Starting your own eCommerce business is a great way to earn an income considering the recent growth in internet sales. If you’re looking for what to sell online then you can follow our post below to find the best products to sell on eBay, Amazon and your own eCommerce websites. You should be familiar with some aspects of business before you start or you must be willing to learn.
It’s better to have a business plan but nowadays so many online sellers just throw themselves into the deep end and just go with what works. You can do small tests to see if products sell and if they don’t then you can dump your stock and try something different. On top of this there are plenty of market research tools available to help you pick the best items to sell online.
When selling online you should be familiar with:
- Customer Service
- Web Development
- Accounting & Book Keeping
- Taxes and Duty
- Payroll (if you have staff)
- Logistics & Distribution
- Market & Competitor research
All of these skills aren’t a necessity as you can go through development and reinvestment phases when you first start selling online by over hauling and stream lining your business when you learn and develop new skills and have more money. You can also hire people to do some development like webdesign and other tasks using third party freelancer platforms and development companies like digital marketing agencies however you will need more capital up front to do this so it may be worth learning the ropes yourself.
Starting your own online business can be a rewarding and fulfilling job and you can choose your own hours and set your schedule to what you like. You can work part time or full time when running an online business. You can also grow the company quickly and then make gradual investments by approaching crowd funding sources, angel investors or the bank to help you develop faster.
Market Research to Find Products to Sell Online
One of the biggest problems online sellers face is where and how to find products to sell online. In this article we will be disclosing a great way to source products that not only sell but sell very well and have high profit margins.
Terapeak is an online app that shows you what sells online by monitoring historical eBay sales data. You can find information on millions of products including retail prices, product turnover, competition analysis, average monthly sales and from all this data you can find a profit margin that your competitors are making.
You can also see things like product trends and how likely the product is going to sell in the future. What you want to be looking for is gradual emerging trends that have a shortage of suppliers and a high demand. The product trend will be gently sloping upwards and the product should generally be high quality, well made and easy to sell and dispatch.
The first thing you should do is head over to the website Terapeak and sign up for an account. You will need to enter your bank account details to get an account but you will have nothing to pay for the first week. You can get a weeks free trial and then it only costs approximately £13.00 per month but it’s well worth the subscription. Once you’ve got a Terapeak account you can start to research products. You can browse the product categories or you can put the product title into the search bar. You can also enter the name of an eBay shop and pull up their best sales and gross profit.
Spotting Strong Consumer Trends
Nobody is really going to tell you what to sell online, you will need to do this research yourself but there are millions of products to choose from and you could technically sell any one of them. The problem you need to overcome is how to sell it for a profit and how to remain competitive when sourcing these products. Another good tool to use when checking consumer trends is Google Trends. Simply put the product title into the search bar and you will see the search history for that product. O.K, this is not sales data but it is a good indication of the popularity of the product and can indicate whether it’s an emerging trend, a dying trend or if it’s a seasonal trend like halloween costumes:
Another good tool you can use to check the search trends of products is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Simply head over and create an account and go to Tools > Keyword Planner and put the product name into the search bar. If you haven’t got an active campaign then Google won’t show the exact search volume for the keyword so you will only have a rough estimate. If you’re serious about starting an eCommerce business and want a discount on your Google advertising then search online for Google Adwords vouchers and when you sign up put the voucher code in to get a big discount.
When you start your campaigns in online advertising sometimes you will need to spend money to make money finding all of the keywords that will be profitable. To do this you will need to set up a conversion tracking pixel on your website but more on this later. So now you have a product and can roughly calculate how many sales you can make each month but just because the search volume says there is 1000 searches it doesn’t mean you will get 1000 sales.
eCommerce websites will usually have a conversion rate of 3-7% so you will need to calculate or test how much traffic you can receive from the top spot in Google (roughly 30%-45% of the traffic) and divide that into 100 and times it by the conversion rates from the sales rates in your industry to get the rough amount of sales you can make. Below you can see the eCommerce conversion rates by country, device and year.
It’s important not to take too long considering what to sell because it all depends on what price you can buy it for. If you could get any product cheaper than any of your competitors then technically you could sell anything. If you’re starting small and have a small budget then I would prefer to choose an item between £3 – £10 retail price and something that is easy to store and dispatch. So you should be able to stock 50 – 100 items easily and they shouldn’t be too much trouble packing them up and posting them off.
Sourcing Products to Sell Online
Once you’ve got a rough idea of what it is you want to sell online then grab the title of the product from eBay and head over to the website Alibaba. Alibaba is one of the largest websites in the world for supplier, manufacturers and wholesalers. You can get products direct from the factory source all over the world including China and India.
Then enter the product title from eBay into Alibaba and you will see many of the suppliers that sell this particular product. If the seller on eBay has changed the title too much you might not find the supplier and there will be a broad range of similar items. There are other ways that you can find that particular supplier including through the product image.
