Chapter 1 How to Find the Perfect Products to Sell Online

Beatriz Estay / 12 min read


Grow your ecommerce brand in 2020. Download the complete in-depth, 16 chapter guide.


No matter how long you’ve been an entrepreneur, launching an online business has never been more difficult. Here’s a quick look at the 2020 online landscape:

  • Competition is fierce,
  • Product markets are saturated, and
  • Consumers are demanding convenience more than ever before.

Before you begin to brainstorm the design and experience of an online store, or even your company’s name, you’ll need to choose what products to sell.

This decision is a strategy within itself, as what you sell will impact every other business decision you make, such as:

  • Brand name,
  • Website design,
  • Marketing, 
  • Loyalty programs, and
  • Shipping and fulfillment.

While each of these components is essential to a successful online strategy, they are worthless without a great product to support them. 

Let’s dive into how to find the perfect product to sell online.

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What Type of Products Can I Sell Online?

Regardless of which industry you are in, there are two types of products you can sell:

  1. Commoditized products and 
  2. Niche products.

Commoditized products are essential, high demand, or popular goods or services that can be physical or digital products. These are products that everybody needs.

Commoditized products are what make up the majority of online sales. Think of anything you buy at Walmart or Amazon that has a big brand behind it — food, golf clubs, clothes, kids toys, etc.

Niche products are goods or services that serve a specific customer base and product category.

In many instances, these are unique, one-of-a-kind, or handmade products, making them some of the most popular items bought online.

Niche products are often made in small batch runs or on demand. Think of a unique beaded necklace, handmade frozen yogurt, or leather iPad case.

However, many store owners sell a combination of commoditized products and niche products to increase their profit margin.

Offering only commoditized items, especially if they are popular products sold on major online marketplaces like Amazon, will make it extremely difficult to become successful.

Larger online retailers and marketplaces can buy items in large quantities, which makes for more profitable products. But, chances are your startup won’t be able to compete right off the bat.

Instead, offer commoditized and niche products to your customers while delivering an on-brand experience to set your online shop up for success.

Take a look at Tyler’s, for example.

Tyler’s dives into the best of both worlds by selling niche clothing and accessories in addition to commodity apparel products from popular brands like Billabong, Simply Southern, and Yeti.

By offering both niche and commodity products, they are able to better serve their customers by making their online store a convenient choice for consumers looking for a single store to buy both types of products. 

How To Choose What Products To Sell

We’re all looking to become the next big company — similar to some of the most popular D2C brands today. But, truth is, in today’s saturated product market, it’s difficult to generate product ideas.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a product brainstorm checklist to help you unlock your entrepreneurial spirit and drive.

1. Identify or create products that solve a problem.

“If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find a solution for a problem in your own life.” — Brian Chesky, Co-founder of Airbnb

When you’re brainstorming ideas for a product or service, it’s essential you reflect on problems in your own life. 

For Kyle Kirkpatricki, an Olympic gymnastics coach, it was wanting to listen to music while training athletes. The caveat? Being able to use headphones that would stay in place, regardless of whether he was running or jumping on the trampoline performing flips.

Spoiler alert: Kirkpatricki successfully took what used to be a small annoyance and transformed it into a brilliant business idea — the invention of Decibullz

The reason behind his success? Pinpointing a problem and conveniently solving it.

Your product or service doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge, complicated endeavor — it can be quite simple, yet exceptionally effective.

Product opportunities can also exist in a few other areas:

  • Improved product features, 
  • A new market unrealized by your competitors, or 
  • Unique product positioning and marketing.

Beauty and skincare brand Bliss took a trending product, improved its features while tapping into an unrealized market opportunity, and introduced it to the market with unique positioning. 

Bliss, founded in 1996, began its business as a modern spa in NYC. They sought out to revolutionize skincare by introducing ingenious products to the market and cultivating a sense of community with their customers.

Fast forward to 2020, with the help of new technologies and global ingredients, Bliss continues to introduce new PETA-certified, cruelty-free, clean beauty and skincare products that work for every budget.

“We want everyone to put their best face forward.” — Bliss

By founding your brainstorm in the eyes of a consumer, you will be able to identify ways a product or service can bring value to someone’s life. x

Tip: Reflect on your own life and outline what experiences put a hitch in your giddyup.

2. Find products you and other people are passionate about.

‘Passionate’ might be a buzzword, but it carries a lot of value.

Starting your own business is not the glitz and glam that’s shown in the movies. The reality looks a lot more like long hours, likely some rocky terrain, and the occasional, if not frequent, sacrifice.

