What Should You Sell Online?

I recently did a Reddit AMA on dropshipping. The most frequently asked questions were about which products to sell online. I decided to write a guide for deciding what to sell online with a specific focus on providing great dropshipping ideas. With that in mind, I want to emphasize that this post holds key tips and tricks to finding products that actually sell. To come up with these kinds of dropshipping ideas, we will be exploring how to use Google Trends products to determine just what to sell online that will generate real profits.

I have structured this article into two to parts: Generating dropshipping ideas and filtering which products to sell online. My goal is to provide a roadmap for generating great dropshipping ideas, and then, to give you the knowledge to strategically filter out the ones which aren’t worth testing. This article will be useful for all ecommerce start-ups as well as small businesses and medium-sized businesses who are looking for new dropshipping ideas, and who wish to sell products online with increased profit margins.

Why Sell Products Online with Dropshipping?

Before we delve into figuring out what to sell online, I want to offer a quick explanation of dropshipping and the benefits of opting for this business model. This way, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the unique considerations necessary for successfully finding which products to sell online.

Dropshipping is an increasingly popular form of ecommerce where merchants import products from third party suppliers and sell them in their online stores. This way, they can cut the costs and liabilities of stocking merchandise themselves. Dropshippers have the ability to decide their price markups and can run their businesses from virtually anywhere in the world.

Dropshipping also gives ecommerce entrepreneurs the freedom to stay on top of current trends because they can easily change the merchandise sold in their stores whenever they want. These are just a few of the benefits of choosing dropshipping over more traditional varieties of ecommerce. All it takes to generate some serious profits is finding the right products to sell to the right market at the right time. Now, let’s explore some of the best practices for generating winning dropshipping ideas.

What to Sell Online When Dropshipping:

Brainstorm Dropshipping Ideas

You never want to start with a blank page. Your head is already full of good dropshipping ideas: your hobbies, products you like such as Google Trends products, and newly discovered passions. Start by tapping into the wealth of information and inspiration you already have floating around in your own brain.

Write everything down that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if you think the product will be a bestseller or not. Don’t skip this step as it provides an important foundation for completing the next ones.

Not Sure What to Sell Online? Browse Other Shops

Back in the 1980’s, Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton was arrested for crawling around stores on his hands and knees. He later told a friend he was measuring the spaces between product shelves to determine how his competitors displayed their products.

At the time, Walmart was making $400M+ in sales, but Walton knew that there was more he could earn if only he could master the approaches his competitors were using to sell their products.

When you browse other stores, look at their offerings, best selling lists, and promoted products. Many stores have a tremendous amount of data and employ entire departments to organize their sales and select their products. Use that information to your benefit. Browse a lot, and browse frequently. It’ll help you come up with great dropshipping ideas.

Here is a link list of stores and resources you should regularly review:

Add to your product list any of the dropshipping ideas posted on these sites that pique your interest.

Visit Social Shopping Sites for Additional Dropshipping Ideas

There are over 100 million products on Polyvore and 30 million on Wanelo. Add FancyPinterest, and even Instagram to the mix, and you have a very large number of products from around the world that can easily be sorted by popularity, trends, categories, and more.

People often overlook these sites in their research, but they are valuable for drawing insights about which kinds of products are making waves on the internet from one day to the next.

Therefore, I recommend setting up an account on each one of these websites. Subscribe to different categories and lists. Follow what people like the most and add those things to your list. When you’re constantly surrounding yourself with inspiration, you’ll quickly come up with dropshipping ideas that have profit generating potential.

Ask Your Friends for Dropshipping Ideas

The next time you have coffee with friends, review some Google Trends products beforehand, and ask their opinion about those items. Don’t limit yourself to your own demographics either. Talk with friends of all ages and backgrounds to get a wide variety of dropshipping ideas and a wider range of perspectives about what to sell online. You’ll likely end up with dropshipping ideas you hadn’t even considered, and these will make your ecommerce store that much better.

Look Around You for Additional Ideas About What to Sell Online

Look around your house, your workspace, and the places in your community that you frequently visit. Are there any products you can’t live without? Which products would make your life easier? Is there anything that is hard to find in the supermarket or at local shops? The answers to these questions could hold the key when your aim is to sell products online that will actually turn a profit.

Consider this: Howard Schultz came up with his coffee shop idea on a trip to Italy and later called it Starbucks. Lots of dropshipping ideas can definitely come to mind while traveling, it’s equally possible to spot them locally in everyday life. Start using your daily life as its own databank for product ideas. Stay alert and spot opportunities. Once you adopt this mindset, you will begin to see hundreds of products and dropshipping ideas each day.

When you’re being active with your ideation you’ll quickly come up with a list of the best dropshipping products for your store. So, be observant, carry a notebook, and remember to write everything down.

