This article is sponsored by ShelfTrend.
Most eBay sellers are looking for ways to grow their businesses. But in a marketplace where you can trade almost anything, deciding exactly what to sell is a big challenge.
Sellers will often start their research by looking at bestseller lists or searching the eBay site. That’s OK if you are shopping, but for sellers it can lead them in the wrong direction. To be truly successful, a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of what sells is required. That is what ShelfTrend has set out to deliver.
By analyzing live eBay data, ShelfTrend can help sellers find patterns and gaps, and decide how to move into new categories, expand overseas or develop new private label products. With a free basic plan available, sellers don’t have anything to lose by trying it out.
What’s the story behind ShelfTrend?
ShelfTrend was founded by ex-eBay employees Anojan Abel and Lisa Wong. With 20 years of eBay experience between them, covering search operations, buyer experience and seller growth, Anojan and Lisa have seen eBay from just about every angle.
From that experience, they saw that the data sellers used wasn’t reliable enough to make informed decisions, or took way too long to find. Sellers looking to source new product lines, for example, would just:
- Copy other sellers
- Go with gut feelings
- Depend on trending products lists
Those are seriously flawed strategies.
So, what’s wrong with using eBay to research opportunities? The key problem is that eBay’s search engine wasn’t built for sellers. Rather, the goal is to help buyers find the right product to purchase. For sellers, finding simple information like the total sales for a specific product, takes a lot of work. Looking at individual listings doesn’t give the “big picture” view that sellers need.
Copying big sellers, and taking product ideas from bestseller lists, is another risky strategy. It uncovers products that are successful, but also the most competitive. To be profitable, you usually need to find products that are “under the radar” – in demand from buyers but with little competition from big sellers.
That’s why sellers need much more accurate and accessible eBay data, and that need led to the launch of ShelfTrend in 2016.
What does ShelfTrend do?
ShelfTrend provides quick access to overall eBay marketplace data, and helps uncover niche opportunities that sellers can target profitably.
Today, the features available through ShelfTrend include:
- Search any eBay marketplace worldwide
- Search by keyword, seller and/or category
- Report on live listings, new listings and supply/demand
- Filter by brand, title, search rank, price, items specifics and more
- View inventory levels, sales velocity and pricing by seller or brand name
- Use interactive charts and export data to Excel
In this post, we’ll look at how ShelfTrend can be used by sellers to grow their businesses, using three different strategies.
The examples below are using the full version of ShelfTrend, which costs US$14.99 per month. The free plan does not provide all the features described.
Strategy #1: Sell a new product category
One of the biggest moves you can make as an eBay seller is to expand into a whole new line of products. Here are some of the main pros and cons of this approach.
- Expand into higher growth categories and attract new buyers.
- Reduce sales risk by diversifying your product range. If customers stop wanting one of your products, you have others to drive your sales.
- Leverage your existing knowledge and customer base, if selling in a complementary category.
- You might have little or no product knowledge and have to learn from scratch.
- You’ll need to research competitors, pricing and buyer preferences too.
- It’s likely you’ll need to find new suppliers and build new relationships.
- Overall, there’s a steep learning curve to overcome.
How to use ShelfTrend to research new product categories
You’ll need some broad ideas to start with, along with keywords and categories that identify those kind of products on eBay.
Where do those initial ideas come from? You could start with your own personal interests, then spend some time on Facebook groups or forums, reading magazines or attending relevant Meetup groups. Let your research take you off at different tangents, and go into niches you have no personal interest in or never even knew existed. This is the time to cast a wide net and build a long list of potential categories.
In ShelfTrend, start with the Live Listings (Top 500) report and choose a category. As shown in this search for “Pet Supplies”, you can use the category filter to see which product subcategories eBay has identified as having the best potential to make a sale.
Assess the competitiveness of the category, paying attention to:
- The overall number of sellers, quantity available and quantity sold. Few sellers, and a high quantity available, suggests that big sellers are dominating.
- The overall price range and brands available (click the BRANDS label to group listings). A brand sold by many sellers might be best avoided. Click a brand to see the price range, sellers, sales volume etc. for that particular make.
- The number and size of different sellers for the top ranked listings. Click a seller name to filter to them and see their total listings within this report, quantity available, quantity sold, brands listed, price range and more.
- Click the LISTINGS label to review the top ranked listings and understand the terminology used in their titles and product descriptions.
- You can filter by item specifics to quickly see how different variations compare in price range, sellers, brands etc.
You can also run reports on a schedule and save as favorites.
Note that each report returns only the top 500 ranked listings, and the filters you apply are always within those 500. If you want to research a different area, click the Edit link or run a new report.
Run several different reports and compare results. Run reports on your own products and categories to understand how different product categories compare to those you already know well as a seller.
Tips and pitfalls
- Don’t be put off if the competition looks strong. Categories with many small sellers can be a good opportunity.
