Once you decide to start an online store, your first two preoccupations would be:

1. What do I sell?

2. Where do I get it?

Getting the right answers to these questions will help you identify perfect products for your online store, as well as identify where to get constant supplies of the products in a timely manner.

Achieving this, however, requires an intentional and in-depth process of stocking products that have great market viability, strong competitive advantage, enjoy active audience search, or even meets the regulatory framework within your jurisdiction.

In this blog post, I’ll help figure out how to source the right products for your store as well as identify where to get them.

What do I sell?

Deciding on what to sell is the first step in your attempt to launch an online store. There are various tips to help you decide the right product that will resonate with your customers including the following;

1. Start with what you have

Before starting your online store, you may have some ideas on your own. This idea may not be fully crystalised, but it should be a good point to start. Have you in the past written an idea on your notepad that is now gathering dust in your cupboard or did you type something somewhere on your laptop? Even if you think it isn’t a great idea, it’s worth giving it your big shot this time around.

The idea could also be something you're passionate about. What drives you? A product born out of passion could be the masterstroke for the success of your online store.

For instance, are you passionate about fitness? You can start by exploring products related to fitness. One great advantage of starting with something you’re passionate about is that you’re unlikely to lose your steam or give up on it even if you face challenges along the way.

2. Discover what your neighbours are searching for

Sometimes you don’t need to look far for an idea. Spend some time imagining what your neighbours are struggling to get? What challenges do they encounter or what questions do they ask? Brainstorming these scenarios and then interacting with your neighbours will give a good idea of what to sell. For instance, if you realise that your neighbours always travel a long distance to get pet food for their dogs, then it’s a good clue that selling dog food could be a good venture.

3. Conduct surveys to know what people want

Apart from interviewing your neighbours and getting to know what interests them, you can also expand your search by conducting surveys. Surveys are more scientific and can help you enter the minds of people and determine what they’re looking to buy. The best way to do this is by crafting questions requiring your respondents to state the problems and challenges they face and the type of products they love most. This will help you understand things or products people wish they had to enhance their everyday life. The response from such a survey can help get a good idea about products you can sell. Luckily there are now a lot of tools that you can fall on to create and distribute your survey. They include; SurveyMonkey, Google Surveys, SurveyGizmo, Zoho Survey etc. There are other tools like ProductHunt, Kickstarter etc that can help you find new products hitting the market.

4. Look at what people are searching for on social media

Social media is now part of our everyday lives. Social media now has an estimated 3.8 billion active users. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Pinterest etc have therefore become a goldmine for product and niche ideas. This is because many people also use it as a search tool to look for products they are interested in buying.

Use the social media the following ways to get your product idea;

First, use hashtags on Twitter to understand what people are searching for. People use applicable hashtags to connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation.

Second, you can also use product curation accounts to search for and find accounts within the niches you are particularly interested in. This Instagram feature can prove of great benefits to you.

Third, social media also provides audience insights that can give you an idea of what people are actively searching for. If you already have a business page on one or more social media platforms, you can use your audience data to find eCommerce business ideas.

Presently, the world is plagued with the novel coronavirus and things such as nose masks, sanitisers, ventilators, etc are on high demand. If you are a starter,  you can take advantage of this windfall of opportunity and sell some of these trending items in demand. Even though this could be a quick way of making some short term profit, demand for these products can stop abruptly at any time, and therefore, it cannot be a good way of building a long lasting business. This is because what’s popular today may not be in a year. A tool like Google Trends can help make good predictions about where the market for particular products may go.

6. Read third-party customer reviews

Reviews provide great insights about what users are looking for.  Provide reviews are now everywhere because nearly 77% of shoppers leave when they are asked to. Customers give a great deal of information that should help you gauge their interest and needs.

Where do I get my products?

After brainstorming your ideas and generating a couple of ideas your customers might be interested in, it’s time to launch into action. Your next hurdle is where to get your products and stock your online store.

1.Produce your own products

A good point to stock your store is to sell handmade goods you have created yourself. Do you know how to make jewellery, hats, cakes, cookies, etc? You can develop this interest into a business by producing them in large quantities and selling to people.

The benefits of starting with handmade goods include the following;

First, since you’re making them yourself, you have full control of supply. This ensures there are no shortages.

Second, this can typically unlock your creative best. Since you are making yourself, it gives you a good hold of yourself to come up with different designs that your customers love.

Third, when you’re producing them by yourself, startup costs are typically low. This is because some of your money will not end up in either wholesale merchants or middlemen.

And, four, you’ll want to make sure you’re always thinking ahead about how you will scale and possibly grow your product line over time. This will help you stay competitive and offer your customer base something new.

2.Source from manufacturers

Sourcing your products directly from manufacturers of the product you want to stock in your store is a good way to get products at a moderately cheap price. Since you’re dealing directly with the manufacturer the profits that would have otherwise ended up in the pockets of wholesalers and distributors will be kept for you yourself.  Working with manufacturers also gives you the opportunity to describe specific, quantity, designs or specifications you want. The only drawback of this option is that most manufacturers have large minimum order requirements and since you are just starting out, it might be difficult for you to meet such requirements.

3. Get supply from wholesalers and distributors

Wholesalers and distributors are people who get products from manufacturers and then supply them to retailers or smallholder enterprises. With this process or method,  you do not need to waste time going to the manufacturer and placing orders. The downside of this method is that you have less control of the products and hence it leaves you with little in terms negotiating the price with the manufacturer. Also know that wholesalers and the distributors will take some of your profit because they will make a little margin for their efforts and sweat.

Wrapping up, starting an online store requires identifying a need and deciding to provide solution. It also involves having in mind where you can source the products to stock your store at a very competitive price. The points listed above should serve as a good starting point for you to launch your online store.

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