A former teacher, Matt now specializes in R&D for ecommerce business owners and helps guide merchants in understanding the importance of this digital-first world.
If you’ve been with Sales & Orders for a while now, you may already be familiar with our Beginner’s Guide to Selling on Amazon.
In that guide, we talked about how to use Amazon to verify product ideas, as well as how to optimize your presence on the platform and start making sales. This, of course, assumed that you already had a pretty good idea of what you’re looking to sell (or already have products on the market).
For this article, we’re going to back up a bit.
Here, we’re going to discuss the many ways you can go about determining what to sell on Amazon in the first place. Throughout this article, we’ll provide a list of resources to use when conducting research, and talk about how to squeeze the most value out of each resource you use.
But, before we do that, let’s talk about some of the more overarching factors to consider when choosing a product to sell on Amazon.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Products to Sell on Amazon
Generally speaking, we tend to think that you can pretty much sell anything on Amazon.
To be sure, the spectrum of items sold on the platform is quite expansive. From toilet paper and toothbrushes to $100,000 chandeliers, you definitely have a variety of options as far as what to sell on Amazon.
But, this isn’t to say you have unlimited options for selling on Amazon…
Amazon Regulations and Restrictions
The list of restrictions Amazon places on its vendors is actually pretty extensive.
In addition to the more obvious restrictions (e.g., drugs, illegal weapons, etc.), there are also a number of seemingly innocuous items that can’t be sold on the platform. For example, products made of wood or other organic materials that don’t abide by EPA standards are prohibited on Amazon.
So, if you’re just starting to think about what to sell on Amazon, your first step should be to take note of all the items you literally cannot sell on the platform. While your list of options for what you can sell will still be pretty wide open, you’ll likely have eliminated some possibilities during this first step.
But, just because you can sell a certain item on Amazon doesn’t mean you should. That said, your next step will be to consider the factors that play into whether a certain product is a viable option for your business.
These factors include:
For those just getting started in the world of eCommerce, it’s best to sell products that are fairly inexpensive—but not so much that they seem cheap to your audience.
Typically, this means considering products that sell for around $25-50—just enough to present an air of quality, but not so much that the consumer feels they’re taking a risk.
Of the products that fit this $25-50 criteria, you’ll eventually want to eliminate all but those that cost less than 35% of their retail price to produce. So, if you’ve found a $50 product that looks promising, you’ll want to be sure it costs less than $17.50 per unit to manufacture.
(As a quick aside, we say “eventually,” here, because you’re probably not going to be able to identify the production costs of your potential options just yet. At this point, though, you do want to have a general idea of what the profit margin of a given product will be.)
For more on strategic pricing, check out our post The Price Is Right — Or Is It? How to Price a Product
Product Size and Structure
You also want to take into consideration your potential products’ physical characteristics.
The size and structure of your product will have a huge impact on its deliverability—which, in turn, will have an impact on your target customers’ willingness to actually purchase it.
Basically, the more “normal” your product is with regard to its physical makeup, the better. This means finding products that are lightweight and able to be packed in rectangular delivery boxes.
(Source / Caption: You don’t want to have to do this for every item you sell, right?)
Because smaller, lighter-weight products are less cumbersome, there’s also less chance that said products will be damaged during shipping. Needless to say, the same can’t be said for heavier items, or those that have various parts sticking out from every which way.
Speaking of parts, you also want to stay away from products that are either too fragile or too complex (or both). Obviously, the more fragile an item (or even just a part of the item) is, the more chances there’ll be for disaster to occur. Regarding complexity, you also don’t want to sell products that require too much assembly, as missing parts can also lead to issues for your customers.
While it’s tempting to dream about striking it rich by selling a product that capitalizes on a trending topic, holiday, or time of year, there are two major problems with such an approach:
- A ton of other brands probably have the same idea—and have already acted on it
- Once the trend dies down or time of year passes, you’ll have to look for an entirely new product to sell all over again
When thinking about what to sell on Amazon, you should focus on products that will sell year-round. For one thing, this will provide many more opportunities for you to market the products in a variety of ways over time. Secondly, you won’t have to go through the process of finding new products to keep your business alive.
