The ultimate guide to finding products to sell online

NOVEMBER 30, 202120 MIN READ
The ultimate guide to finding products to sell online

The Internet is full of opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to e-commerce. However, with so many opportunities and possible paths to take, it’s easy for aspiring entrepreneurs to become overwhelmed.

That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to finding products to sell online.

In this post, we’ll start by discussing why someone would want to sell products online in the first place, before moving into a breakdown of the different types of products you could sell. From there, we will cover the top 10 strategies for finding products for your business, as well as some common mistakes that people make while navigating this process.

To wrap things up, we will provide some actionable insight on how to sell your products online and take a special look at the value of B2B e-commerce marketplaces, like Alibaba.com.

Why sell products online?

The Internet has grown significantly in recent years, especially with regards to e-commerce. Products that we used to have to go to the mall to buy can now be delivered to our doorsteps within just a few days, or even hours.

The rise of B2C e-commerce has also led to a shift in the way retailers source their products. Meanwhile, B2B sales and transactions can now be carried out entirely over the Internet. This growth has opened many doors for retailers and wholesalers alike.

Since B2B buyers turn to the Internet to find the products they want and need, sellers can now tap into this demand and fulfill these needs easily.

Although e-commerce has been around for over a decade, we are in fact still very close to the start. Because of this, there is still so much room for growth. Getting into online selling now will therefore help to prepare your business to ride the wave into the future.

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What types of products can you sell online?

When it comes to choosing products to sell online, there are a few main types you can choose from. These include manufactured goods, raw materials, and digital products.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these product categories.

  • Manufactured

    Manufactured products are those that have been produced and are ready to sell, sometimes even including packaging.

    Depending on the resources that you have available to you, you could either manufacture your own goods, or develop relationships with manufacturing partners who could then source your products for you.

    It is important to note that manufactured products can either be intermediate goods or final goods. Intermediate goods are those that have been manufactured but will next be used to create a final product. Final goods are those that are ready to be sold to consumers.

    Manufactured products are also broken down into two other categories: branded or white-label. Branded products can include your company’s branding or the branding of the manufacturer. White-label products, however, can be customized to include your buyers’ own branding, even when those products have been produced by you or your manufacturing partners.

    Selling branded products is simpler since it requires less back and forth between you and the buyer, but white-label products can be of more value to your buyers.

  • Raw materials

    Raw materials are another major type of product to consider selling. These are primary goods that are then used to manufacture other products. Typically, you will sell raw materials to manufacturing companies that produce other goods.

    Within raw materials, there are several categories to consider. These include plants, fossil fuels, minerals, and other natural materials.

    Some examples of popular raw materials include corn, wheat, coal, natural gas, cotton, stone, precious metals, and wood. Each one of these materials is sourced using unique methods.

    Different raw materials naturally occur in different places, so it is important to choose one that you have access to. For example, if you are trying to source wood, it is important that you have connections with a lumber company or that you have the resources to buy, cut, and stock the wood yourself.

  • Digital products

    Digital products are another option. Different software types are also major digital products. You could sell accounting software, payroll software, capital management tools, CRM and communication tools, web hosting software, and so many more. This could be something that you develop on your own, or it could be something that you buy white-label and repackage as your own.

    Digital products can also include different types of downloadable media, like songs, e-books, prints, templates, and movies.

    Selling digital products is relatively simple because there is no shipping or physical distribution involved. Typically, you can set up your online storefront to trigger an email delivery of the digital product once your buyer has paid.

    This option is great for aspiring entrepreneurs that want to test the waters of e-commerce as sellers can develop and sell digital products without much financial investment.

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10 strategies for finding the right product for your business

There are several ways that sellers can approach finding the right products for their business.

Let’s review the top ten strategies for choosing the right products to sell in your online wholesale store.

1. Solve a problem

People buy things that will help them solve their problems. Whether it’s medicine to relieve an ailment or a kitchen gadget that optimizes cooking practices, people purchase things to make their lives better in some way or another.

That’s why identifying a widespread pain point and offering a solution for that problem is a common path to success in any sort of business. There is typically a market for problem-solving products.

To make this work, you should first brainstorm to find a problem. It could be something you experience in your day-to-day life, or it could be something that you’ve observed among other groups of people. Once you’ve chosen a problem, it is time to find the product that offers the solution.

You don’t have to worry about your solution being unique or something that you’ve invented on your own. It can be an improvement to an existing product or simply something that already exists.

