • If you’re thinking about starting an e-commerce business, you need to first pick a product to sell.
  • Successful Amazon sellers weighed in on what makes a good product.
  • They recommend starting with small, lightweight products to save on shipping costs.

Anyone can create an Amazon seller profile and begin listing products. But what exactly should you sell?

Insider spoke with top Amazon sellers, including Joe Reeves, who sold $5 million in wallets in a year, and Shan Shan Fu, who earns over $40,000 per month selling socks and tights, as well as e-commerce experts, about how to choose the “right” product.

As with any business venture, there is no single path to success. However, here are three expert-backed strategies for locating a fantastic product opportunity.

1. Start with a product that’s already selling well and tweak it

“The best thing you can do when starting from scratch is find out what is already selling well in the market that is similar to what you want to do,” said Tyler Walter, co-founder of product sourcing company 330 Trading and a close collaborator with US e-commerce brands. Then “tweak it slightly, start selling it, and prove that it actually works before you go and customize something that’s totally new and innovative.”

Let’s say you want to sell Bluetooth headphones. Begin by researching which headphones are currently selling well, which you can do by searching for the product on Amazon and looking for brands with tens of thousands of reviews. Consider the color of the case, the size of the earbuds, and how long the battery life lasts.

Then, “you can say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do the exact same thing, but I’m going to change mine from blue to white and try to make mine charge a little faster,'” Walter explained.

That is exactly what Reeves did when he first began selling wallets. He discovered a wallet brand that was successfully selling simple, minimalist wallets, and “I just emulated their product,” he said.

Choosing to sell in such a broad market as men’s wallets was a risk, he noted, because it can be more difficult to break into than a niche market. However, “that just means there is a lot more opportunity as well,” he explained. “Where will there be more opportunity if there is a market with a billion dollars and a market with $10 million?”

2. Stick with lightweight, durable products

Fu has always sold lightweight items such as face masks, socks, and tights. It’s a wise strategy, especially for new sellers on a tight budget.

“With small, lightweight products, shipping and storage costs are low,” she explained, “so I could make decent margins even though it was a low-cost product.”

Reeves, too, began with a small product. “That’s important because it helps with any sort of shipping costs,” he said. “I can air freight 100 wallets for less than a dollar each.” If I had a purse or backpack, it wouldn’t be a dollar a piece.”

Walter concurs. Rather than fulfilling orders themselves, most e-commerce brands use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Walmart Fulfillment, or a third-party logistics (3PL) company.

“You send them your products with the barcode sticker on them, and they store everything and ship it to your customers,” he explained. “They charge a fee for that, which is determined by the weight and volume of your product.” So, if you’re selling a mini fridge, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to ship it to the warehouse, and then the warehouse will charge you a fee for every day that mini fridge sits, eating away at your profit margins.”

In contrast, “if you have products that are small and move off the shelves quickly, you spend less money paying someone at Amazon or Walmart to facilitate that for you.”

Another piece of advice from Walter: Sell products that are long-lasting and unlikely to break in transit.

“If your goal is to get to profit as quickly as possible with the least amount of headaches, sticking to durable goods is the way to go,” he says.

If you’re selling something durable, he suggests including a warranty: “That’s a great way to get an advantage in the marketplace and a valuable way to make your customers really love your brand.”

Reeves offers a lifetime warranty on his wallets, which he believes is a big reason people like his product: “I think a lot of my success has come from that.” Everyone appreciates a good warranty on their product, especially when purchasing something on Amazon and not knowing how it will perform.”

Of course, if a customer contacts you because their headphones are defective, “you actually have to send them a free product,” according to Walter. “It’s important to choose a product that won’t break easily and that you can easily replace.”

3. Scratch your own itch

If you’re having trouble coming up with product ideas, consider the clothes, technologies, and items you use every day.

“Scratch your own itch,” Walter advised. “Make products that you enjoy and use yourself.”

Starting an e-commerce business, especially if you’re doing it in addition to your full-time job, isn’t easy, he says: “There will be challenges and days where you’re not sure what you’re doing and want to quit, but if you’re making a product that you personally believe in and that you think is useful, that’ll keep you going.”

You’ll also have an advantage if you’re selling a product you know well and use personally.

“If it’s a product you’re intimately familiar with, you know better than anyone how to innovate on it and make it slightly better,” he said. “Looking around at your own life and day-to-day is a good way of coming up with product ideas.”

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