Choosing Product Lines that Sell

by beckygoudy on August 27, 2009


Finding the best product lines is an art, and will likely evolve as your business grows. Some of the best places to find product lines are in trade magazines and at buyers market shows. Both provide access to a wealth of vendors and exhibitors and don’t require you to travel very far at all. Simply flip through pages or click and print booth lists. Also, size up your competition. Buy your competition’s products. Study them. Understand their key benefits and key downfalls. Evaluate the good, bad, and indifferent, and develop competitive product strategies accordingly.

Once you have your list of potential lines in-hand, how do you know which ones you should buy? If you source and buy the wrong products, you’ll likely end up with a bunch of dead stock that sits around in storage. If you paid for this with a credit card upfront, even worse, because you are paying interest on all that immobile inventory.

There are a lot of things to consider. These questions will help you narrow down the best product lines for your store, and should help you avoid those lines that will become worthless.

  1. Will this line compliment your existing offering? Will it be relevant to your target market? It can be difficult to decide which products to buy if you’re not looking at them sitting physically next to each other on a shelf. Imagine your ecommerce business like a brick and mortar store. If you were to put all of your products into one physical location, would they all fit together?
  2. How does this product or brand appear in search results? Look at the competition for paid search (Google or Yahoo). If there aren’t many ads or relevant pages, and you know this brand has a strong or growing following, then this is probably a good line for you to buy.
  3. Will the manufacturer allow you to use their brand name in your advertising? Surprisingly, the answer is not always yes.
  4. Are there seasonal buys? For example, to continue supplying this product for your customers, do certain amounts have to be purchased at certain times of the year? If the amount of product isn’t something you can hold or afford several times a year, then perhaps it isn’t the line for you.
  5. Do you have to stick to a strict MSRP to sell these products? If your site competes with others on price, then this probably isn’t the product for you. Conversely, the internet is one of the hardest places to compete on price. If your site has many strict MSRP brands, then you should emphasis other tangible assets like shopping ease of use or customer service.
  6. How quickly will you be able to get this product in to your hands? Delivery typically ranges anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.
  7. Will the manufacturer provide product flats, or will you have to take these photos yourself? ‘Flats’ are pictures of the single item on a white or grey background made just for the internet. The answer to this question could seriously affect how quickly you are able to get these products on your site, and therefore, how quickly you can sell them.

Finally, make a plan or calendar for product line buys and try to stick to it. Prioritize each line from most important buy to least important buy. Schedule the most important product buys first and the rest throughout the remainder of the year.

Above all, take your time and be patient with your product lines. The worst you can do is act too hastily and buy a stock room full of products you can’t sell.

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