Part Two – Product Research on Amazon

Part Two – Product Research on Amazon

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This post is part two of a series I am doing about my product launch on Amazon.  See Part One here.

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What Products Can I Sell?

Do you know what you should sell on Amazon?

Or a better question is, do you know how to find out what you should sell on Amazon?

Its a question that many people have asked.  There is a lot of information about it around, and I intend to compile my own how-to on the subject.

(To be clear, there are no cut and dry rules.  You may be best off by just picking something you are familiar with)

It can be an arduous process, one that can consume the majority of your time.  When I first started researching products I spent wayyy too much time debating and stressing.  Should I do this one or that one.  This product has X competitors and this other one has Y average reviews.

What really even matters?

Does any of this matter?

I ordered samples from many different suppliers, and for many different products.  Every day I would email a new supplier and inquire about some silicone this or wooden that.  I sense that I am not the only one who has done this. 

I have a problem with moving on to the next shiny thing and not following through.

It just isn’t worth the headache. 

Finally I found a product that was average in nearly every way possible, and ordered 300 slightly customized pieces. 

If you follow me on twitter and share this post I’ll send you a link to the product on Amazon.

It fit inside my own guidelines for what a product needed, but it wasn’t especially awesome in any particular category.  My hope is that I can consider it a success for a first product.

I also had some other worries, like: is Amazon even a good place for me to focus my time?

What if I get suspended and can’t even sell the stuff I have?

Just Do It

Let me tell you, I have worried about a lot of this stuff and I keep telling myself: Just Do It.  Although I am writing this post before I have concrete results on my strategy, I can tell you that it feels so much better to make actual forward progress instead of constant deliberation.

So, before I talk about any of the stuff you should look for, I have some boring advice:  stay simple, and act quickly. 

I wish I had ordered my products back in November when I started looking, but now here I am in the middle of the Chinese New Year waiting around.  They could have been selling for two months already! Well, better late than never I guess. 

If you are just starting this process, pick a simple product.  What do I mean by this?  I mean this in a relative sense: simple to you.  One that you understand.  You don’t have to have a passion for it, just don’t get something that you can’t talk to the manufacturer about.

So now that I have established some ground rules, lets talk about what even constitutes a decent product.

Average Product Sale Price Between $20-$60  (Or more if you can afford it)

If you are selling a product on Amazon for $10, chances are your margins are fairly small.  After manufacturing fees, shipping, and FBA fees, there might not be much left over.  Especially if the price is lower, like around $5.    

With that said, there ARE plenty of $10 products on Amazon.  They have been there a while, too.  So obviously someone is making money this way.  I think a higher volume of sales is necessary. 

In that situation, if you can sell a lot of $10 widgets, then go for it.  I get so tired of people saying “There’s no way! Its too low” or “Why even bother, you have no margins”.  Well, there’s more than one way to do something, and people still purchase stuff under $20.  Even on Amazon.

Unless you know a specific product that you want to sell under $20, then I recommend searching more in the $20-$60 range.  This is because you will basically get more bang for each sell you have. Here is a rough estimate of a $20 product:

Selling Estimates

Add in giveaways, product photos, and other stuff to get started, it doesn’t take long for all the costs to eat into your profit.

When you are looking at a product like this, you need to ask yourself a critical question:  Is this acceptable to me?

Across several Facebook groups and other forums where Amazon members are selling I see some very vocal participants say things like:  You HAVE to have this or HAVE to do that. 

I don’t HAVE to do anything if I want.  If you are okay with a product margin of 30%, and it makes you happy, then go for it.

Over time a product that is making even a slim profit will add up.  Or at least thats what I keep telling myself.

Price Per Product, MOQ, Etc.

Sometimes when you are first trying to get started, your minimum order quantity may bring about the highest price as well.  Per product. 

So in the long term, it is possible that with larger orders you can get a better price.  This will help you realize a better profit margin.  That is something to keep in mind. 

It is fairly difficult to find the actual cost and profit model during research.  Jungle Scout can help when you are researching specific products.  But how do you know what the shipping is and the actual cost of the widget you want to sell?

The only way that I have found the answers to these questions is to start contacting suppliers.  Most suppliers will give you a MOQ cost or some kind of quotation sheet.  From this you can go ahead and ask for an estimate of shipping by air.

Or if you have some knowledge of shipping then you may be able to estimate it yourself.  It ranges wildly, and don’t be surprised at the relatively high costs of shipping compared to your product price.

Shipping Tip:  Manufacturers have very cheap rates, so use their accounts whenever possible.