What’s great about this approach is that it helps lay the foundation for your marketing strategy from the get-go. Your sales pitches and marketing materials can focus on the pain point you started with, making it easy to position your product in a way that resonates with your audience.

2. Jump on trends

Think of products that have come and gone over the years. Think fidget spinners, Tamagotchis, jelly sandals, and other iconic items. These products may not be popular today, but in their time, they were must-haves.

The key to success with this approach is to identify and jump on trends early. If you wait too long, your chances of profiting from them will likely decrease.

One way to scout out trending products is to monitor activity on social media platforms, especially TikTok and Instagram. Keep an eye out for buzz around specific types of products or trends. Also, pay attention to products that influencers are talking about because a simple suggestion from an account with a large following can spark a trend.

Another approach aligned with this strategy is to create cheaper versions of trending luxury products.

For example, Kim Kardashian’s brand SKIMS launched a “cozy” collection of loungewear that fell into a relatively high price range. Fast fashion brands quickly jumped on the trend and created a budget-friendly version of the product to cater to buyers that were unwilling or unable to pay luxury prices.

It is worth noting that this approach involves a lot of risk. However, like many high-risk investments, there is the potential for an equally high reward.

If, for whatever reason, the trend dies out quickly or does not reach the magnitude that you expected, you might be left with a large quantity of unsold items. However, if you get in at the right time, you could make a killing.

3. Use your professional experience

If you’re an expert in a specific industry, lean into your professional experience as you search for a product. During your time of working in that industry, you’ve likely encountered many possible products to sell without even realizing it.

As a professional in your realm, you have a special edge that will help you determine which products are actually relevant and useful.

Take some time to reflect on the needs or demands that you’ve encountered or observed in your industry. This could be something that serves professionals that you work alongside, businesses in your industry, or the customers that you serve.

Again, you could develop a brand new product, reinvent a product, or simply choose something that is already being sold.

For example, many doctors and healthcare professionals create businesses that are focused on a product that supports their area of practice. A dentist might sell safe teeth whitening kits while a dermatologist might sell special skincare products.

4. Appeal to a niche audience

Choosing a niche is a business hack that helps aspiring entrepreneurs create a focused offer for a very specific audience. This practice can be helpful when it comes to choosing a product to sell in your online store.

Hobbyists and enthusiasts have very niche interests and passions, so there’s value in getting specific. Perhaps you could choose products to sell to sports fans, which you can then narrow down even further to serve sports fans from a specific city.

Take sports fans from New York City, for example. There are a variety of sports teams, including the Mets, the Yankees, the Giants, the Knicks, and the Islanders. You could create an entire business by selling t-shirts with the logos from these different teams. There’s even value in selling merch for just one of these teams.

Some other popular niche audiences are gamers, workout fanatics, outdoor lovers, artists, and magicians. With nearly 8 billion people in the world, there are so many unique hobbies that you can tap into and niche products that you can provide.

5. Listen to consumers

Another great way to choose products is to simply listen to what consumers want. There are a few ways to gain this insight.

One way is to read customer reviews on various product listings. You can do this by looking at product listings on B2C platforms like Amazon and B2B platforms like Alibaba.com. Start by looking for recurring complaints and grievances. What can be improved upon in the current products available? These will be the problems you can solve with your product.

Be sure to make note of the positives as well. What do people like about the current options on the market? What are other brands doing right?

This is easier to do if you have a general idea of the products you’d like to sell, since a quick search for a product will yield many results on various marketplaces. However, this is also possible if you’re starting at square one.

Many online marketplaces generate suggestions of other products you might like based on your searches, so just start at a random product that comes to mind and click through the suggested items. This might feel like you're wandering aimlessly at first, but it should help you come up with some new ideas.

6. Tap into keyword data

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful marketing tool. However, many people don’t realize that search engine data can be useful for other parts of business operations.

You can use keyword research tools, such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planners, Google Trends, or Keywords Everywhere, to generate reports on products that people are searching for.

Each of the tools we’ve mentioned operates a little differently, but they all provide similar data. This data includes:

      • Search volume: How many people are searching for the keyword each month.
      • Competition/difficulty: How difficult it is to rank among the current results for that keyword. Here, low competition means it is easier to rank while high competition means it is harder.
      • CPC: The average cost-per-click on paid ads for that keyword.

For the sake of finding viable products to sell, you’re going to want to pay attention to search volume. Look for products that have a significant search volume among your target audience.