Sites to Avoid When Coming Up with Dropshipping Ideas

When coming up with your list of products to sell online, I suggest you don’t look at sites like SpringWise.com or TrendHunter.com. It’s not that they are inherently bad. In fact, they are great for other purposes. When it comes to generating product ideas and deciding what to sell, however, product trend sites publish ideas that are often out of reach for the average merchant because, oftentimes, too many have already jumped on the bandwagon with selling these items. In other cases, these products are simply too difficult to obtain for dropshipping purposes. They’ll provide you with good dropshipping ideas, but they might not necessarily be right for your store. For example, how would you import and promote Wearable Sleeves that Help Stroke Victims Recover or Herb Inspired Fragrances with dropshipping?

How to Successfully Sell Products Online: Next Steps

Once you’ve got your list of dropshipped products, it’s time to refine it. Next, we will be covering how to narrow down your dropshipping ideas list by filtering them under the following considerations so that it only contains the very best dropshipping products.

*Note that your dropshipping ideas list will be ongoing as you continue to draw inspiration and discover new product trends.

What to Sell Online: Filtering Google Trends Products

Anyone can import dozens of Google Trends products their stores in just a few minutes. The tricky part is knowing how to figure out what to sell online based on what will also fit with your marketing campaigns, display well on your homepage, and generally make sense within the context of your brand. These kinds of Google Trends products are called ‘Alpha Products.’ They are items that draw lots of traffic to your store. After you have determined your Alpha Products, it takes no time at all to fill in the rest of the store with cross-sell, upsell, and related products.

Use Niche Filters to Generate Dropshipping Ideas

With the rise of dropshipping, niche shops have become the trend. Niches have since turned from an ecommerce novelty to a proven, successful strategy.

It makes sense. There’s no use in fighting with the big stores for potential customers’ attention. Avoid categories that are too broad or general. The masses are already exposed to thousands of offers daily.

Instead, look to supply niche products that are underserved by the larger players. For example, there is no specific interest group for a normal belt, but you can easily tell that cycling gear will resonate well with cycling enthusiasts. Find your niche. If you can come up with niche dropshipping ideas, you’re already more likely to turn a profit when you sell products online.

The ‘Stay Away’ Categories Filter

Even if some of the products in this category may overlap with the niche filter, it’s essential to narrow down your product selection by excluding items listed in the ‘stay away’ categories.

Some product categories have grown significantly over the last decade, and there are already too many strong players and smaller shops out there supplying these items.

Just look at the ecommerce growth rates: books and the jewelry certainly aren’t making the cut. More than 80% of Americans say they’ve bought electronics or apparel online in the past three months, which means they already have their choice of trusted store.

Cross off the following general categories from your idea list: books, jewelry, electronics, and clothing. You’ll need to be more specific by finding a niche.

Please note: I don’t suggest crossing out these categories entirely. You could sell plus size women’s clothing, men’s clothing, custom hiking/cycling electronics gear, or jewelryhidden in candles. I suggest you pay more attention to finding an interesting subcategory that will make your store unique. Don’t fall into the trap of selling in general categories.

Make Use of the Price Sweet Spot Filter

There are a few general rules to remember: the lower the price, the better the conversion rate. The higher the price, the more support you’ll need to provide.

Andrew from ecommerceFuel says the perfect ecommerce product price range is from $100 to $200. Richard from ABLS argues that it’s $75 to $150. In my experience, however, my sweet spot price is $40 to $60 (at a 200% markup).

Within the $40 to $60 price range, the profits are high enough that you can still cover the marketing costs of up to $20 per sale. The conversion rate is usually higher within this price range than a pricier bracket because the purchase requires less consideration on the part of the buyer. You typically won’t have to offer as much customer support with less expensive items.

For these reasons alone, you increase the odds of the success of your store in developing markets. With Chinese dropshipping, you can sell everywhere in the world. Although you still have to keep in mind that while $30 may not be much to people living in the US, it could be a lot for someone in South America or Eastern/Central Europe.

Bonus Secret: You should definitely try selling in developing/neglected markets. Lower advertising costs and competition equals a higher ROI . Don’t worry about the language barriers.

Therefore, it’s always worthwhile to research different markets when deciding where to sell your products.

At this time, I suggest looking over your list and crossing out any dropshipping ideas that are more than $60.

Use the Marketing Channels Filter to Sell More Products Online

After you learn how to sell products online that have potential to yield a good profit, you have to think about your marketing strategy. Simply having good dropshipping ideas isn’t enough. You must have a plan for how you will sell these products as this is a crucial aspect of being successful in ecommerce.

Marketing effectively is the primary way that you will stand out from your competitors, and being familiar with the different marketing channels at your disposal is going to be invaluable to your business. To put it simply, different marketing channels are going to be most useful for different Google Trends products. Once you pick the product, you have to figure out which marketing channel will be best for it.

Advertising an $800 hoverboard on Facebook might not be the best idea, but you might succeed in advertising it on Google Adwords. A hoverboard is not a spontaneous purchase, in most cases people will Google it to learn more information about it including which stores are selling it.

I’ve spent many hours looking at how other people pick their marketing strategies and didn’t find anything that would meet my needs. I liked Rand from Moz’s tablesrepresenting the ROI, effort and cost of each marketing channel, but it seems to be outdated (published in 2009). There are also a lot of explicit guides and lists of all marketing channels, but none of them position marketing from an inventory standpoint.

