Practical Ecommerce

What Should I Sell Online?

Everyone who starts an ebiz faces the question: What do I sell? And most everyone seems to make two classic mistakes in the beginning:

  • They try to sell what everyone else is selling: DVDs, electronics and designer clothing. The problem they encounter is that the market is already saturated with these products and the suppliers typically do not work in small quantity. To make any profit at all, they’d have to buy huge quantities.
  • They try to sell what they know and love. Unfortunately, unless there is a significant demand for what they know and love, they are going to be stuck with a lot of product they can appreciate but can’t move.


Lisa Suttora of coined the term “idea hotspot” to refer to anything, any place or person that “provide[s] you with an unending source of new product ideas, of market trends, of developing niches and product line education?It is a fertile ground for product ideas.” These hotspots keep you in touch with what people are buying, what things are up-and-coming, and what things are on their way out. If your ideas all come from one or two places, you are limiting yourself. Expand your thinking? You might consider looking at one of these “hotspots” for inspiration:

  • Newspapers. You can get an idea of what is on the minds of consumers by simply reading the lifestyle section, the business section, or looking at the advertisements the big stores are putting out.
  • Consumer Publications. There are hundreds of magazines designed around niche products, niche hobbies and niche markets. They are a terrific resource for building niche product lines.
  • Malls/brick-and-mortar stores. Talk to the salespeople, find out what is selling. You can even source your suppliers off the boxes. Get the manufacturer’s name, call them up, and ask who their local distributor is in your area.
  • Trend-spotting websites, such as, and

The entertainment industry, movies and TV drive product trends. If you know what is coming out in the movie industry, you can start sourcing related products before the trend begins. maintains a list of movies that are going to be released in the coming year. So if you know now that a particular movie is going to be coming out, you can start stocking up on relevant products before they become pricey, such as Batman, Superman, Curious George and Star Wars.

Write It Down

Suttora strongly suggests carrying a product sourcing notebook, be it a PDA or hand-held notebook, to keep track of your ideas as they come. She warns, “Ninety percent of ideas that you don’t write down will get lost. When you’re at these idea hotspots, if you see a hundred ideas for products to sell, you won’t be able to remember those. You’ve got to write them down in your product sourcing notebook and then go back and start researching them.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Legacy User March 26, 2007 Reply

    This information posted here can be used as a great reference and is
    very informative.
    Good work, Chris

    — *Peter Brown*

  2. Legacy User March 31, 2007 Reply

    Thank you very much for giving me a boost.. I almost just went with an online electronics store which I will tackle one day, but need to start small and niche.

    — *Mark*

  3. Legacy User September 6, 2007 Reply

    Thanks for the tips…

    — *Dennis*

  4. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    What you also want to look at is what products do people use everyday and how long they will use this product. I asked myself this questions over and over again, until I came up with a great product to sell;, it's in the wedding industry.

    Thanks for the info.

    — *Israel Meneses*

  5. Legacy User December 4, 2007 Reply

    It's great to see someone write a post like this. I belong to a business forum and every week someone new comes on and posts requesting a review of their site . . . often the site has been around for a few months and they're wondering why they have little to no sales.

    The answer is usually found the millisecond the site is visited because they are not only in a crowded market but are going against the big boys and more often than not won't be able to hang in there in the PPC world against the heavy hitters while their site ages and has a better chance of being visible in organic searches.

    It isn't even enough to be niche anymore you need to be a micro-niche.

    — *Karen*

  6. Legacy User February 16, 2008 Reply

    Bottom line: A product may seem like a good trendy idea all the way up until the point that you realize it will cost you thousands of dollars a month in ad costs just to break into the current market! Ouch!

    I learned how (and it's unbelievably easy) to do market research over the internet from a pretty good book called It helped me understand there's more to picking a great product to sell than just getting excited about an idea which is what most people preach these days. No offense to Chris though, he's one of the good guys.

    — *Lloyd*

  7. Gina June 14, 2012 Reply

    No matter what you buy or sell online, I would highly recommend this new website I stumbled upon, Statricks. I’m sure this tool will make selling/buying used goods a lot easier. I’ve always felt that it takes up a lot of time determining the price of used goods (If the goal is to make some sort of profit out of it). Statricks gives you price reports and trends for free, so you basically get the going price for any used item on both Craigslist and eBay, without having to browse through all the classifieds yourself. I can highly recommend this site, and here is a link to their page:

  8. Nekha July 26, 2012 Reply

    I’m looking to sell something very profitable. I don’t wanna sell branded items as they bring fixed profits. Something rare or unusual items I’m willing to sell. Any help?