How Do I Find Products to Sell on Amazon?

Matt Ferguson has a few tricks up his sleeve for resellers and private labelers on Amazon. The force is strong with this one.

Have a question for us? Send it to questions@webretailer.com. Readers’ Questions are in partnership with Emanaged and Online Seller Consulting.

Question

Love your answer to Cathy. So I’m taking you up on your offer to ask “How best to find products to sell on Amazon?” Specifically I have a beauty brand with seven products I started selling FBA last February and would like to add some private labels to quickly scale the line. How can I source profitable items to add, including sourcing suppliers?

— Sam U, Houston, TX

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Answer

Hi Sam,

Thank you for writing in to call my bluff.

Product selection is the key difference between a big house and eating canned beans all year.

I should first point out that product selection is in many ways the key difference between a big house and eating canned beans all year. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a reseller or looking to build out your own brands with new manufactured lines. Both business models require a savvy eye for a good product and a calculated gambler’s spirit for what new product brought to market might just be “huge”.

The big success stories on marketplaces are based on either volume or great product. The latter being a combination of calculated risk, likely some back-to-back failures and steep learning curves, but some grit, determination and a good eye for retail too.

If I were the evil genius of the product selection world, Darth Product if you will, my knowledge of the selection force would be so strong I wouldn’t want to share it. I’d rather lightning-electrocute the competition than explain the extension cord following me around from under my 100% cotton Sith robe.

All that said, the science to selection is more art than anything. Numbers and information can go a long way towards finding the right product. Always seek numbers and use them. But you’ll need to have, or develop, something extra in how you use those numbers: knowledge of the product force.

1. Resellers – a simple Amazon trick

Health and beauty products are potentially one of the hardest categories to grow successfully on Amazon from humble beginnings. Did you always play games on the “hard” setting Sam?

The big names have captured the lion’s share of the market, leaving you to haggle with thousands of sellers like you for a tiny piece of pie. Thankfully Amazon is growing so large, even a tiny piece of pie is still enough to feed a forest of Ewoks.

One of the easiest tricks for any reseller model is simple enough. Here it is in bullet form.

  • Gather data on all the product your distributors and suppliers offer
  • Check the product on Amazon for Sales Rank and Buy Box price
  • Pick items based off the results

If your supplier has a big long list of UPC codes for all their stocked Sith Lord merchandise, copy that list to an Amazon inventory upload spreadsheet, add a price of 999.99, place everything at zero stock and upload into your seller account.

Be sure to add a unique SKU number, like ‘Darth-Products-101-{UPC}”, by using Excel to concatenate from the UPC field. You’ll want this prefixed SKU later when you delete all these entries out. You are only connecting to these ASIN’s short-term, to get the information you need. You’ll want to easily be able to find and delete them later.

Amazon doesn’t make the Sales Rank and Buy Box price available in one nice easy downloadable report. Why would they? That’s far too easy.

So if you use the Chrome web browser, get a free extension called Table Capture. This will allow you to select tables on screen and copy them to Excel files.

Make sure your Seller Central inventory screen has the columns you need displayed. You’ll want to add Sales Rank, along with your SKU and any other relevant bits. Some fields are hidden by default. Once it’s on screen, use the extension above to simply copy the data out. If you have one thousand items to check, you’ll need to do this four times because the search results page has a maximum of 250 products.

Remember, we aren’t going to actually try to “sell” any of these items right now. All we are doing is determining if the item is on Amazon, and if so, the price you need to offer to be competitive, along with a rough idea of the velocity of sales to expect.

If the Buy Box price is 10 bucks, and you can only buy starting quantities for 8 bucks, you know not to waste time on those “Sith Lord 24-hour Evil Protection Deodorant” sprays

If you can buy some Sith whale tongue oil extract for 5 dollars, which purifies and refines pulsating dark veins, and the best Buy Box price on Amazon is 20 bucks, you know some healthy margins are there to explore.

The Sales Rank on the product will give you a rough idea of sales velocity. The lower the rank, the more the item likely sells. If the Sales Rank for whale tongue oil isn’t too high, then it has a market. But in this case, oddly enough, there aren’t all that many Sith Lords looking for it.