So, I decided to do a product evaluation/marketing table myself. Its design is similar to the one from Moz’s blog but based on personal experience along with some thoughts and insights I’ve combed from the internet.

There are dozens of other marketing channels out there, but I doubt that PR stunts, co-branding opportunities, or video marketing will be the right options for anyone just starting their business. However, you might want to consider affiliate marketing in the future, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Remember to examine your resources (time, money, knowledge), and then select one or two marketing channels that are feasible within your circumstances. Next, cross out all dropshipping ideas that don’t suit those channels.

Google Trends Products & Keyword Tools Filters

Google Trends Products and Keyword Tools are a must if you’re going to use Google Adwords as a marketing channel or if you’re just generally trying to boost organic traffic to your site. These help you helps you to see which products are currently trending. Also, you can check the demand of your product dropshipping ideas with these tools.

Keyword Tool

Take a look at your remaining product ideas. Enter each product name and variations into the Google Keywords Analysis tool. The system will then generate data about how competitive the keywords are, which will give you some indication of how much competition you might be up against in attempting to sell those products in your store. The more competitive the keyword, the pricier it will be to use it on Google Adwords.

Select ‘Keywords Ideas,’ and look at how many searches each Low Competition Keyword receives. Especially when just starting out, it’s good to pay special attention to these keywords because they will be more budget friendly, and you’ll be up against less competition when a person searches for that product on Google.

Let’s say you could get all of that traffic and 2% of them would buy at your store. Would this demand be enough? The key is to find a sweet spot between substantial enough demand and minimal enough competition that your products will stand out from the crowd.

Google Trends Products

Go to trends.google.com and do the same exercise here. Enter each of your product ideas into the search and determine the trends of interest, based on search volume. Not only can you have a look at what is currently trending, you can also view data about the frequency of a given keyword search over time. Is the trend increasing or decreasing? Are there any patterns? Do you see any spikes? This information can be very useful in deciding whether it’s the right time to sell a given product. Google Trends can also help you to have a clearer understanding of customer behavior as you can view search data based on things like country or region.

How to Use These Tools to Decide What to Sell

In general, you should avoid product categories that have little or no search traffic (less than 500 monthly searches). If you are planning to grow organically, you should also dismiss all product ideas that have high competition according to the Google Keyword Analysis Tool. Essentially, you want to find the right balance between a search volume that’s not too competitive and but is still enough to indicate that there is demand for that product.

Determine What to Sell Online Using the Seasonality Filter

While it may be exciting to see that there is a spike in the Google Trends products search for an item you are looking to sell, exercise caution.

It could be that the product is in high demand simply because of the time of year. For instance, avoid seasonal Google Trends products like Christmas decorations. By focusing on seasonal items, you’re reducing your sales cycle. Most Christmas decoration sales take place in autumn and winter. These are likely some of the best dropshipping ideas for this time of year, but you’ll need core products in your store that will sell all year long. Take some time to think of dropshipping ideas for your store that aren’t seasonal. Do this by checking product seasonality trends on Google Trends as well.

Exercise Caution by Using the Copyrights Filter

Be careful when you’re sourcing branded products for your store. It isn’t always easy to find suppliers that sell copyrighted products. If you’re sourcing copyrighted products from little-known suppliers, there is a chance that you’ll be selling fake products. Items with logos and designs that are the same or even too similar to other brands can definitely lead to legal issues or at the very least tarnish the reputation of your business. Thus, you can never be too cautious when selecting items on these grounds. We suggest steering clear of anything resembling an existing brand and instead focus on building your own brand instead. This is more sustainable in the long run, and will result in creating a business you can be proud of.

The Competition Filter: the Final Consideration for What to Sell Online

At this point you’ve been able to refine your list based on proven strategies for doing so, and you’re now left with the last remaining dropshipping ideas. The last major filter to consider is competition. By crossing out the broad categories suggested above, you have already avoided competition against giant retailers like Amazon. Still, don’t think you’re the only one out there who has come up with the idea of selling niche products.

Evaluating your competition is an endless task, and there are many ways of going about it. One thing is for certain, though. You need to check whether the product you’re about to start advertising is already widespread among other websites.

Here’s a simple trick:

Google a product, and then try doing a product image search. Look at how many shops have similar items for sale. If you’re dropshipping, most store owners will likely have the same images. Find your competitors. Then, check their pricing strategy, popularity/traffic (on sites like Alexa.org or SpyFu.com), and which marketing channels they are using. Cross out all product ideas that already have huge competition.

How to Find Products to Sell Online: Conclusion

As an ecommerce entrepreneur, you need a clear product selection process in place  to in order to figure out which items actually have profit potential for your business. People often pick dropshipping ideas on a whim, rather than through careful consideration, which wastes a lot of time and effort. Use the filters laid out here to narrow down your list and figure out what products to sell. Take the time to properly research the best dropshipping ideas for your ecommerce store, and test them out.