Contacting and conversing with a supplier is a whole post on its own, and I will cover it in detail in the future.  There are no secret tricks, just be honest about what you are doing, but try not to show your inexperience.  Search for your questions online before you ask the supplier directly.  They generally know what you are trying to do and will work with you.

Most are very frustrating.  Short Rant: Most will not answer all your questions and you have to ask stuff multiple times.  Try to stick with it.

No Large Brand Names In Your Category

One thing that almost immediately throws up a red flag to me is when I see a popular brand name product selling what I want to sell. 

For example:  Lets say I want to sell cork boards.  Maybe I have an idea for a good product: thicker, better quality, and in more common sense sizes. 

Now this is not a bad idea because I know that cork board is popular and there is probably room for improvements.  But lets say I go search “Cork Board” on Amazon, and the first three listings are by Staples or Office Max (there is Quartet, actually). 

That means that they have a huge advantage over anything you are going to sell.  The brand name will attract consumers. 

Now that doesn’t mean give it up and move on, because there are plenty of other considerations to look at.  But it is a concern. 

A better situation would be to find a product like “shelf brackets” or “Widget B” and when you enter the search term every product on that page is a different brand that you don’t recognize.

This means that not only can you get up on there and compete, but if you are able to establish yourself with enough authority, YOU can become the brand that people are worried about competing with.

For my first product I am trying to be the brand that people recognize.

Weighs Less Than 4-5 Pounds 

You can ignore this rule if you know what your doing in terms of selling at the right price and knowing your product.  Not ALL products in the world are going to be less than 5 pounds.  Someone has got to sell heavier stuff, right?  

Just keep this advice in mind.  And if this is your first product then it might be a good rule to follow.

It will help you decide which products to go with.

Shipping Costs

Having a lighter product will help with shipping costs.  This is especially true if you ship the products to yourself first (like I did) and then sent them to the FBA warehouses.  (Although you do get better rates through Amazon if you use UPS)

A Durable Item

With all of the concerns that you already have, it would be nice to not have to worry about your item breaking.

Simplicity becomes a factor here too, because more complex items by nature can end up being less durable.  

Top 10 Product Analysis

Once you have a product in mind, the next step you can take is search for some keywords in Amazon.

Type in a keyword that you want to rank for with your product.  Then check out the results on the first page.

There are few things to look at:

  • Brand Names (that we covered previously)
  • Do most products have less than 100 reviews?
  • Do some have less than 50?

Less than 50 reviews is good to see because it is possible to get 50 within a reasonable amount of time.

Ideally there would be a few near the top that have very few.

I am afraid that those days on Amazon have come and gone however.  It will be hard to find a good seller without someone else already in there.

Brainstorming Product Ideas

Can you make a better product than what is currently available?  Sometimes it is as simple as offering a more appealing color or some kind of combo package.

My product has different colors and a logo printed on it.  Of course, I wish I had some kind of cool proprietary product, but that’s just not practical right now.

With more success you should be able to differentiate more and improve your products.

Alibaba

Check out some of the products on Alibaba for your keyword.  Sometimes you may see a new style or something you could customize.  Go ahead and contact some of the suppliers and tell them what you’re trying to do.  It can’t hurt.

Better Listings

Sometimes the listings are what needs improvement.  This is something as simple as better photos or using more targeted keywords.

If you have a subscription to Jungle Scout then you can use their product analysis to see their ranking for listing quality.

For my first product I searched around and made sure to use some of the keywords that the top sellers in my category were using.

Other Things to Consider

 

Some say to not do a seasonal product, but some sellers are obviously making it work. If not, then they wouldn’t be on Amazon.  So you decide; I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a first time seller.

Does this product have auxiliary or complimentary products?  Will you be able to expand and create a brand?

Creating a brand would be a nice goal because as you add products then you get more recognition, more sales, etc.

Does Alibaba or sourcing website of your choice even have your product?  Can you find suppliers?

If you have a product idea, but can’t find a supplier then you may have to get it custom made.  This can be expensive.  The upside, however, is that no one else will have the same product.

Can you afford it? 

To determine whether you can afford your product you will have to contact the manufacturer.  Most are more than happy to give you quotes.

Alibaba Tip: Don’t pay any attention to the listed MOQ or prices.  They are random and arbitrary.  Talk to a supplier directly for real quotes.

Next Steps: Moving Forward with Ideas

This process can be as deep or as shallow as you would like.  It is more than possible to simply tell a supplier that you want 1000 of widget B and ship it Amazon as is.

Or you can investigate all the facets of a product category, customize and make a special mold for a product, make a brand, etc. etc.

In the next post I’ll explain the communication I had with the supplier, some aspects of product research using Jungle Scout, and how I went about placing my order.

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