My business is to show people where they can find products to sell without investing a single penny in inventory.
The approach is called drop shipping.
A wholesale distributor ships a single item directly to your customer from its warehouse, after your customer pays you for it. It's the perfect way to start an Internet business on a shoestring budget.
The Drop Ship Source Directory I publish covers more than half a million products, from more than a thousand well-known brand names, available from dozens of real wholesalers who will drop ship.
So why does everyone using the directory try to sell electronics?
What's Hot Is Not Too many people make the mistake of trying to sell only the products they like on their Web site. Others make the mistake of trying to sell only the coolest and flashiest things they can find.
I did the same thing. When I opened my first Internet store, I plastered the walls with things I thought were cool: stereo equipment, DVD players, computer components -- the shinier the better. I had the latest technology displayed on the site. Some of the items cost thousands of dollars.
I think in the back of my mind I knew I wasn't going to sell much of it, but it looked really cool. I could show it to my friends and say, "Check it out -- that's my store!" They were all suitably impressed, and I could walk around feeling like I was pretty slick. When any of them asked me how much money I was making, I cleverly changed the subject.
The truth was no one bought much. Come to think of it, none of my friends bought anything, either. That should have told me something right there.
Look, electronics are fine products to sell on the Internet. I use them as an example because it's a situation I can relate to.
It's a Numbers Game The problem is not the product; it's the competition.
If you sell only the hottest sellers, you dilute your available customer base because everyone else is trying to sell the hottest sellers, too. You also run up against those bricks-and-mortar popular-item superstores that have millions of dollars to purchase tons of items at rock-bottom prices.
People buy all kinds of products. They don't have to be cool or shiny. They just have to be things people will buy.
Here's an important ingredient for success on the Net: Sell the products people use but don't find every time they open a Web browser.
Do a Little Research First Because I build stores in Yahoo! Shopping, I do my research there. I know at least 90% of my traffic will come from the millions of people surfing through the site with their purses and wallets flapping in the breeze.
If I were considering selling DVD players, for example, I would do a search on the term "DVD player." As of the date of this article, such a search turns up 8,273 DVD players available from 538 stores.
Do I want to become store number 539, add 20 or 30 products to the nearly 8,300 already available and hope to sell something?
I don't think so.
Prowl the Products I can use the Drop Ship Source Directory to look at some available product types.
I notice that one of the wholesalers listed carries a complete line of Fiskars brand yard and garden tools. Will people buy these products?
Hmm ... people have been known to work on their yards and gardens -- when they're not playing with their electronics. Fiskars is a well-known brand name, so my customers would feel comfortable with it. It happens to be late spring, so it's reasonable to assume people will buy garden tools for several more months this year.
Check Out the Competition I want to know how many other people are selling Fiskars products in Yahoo! Shopping, so I search on "Fiskars" and find only 54 stores selling Fiskars products right now. That's considerably better than 538 stores selling the electronics I was considering.
Are these stores devoted to selling only Fiskars products? Wow, not a single one! All the top search returns are stores selling general merchandise.
When I build a store, I like to specialize in one product line. The chief benefit is that customers feel more comfortable in a store that does one thing and does it well. It's also much easier to rank a single product line in the major search engines than it is to rank a general store with lots of unrelated products.
OK, I have a product line I think will sell, and the competition in the Fiskars brand name itself is minimal and unfocused.
Weed Out Bad Odds However, when people search for garden tools, they're going to use search words like "trowel" and "pruning." They're not going to search on the term Fiskars unless they're looking for scissors. So I go back to the Yahoo! Shopping search engine.
I search on "gardening tools" and find 112 stores carrying 324 products. Still not much competition.
Even better, not one of these stores is focused on just gardening tools. They are gift stores or general merchandise stores that just happen to have the word gardening somewhere in their product description. I know I can put the word gardening in my product listings (for example: gardening trowel, steel, 9-inch), and my store will show up at the top of a search on the word gardening.
I search on the word pruning and find 77 stores carrying 406 products. Still not a problem because the top returns are for books on pruning and the rest include unfocused sites.
Of course, now that I've opened my mouth and told everyone about Fiskars, I'm going to have to scrap that idea and go back to the drawing board. That's OK; I have more than half a million others to choose from.