Being passionate about what you do will not only help carry you through hard times, but it will also aid in crafting a brand message that speaks to people in a way that is meaningful, authentic, and engaging.

Let’s be real — without passion, what’s the driver behind your online business?

By emotionally investing in your product, you can better deliver its value and mission into the market. Plus, an emotional story will help you stand out to competitors. 

3. Find products with branding potential.

You’ve identified a potential product that solves consumers’ problems and comes from a place of passion. So, what’s next? Creating a resounding brand message and can make a splash in the competitive ecommerce space.

Crafting a recognizable and memorable brand means you’ll need to put in the time to research and truly understand your target audience.

Your brand should speak to your potential customers in a way that both resonates and compels them to come back.

In other words, you want to build loyalty based on audience identity.

Some great questions to start with here are:

  • How does your target audience like to be addressed?
  • How will you position your product?
  • How will you design your website to communicate your brand and appeal to your potential customers through layout, color scheme, and calls to action?

When it comes to crafting a brand and experience that resonates, Jeff and Spencer Jan of Solo Stove are experts.

Solo Stove has found success from focusing on the benefit their product brings to the market  — the opportunity for consumers to make memories with their loved ones. By centralizing on this theme, the company was able to exponentially grow an organic following of loyal customers. Solo Stove has been able to leverage its community of loyal customers to improve their brand, product, and online experience with authentic product reviews, community engagement, and honest feedback.

Solo Stove is focused on helping people reconnect to what matters most, and BigCommerce has helped us take that to the next level. — John Merris, CEO at Solo Stove

Leveraging your product to create community and purpose is a crucial component to growing your online store. Without a product and brand your customers can relate to, you’re essentially running your business on an empty tank.

4. Hop on trends early.

Take advantage of an emerging market and carve out a spot for your brand. 

To be successful in doing so, it’s pivotal that you stay up-to-date on recent, trending products and services –– and then launch an ecommerce site to capitalize on them before they hit peak popularity.

As a small business owner, hopping on trends early can give your business a huge upside. You’ll have the opportunity to own SEO keywords and establish yourself as a leader within the market you serve early on.

Start thinking of products or services that have been trending up in recent years.

5. Find products that fulfill guilty pleasures.

It always comes back to what we’re passionate about. Another proven successful product is one that caters to customers’ passions, or even their vices.

Shoppers often spend more on their guilty pleasures, developing deep loyalty to brands that understand their obsessions.

From its early beginnings, Jeni’s Ice Cream sought to capture this emotion with their customer base. 

Jeni’s knows ice cream is a real treat, which is why they make their products with fresh ingredients. This way, customers can feel good about indulging every now and then (and their extensive flavor options keep customers coming back for more).

6. Identify and serve niche segments.

Niche segments often spell out success for ecommerce businesses.

The reason for niche segments comes down to resonating with a highly-engaged, and highly-converting, audience. Serving a niche segment is a great business proposition because you create a product that solves an issue for a very passionate audience segment.

Serving a passionate niche audience will help build brand awareness, online traffic and, ultimately, new and returning converting customers.

Let’s take a look at LARQ.

LARQ is a water bottle unlike anything else on the market. 

What started as a simple vision of bridging the gap between innovative technology and better access to pristine drinking water resulted in the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle.

The product serves as an easier, healthier, and more sustainable choice thanks to UV-C LED technology that eradicates up to 99.99% of germs, bacteria, and protozoa, eliminating harmful and odor-causing sources. And if that wasn’t already great, it also comes in a chic and sleek modern design, in various colors.

The brand continues to cater to its niche segment by supporting other environmental causes. For example, LARQ is a proud member of 1% For The Planet, which means 1% of all of their sales goes to protecting the future of our planet.

Here are 10 ideas for niche products to sell online in 2020:

  1. On-the-go, health-conscious foods.
  2. Craft beverages (mocktails included).
  3. Subscription boxes.
  4. CBD products.
  5. Men’s engagement rings and wedding bands.
  6. Journal notebooks and personal planners.
  7. Pet food.
  8. Cruelty-free beauty products.
  9. Camera and photo accessories (e.g. drones and tripods).
  10. Shapewear.

7. Spot business opportunities absolutely everywhere.

Part of being an entrepreneur is always pushing your imagination.

As you do your part as a world citizen, pay attention to how society behaves. Are there norms to be broken? Is there an opportunity to improve the lives of your neighbors? 

What products gain quick customer acquisition? What industries are gaining traction?

Keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world will help you identify new online business opportunities.