Many of the products sold online use the stock images from the supplier and a lot of the sellers don’t change the names of the pictures. The supplier will sometimes use the stock number as the image name so if you right click an image on eBay and click “Open Image in New Window” – In the address bar you will be able to see the name of the image as “image-name.jpg” and this should be the stock code. You can try putting this into Alibaba or into Google search to try and track down the supplier of the products you want to sell. You can also use a variety of keyword variations to try and get the right suppliers appearing an Alibaba. Once you have found the sellers and the products you need to start sending enquiries into the product and order some samples.
TIP: To speed up to process of contact suppliers just write one letter. Typically I like to ask:
- How much for X amount of stock?
- What is the MOQ? (minimum order quantity)
- What are the shipping costs?
- How long for shipping?
- What are the shipping terms?
- Are there any loyalty discounts?
- Will I pay taxes on import?
Then what you need to do is a search for a product. Above that search you should see an option to send an automated quote request for a particular product. If you can find the exact product then Alibaba will send your request out to every seller that stocks that item. This can reduce the time sourcing products significantly and all you will need to do is go through the emails and shortlist the suppliers you feel are both trustworthy and you can negotiate a better price.
What Are the Best Products to Sell Online?
Overall I would say that products like clothing can be harder to sell through online advertising like Google Adwords. This is because the items are not exact. For Example: A buyer will type “pink dress” into Google and ten dresses will appear. There is no real way of knowing what type of pink dress that customer wants to buy and they could click your advertisement and find that it doesn’t suit them. On eBay things are different as you pay one fee for the listing and buyers will just browse at their leisure and purchase your products if they like them. It’s less targeted but it’s easier and cheaper to sell clothing on eBay.
A search for a “HP 301 Ink Cartridge” on the other hand is an exact search and there is no deviation in product specification. The buyer wants that exact item and the sale will depend on who has the lowest price, best looking website and the fastest shipping and not who has the best looking ink cartridge as they all look the same. Buyers just want a quick sale, they want it cheap and they want it fast and with no hassle. There are also many other metrics you can use to improve sales such as bigger pictures, more pictures and better quality and longer descriptions. Product reviews will also help to sell your products better than your competitors.
So you can see there is no one right or wrong answer to that question of what to sell online. It depends entirely on the type of product you’re selling, where you’re selling it and who your customers are. Generally I would try and use the Terapeak app to find products with a:
- High amount of watchers & interested buyers
- Low amount of competing sellers
- High sales, good stock turnover per month
- Good profit margin & easy to sell
- Products that you can compete with on eBay & Google
- That are exact search products with no real deviation on spec
- Can be delivered quickly and cheaply by suppliers
- Products that can be posted and stored easily
Due Diligence for Selling Stuff Online
When you’re finding products to sell online you need to do your due diligence. It can be rare but there are sellers on these websites that will build fake profiles and try to scam you. One thing I do is to use a secure payment system that has guarantees against fraud. Never use payment systems like Weston Union or other similar transfer services. Next I will look at the reputation and sales volume on Alibaba and note that there is a difference between transaction level and transactions. I prefer to use companies with real transaction data on Alibaba.
Another good way to check a company is to Google the company name along with the word “scam”. This is sometimes the best way to spot scammers as other people who have been scammed will leave reviews on forums, websites and blogs. If you’re unsure then you can always use a company like China Check Up to verify that the company is real. One other thing you can do this to check the companies website to make sure they have consistent details across all of their web properties. Some companies in China will have several names so this can be hard to do and it’s not fool proof.
Price Analysis For Selling Products Online
Once you have a product and a supplier and you have got the best quote then you can check that price against your competitors. You can either go back into Terapeak and check the prices there or go into eBay and put the product title into the search bar and compare the prices. Remember you will need to add the shipping and duty onto any cost price you have been quoted and then divide the total amount by the amount of items you have, to give you the cost price per item. What I do then is add my profit.
If I can’t add approximately 75% including postage and any advertising and payment processing fees onto the item then it’s not worth doing in my opinion. The fees you need to be aware of are eBay/Adwords 10%, Paypal 5%, supplier shipping costs in and posting items out with free postage for your customers, there are also hosting fees and import duty and VAT if it’s coming from outside the EU.
Some larger companies will work to lower margins and mass sell items at low profit but they have streamlined their companies to do this. Another thing you need to be aware of is how profitable the item is. For the same work can you make money selling something else but make more money? Usually larger more costly items like mobile, phones, laptops and consumer electronics will have the highest profit margins and that’s because there is a larger upfront investment required.
