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E-commerce is one of the fastest-growing industry sectors in the world. In 2019, e-commerce made about $3.5 trillion in sales. By 2021, e-commerce sales are expected to hit a whopping $4.9 trillion.

However, the success of individual e-commerce brands largely depends on how well the product meets the market and target buyers. Many e-commerce brands overlook this and end up falling flat on their faces in the first months of business.

It’s like punting a really great football toward the goal — but you’re blindfolded. Many people have their eye on how the product excites them, their team, or their immediate circles, and forget to look ahead at exactly how and where the product will be received by the market and target customers.

Product validation is therefore essential for making sure your product will have the market demand and committed buyers to support your product along its path to success.

1) Take to an Online Community Such as Reddit or Facebook

The first step to take in validating your product is to search for online communities of people who might be interested in your product. At this stage, don’t worry about trying to sell or advertise your product. Instead, look for Facebook groups and subreddits you can bounce ideas off of, ask advice, and eventually build a brand community from.

For example, if you want to develop a product for crossfitters, you might join the obvious r/crossfit and r/athletics subreddits, while also looking into related interests like r/weightlifting, r/fitmeals, r/fitapparel, etc.

Or, say you are considering manufacturing Japanese knives for at-home chefs. You could join r/culinary, the New York Times Cooking Community on Facebook, r/cooking, or even create your own group for a related interest (e.g. “At-home Sushi Chefs” or “Japanese Knife Technique”).

Try to think of all the different communities that might cross over into your target audience and post to these communities, taking note of which groups or demographics really take the bait. The point here is to validate if demand for your product exists and, if so, where.

As you engage with these communities, what you do not want to do is spam them with ads. If you created a group, consider contributing meaningful content and information, such as how-to videos, research, or engaging articles.

Once you have a hold on where the demand is at, consider asking these communities how you could best solve the problem your product would one day meet for them.

If you’re thinking of manufacturing a new kind of toothbrush, you could ask, “What would make you change toothbrush brands?” or “What is your biggest challenge when brushing your teeth?” Keep track of who is responding and how you could adjust your product design to meet the most common problems and requests.

In addition to pooling the crowd for general information, you could also pitch a prototype of your product to online communities, or even send out samples.

Ask them: 1) if they would ever purchase your product / what might convince them to 2) how, when, why, and where they might use your product and 3) what they would change about the product. Help them feel included in creating and revising a new product they can purchase in the future.

2) Build Out a Product Rendering Using Sourcify’s Very Own Tool

Once you have a better idea of the demand and target audience for your product, you can begin sketching out a product rendering. Some people do this by hand, while others use visual product rendering software.

Sourcify has created a 48-hour sketch turnaround tool that develops product renderings quickly and much more professionally than a hand-drawn sketch. Having a professional-looking, dimensionally accurate rendering can help you better communicate your idea to manufacturers without important features or requirements getting lost in translation.

So far, over 1,300 members of Sourcify’s Product Sourcing School have tested this out, and 97 percent of people have been able to bring their e-commerce idea to life.

3) Create a Series of Test Landing Pages and Ads

The final stage in product validation is creating landing pages and ads to test how your product will fare in the real world.  

First, consult the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to see the frequency at which terms related to your product are searched each month. You can also consult Google Trends data to see the popularity of certain queries across countries and languages.

Once you have a landing page you’re reading to publish, run a high-quality video or image using Facebook ads and keep your target audience in mind. Make sure the ad you create sends your visitors to the landing page, and use Google Analytics to track the traffic that comes in. You can provide a purchasing option at the end of this process, or simply a preorder or pending product announcement.

While you gained information about customer interest from Reddit and Facebook, Facebook Ads and landing pages can help you measure customer commitment. Rather than imaging whether potential customers will take the plunge and buy, you can run this small test and see real commitment to purchase your product.

From Validation to Product

Now that you have a validated product, there are steps you can take to begin manufacturing and shipping your product on a large scale. Now that you know there is a market and buyer base for your product, you can move forward by launching your successful e-commerce business.

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