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How To Build A Successful Online Marketplace Brand Through Product Selection


By Chenyu Ren, co-founder and CEO of Markai, a venture-backed cross-border e-commerce startup.

Online marketplaces, particularly Amazon, have become increasingly competitive for sellers. According to Marketplace Pulse, Amazon has 6 million total sellers, but only around 1 million are active sellers who get reviews for their products. Although Asia-based cross-border sellers have started to take on increasing shares within the Amazon marketplace, they often suffer from a lack of brand awareness, and therefore, lower margins.

Therefore, for cross-border sellers especially, it is important to create “independent brands” that consumers can recognize. The idea of building a brand is closely related to the need for creative product selection, which requires sellers to be able to:

1. Carefully select the products to be made based on competitive analysis, market research and data on various sites.

2. Create a relevant product details page with eye-catching copy and appropriate images.

3. Drive rankings, optimize keywords, start advertising and focus on creating bestsellers.

Amazon has more than 350 million products on sale, with both branded best-sellers and profitable commodities. In this article, I will lay out several steps to select which products to sell on marketplace platforms.

Play To Your Strengths

• Start with your own interests and hobbies. It is often easier to find consumer demand and sell products that are familiar and understood.

• Utilize the resources available around you. Simply put, search whether there are relatives and friends who have been working in related industries. Any resources you can find in areas of production, procurement and logistics are to your advantage.

• Take advantage of the Asia-based supply chain. One of the biggest advantages of Asia-based cross-border e-commerce is the “fast, good and cheap” supply chain based there and the fact that there are already mature platforms integrating these suppliers. For example, on a site like 1688, it can be as easy as searching for “Amazon” and selecting “supplier.” I recommend first filtering for suppliers in nearby areas, which makes it easier to conduct on-site research and communicate needs.

Find Inspiration In Others’ Successes

Learn from the success of others. This is a shortcut for many novice sellers to get a head start. Instead of simply searching for “Amazon’s hottest products in 2021,” there are several ways to quickly find successful product categories.

First, don’t just copy competitors’ hot-selling products. Instead, learn their product selection strategy. Study their details such as SKUs, product shelf time and product rank. Pay attention to the overall product portfolio, such as whether the price range is consistent, whether the functions are complementary or whether they can cover the full needs of the target consumer group.

Next, look to other marketplace platforms. In addition to Amazon, there is eBay, AliExpress, Lazada, LightlnTheBox and many others that encourage cross-border selling. There are many popular products on these platforms that may not yet be available for sale on Amazon or vice versa. These product categories have already accumulated popularity on their respective platforms, have their own traffic and are more likely to sell well when they are listed elsewhere.

Discover Trends

Discover products with the potential to become best-sellers by searching through hot topics and trends on search engines and social media websites.

• Browse social media sites and follow popular trends. In addition to popular social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, sellers can also browse Polyvore, Wanelo, Fancy or Pinterest to see what content and ads are popular.

• Use keyword trends. Sellers can use Google Trends or paid keyword tools to identify products with an upward trend based on their category of interest, market direction, annual growth rate and evaluation.

• Find inspiration and pain points from daily life. For example, the bestselling product of the Amazon store Car Caché, a storage basket between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat, was a solution the founder came up with while driving children to and from school every day and having nowhere to put his carry-on bag.

Market Size And Profitability

Lastly, choose products with a large market size (high best-seller-rank in the category), growth potential (not a sunset industry), low concentration of brands (no large, monopolistic brands), positive reviews (no design flaws in the product) and low seasonality (stable cash flow throughout the year). Most product selection tools, such as Helium 10 and Jungle Scout, can help you browse these indicators.

I’ve seen how sellers often forget about aspects that add to profitability. In addition to the most basic procurement cost, things like transportation costs, promotion costs and paid software need to be included in your calculation as well. Generally speaking, lower-priced items sell better on Amazon, and it is best for the price to be between $10 and $50 (products that are too cheap are difficult to cover the cost of). In terms of transportation cost, consider the volume, weight and durability of the product from the selection stage in order to reduce the cost and loss of logistics and storage. In terms of promotion costs, products that already have a mass base and come with traffic will have an advantage.

Although selling on platforms like Amazon is becoming more and more competitive, successful product selection can help sellers stand out.

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