In addition, sit down and evaluate your strengths and interests.

Are you a naturally gifted marketer? Does the idea of fundraising make you cringe?

Gather the resources, both human and technical, to bring your online business to life. Having an organized approach to a product and business launch will only bode well in the future.

How Do I Begin Selling Online?

You’ve got a product and now you’re ready to go to market — online.

Before you begin setting up an online store, be sure to have these steps completed:

  1. Do market research.
  2. Finalize products to sell.
  3. Identify your customer base — and segment your audiences.
  4. Begin research on what ecommerce platform you’d like to sell on (like your own online store, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and other sites customers commonly buy from).
  5. Create high-quality product content (including product descriptions and imagery).
  6. Create a strategy to market to your potential customers (so you can drive traffic to store).

Truth is, launching an ecommerce store is not a walk in the park. But, with the right tools and an organized pre- and post-launch plan, you’ll be on the right track toward success.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to build an online business set up for success. 

Resources To Help You Start Selling Online

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Before we dive into each detailed chapter, we’ve compiled a list of resources to help you prepare for your new online business venture.

Each of the articles in these sections will walk you through how to set yourself up for long-term online selling success. 

Resources for the planning phase.

Below are resources to help you plan out your ecommerce store. These are great for understanding your options when choosing an ecommerce website builder, website design inspiration, and ideas for products to sell.

Successful Ecommerce Business Basics.

Sometimes, you just have to bring it back to the basics. Explore these resources to learn more on how to successfully manage and run your online business.

Designing Your Store.

Ecommerce store designs goes much further than an eye-catching design. Learn what features and functionality you need to meet your customers’ expectations. 

Resources For Optimizing Your Store.

Once you have your design ready to go, it’s time to focus on product photography, website copy, CTAs, and more. Check out these articles to learn how you can best optimize your online store.

Accepting Payments.

Conversion is the goal, which means you need to master your checkout. Explore these resources to learn more about what payments you should accept and why.

Protecting Customer Data.

Returns + shipping and fulfillment resources.

Let’s talk post-conversion. How do you manage your returns, shipping, and fulfillment? It’s key to meet your customers expectations post-purchase so they’ll continue shopping with your brand in the future. 

Whether it be small business shipping, dropshipping, or fulfillment centers, you can count on us to help you find what works best for your business.

Make your first sale.

Once you have your site set up for success, it’s time to start driving traffic and converting visitors into customers. Here’s everything you need to increase your brand’s visibility and stay top of mind with customers.

Driving Traffic.

In order to generate sales, you’ll need to drive traffic – to all the channels you participate in. Use these resources to create a strategy around online traffic.

Converting Shoppers.

Your customers are now on your site. What type of experience do you give them? What makes them want to engage in business with you? Take note from these articles and think about how you can apply your learning to your business.

Retaining Customers With Marketing.

Marketing is key to customer retention. This means you’ll need to spend time getting to know your customers and what they value.

Measuring Success.

Success is nothing without the evidence to back it up. Think about how you will track your growth by exploring these articles.

Sell everywhere.

The fastest growing businesses on the BigCommerce platform view themselves similarly to a stock portfolio, and they have found that diversification is key to success.

Smart brands have multiple revenue streams to supplement their ecommerce website. Better yet, modern consumers are agnostic to their final purchase destination.

This means that a customer has no preference on whether they shop on Amazon or your ecommerce store. 

A consumer’s only preference is convenience. 

Simply put — if you aren’t selling across channels, you could lose the sale to a competitor who has better diversified.

Here’s all the information you need to know to expand your revenue portfolio and grow your sales by 10x.

Selling on Amazon.

Yes, the ‘A’ word. Discover how you can use the online marketplace powerhouse to grow your business.

Selling on eBay.

Another great online marketplace, but with different tactics. Discover how you can take your brand to the next level with eBay.

Selling on Google.

Most of us know Google for its search power, but have you ever thought about selling on the platform? Read the articles below for everything you need to know.

Selling on Facebook.

Facebook is essential to omnichannel strategy. Between the marketing and sales benefits, you’ll want to learn how you can leverage its power for the success of your brand.

Selling on Pinterest.

Do you have high quality product photography that’s eye-catching? Then Pinterest may be a great omnichannel solution for your business. 

Selling on Twitter.

Learn how to master the art of selling on Twitter with a complete guide.

Selling on Instagram.

With photo, video, and user-generated content opportunities, Instagram serves as a great platform to drive traffic and conversions. Dive into these resources to learn how to optimize your Instagram strategy.