Once you have some products in mind, simply run the keyword through your chosen tool and analyze the stats.

There is no magic number to look for in terms of search volume, but if there is absolutely no volume for the keyword, you’ll want to move on to other options. A higher volume is often preferred. Don’t knock the low-volume keywords, however, because there is value in targeting niche audiences — as we discussed before.

7. Follow the money

Some online sellers choose products based on the possible profit margin. Obviously, you’re going to want to consider the profit margin with any product you choose, and using the potential profit margin as a guiding force for choosing your products is certainly a viable approach.

Review the costs of selling different products. Look into the going sell prices for these products and consider the other fees associated with selling them. Calculate the difference between the cost and the rate you can sell each product for to see how much you can profit.

Finally, compare the different products to see which options can make you the most money.

8. Experiment with lead magnets

If you have a couple of products in mind and you’re not quite sure if they will be a hit or not, it is a good idea to test your audience’s willingness to initiate a transaction.

One common approach to this is to ask users to join a waitlist by providing their email addresses. This shows a greater commitment to a brand or product than simply viewing your website. You can funnel viewers to this lead magnet via advertisements.

9. Review top products on e-commerce marketplaces

Many e-commerce platforms, including both B2B and B2C, provide lists of trending and best-selling products on their websites. Take a look at these lists to get ideas for your own products.

As a wholesaler, this is a particularly good strategy because it means that retailers are able to move the products you’re looking at. This creates a demand among retailers for reliable suppliers, and that is where you would come into play.

10. Follow your passion

Last but certainly not least, following your passion is a great way to choose or create products to sell online.

Think of artists, artisans, musicians, and similar creators. They all have something to offer the world that they create with their own passions and talents. They offer a variety of products or services based on the expression of their passion.

Following your passion doesn’t exclusively mean creating something on your own. Do you like dolphins? Find some cool dolphin figurines to add to your storefront. Are you passionate about health? Partner with a high-quality supplement manufacturer to sell vitamins.

When your passions are prioritized, the opportunities are endless.

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Common mistakes made when choosing products

As you begin to choose products to sell online, there are some common mistakes that you should be aware of. Here are a few of the most common mistakes that sellers make when choosing which products to sell.

    • Failing to assess the demand

One major mistake that many sellers make is failing to assess the demand for the products that they are trying to sell. If you try to sell an item that there isn’t a demand for, you’ll be stuck with a lot of unsold inventory.

There are a variety of tools available for generating data on demand trends. Some of the best demand planning tools include NETSTOCK, Demand Planning by Blue Yonder, Logility Solutions, and Oracle Demantra.

Some B2B e-commerce platforms, like Alibaba.com, have built-in demand forecasting tools, which certainly come in handy.

As we discussed earlier, keyword research is another great approach for initial demand assessments.

    • Choosing without researching

Some people decide to go into business without doing much industry or product research at all. They act based on emotions rather than logic. While there is the possibility that this could work, thoroughly researching your chosen industry and product offerings is a must.

Even if you are following your passions, you should still do your due diligence to make sure there is a market for your product. You should also research to make sure that your current or intended business model will work with that specific product.

    • Choosing without testing

When it comes to choosing specific products from a manufacturer or supplier to resell to your own customers, it is important to test the product for yourself. Invest in a few trial units to make sure that the quality of the product is what you are looking for.

    • Having unrealistic expectations

It is important to keep your expectations in check when choosing products to sell online.

For example, if you choose to sell products related to a specific holiday, it is unreasonable to think that your sales will be consistent throughout the entire year. Choosing this sort of product is fine, but you have to create a plan that will sustain your business all year round.

To do so, get realistic with your expectations so that you can operate in a way that is calculated and strategic.

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10 examples of common products sold online

We’ve discussed a lot of options for choosing products. However, it can be difficult to get started if you don’t have a general idea of the direction you’d like to take with your e-commerce business.

Here are 10 examples of common products that you can use for inspiration during your product search:

  1. Clothing: men’s, women’s, children’s, infants’
  2. Accessories: timepieces, smartwatches, hats, bags, jewelry
  3. Toys and games: puzzles, board games, card games, craft kits, sensory toys, fidgets
  4. Health and fitness products: yoga mats, weight sets, fitness trackers, resistance bands, other workout gear
  5. Foods and ingredients: dry goods, canned goods, spices, health foods, meat, dairy, seafood
  6. Pet items: cat toys, dog toys, dog beds, animal food, fish tanks, cages, carriers
  7. Home improvement and decor: furniture, mirrors, paint, curtains, appliances
  8. Office necessities: office furniture, office supplies, printers, filing cabinets
  9. Electronics: smartphones, tablets, smart home equipment, security systems, televisions, sound systems, other digital devices
  10. Accessories for electronics: phone chargers, phone cases, tablet stands, phone mounts for the car, ring lights, tripods

These products are simply the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things to choose from, but hopefully, this list sparks your inspiration.