You can also check Google by putting your product title into the search engine and check a few of the prices on your competitor websites. Typically the products will be more expensive in Google as there is less competition and the adverting costs in some cases might be higher although I would say that prices are generally higher in Google than eBay because it’s more technical to sell through Adwords and there are less people doing it so they charge more. If you can’t compete on eBay then you’ll be able to compete through Google Adwords or Google Shopping. (Google Merchant Center)
If you can’t quite compete with the product then usually I will go straight back to the supplier and begin negotiating. You can tell your suppliers what your target price is and see if they can lower the price for you. Another thing you can do is ask about reductions if you purchase more, (purchasing power) so the more you buy the better deal you will get. This means that you will need to spend more initially but you will make more profit and be able to compete.
You can also play one supplier off against another by saying you have a better price form X supplier can you do better and you can negotiate the shipping options to see if you can get your products shipped by sea instead of air but it will take longer and there are many costs involved but it could work out cheaper if you’re buying a heavy load of cargo.
Once you have a price you think you can work with then I would go ahead and order a sample. This is probably the most important and crucial part of not being scammed. It’s better to make a few smaller orders and resell with little or no profit rather than making one big investment and being scammed. I don’t want to discourage you as most suppliers are legit but you do need to be careful. Once your samples have arrived you can then put them up for resale and make a bigger order.
Once you have you have got your products you will just need to go through and check the quality. If you can find any damaged items then write it down and take pictures then before you make your next order you can put in a complaint with pictures and the supplier should send free replacements with your next order.
Where To Sell Items Online
Now you have your products you should have sourced them for the platform you wish to sell on. If you have bought products like clothing then it may be more cost effective to list them on eBay otherwise, if you have exact items with no real deviation then it may be more profitable to sell them on your own website through Google Merchant Center. It really depends on your budget, experience, product and customer. We will have a quick look at the top three platforms and websites for selling online and what their pros and cons are.
eBay is probably the first choice when people want to sell stuff online. It’s a fantastic site because of it’s simplicity and it has little or no overheads compared to opening your own high street shop. The downside to eBay is there is a lot of competition and there are now many sellers including suppliers selling goods through UK eBay accounts. It’s not great to be in competition with your supplier and in my honest opinion they are only damaging their own sales as generally consumers like to buy locally.
I wouldn’t be put off by many foreign sellers even if you have prices that are much higher. Just state in your title (UK) that you’re a UK seller and you will get many of the best local clicks. Also reinforce the fact that you’re a UK seller and pay UK taxes in the bottom of your descriptions. You can use the UK flag or just design a better eBay template to stand out from the crowd.
Business’ with better pictures that are watermarked tend to sell more on eBay. So take the time to do the pictures properly using the right photo editing tools. What you can do is download the image editing software Gimp. Once you have done this then learn how to use the pen or paths tool to cut the around the product and place it on a white background. Then you can add a drop shadow and your logos to make it look professional.
Another part of selling products well on eBay is to have a good shop design and if you’re serious about selling online then it’s worth either learning how to design your own eBay templates, hiring a web designer to do it for you or by using a third party listing tool like Crazy Lister, Frooition or Auctiva. Once you have got a good design then you can fill your inventory and maximize your sales.
Another downside to eBay is the fees which are quite high and when you combine both eBay and Paypal together it comes to 15% of your item selling price and that doesn’t include the listing and shop fees. Professional marketers and entrepreneurs using their own websites and Google advertising could be paying more than 10% less than eBay sellers for their advertising as Google puts the optimization in your hands.
The bonus is you should really only consider eBay as a stepping stone to owning your own company and this is the website that you need to purge customers away from. You can do this by including mail out coupons when you post out the product and try to get repeat sales to your website. You can offer customers 5% discount if they shop from your website and you will still make more money than you would on eBay. eBay it’s a good source of revenue and cheap advertising for any company.
Amazon like eBay is an online marketplace of sellers all competing for customers. Amazon is probably a little larger than eBay in terms of the revenue it generates and is considered to be the largest eCommerce website in the world. Amazon has got slightly higher fees than eBay and the competition is fierce. I think that Amazon does a better job of marketing it’s own website than eBay and their pages also tend to rank a little better in Google search pages.
They also appear more in Google advertising for more relevant searches than eBay making the traffic high quality. Amazon is well know for it’s consumer reviews and many people prefer to use this website rather than eBay because of safety in numbers. People feel that the reviews are honest and aid there purchasing decisions.
Amazon is worth a try and is a great way to get customers to your website and really should be considered cheap advertising and a method to get your business started and customers through the door quickly. There are higher fees and more stringent selling rules but it’s worth the effort especially if you’re selling in the best selling categories and have popular products.
