How to find a great product to sell on Shopify

Running an eCommerce business is tough!

There are a million different problems to overcome!

Shipping times, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, support tickets, SEO, marketplace fees, website hosting costs and the list goes on.

But all of these pale in comparison to the toughest problem you will face!

And that is...drum roll….

source

Finding a great product to sell!

Yes, finding excellent products is the biggest pain point you are likely to face.

It took me years of experimentation to learn how to even identify an awesome product. As a result, my first forays into eCommerce (selling on eBay, and a homebrew store) quickly stuttered to a halt.

And I'm not the only one.

MILLIONS, of sellers are caught in the struggle.

"But Chris" I can hear you say, "you are blowing this way out of proportion. Thousands of people sell online, how hard can it really be to find a great product?"

Really?

Did you know that as of June 2018, only 38% of Shopify stores generate ANY sales?

giphy

Literally not a single sale

And the amount of stores that generate enough profit to support a family? Probably around 19%.

And let's be clear, Shopify is AWESOME.

The eCommerce CMS is easy to use, has amazing plugins, handles traffic really well, and basically does everything right.

It is the sellers who are failing!

Why are they failing?

Because they are selling AWFUL products!

And you can't really blame them. The common narrative goes like this:

  1. Sign up for a Shopify store
  2. Add one or two product sourcing APPS
  3. List their products
  4. Drive traffic to your store through Facebook Ads and SEO
  5. Make a TON of money

This is NOT what happens. Instead you'll

  1. Sign up for a Shopify store
  2. Add one or two product sourcing APPS
  3. List their products
  4. Drive traffic to your store through Facebook Ads and SEO
  5. Generate ZERO sales
  6. Panic and start blaming your Facebook Ads
  7. Spend more money on traffic that doesn't convert
  8. List more generic products that no-one wants
  9. Become disillusioned and turn your back on eCommerce

And that's a hard pill to swallow, but it's the truth for the overwhelming majority of online sellers.

Selling generic products is a pure marketing play!

Shopify and other solutions are well aware of this problem.

Go on the Shopify APP store today, and you'll find over 400 (!!!) sourcing solutions..

shopify-sourcing-solutions (NXPowerLite-Backup)

Oberlo, Syncee and ProductPro dominate the Shopify marketplace.

These solutions work well and boast thousands of users, but that is kind of the problem.

Mass product sourcing solutions like these turn the success of your Shopify store into a pure marketing play!

What do I mean by that?

Well, by using the same solution as THOUSANDS of other sellers you position yourself in a crowded market.

Yes those sturdy 1l water bottles look nice enough, but everyone else is selling them already. In this case, the only thing that makes you different from any other seller, is how well you market your product.

As a result, Shopify communities like this essentially become forums dedicated to facebook ads. Here is an example post:

marketing-question-1

And another one...

marketing-question-2

Annnd another one...

marketing-question-3

You get the point.

Most new Shopify sellers have no idea about marketing.

They don't know how to acquire customers, don't know how to setup a profitable facebook campaign, and certainly don't know how to optimize their website for SEO.

The thing is, even if you are reading this, thinking: "Ha! I do know how to do these things," ask yourself: can you do it better than 90% of sellers?

Because knowing the basics isn't enough in a crowded market.

You need to be incredibly good to be successful.

To illustrate this point, imagine you find a great looking dog bed on a popular product sourcing APP.

generic-dog-bed

That same dog bed is most likely sold by 10 other sellers, with a better reputation and a sleeker website.

If they're good, they've optimized their facebook campaigns and are remarketing to their existing customer base.

This massively drives down their cost per order. With the influx of funds, the competing sellers increase their order quantities, ensuring a cheaper per unit price.

Those savings then get passed on to the customer.

So now you are competing with sellers offering cheaper products, a stronger reputation and better ads.

Do you still think it's a good idea to sell that dog bed?

No it isn't.

It's simply statistically unlikely for you to market generic products so successfully that you make a substantial profit. Especially if you aren't a marketing genius.

The solution?

Sell AMAZING products!

How to identify amazing products

By now it's clear that selling generic products through Shopify is an incredibly tough task.

The picture changes when you start selling amazing products.

