Home > Sell On Amazon > What Products To Sell On Amazon (Part 3)

What Products To Sell On Amazon (Part 3)

One of the advantages of selling online is that you can sell any product mix you want.  Eg., it would be odd for a brick and mortar store to sell both auto parts and Italian leather shoes, but when you sell on Amazon this is much less of a problem. 

Nevertheless, it’s in your best interest to have a common theme in your product selection rather than to sell a random collection of stuff.  For one thing, when you’re looking for products to sell it helps to understand what buyers value in the product type.  This domain knowledge will be hard to come by if you’re choosing products to sell randomly, but much easier if you sell a collection of related products.

It’s also true that when customers are looking to buy related products at the same time, some prefer to buy them from a single retailer.  So if you only sell one of the two or three things they’re looking to buy, you won’t get that sale even if your price is lowest.  Another retailer that sells all of the items they’re looking to buy will end up with the entire sale.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take advantage of selling on Amazon and offer multiple types of product, you should.  But rather than a random collection of stuff you can focus on building up your offerings in a single product category before moving on to another product category.

Another consideration for what to sell on Amazon that isn’t obvious is preparation time.  Preparation time is how long it takes you to prepare the item for shipment, whether you’re shipping directly to customers or to a fulfillment center.  There isn’t really a way to know what this time will be before you order the product from the manufacturer, but you should consider it when deciding whether or not to continue selling a product.

Preparation time is important if you’re selling items with a low per-unit profit.  Eg., suppose you expect to make $2 per item.  If it takes you 15 minutes to prepare this item for shipment you can ship 4 of them per hour, and you’re working for $8 per hour.  That isn’t great.

There are many reasons the preparation time can be long.  Some are the nature of the product – e.g. it’s fragile and needs a lot of careful wrapping.  Some are fulfillment center requirements, like having to put a label on each item (so you have to print a label, unwrap the item from the manufacturer, label the item, re-wrap the item, then package it up).  Others are just a function of the way the manufacturer packaged them.  There was one manufacturer I worked with that had 3 layers of boxes before you finally got to the product – a 6 pack of products in a box, 6 6-packs in a super-pack, and 4 super-packs in a shipping box.  The fulfillment center required this product to be labeled, so I had to un-package, label, and re-package these items, which took a considerable amount of time.

Random Observations

The topic of the last three articles has been what to sell, because finding products you can sell profitably will be a never-ending endeavor.  I just spent most of my weekend looking for new products to carry, and happily I did come up with a few that look promising.  You’ll notice that I didn’t give an explicit list of products in any of these articles, though, I only talked about what to consider when looking for products to sell.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  I’m working on a way around these problems that I hope to have ready early in 2012 (more on this below), but I wanted to explain here why I didn’t mention any specific products in these articles.

First is that there is no one ‘good’ set of products to sell.  What makes a product good for you depends quite a bit on you – your areas of expertise, how long you’ve been in business, how much capital you have to work with, whether you’re processing orders yourself or having a fulfillment service do it, etc.  Any specific products I mention would inevitably be good for a small percentage of readers, and not good for the majority of readers.

In fact the products you choose to carry will have a large impact on your ultimate success.  My advice to new online retailers is to find underserved niches where your business can grow without heavy price competition.  There are opportunities in areas with more competition, and you can enter them later when your business is up and running well, but I don’t recommend starting out there.

This brings us to the second reason I didn’t mention any specific products in these articles, which is that even if there were a product that would be good for a majority of readers, having a large number of people start selling the same product on Amazon would drive the price down, making it not a good product for any new retailer.  So mentioning specific products in these articles would be self-defeating.

I’ll add a third reason, which is that online articles can last a long time, and any product that would be good to sell today may well not be good to sell by readers a year or two from now.  Valid considerations in choosing a product to sell are likely to change much more slowly than the products themselves.

I said earlier that I’m working on a way around these problems.  Instead of providing a list of products that meet a large number of criteria that makes them good candidates for a very narrow set of readers (and by necessity excluding a lot of products that would be good candidates for other readers), I can provide a list of products that have only the ones most likely to be duds for pretty much any new retailer filtered out.  Such a list will be very large, preventing a large number of readers from piling into the same products, but will still be a much smaller list of products for you to consider.  This should save you quite a bit of time, allowing you to spend your energies considering a list of products with much better than average chances of being a good product for you to sell.

That’s not to say all products on the list will be good candidates for any specific retailer, it will still be true that there is no one set of products that’s ‘good’ for everyone.  You’ll have to find in the list the products that are good candidates specifically for you.  But it will be a finite list of products you can search, and once you establish your own criteria for the types of products you want to carry you should be able to quickly eliminate the ones that aren’t applicable to you.

As I said I hope to have this ready by early 2012.  If you’d like a notification when it’s ready send me an email at:

joseph . d . harwood AT gmail . com

And I’ll send you a reminder when it’s ready (just one reminder, you won’t be added to any email list).

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