- Build your product knowledge. Products that look the same at a glance may have very different features or levels of quality. Get to know which product features sell and what the buyer is looking for.
- Don’t expect immediate success. Experiment and don’t be afraid to start again in a different product category.
Strategy #2: Sell internationally
eBay has been encouraging sellers to trade internationally for several years now. For sellers, this can be as simple as offering worldwide shipping. Or, it can be as advanced as translating listings, storing products in international warehouses, and providing native-language customer service.
Often, the simple approach is not the one that produces the best results. The advanced version, however, takes a lot of time and money to put in place. The middle ground is to carefully select which foreign markets and products offer the biggest opportunities, and just invest in those. The trick is in figuring out which ones those are.
As with other strategies, selling internationally has several pros and cons:
- No risk of eating into existing sales.
- Your products might be in high demand from countries without local suppliers.
- Differences in the seasons around the globe can help even out sales over the year.
- eBay helps with shipping overseas, such as with the Global Shipping Program.
- Local sellers will understand local customers better, and have strong reputations.
- Local sellers can ship faster and cheaper than you.
- There can be more admin involved if shipping direct, with complex rates and customs documents.
- Border delays and charges can lead to buyer complaints.
How to use ShelfTrend to research international selling
To compare product availability and pricing across countries, run the Live Listings (Top 500) report multiple times. Use the same category and keywords (translated if necessary) but with different international eBay sites. Search for a specific product, rather than a general product type, to get an accurate indication of availability and price in each country.
This shows searches on eBay U.S. and eBay France for “Fitbit Charge 2”, filtered to new fixed price listings only.
Other ways ShelfTrend can help with international research include:
- Narrowing down categories and finding the best local search terms for existing products.
- The New Listings report helps identify new competitors and products entering the market.
- The product location filter helps isolate local sellers so their pricing, and shipping costs, can be compared.
Tips and pitfalls
- It’s easy to overestimate demand when selling overseas. Some countries will buy locally even if it’s more expensive, others love buying internationally.
- If a product is not available in an overseas market, check for similar products. There might be a lot of unmet demand, or just a local alternative that people prefer.
- Slow delivery, duty charges and language barriers can upset buyers. Walk before you run to avoid a flood of negative feedback.
Strategy #3: Develop new products
eBay sellers are not known for creating their own private label products, but as a business model it’s definitely on the rise. With the development of product-based shopping and the new eBay Promoted Listings, it’s sure to grow further.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of developing new products to sell on eBay?
- Profit margins are higher than buying at wholesale.
- You can develop products for specific gaps in the market.
- You’ll be selling a unique product, so there’s less direct competition.
- Your product can be trademarked for protection against competitors.
- Product research and development are time-consuming and expensive. It’s a long-term investment.
- Demand and trust have to be built from scratch. It’s already there when selling well-known brands.
- Product compliance can be confusing and difficult. Electronics, beauty products and supplements are particularly risky.
How to use ShelfTrend to find private label opportunities
The Supply Demand report is the key to finding gaps in the market. It plots the number of listings and number of units sold at different price points, to help identify where demand outstrips supply.
This chart shows:
- Heavy competition at the low end of the market, where local sellers often compete with Chinese factories on cheap generic products.
- Good sales at the high end, which are often down to branded products with strong customer recognition.
There could, therefore, be space in the middle of the market for buyers who want high quality products at a more affordable price.
It’s generally a good strategy to look for opportunities to develop premium products rather than cheap products. Chinese sellers are very successful on eBay, and excel at low-price, low-quality items. Local sellers, however, have a better understanding of the market and the features which can differentiate products and increase their value.
So, research a variety of different items, and look for product reviews on eBay, Amazon or elsewhere to help identify missing features that buyers would pay for. What you are looking for is a gap in the market, so you can design a product that fits it perfectly.
Tips and pitfalls
- This approach needs to be tried, tested and repeated until the right product is found. It will require skill and persistence to succeed.
- A gap in the market doesn’t necessarily indicate demand. There also needs to be evidence that buyers’ needs are not being met, and that they are willing to pay extra for a product that does meet them.
- Use every tool available to build momentum for your product, including eBay product reviews, Promoted Listings, sale promotions and more. New products need help or they’ll never be discovered.
What’s next for ShelfTrend?
Co-founders Anojan Abel and Lisa Wong are continuing to evolve ShelfTrend. They are taking feedback on board from users and, updating the software to adapt to changes introduced by eBay.
There are also new features on the horizon including the ability to track listings, and to quickly analyze supplier product lists in bulk.
Professional eBay sellers are always looking for new ways to grow, but it’s not an easy journey. Relying on eBay for product research, and making the wrong calls on buyer demand, can put your business in a risky position.
ShelfTrend equips eBay sellers with the data they need to make informed decisions about how to grow their businesses. Sellers need to grab every advantage they can get, and good data will always give them a big leg-up.
This post was sponsored by ShelfTrend.