The great thing is: amazing products are not that hard to find.

"Ok Chris, how do you identify an amazing product?"

Let me tell you ;)

1. The product is custom or unique

You've already guessed it!

The KEY to running a successful eCommerce business is selling unique, custom or special products.

But don't worry! We're not talking about hard-to-get or overly obscure items!

We are talking about branding, more colloquially known as white labelling.

White labelling in its simplest form involves designing a logo and adding it to generic products.

At its best, white labelling is the creation of value through a trusted brand that guarantees high quality products. Take Sho bottles on Amazon for example.

sho-water-battles-white-label

Sho have done an amazing job at turning relatively generic bottles into a hugely profitable product.

It's impossible to know how much they are paying per unit, but a very similar looking water bottle is selling on Alibaba for $4.

If they are buying 500 at $4 a piece and selling them for $29.99 each, that generates somewhere in the region of $12,000 gross profit per shipment.

alibaba-water-bottles

And the money is well deserved.

By ensuring that Sho only sell high quality products, they can afford to charge a handsome markup on their bottles.

Buyers are not just paying for the utility of the water bottle, but also for peace of mind. Customers are willing to pay more for high quality products!

For us, this means we need to buckle down and identify products which are easily customizable. Obvious ones here are: bottles, t-shirts, stickers, pins, containers and phone accessories.

THEN, it's time to have a logo designed and talk to your supplier about white labeling the product.

BOOM you've just created a custom product.

But customization is not the only thing that defines a great product to sell on Shopify.

2. The product serves a niche

Have you ever realized how many great brands begin life in a very specific niche?

Amazon for example, didn't launch as The Everything Store, but instead focused strictly on selling books.

Nike is another example. They started off as Blue Ribbon Sports, selling sports shoes to track athletes.

The lesson we need to draw from this is as follows: start in a specific niche.

Once you're dominating one, you can move into others. But start small first, and get it right. Spread yourself too thin, and you'll crash and burn.

Many Shopify sellers have picked the RIGHT niche and are already CRUSHING it!

One of my favourite stores is called KPopFoods.

kpopfood-great-niche-product

This artisanal eCommerce store has done an amazing job at finding a low-competition niche, that is steadily gaining popularity: Korean Sauce.

korean-sauce-google-trends

By choosing such a specific niche, they are able to dominate the market with relative ease. Add their excellent storytelling and branding into the mix, and it's easy to see how they generate around $80,000 in yearly revenue just from selling Korean sauce.

Another great example is Rogue and Wolf.

This Shopify store sells awesome fashion products targeted at Witches (yes you read that right).

great-product-for-witches

Through great storytelling and a low-competition niche, they've managed to build great visibility in the space. According to SimilarWeb, they get around 75,000 visits per month.

similarweb-traffic-for-shopify-store

Depending on how well they convert their traffic, annual revenue will be somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000. Not bad!!

Picking the right niche therefore is super important.

And that depends primarily on the level of competition!

Launching a product in the electronics niche is a REALLY bad idea for example. This particular niche is saturated to such an extent that a new seller has zero chance of being successful.

Instead, we need to think more esoterically.

One of my favourite niches is Golf, specifically Golf equipment. It's an amazing ecosystem to sell in because the average basket size is huge and the demand still far outstrips the supply.

As a result, new sellers like Bombtech Golf can still make an absolute killing, generating over $500,000 PER MONTH.

So now we know how important the right niche is and we've got some great tools to find the right ones.

But what else defines a great product.

3. The product has a base-level of popularity

The final piece in our trifecta of profit is the existing popularity of the product.

A popular product has a number of advantages for Shopify sellers, but first let's define popular.

When I talk about popular products, I'm not talking about Fidget Spinners or some flavor-of-the-month nonsense.

Instead I'm talking about products that show encouraging interest in Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends.

Both of these FREE tools are a must-have for any Shopify seller.

Google's Keyword Planner tells you how often your chosen product is searched for in Google.

Let's say for example, that you want to sell custom bottle coolers (known as "koozies")...

custom-bottle-coolers

...but have no idea if people are actually interested in buying them.

Simply hop over to Google's Keyword Planner and enter your chosen product.

