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William Harrington

E-commerce is booming right now due to the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.

One recent Adobe report notes that it’s up 77 percent so far year over year. It’s smashing expectations. If there ever was a time to get into it it’s now. But you’ll need products to sell.

Part of being a good e-commerce seller is knowing how to find the best products to sell. You’re going to want to figure that out first before you even think about finding a supplier. And if you want to do that, you need to have the right tools.

The New Product Sourcing Mindset

When you start trying to brainstorm products you’ll be able to break them down into three distinct categories. One is things that are instant gratification and non-essential. Things that are nice to have. Fads often fall under this — remember Furbies?

But in the Internet era, fads and other instant gratification non-essential products turn over incredibly quickly. Some companies might try to capitalize on a trend, order a lot of inventory and then find out it’s worthless by the time it gets to them.

 Other products may have unquantifiable benefits but a powerful emotional benefit and long-term effect. These can be harder to sell but are often based on a strong emotional appeal.

 But the top type of product you should be hunting for in your quest is something that solves an immediate need. These are appealing and tend to sell well.

There can be some overlap between these categories, but by and large any product you choose will be in one of these three. You should also make sure you can make margin enough to stay afloat.

Amazon, eBay, and Other Online Sellers

Amazon is among the world’s largest companies, and as Amazon moves, so does e-commerce. It’s the best place to start when you’re trying to gauge demand.

There are tools like Jungle Scout that allow would-be sellers to quickly and easily find products to sell. The best seller rank will give you an idea of how well something is selling manually, but Jungle Scout automates parts of that process and allows you more fine-grained control over your searches. It’s a powerful tool for figuring out what products you want to carry.

EBay and other online sellers have their place too, especially in niches. EBay gives you access to product data in real time, something Amazon is less inclined to share.

All of these methods are useful for one reason: they get to the very root. What’s selling already? Don’t go into too competitive a niche, but also don’t go into a dead one. Find products that are moving well and have opportunity for growth.

Search and Social

Google search isn’t a direct proxy for product demand because there are plenty of other queries that can gum up the works. But it can still be useful. From this and shopping engines you can gain an understanding of how many people are searching for an item and how many of those searches look legit. A set of good SEO tools can help, particularly if they let you figure out which keywords have selling intent and which don’t..

Social media can help too, especially visual and active platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. Pinterest in particular is a great way to reach into smaller niches.

Look at the posts that do numbers. What drives people? Once you’ve come to that conclusion about an item that looks promising you can research it through your more numbers-based tools.

Sourcing a Product

After you’ve figured out what you want to sell, you have the problem of figuring out where to source it from. Because you’re not just looking for a product, you’re looking for a supplier.

Many go directly to Alibaba. There you can search by product or by supplier, but if you have a product already supplier is the way to go. Setting up a supply chain takes three things: price, quality and lead times. Every factory or seller you purchase from needs all three in place to some degree. You decide what matters most to you.

Alibaba is decent for this, but it has its shortcomings. When you’re dealing with any sellers, but especially sellers on Alibaba, you need to make sure of their bona fides.

Wholesalers and trading companies do a lot of business there too but if you’re going to do something big, it starts with building a relationship with a factory. Middlemen add extra margins, and extra margins are important to keeping your business going.

Chinese companies are given a certificate that states what they’re legally allowed to do when they’re in business. You can ask for a copy of this at the beginning to make the process easier.

Some e-commerce sellers also go directly to sourcing agents and agencies like this one. This is a good option and a safe one (less chance of getting ripped off), but the agent will take a cut off the top.

Getting the Right Products for Your Business

Choosing the right product is a matter of finding the right item for that moment in time on that platform. Then you build a supply chain that won’t be shaken.

With the right products and the right partners you can set yourself up for success.

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