(While you should always be looking for new and viable products to sell, the point is that you won’t be forced to do so when selling evergreen products.)
Once your brand is more established, you might end up adding non-evergreen products to your catalog—but you never want to rely on such products to make ends meet.
No matter what category or type of products you’re thinking of selling, you need to keep the above in mind at all times as you dig into your options. The last thing you want is to set your sights on a product that just isn’t viable for you to sell.
9 Vital Resources to Help You Find Products to Sell on Amazon
Now that you know what you can’t and shouldn’t sell on Amazon—and have at least a general idea of what you should—you’ll be ready to start getting specific.
When researching products to sell on Amazon, you have a ton of resources at your disposal. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll be discussing a variety of on- and offline resources to use as you identify your best options. Some will be rather straightforward, while others will be a bit more technical—but each will provide valuable insight to help you focus on the best-fit product for your brand.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
What better way is there to figure out what to sell on Amazon than to check out what’s selling on Amazon?
First, you’ll want to do some manual digging into Amazon’s robust product catalog. Browse through the product categories you’re interested in, sorting the products by price, average customer review, and recent sales numbers.
Also, be sure to check out any featured items Amazon may be promoting on its homepage, its best-sellers lists, and elsewhere throughout the site. While, again, you don’t necessarily want to hop on a certain trend’s bandwagon, digging deeper into these products and the categories they belong to will provide some ideas for how to narrow your focus.
As you browse through Amazon’s current library of items and find ones that appeal to you, you’ll then want to dig deeper into these specific product pages. There, you can find information such as product specs and customer reviews that will provide more insight into the viability of a given product.
When digging into all this information, you may find that the existing products on the market are lacking in a certain way. For example, you might notice reviews mentioning features the customer wishes the product included; or, you might just recognize the need for a certain additional feature based on the product description.
In any case, this is a pretty good sign that you’re on the right track—and should continue digging deeper to further validate your product idea.
If, on the other hand, you notice that the existing products have the customers’ needs pretty much covered, all is not lost. If this is the case, you’ll want to start thinking of products that supplement the experience of the existing products in question.
For example, customers who purchase the wooden baby toys mentioned above will need a safe place to store them, right? And, if these toys sell as well as Amazon’s data shows, there’s likely a pretty large amount of parents who would need such storage, as well.
With that in mind, you may end up thinking about selling baby-proof storage containers specifically for delicate toys that scratch easily.
There are a number of other ways to use Amazon for product research (which we’ll discuss throughout this guide). But it will always come down to assessing the information provided on individual product pages, as this will allow you to get ultra-specific with regard to the value your product should provide your customers.
Other Online Marketplaces
Even if you plan on selling on Amazon, there are also a number of other online marketplaces to check out when researching product options.
Like Amazon, many of these platforms present a wide variety of products throughout an equally wide variety of categories. Such marketplaces include Walmart, eBay, and Jet.
There are also a number of more niche marketplaces you’ll want to consider checking out—depending on your interests, of course. These marketplaces include:
- Etsy, which focuses on selling handmade art, crafts and similar products
- Reverb, which enables vendors in the music equipment industry to sell their wares
- Newegg, which focuses on selling any and all things electronic
On these marketplaces, you’ll essentially use the same strategies mentioned above: Checking out trends and promotions, digging into product pages, and brainstorming products that complement hot-selling items.
It’s also worth noting that niche marketplaces draw niche crowds. This means that the customer reviews and feedback presented on these platforms will likely be much more valuable to you as you continue to narrow your product search.
Since the customers providing reviews are likely more knowledgeable about the niche in question, you can be confident that the insight you glean from their feedback is comprehensive and legitimate.
Google has the answer for everything, so it’s of course a great resource for conducting product research.
While conducting various Google searches related to your niche (and subsequently browsing through the presented results) is easy enough, we want to focus on two specific sections of Google, here:
The first is Google Shopping. If you’re going to take a more wide-net approach and simply search for niche terms, you want to at least do so using the Shopping section of Google. This will allow you to see Google Shopping ads created by established brands promoting products you might be interested in selling.
While more of a directory than a marketplace, Google Shopping provides information similar to that gleaned from the above-mentioned resources.