What’s Next?

Ideas are great, but it’s the execution that makes all the difference.

The rest of the guide will unlock key strategies and tactics to bring your business online. 

It is now time to finalize the products you are going to sell, launch your online store and start driving traffic to your website. 

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Table of Contents

IntroHow to (Realistically) Start an Online Business That (Actually) Grows in 2021
Chapter 1 How to Find the Perfect Products to Sell Online
Chapter 2 How To Determine Market Viability and Conduct Product Research (2021 Guide)
Chapter 3 How to Conduct Online Market Research
Chapter 4 Competitor Analysis: How to Know What Makes You Different in a Crowded Ecommerce Market
Chapter 5 Online Business Laws and Regulations: an Ecommerce Guide
Chapter 6 Target Market Analysis: How to Reach the Right Audience with the Right Pitch
Chapter 7 Sourcing Products For Ecommerce 101: How to Get Unique and Marketable Stock
Chapter 8 Choosing The Right Ecommerce Platform For Your Business
Chapter 9 59 Productivity Hacks for Online Small Business Owners
Chapter 9 How to Create, Setup, and Launch a Profitable Online Store (Seriously)
Chapter 10 Driving Traffic to Your Online Store
Chapter 11 Next Steps After The Sale: Your Guide to Small Business Shipping
Chapter 12 Measuring Success: Analytics
Chapter 13 Time To Grow: The 5 Things To Consider When Scaling Your Online Business
Chapter 14 17 Tips For Online Small Business Owners


Beatriz Estay

Beatriz Estay

Beatriz is a Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce and the fashion and lifestyle influencer behind The Letter Bea, an Austin, Texas based blog. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Sociology/Anthropology from Lake Forest College and specializes in ecommerce, marketing and merchandising strategies, influencer and branding work, and social media. When she's not curating content, Beatriz loves to travel the world, share her journey with Type 1 Diabetes, and find Austin's most Instagram friendly spots.

View all posts by Beatriz Estay

14 comments on “How to Find the Perfect Products to Sell Online

  1. Tracey Wallace
  2. Tracey Wallace
  3. skginfo on

    It’s really very nice…keep sharing

    Web and Graphics Design is one of our core expertise field. If you wish to design cost effective visually perfect website related products, we are here for you. We can help you to design following products beyond of your expectation.

  4. christine on

    I think passion and interest is really important.

    Sure – there are some products out there that are self explanatory, but you have to think long term. If a customer asks a question – would you be able to answer it?

    I thought about selling hair care products because I had an ‘in’, but I’m lucky to wash my hair once a week. The products just wouldn’t have been a great fit for me – I wouldn’t have known what to do with half the products and so supporting my customers would have been extremely difficult.

    Also – running/starting your own business will likely be 100 times more work than you think it will be. Money is a powerful motivator to some, but loving your product, knowing your product, being driven BY the product you sell is very important (to me anyway). When you’re working to 1am AGAIN it helps to like what your doing.

    Look to your existing interests. Love making gluten free brownies? Bingo – you could make them to sell – develop a mix for sale online or in shops.

    Frustrated at the cost of buying prepackaged school snacks at the supermarket? Start a website that sells snacks in bulk to reduce costs for mum’s (let me know when it’s up – I’ll place an order). Chances are if you’re frustrated by it – someone else out there will be too (as shown with the mason jar lids).

    The only thing I would say about research is that whilst it’s good to do – it can also be intimidating and hold you back. Before I started my first store I was told I would never make a $1. I started an online baby business – it’s a totally saturated market. There are huge players and hundreds of smaller ones. If I’d based my decision on ‘research’ then I never would have started. Within 12 months I sold more baby sleeping bags and swaddles than any other online retailer in Australia (based on suppliers sales).

    Research is interesting, but don’t let it cripple you. Who cares if there is someone out there that ‘owns’ the market. It’s a big world – plenty of room for everyone.


  5. Tracey Wallace
  6. Scott Williams on

    Did you mean $41 billion in Q4??? 41 million does not sound like enough for Bigcommerce stores alone, let alone all online stores.
    Great article by the way. I will be a great resource for those looking to sell online but not knowing where to start.

  7. Katey Ferenzi
    Katey Ferenzi on

    Sia, thank you so much. We’re so glad you’ve been tuning in. Let us know if there is anything you’d like for us to tackle on the blog as a whole. We’d love to hear from you directly so we may help.

  8. Sia Aristidou on

    Love your videos Katey. I always take something away from it. Thanks for sharing these great business examples. I love that maison jar lid!!

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