Build an Ecomerce Store 2017 : Picking Your Produce
In the first stage of the eCommerce Tutorial 2017, we are not going to do any eCommerce.
Sounds crazy? It’s not.
To Be A Great Chef, You Need A Great Grocer
The main difference between affiliate marketing and eCommerce : in affiliate marketing, the product has already been tested.
The primary reason why most “real” businesses fail is known in startup terms as “product-market fit”. In simpler terms, that means this:
Most businesses fail because no-one wants their stuff.
As affiliate marketers, we’re mostly insulated from that risk. It’s one of the reasons why AM is such an effective model. By the time a product or service has an affiliate campaign set up for it, it’s usually been at least somewhat tested and proven to work. That de-risks running campaigns for it to a huge extent.
In eCommerce, there’s no such guarantee. Just because a product exists on AliExpress doesn’t mean anyone actually wants to buy it. And even if people exist who want to buy the product, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to effectively target them.
So if you like money, the first step in any eCommerce project is absolutely not to start an eCommerce store.
It’s to generate a whole bunch of ideas for potential eCommerce stores, then find the idea out of all of those that’s most likely to succeed.
Step 1: Write Your Shopping List
Start off by sitting down at your computer and making a list of every area of “stuff” that you know something about. By “stuff” here I mean anything that you could theme a store around:
- Your hobbies and interests.
- Past hobbies – even back to childhood if those hobbies would be of interest to people with credit cards. For example, as a kid I used to like fishing. That’d go on my list.
- Family’s hobbies and interests. If your mum’s very interested in classic cars you probably know more about that than you’d think. If your son is into American Football you almost certainly know a lot more about that than you’d expect!
- Past job fields. Ignore anything that’s business-to-business only, but anything that dealt with selling to the public is fair game.
- Any field of interest you happen to randomly know something about. Read a book about obsessive DIYers recently? Stick DIY down there! Interested in motorbike racing but not to the point it’s an actual hobby, just something you think about occasionally? Stick it down.
You absolutely do not need to be currently passionate about any of these things. In fact, it can be a problem if you are passionate about the field you start your store in – it’s almost better to start a store selling stuff you don’t care about.
Now take a moment to think about your current problems. Anything from whacking great issues to tiny niggles. Think about problems your friends or family have had too.
Any problem that could potentially be solved by a physical product? Write it down.
- Car won’t start in the morning? Sounds like it needs a spare… something. (I’m not a car person.) Write down “car parts”.
- Lamp flickering in your bathroom? “New lightbulbs”.
- Just bought a new house and you and your wife are arguing about decoration? “House decorations”.
- Elderly relative suffers from sciatica? “Sciatica relief”.
OK, you should have a mahoosive list at this point. But let’s throw in a few more things.
Google “List of hobbies”. I’m not going to recommend a specific list, because I don’t want everyone to work off the same songbook – there are loads of them out there. Pick a nice long, detailed list, and pick a few hobbies from that list which jump out at you as potential store ideas. Don’t overthink this: you’ll narrow down later.
You can also go exploring Groups on Facebook or Google+, or look through Subreddits on Reddit to get other ideas.
You should now have a list of 30+ ideas. Time to narrow them down.
Step 2: Squeezing Your Produce
Start a new spreadsheet called “Shop Ideas”
Head off to AliExpress.
For each of the interests on your list, spend some time – 10 min or so – exploring the available options for things to sell to them.
There are a couple of things to be aware of here:
- Don’t sell things that people eat. It’s just not worth the potential legal liability.
- Don’t sell things that are too heavy, as the shipping will be a nightmare.
- Do not sell things that are priced over $75 or so on AliExpress, unless you have a very big budget to test with.
- Don’t sell stuff that’s obviously associated with a big non-Chinese brand. There are lots of knockoffs on AliExpress and they’re apt to lead to unhappy customers. Stick to unbranded stuff for the most part.