The Sales Rank should be read in a few ways. Firstly, it’s telling you how the item is selling now. But it also can be considered a benchmark to work from when thinking about your pricing strategy. If whale oil ranks 100, and the best price offered is 20 dollars, what sort of ranking improvement should you hope for if you sold the item at 15 dollars?

Remember, you’re stacking a few variables before making a decision. With the above, we’ve found an item with a good potential margin, but low sales velocity. But we need to think about how a lower margin, equating to a more competitive selling price, might positively affect Sales Rank and overall velocity.

If it’s not on Amazon already, it could be a golden chalice or a poisoned chalice.

On the other hand, if the item isn’t on Amazon at all under that UPC, it might be listed under another UPC. If it’s not on Amazon at all, that might be an opportunity in its own right. Or a warning sign of course. If it’s not on Amazon already, it could be a golden chalice or a poisoned chalice.

Without having ordered a single product, using the above quick procedure, you have core Amazon information on what your margins would be, if you have competition, and roughly what velocity of sales you should expect. All before you have purchased a single item.

Once you’re done picking your potentials, use the SKU prefix to find all the abnormal entries in your seller account and delete them.

We just used Amazon and competitors’ data to help buy product from suppliers. No fancy tools or tricks. Just some copy-and-paste time and effort.

2. Your own brand – private label

Likely Sam, this is more where you are. You’re selling some items, and want to continue to develop your range by private labeling or fully branding your own line of product.

There are two common forms to this:

  1. You are in contact with a manufacturer who already sells whale tongue oils for general purposes.
  2. You are re-offering an existing product with “Sam’s Whale Oil Extract for Sith Lord Dry Skin” labels added, effectively reselling a pre-made item with your name and style on it.

To find manufacturers for private labeling is just a Google search away.

Another possibility, but less common, is that you’re actually making and trademarking your own items. These are made for you, by you, and are only available from you. You may not have cornered the whale tongue oil market, but you’ve perfected your recipe and formula (eww).

To find manufacturers for private labeling is just a Google search away. However, if you can find them easily on Google, so can the rest of the world.

We’ll chat more about that in a bit. But it might not actually matter, if you are offering the same items in a creative new fun way, and other people are all selling the same bottle with a different name on it.

I would definitely buy “Sith Lord Skin Anti-Plague Dying Zombie Look”, because as a Sith Lord, you do tend to get bags and dark lines early in imperial domination. You might be the first to repackage and sell that formula in that narrative, thus potentially opening up a new market, despite the formula being sold by a hundred others as boring “Yoda Anti-Wrinkle Cream”.

Private labeling is much less about an original idea on the actual recipe, formula or product. It’s all about the marketing plan and “spin” you are going to focus on. Do I need to mention unicorn spam again?

3. Your own brand – you own it

Harder, but potentially a future aspiration, would be to fully control the manufacturing of the formula or item. You don’t need to own a factory or anything! You can simply pay for a factory to make your own stuff.

You’ll need to furnish them with the ingredients, recipes and all the bits in between. But the item is at least “yours”. Just make sure you have solid contracts with the factory on ownership and non-disclosure points.

Sadly, that won’t always protect you from counterfeiting, should the item prove successful. Even fully patented, trademarked and licensed, with all contracts nailed tight, you still sometimes have to deal with people trying to leech off your hard work and success. But it goes with the territory on this model.

This model is also more expensive. There is more paperwork, delays and more investment. You likely will want to jump into private labeling first, then graduate to this model based on sales and the opportunity to expand a range or theme.

Marketing your own brand – use the force… of sales

It doesn’t really matter if you’re private labeling or manufacturing your own whale tongue oil extracts. Both are about bringing new product to a market. Right now no one is going to be searching for your brand, or will even have heard the product’s name. They are looking for “Sith Lord face creams” generally, and you are trying to win them over to your offer.

Thinking about this simplistically, you want to maximize the chances of success. If you plug an item into a category which has a massive amount of competition, “Yoda Sun screen” perhaps, your strategy will be different than offering a more unique product in a far less developed category, like “Sith Lord Ewok-flavored lip balm”.

Amazon will tell you what their top sellers are in any category. Just Google it. As of today, in homewares, Amazon’s top seller is a pack of wooden clothes hangers. How utterly boring. But there you have it. A lot of people order wooden clothes hangers from Amazon it seems. Top sellers differ by category, and will change daily.