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Where to sell your products online

Once you’ve chosen products to sell, it is time to choose where you’ll sell them. There are a few different places where you can sell products online, including your own website, social media, or an e-commerce marketplace. Let’s break down these options.

    • Your website

One option for selling online is to create your own online store. You can build an e-commerce website with the support of Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, or a similar platform.

The value of selling on your own website is that you have more control over the entire situation. You can brand every single page of your website. This approach also prevents ads for your competitors’ products from popping up and taking viewers’ attention off of yours.

The downside of selling on your own website, however, is that it is a bit more labor and resource-intensive to set up when compared to some of the other options. Your product listings also might not get as much exposure to new prospects as they would on social media platforms or eCommerce marketplaces.

It is a good idea to sell on your website in addition to other platforms that you choose to sell on. This gives you the best of both worlds.

    • Social media

Some of the top social media platforms for online selling include Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

There are a few ways to approach social media selling. Some platforms have built-in e-commerce tools that allow users to find and buy products without even having to leave the app.

    • e-commerce marketplaces

Selling on an online marketplace is another great approach. These platforms are equipped with many different tools, and they are great for increasing your reach.

If you are looking for a B2B marketplace for selling to retailers, manufacturers, or other wholesalers, Alibaba.com is a great option.

A retailer who is selling directly to consumers should consider selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, AliExpress, or Walmart.com. It is even possible to sell on multiple platforms at once.

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The advantages of selling on a B2B marketplace

Selling on a B2B marketplace is a great move for sellers that are new to e-commerce or want to test out the new products in the market. They are typically rich in features geared towards generating leads, making sales, and streamlining the sales process.

Here are a few of the top advantages of selling on a B2B marketplace.

    • Reach more buyers

One of the most significant advantages of selling on a B2B marketplace is that it helps you reach a larger audience. After all, buyers come to B2B marketplaces intending to buy products.

Reaching a large number of buyers helps to increase your sales. It also helps to increase brand awareness. Even if somebody doesn’t currently need your products, they may remember your business down the line when they require your support.

    • Getting started is easy

Another major benefit of B2B platforms is that they typically make it easy to get started. Once you have created your account, setting up your storefront and listing your products shouldn’t take long at all.

The process of setting up a storefront on a well-established marketplace is much faster than creating a storefront on a custom-built website.

Some B2B marketplaces, including Alibaba.com, have smart listing tools that allow you to import several products at once, which really helps expedite the process.

    • Optimize operations

Optimizing your operations helps you save time and money. Even if the savings seem small, they all add up and affect your bottom line.

B2B e-commerce platforms are equipped with systems and programs that help you assess and optimize your operations. These tools can help with everything from lead generation to order fulfillment.

    • Relationship management

Managing leads and customer relationships can get overwhelming. With multiple prospects at different stages of the buying process, it is important to keep everything carefully documented so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Luckily, some B2B marketplaces include innovative relationship and communication management tools to keep everything sorted. This will help you make sales and maintain client relationships with effective communication.

It is also worth noting that on Alibaba.com, sellers themselves are in charge of all their customer relationships. Even though Aliababa.com provides the infrastructure you need for effective customer relations, the contact information and data are all yours.

    • Analytics and reports

Many B2B marketplaces are equipped with powerful analytics and reporting tools. These features are valuable because they help you assess past performances and trends so that you are better equipped to strategize for future moves.

One valuable analytics tool that some platforms offer is demand forecasting. This provides real data on buyers’ demands which then helps you to plan and prepare your inventory.

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Sell on Alibaba.com

As we’ve covered, there is so much value in selling on a B2B marketplace, like Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com is equipped with all the resources that wholesalers need to take their businesses to the next level.

Whether you’re just getting started, looking to scale your operations, or wanting to explore foreign markets, Alibaba.com has the tools for you. From reliable customer support to brandable storefronts, our platform is built to help B2B sellers succeed.

Sign up for Alibaba.com to start selling your products online today.