If you can find at least 10 things you could potentially sell to people with that interest or problem, and that don’t fall foul of one of the problems mentioned above, add the interest to your spreadsheet.
Next, go looking for places where people with that interest or problem gather.
Look for Facebook groups about the interest or problem, and note the name of the group and their size. Use the Facebook Audience Insights tool too to find groups you might otherwise miss. Look for subreddits, and do the same. Google for magazines and independent forums. Make a note of everything you find.
If you’re seeing groups that are huge – 1 million or more – you’ve probably defined your interest too broadly. Think about how you can niche down. For example, the interest “food” is waaaaaay too large. But you could target people who like “BBQ”, or “Brazilian food”, or “Spicy Foods”. If you hit this problem, come up with a bunch of niched interests, add them to your list, then remove the original massive interest group from your spreadsheet.
Whilst you’re doing that, look for “welcome” or “introduction” threads on those groups or forums. If you find them, make a note of what people say about themselves – specifically age and occupation. Also, make a note of any threads that imply that people on those groups either do have money they’re willing to spend (“In the market for a new amp, max budget $5000 – what do you recommend?”) or don’t have money/aren’t willing to spend it (“This coaching site costs $5 a month – sounds like a ripoff!”).
Now, based on that information and what you already know about the niche, add the following information to your spreadsheet: whether this problem/hobby attracts people with money, and whether the problem/hobby is one where people usually spend money regularly.
For example, golf enthusiasts generally have money, and spend it regularly – they need a subscription to a golfing club, for starters, and they’ll often pay for things like coaching, which are recurring costs. People who play free online video games, by contrast, often don’t have money – they’re usually young people, students or unemployed, and often in poorer parts of the world – and don’t regularly spend money. They may buy cosmetic items from time to time, but there’s no regular investment required there.
Finally, note if you found a lot of threads specifically discussing products to buy. You should also check http://www.watchcount.com/ and http://nicheminer.co/ to see if there’s a lot of interest in products for this problem or interest. Note your results down, including specific counts for Likes or bids on items.
Step 3: Pick The Freshest Goods
This process should have taken you a good few hours, probably a couple of days. If it didn’t, you probably didn’t write down enough ideas, or didn’t research thoroughly enough.
Now we’ll make the final decision.
Look over your list, and pick out the three or four hobbies or problem areas for it that most closely match the following:
- Plenty of appropriate products on AliExpress to sell them. The more the better. A mixture of cheaper and more expensive items is ideal.
- Lots of medium to large communities for the hobby or interest. Actual print publications for the hobby or interest are a particularly good sign.
- Communities aren’t TOO large. See above – if it’s over 1 million strong, it’s probably too broad.
- People with this problem or interest have money. They say they have money, they’re older (35-55 is probably the sweet spot), or they are in reasonably well-paid professions.
- People with this problem or interest spend money regularly.
- People with this problem or interest are actively interested in discussing products to purchase or looking for products for their problem or interest. You should be seeing threads on forums or groups talking about and discussing new products. High counts of Likes on products or bids on products also show interest here.
- The problem or interest isn’t seasonal. It’s not great having a store that’s inactive 10 months out of 12!
- The problem or interest is worldwide, or at least present in more than a few countries. Note that you shouldn’t assume on this, but do research: for example, American Football is surprisingly at least somewhat popular in a lot of countries outside the US.
- The problem or interest isn’t likely to go away in a few years. Currently lots of people are interested in the UK’s General Election, for example, but even assuming you could find products around that interest, it’s not a good one to build a store around as it’ll go away in a month!
- Ideally – use this as a tie-breaker – people with this problem or interest shouldn’t be too tech-savvy. This mostly matters at the extreme end: people who build their own quadcopters aren’t an ideal audience, as they’re far more likely to be comfortable with ordering from AliExpress directly!
Got three or four options written down? Great stuff!
You’re now ready to not only start a store, but ready to start a store with the best chance of success.
Continue reading the part 2 of this guide HERE .
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