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What Should I Sell on my Site?

By Chris Malta
Posted Monday, December 13, 2004

Far too many people make the mistake of trying to sell only products that they like on their web sites. Others make the mistake of trying to sell only the coolest and flashiest things they can find.

The whole point of starting an Ecommerce web site is to make money. That’s something you must not lose sight of (no pun intended!).

Our business is to show people where they can find products to sell without investing a single penny in inventory. The approach is called drop shipping. This is where a wholesale distributor will ship a single item directly to your customer from their warehouse, AFTER your customer pays you for it. It’s the perfect way to start in Internet business on a shoestring budget.

The Directory we publish covers three quarters of a million products, from over two thousand well-known brand names, available from more than a hundred REAL wholesalers who will drop ship.

So why does everyone who uses our Directory try to sell electronics?

Ok, I guess I did the same thing. When I opened my first Internet store, I plastered the walls of that place with things that I though were cool. Stereo equipment, DVD players, Computer components. The shinier the better. I had the latest technology up there. Some of the items cost thousands of dollars.

I think that in the back of my mind, I knew that I wasn’t going to sell much of it, but it LOOKED really cool. I could show it to my friends and say, “Check it out…that’s MY store!” They were all suitably impressed, and I could walk around feeling like I was pretty slick. Whenever any of them asked me how much money I was making, I cleverly changed the subject.

The truth was that no one was buying much. Come to think of it, none of my friends bought anything, either. That should have told me something right there.

Look, electronics are a fine product to sell on the Internet. I only use them as an example because it’s a situation I can relate to. The problem is not the product; it’s the COMPETITION.

Most of the people I’ve seen start an Internet store want to know what the hottest sellers are on the ‘Net, so they can sell those products too. They’re missing the point, as I did. If you only sell the hottest sellers, you dilute your available customer base, because everyone else is trying to sell the hottest sellers, too! You also run into those bricks-and-mortar popular-item superstores that have millions of dollars to purchase tons of inventory at rock-bottom prices.

People buy all kinds of products. They don’t have to be cool or shiny. They just have to be things that people will buy.
Here’s an important ingredient for success on the ‘Net: sell those products that people use, but don’t stumble over every time they open a web browser.

When we build an Internet store, we do a little research first. Since we build stores in Yahoo Shopping (http://store.yahoo.com), we do our research in Yahoo Shopping. We know that at least 90% of our traffic is going to come from the millions of people who surf through there with their purses and wallets flapping in the breeze. So when we consider a new product line, we start a search.

If we were considering selling DVD players, for example, we would do a search on the term “DVD Player” in Yahoo Shopping. As of the date of this article, such a search turns up 7,813 DVD Players available from 496 stores.
Do we want to become store number 497, add 20 or 30 products to the nearly 8,000 that are already available, and hope we sell something? I think not.

Since we use our own Directory exclusively as a source of product suppliers who drop ship, we go back to the Directory and look around at some of the available product types. We notice that one of the wholesalers we list carries a complete line of Fiskars brand Yard and Garden tools. Will people buy these products? Hmmm…people HAVE been known to work on their yards and gardens, when they’re not playing with their electronics. Fiskars is a well-known brand name, so our customers would feel comfortable with it. It happens to be late spring, so it’s reasonable to assume that people will be buying garden tools for some time still this year.

So let’s check out the competition.

We want to know how many other people are selling Fiskars products in Yahoo Shopping. So we search on “Fiskars”. Only 54 stores selling Fiskars products right now! That’s considerably better than 497 stores selling the electronics we were considering.

Are these store devoted to selling ONLY Fiskars products? Wow…not a single one! All the top search returns are
stores selling general merchandise.

When we build a store, we like to specialize in one product line. There are many benefits to this; chiefly the fact that customers feel more comfortable in a store that does one thing, and does it well. It’s also much easier to rank a single product line in the major search engines than it is to rank a general store with lots of unrelated products.
Ok, we have a product line that we feel will sell, and the competition in the Fiskars brand name itself is minimal and unfocused.

However, when people search for garden tools, they’re going to use search words like “Trowel”, and “Pruning”. They’re not going to search on the term “Fiskars” very often, unless they’re looking for scissors. So, we go back to the Yahoo Shopping search engine.

We search on “Gardening Tools”, and we find 113 stores carrying 324 products. Still not much competition. Even better, NONE of these stores are focused on just gardening tools. They are gift stores, general merchandise stores, etc., who just happen to have the word “Gardening” somewhere in their product description. We know that we can put the word “Gardening” in our very product names themselves (ex.- “Gardening Trowel, Steel, 9 Inch”), and we will show up right at the TOP of a search on the word “Gardening”.

We search on the word “Pruning”, and find 81 stores carrying 418 products. Still not a problem, since the top returns are BOOKS on pruning, and the rest are more unfocused sites.

After a little more searching, we’re convinced that we’ve found a product line that will sell well for the rest of the Spring and Summer. Since it only costs us $100 a month to open another small Yahoo Store, we more than happy to do it. In the Fall, sales will slack off, but we have other stores that are geared toward Fall and Winter merchandise. They are also small and focused, and no matter how many Yahoo Stores we open, we know that each one of them will easily cover it’s $100 a month cost, and turn a profit of some kind all year ‘round.

Of course, now that I’ve opened my mouth and told everyone about Fiskars, we’re going to have to scrap that idea and go back to the drawing board! That’s OK, though…we have nearly half a million others to choose from. (NOTE: The numbers mentioned regarding search results were at the time of the writing of this article, and will have changed. The point remains the same!)

Chris Malta
WorldWide Brands, Inc.
For more information, visit (http://www.YouCanDropship.com).

About the Author
Chris Malta is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. He has worked with computer Systems for 18 years. He's been involved in eCommerce systems, networking and site design for more than 6 years. He's taught college-level computer courses in Western NY. He developed The Drop Ship Source Directory, and he and his partners at Worldwide Brands, Inc., publish the Directory and run eCommerce sites of their own using Drop Shipping as their only business method.