The other area to check out is Google Trends, which will allow you to:
- Understand demand and “buzz” around potential products
- Compare multiple products trend-wise
- Explore related terms and products
For example, the screenshot below shows Trend data for the search terms “baseball bat” and “hockey stick,” specifically focusing on Google Shopping:
As you’d expect, baseball bats are much more in-demand throughout the US (with exceptions in areas where hockey is trending as of late, such as Nevada and Minnesota).
What’s great about using Trends for product research is that it provides a long-stretching history of the search terms being used. This allows you to see how a certain product performs at different times of the year and under different circumstances—and whether the trend is cyclical or a one-off deal.
Social Media Channels
The various social media platforms around today are full of information and data that can help you further narrow your product search.
This info is presented in a bunch of different ways, too—so you’ll have to look in a bunch of different places to find it.
First, you’ll want to consider what products influencers in your industry are talking about. For one thing, the surface-level information provided by the content itself will show you what’s not just trending, but what’s currently being promoted in your niche.
(Again, this isn’t to say you want to focus on trending items—it’s more that you want to understand what the trend is all about, and where it’s headed in the future.)
Additionally, influencer posts tend to spur a ton of engagement from a very niche audience. Such comments and messages from an influencer’s or a brand’s following can be an almost endless resource for product research purposes.
For example, note the comment about testing products on animals in the above screenshot. Even if the product you intend to sell has nothing to do with teeth whitener, this still tells you something about the modern consumer.
You can also dive into areas of these social media channels where your potential audience tends to congregate. For example, the Facebook forum “Guitar Players on Facebook,” which has over 240,000 members, generates discussion around a variety of guitar-related products.
(Not sure who, but someone out there is buyin’ ‘em.)
Searching for hashtags allows you to find similarly-themed content that will likely feature products of some kind:
In addition to getting product ideas directly (as in the above screenshots), you also want to take note of what the members of these groups are talking about on these forums:
- What problems are they talking about?
- How do they use the products they use?
- What creative ideas do they have?
Like we said, this information is out there on these social media channels. You just need to know how to unearth it.
Online Research Tools
While there are many tools that can be used to help you with identifying the best products to sell on Amazon, we've narrowed the list down to the following:
- Jungle Scout allows you to conduct keyword research, analyze consumer and competitor trends, and generate high-quality product ideas. Jungle Scout also helps connect retailers with trusted manufacturers and suppliers of their chosen products.
- AMZScout can help you analyze industry and consumer trends on your way to finding a profitable product to sell on Amazon. Additionally, AMZScout helps identify optimal price points for your potential products based on your sought-after profit margin and other factors.
- Sonar is a simple and straightforward tool that focuses on keyword research, product listing optimization, and continual improvement. Sonar’s A/B testing function allows you to easily see how changes made to your product listings impact your customers’ willingness to buy.
- AmazeOwl focuses heavily on helping newbie entrepreneurs find their first winning product. By offering multiple tiers of service and a free quiz to identify your “Amazon Seller Readiness Score,” AmazeOwl ensures that even those brand new to the world of eCommerce will be able to get started right away.
- Viral-Launch’s Amazon Product Finder offers an all-in-one solution for retailers looking to discover their next hot-ticket item. APF can help you dig up those “sleeper” products that have gone overlooked by your competitors for way too long—allowing you to take the lead in creating new trends in your industry.
- ASINspector is best for retailers that sell on multiple online channels (specifically Amazon, eBay, and their own eCommerce website on Shopify). ASINspector collects data from a number of sources, then presents this data in a user-friendly manner to help you identify the best products to sell on a variety of platforms.
- Unicorn Smasher’s name makes a pretty bold claim—but the tool definitely follows through. Unicorn Smasher provides a robust collection of product, competitor, and industry data to help you find the best products to sell (and to figure out how to sell them).
- DS Amazon Quick View is a Google Chrome extension that allows retailers to easily view the BSR and price history of all the products on a page.
Two online forums you absolutely need to check out when conducting product research are Reddit and Quora.
While there will likely be a bit of an overlap of information between these two sites, each presents some unique value to take advantage of, as well.
Reddit is an incredibly large community of individuals with a very wide spectrum of interests. For our purposes, Reddit’s various forums provide endless research opportunities.