WOW! Look at that search volume. THOUSANDS of people are searching for this every month!

search-volume-bottle-coolers (NXPowerLite-Backup)

Over 300,000 relevant searches per month!

This kind of interest has a number of HUGE advantages for you as a seller!

Most importantly, there will be active communities which are receptive to your products. With over 300,000 searches per month, these communities will be BIG.

This is crucial for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it makes it much easier to market your product successfully. It's amazing how effective a tasteful product post in a relevant Facebook group can be for example.

Additionally, launching ad campaigns on Adwords or Facebook will prove WAY more effective. As the search volume is so large, you will quickly be able to optimize your campaigns and create a super targeted audience.

Secondly, you are far more likely to get regular, repeat customers.

Think about it like this: some products you buy whenever you have to, others you buy whenever you can.

You need to make sure that your product is in the second category.

Lastly, make sure to check out Google Trends as well. As an ancillary data source to the Keyword Planner, this tool gives you a great idea of your products relative popularity.

You don't want to enter a niche in steady decline.

Here is the global popularity chart of "koozies"...

koozies-google-trends

This chart shows a healthy level of interest. Compare this to "binoculars"...

binoculars-google-trends (NXPowerLite-Backup)

The lesson here is to AVOID declining niches. You don't need to jump on the biggest bandwagon in town, but stay away from the sinking ship.

By now we know EXACTLY what makes a great product.

  1. It's custom, unique or special
  2. It's in a very specific niche
  3. It (or some generic version of it) enjoys a base-level of popularity

We've also learnt what makes a great niche!

  1. It's very specific (Not SPORTS but GOLF, not FASHION but HOODIES FOR WITCHES)
  2. It has several engaged communities
  3. It's part of a growing market

Now let's figure out how to get our hands on such a product.

How do you find a great supplier?

So you've identified an awesome product in the perfect niche. How do you take the next step?

You've got the product idea, now you need someone to turn it into reality.

In most cases, your product will be a simple white label; a generic (but high-quality) product with your logo on it.

So where do you find a supplier for your awesome product?

Many websites will tell you to go to Google.

Although that is a solid starting point, you are very unlikely to find a GOOD supplier with a simple Google search.

You will find a bunch of 90s style websites without prices, MOQs, reviews or other super important information.

poor-suppliers

Avoid sites like this.

Instead, your first port of call should be a b2b marketplace like Alibaba.

Alibaba is a great starting point because it provides a reliable frame of reference. All the important information is displayed, and you can easily reach out to the supplier to negotiate on the price.

alibaba-listing-page

As has become clear however, it's not enough to sell generic products.

That is why Alibaba allows you to set customization requirements for the supplier.

Now you can simply request a sample of your custom product and wait for it to be shipped.

The problems with Alibaba

Unfortunately, the process is never that simple.

Instead, long shipping times and poor supplier communication can make Alibaba an ordeal for Shopify sellers.

To give you some context, Alibaba is a Chinese marketplace, meaning most sellers are located in China and speak very limited English.

Here is a reply I received when I asked a supplier about lowering their MOQ.

alibaba-product-sourcing-message (NXPowerLite-Backup)

As discussed above, it's super important for the products to be high quality and customized.

Making that clear to your Alibaba supplier can be tough to impossible.

Additionally, the regional differences make shipping times a real headache. Many suppliers have shipping times of 4-12 weeks.

In the world of same-day delivery, your customers will not wait two months for their order to arrive.

Even if your conversion rate is stable, customers will request refunds as their patience runs thin.

The final problem with Alibaba revolves around the minimum order quantities (MOQ) of many suppliers.

These denote the smallest amount of units you need to buy for the supplier to ship. Unfortunately MOQs on Alibaba typically range between 500 to 10,000 units.

minimum-order-quantities-alibaba (NXPowerLite-Backup)

As a Shopify seller you are taking a risk by purchasing 500 units of an untested product.

Conclusion - how to find a great product to sell on Shopify

The fact is, there is currently no easy way for online sellers to find and source amazing products.

Despite all the problems with Alibaba, it's still the best way to source products for smaller sellers.

Thanks for reading.