Selling on Your Own Website
For some of you, selling products online through your own websites might be the best option. For those of you without any technical knowledge then there might be a steep learning curve however, you never really get any of this stuff done unless you get your feet wet and learn the ropes. There are different options in platforms when building ecommerce websites, here are a few:
Personally, I prefer Magento for ecommerce websites as it’s easy to install with a 1 click install on many hosting providers and has many useful themes and plugins. Some people decide to use Woocommerce which runs on WordPress however, this is not a suitable option for ecommerce in my opinion because the platform was built for blogs and has a limited number of shopping plugins that can enhance the platform and improve sales.
Magento has some great looking websites templates that you can find by typing “Magento Templates” into Google. It will cost a small investment to build your website using a professional template but it will convert a lot better than trying to create an ecommerce site out of a free blog. Sometimes the cheapest option is not the best as you will waste many more hours building a blog and then finding it hasn’t got the functions you need to make or improve sales.
When selling with Magento, there are a number of great plugins you can use to enhance it’s performance. Here are a few:
M2E Pro is one of the best Magento plugins to use with eBay and Amazon. You can install it on Magento and it will build a single shared inventory across all three platforms. This saves you many hours of making sales on your website and then having to update your eBay inventory. This can also lead to mistakes and errors in stock levels because items can sell out on your website and then you makes sales on third party platforms when you have no stock. This can waste a lot of valuable time and even cause customers to make complaints against you and leave negative feedback.
Magento allows you to list your products on eBay from the back end of your website so it’s a bit like having frooition or Auctiva built into the back end of your site. You can also have multiple eBay accounts, if you have more than one shop and have all the stock managed under one central inventory. This plugin will save you hours of time and is essential to multi-channel selling on sites like eBay, Amazon and Ratuken.
If you’re planning to sell stuff online through your own ecommerce website then this Google Shopping Feed plugin is essential. This will automatically build a data feed file you can then upload to Google Merchant Center.
The plugin will automatically grab the titles, descriptions, pictures, tags, prices, ratings and more from your product pages and put them all into a correctly formatted file for Google to use in their shopping results pages.
When customers type queries that match your products description they will see them appear in the search engines and you will pay a CPC (cost per click) model through Google Adwords.
This plugin is a must if you’re an ecommerce online retailer and you can set this system up to work with Google conversion tracking for you website. What you will need to do is put a a tracking pixel on your shopping cart. So if you use Paypal you will use the option in Paypal setting to redirect the user back to a page on your website that will say “Thanks for your purchase” and have the shipping details on. It will also be installed with the tracking pixel to tell Google’s advertising system you have made a sale and it will record the keyword they arrived on your website with. You can then set automatic budgeting in Adwords to target the keywords that are converting better and reduce the budgets of the words that aren’t.
If you really want to get the most out of your ecommerce website then I would use conversion tracking pixels in combination with Google tag manager. You can buy a Magento plugin to help you set tag ups more easily on your website and when sales are made you won’t just get the data that an item is sold and the keyword used to find your website.
You will also be told what the item was, how much it sold for, the cost price, what profit you made, how much advertising it cost for the customer as well as the keywords they used and all transaction data. It would then export this data to the ecommerce section of your Google Analytics reports, so you can browse through the data and see the ROI for your advertisement campaigns. You could then go back to your Adwords campaigns and adjust your bids or make some changes and do some split testing with your website to improve sales and conversions.
The above set up with Google Tag Manger and pixel tracking works a bit like Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and tells you how your advertising campaigns perform but you can also add more plugins to the back end of your ecommerce website to monitor your business activities.
This is the first thing you should look at when making important business decisions including cashflow forecasting, planning restocking and reinvestment. It’s also handy data to have when talking to your bank manger, partners or investors.
You can easily show sales volumes, profit and performance from your laptop or tablet computer. It lets you manage your company from anywhere in the world by simply logging into the back end of your website.
Dispatch and Logistics
Finally there is a range of logistical tools that you can use to complete the ecommerce package and make your website a powerful tool for online sales. There are a number of UK postal services and a number of plugins you can use to integrate your business with their services including:
By adding your delivery integration would complete the package and allow you to manage your business from anywhere in the world. If you decide to turn your online business into a physical shop you can also use a point of sale (POS) plugin to turn your website into a physical store inventory management system complete with cash registers and bar code scanners that are directly linked to your website inventory. So your website, eBay, Amazon and your brick and mortar shop would all use the same inventory.
There is so much more you can do with ecommerce websites so it really depends on what your needs are. If you have little or no experience in ecommerce then just keep learning and Googling for solutions to the problems you have and if you get in trouble you can always hire a developer or technician for a few hours at low cost from a website like Upwork.
Whatever products you decide to sell online hopefully our post has guided you in the right direction and given you some inspiration for starting your own online business. Don’t forget to check out our other posts on the best websites to sell stuff online as there are more opportunities to make even more sales distributing your products to other third party platforms like Facebook and classified ads websites.