Many of Reddit’s forums are based around specific niches or industries, generating discussion similar to the aforementioned social media groups. This, again, leads to a number of product ideas.
For example, two of the top five discussions on the Survivalist subreddit involve products for outdoorsmen:
There are also subreddits dedicated to new and exciting products—some of which have yet to catch the general public’s attention:
Again, though: the goal isn’t to focus on one-off trending topics—it’s to find the ones that show “staying power” by providing ongoing value to the consumer.
Quora is an online forum in which discussions are presented in Q&A format.
(Basically, users ask questions, and experts answer them.)
Like Reddit, Quora covers a ton of ground, meaning you’ll definitely be able to find valuable information related to your niche.
Take the following exchange, for example:
What started with a pretty simple question ended up being a treasure trove of consumer-focused information. With just one response, we were able to gather insight into a variety of customer expectations revolving around the product in question.
While Reddit and Quora provide the widest reach for our purposes, you might also consider checking out consumer-focused blogs and product catalogs, such as Uncrate, Trendwatching, and Trend Hunter. These publications will help you keep a pulse on the types of products that are continuously in-demand and potentially worth selling.
Your Own Experiences
In addition to digging into third-party resources when conducting product research, you also want to look inward.
While you don’t want to base your product idea entirely on your own experiences, you certainly want to take them into consideration when doing so.
As far as your online experiences go, well...
What do you do when surfing the world wide web? What sites and branded social media pages do you visit when you’re in “consumer” mode? What kind of remarketing ads do you see on an almost daily basis?
(For me, this ad just confirms I’m addicted to coffee. For you, it might spur an idea for a new product a coffee lover like myself would appreciate.)
With regard to your “real” life, think about the products that allow your day to run more smoothly, or add value to your life in some way. Contrarily, think about the many problems you face on a daily basis that you don’t yet have an ideal solution for.
Since each of our on- and offline experiences are unique in a variety of ways, there’s no “one way” to talk about all this.
What we can say, though, is that you need to always be in “entrepreneur” mode, period.
Those moments when you notice a cool feature on a new product; when you come up with a quick solution to another person’s problem; when you realize you have a problem of your own that needs fixing:
These are the “aha” moments you need to be conscious of, as they’ll be the ones that lead you to the optimal product to sell.
Your Personal and Professional Network
Similarly, you can find ideas for products to sell by tapping into the needs and desires of those belonging to your own networks.
Basically, this involves digging into the questions we discussed above. Here, you’ll be directing the questions at your friends, family members, and colleagues—and allowing them time to have their voice heard.
That’s the point of this exercise: To gather information and data from your network to be used to further develop your product idea.
In other words, the idea isn’t to simply ask your friends “What do you think of this idea?”, as their answers to these questions will likely be skewed in some way. Rather, you simply want to engage in organic conversation and discussion with these individuals—then extrapolate this data for product research purposes.
Here, we’re basically combining the previous two sections, in that we’ll be looking at the communities you belong to—and the product ideas you can glean from them.
Now, when we say “community,” we mean that in terms of both physical location and niche. In both cases, the goal is to get ideas for products that you can bring to a global scale in some way.
In looking at your local community, you can of course look for ideas in much the same ways we’ve discussed (i.e., your experiences in the community, etc.).
But you also want to take note of products that are always in demand locally, but have yet to become a widespread thing.The main advantage here is that the product has already been validated by your local community, so you know there’s a market for it—you just have to find similar customers online.
In looking to your interest-based communities (i.e., any teams, groups, or organizations you belong to), you should be able to generate a ton of super-specific information for product research purposes.
Think about it like this: You’re group isn’t the only group like it in existence. If your community expresses a need or desire for a certain product, chances are there’s a much larger audience that has similar needs, as well.
Ready to Dig In?
Okay, so we’ve given you a ton of options as far as conducting product research goes.
While you don’t have to go “all in” on each of the resources we’ve discussed, we do advise that you at least consider what each has to offer before overlooking it completely. It may well be that your most profitable idea will come from a resource that your competitors have been ignoring for years.
You’ll never find this idea, yourself, if you don’t start looking today.
So, what are you waiting for?