So you’ve decided after reading my Amazon FBA 101 that you want to start an Amazon business. It can feel a bit overwhelming, so how do you get started? The first step is by far the hardest step and is frequently what throws up a brick wall in their face.
What do I Sell?
This is without a doubt the single toughest part of starting any physical products business. I struggled with this. Everyone I know struggled with this. I don’t know what you should sell, but I can give you some basic criteria to think about and some thoughts on idea generation.
- A price of roughly $20 (and closer to $40-50 is better)
- Small (think no bigger than a breadbox)
- Lightweight (so it ships by air from overseas cheaply)
- Minimal moving parts
- Avoid electronics
- Products that can be expanded by variety or category
- Avoid seasonal when possible
- Ability to differentiate from current competitors
- Not too competitive
- Enough sellers and reviews with BSR’s to indicate demand
- Not a difficult gated community
- 20 lb. or less
- 18″ or less on its longest side (A)
- 14″ or less on its median side (B)
- 8″ or less on its shortest side (C)
How to find a Product Idea?
The first step I took to find a product idea was to do a complete and total brain dump of everything that I buy, use, or just enjoy. Being a guy who is relatively in to “men’s products” my initial list looked something like cigar case, humidor, cigar cutter, watch case, watch bands, tie clip, nice comb, beard oil, etc… While I was working that list I had my girlfriend coming up with a similar one. By the time we were done we had something like 100 products to work through on Amazon.
Your family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and anybody else you meet are a goldmine of information. Caitlin and I have the interests of mid (or late) 2o-somethings, southern / mid-western, college educated, with no kids, living in a major metro, with a specific set of interests and hobbies that we have. That’s a really specific list. We may have an idea about gardening products, home DIY, college sports gear, or a variety of other stuff.
What we don’t have a clue about are baby products, children products, senior citizen friendly gear, things that you need in an apartment (vs a house), or any of a 1,000 hobbies I don’t know enough about to think of a product. Maybe there’s a great idea for nurses or teachers. I would never know those possibilities exist. I don’t take Yoga or play role-playing games, or go rock climbing.
If you talk to diverse people you will hear about things you didn’t even know exist. There are 2 ways to take this line of questioning depending on how open you want to be with why you are asking.
The Hobby Route:
- Ask what they’re in to or whatever is the easiest way to find out about their hobbies
- “Oh really, that’s so interesting. What all does that entail?”
- “Awesome, does that require any special equipment?”
- “What do you need to do that?”
The Direct Route:
- What’s the best thing you’ve bought recently?
- What’s the last thing you couldn’t find online?
- Any products in your life that don’t do what you need or are missing a feature?
I haven’t found my next big idea using this yet, but I’ve certainly added a lot of follow-up ideas to my spreadsheet.
Keep Your Eyes Open
After all the work we put in pursuing ideas above and coming up with a gigantic spreadsheet, we didn’t end up using any of it. We came close. There were a few false starts (to be discussed later), but nothing got far enough to pull the trigger. Instead, while I was out at an event, I noticed an item that seemed to suddenly be quite popular again and made a note in my phone to do a bit of research when I got home.
Lo and behold it was a great fit! Did it meet all of my criteria? No. And I think that’s an important point. You’re not likely going to find a product that meets every single thing on your list, particularly not your first shot, but it was close. It met my size, weight, and complexity goals. Pricing varied from a low of $10 but as high as $30. I actually thought the product might be relatively seasonal, but I think I’ve (happily) turned out to be wrong on that one. There’s definitely a time of the year sales pick up, but it’s not like selling a pool product (summer) or gloves (winter).
Research Hobbies or Sub-Cultures
Another way to think about product research is to try to find a hobby or sub-culture and dive as deep as possible in to the topic. Several of them popped in to mind for me, an example being the the prepper community. While I didn’t find a product idea that way, I did manage to come up with a list I plan to revisit in the future. An easy way to do this kind of idea generation is to go to a site that sells to that community and just start looking up the same products in Amazon.
With the huge surge in popularity of Amazon as a solopreneur option, some interesting software has popped up. I want to be transparent and tell you right now – I have not personally used any research software. However, I have done a lot of reading on the topic as well as watched a few webinars.
I think that if you have the money, but your free time is limited, the software option is the best choice you can make. I can say that when we’re ready to expand to something completely outside of current niche, I’ll be paying up for some quality software because at least for me, my time is more limited that my money for something as low cost as a few hundred bucks for some software that may help me find something I would have never come across or at least greatly speed the process.
In the future, when I’ve gotten my arms around exactly what some of the various software platforms can do, I’ll put together a more detailed post. In the meantime, I’ll just say spend some time checking out JungleScout, Seller Labs, AMZ Tracker, and AMZ Shark.
There are a lot of ways to find a product and I hope you get started. Best time was last year. Next best time is now.
In the next article, I’ll be getting in to what to do once you’ve found what you believe is a good product idea. We’ll be revisiting that Amazon criteria discussed above and getting in to the details of things like Best Seller Rank (BSR), competition, reviews, stars, and how to determine if the products on your list make sense.
Once you find a product that meets those requirements, it will be time to check on pricing, manufacturing, and see if there are next steps to be taken toward launching.
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