What is often interesting to check too are the number and quality of listings in the smaller categories. Think of it this way: in established categories, there is a ton of traffic but a ton of competition. In smaller less-known categories, traffic is far smaller, but for buyers browsing that category, selection is also smaller.

Where is your product going to sit? A big category with lots of traffic? Or a small one with far less traffic, but also less competition? You need to have an idea, which requires checking these things on Amazon. You can use tools to help, like Terapeak or camelcamelcamel. Those will give you insights, but they won’t do the critical thinking for you. That’s the secret sauce in all this: your brain.

It’s a topic for another article, but you’ll have different strategies to consider depending on where your products sit. Aggressive PPC, delayed adoption of FBA, promotions, bundling and other things should all be considered.

If you aren’t sure how well your brand new item will perform, or have no idea what to expect, use a variation on the resellers’ trick above. Connect to your competitors’ listings, see what their Buy Box and Sales Rank information is, and then make some determinations on what you’ll need to be competitive, and roughly what sort of weekly orders you can expect.

Finding suppliers: Alibaba bonanza?

How do you find suppliers? A lot of these “Get mega-super-ultra rich on Amazon in 12 seconds” courses point you towards Alibaba.

After the course’s 15-minute video introduction, this will come up soon. They’ll pretty much tell you the same ideas mentioned above on checking Amazon, finding competitive listings, and using some basic tools to track sales velocity and pricing.

Those activities help you find potential opportunities. Alibaba is then where you can find product to resell or private label, and make those opportunities real.

You can often strike a better deal by meeting contacts at trade shows, and developing a personal rapport.

Alternatively, for a local supplier or partner, the yellow pages and trade publications for the industry will give you plenty to pick from. But I would also advise that you attend trade shows and events where these entities congregate. You can often strike a better deal by meeting with more senior contacts at such events, and developing a personal rapport. Visiting is often free, and it gives you an excuse to travel and log hotel expenses.

Always negotiate. You’re often talking to a sales person. Their first offer may not be their last. Seek several quotes and find the volumes that work for you.

Just to focus on Alibaba, which is the easiest place to start with these activities, the seller will advertise pricing for a minimum order quantity (MOQ). Don’t be afraid to make counter offers – many will negotiate with you. Also, they may not promote private labeling directly, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it for you.

To create a private label is easy. Ask the supplier what format and dimensions they need for the image, then visit a site like Fiverr. For $15 to $25, you’ll be able to get a nice logo, stylings and whatever else you need.

Alibaba has good sellers… and bad ones. Check the profile’s feedback. Think twice about new sellers with little to no history. If you do this routinely, you’ll have some failures. Taking over the galaxy is not always about imperial victories. Sometimes you’ll need to backtrack and try a different tactic.

Brain power

That’s it really Sam. The key to success is your brain. The process is fairly simple. All the information you need to make a start is available to you.

Some tools out there will make it easier, but the key is your brain power. You have access to all the right pieces. There are lots of pieces, so your ability to select the right ones are part of the process. You need to weigh the information and take calculated risks. Never invest to a degree where you’ll lose your house if nothing sells. Start small and reinvest on success.

Have a question for us? Send it to questions@webretailer.com.

Handshake
Find profitable products to sell
Find the best products and connect with suppliers. Tools for market research, bulk product analysis, importing/private labeling, online arbitrage, liquidation buying, dropshipping and more. All in the Web Retailer directory.
View Product Sourcing Tools Now

2 comments on “How Do I Find Products to Sell on Amazon?

  1. Great article. Are you allowed to sell on Amazon, Ebay, brand name products of other companies that do not belong to you or you are not their official distributor or retailer. For example, can one sell products of P&G, or Unilever or Revlon etc.?

    Thanks

    1. Thank you!

      As to your question – it depends. If the Brand has asked Amazon / eBay gate their product, I’m afraid not. As a re-seller, your contractual T’s and C’s might also state that marketplaces are not allowed.

      Check your contracts with your suppliers as a first point. Then simply contact eBay / Amazon and ask, or more boldly, list the product as see what happens. They will warn you to remove them without penalizing your accounts first. You only get in real trouble if you repeat offend, or try to directly circumvent restrictions by listing on a new ASIN / with a different brand value.

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