This is it – the long awaited, step-by-step guide on how to research and find profitable products to sell on eBay. It’s a lengthy guide so get yourself a cup of tea and dig in!
What to sell on eBay? This question has been asked MILLIONS of times but there still isn’t a simple answer. Well, I could tell you to sell iPhones and iPhone cases as they’re hugely popular on eBay BUT that would be bad advice, very bad advice. Popular does not always equal profitable.
No one will tell you – sell product X and product Y on eBay and make millions! Why would they? To reveal their best sellers? To give you everything on a plate after they’ve done all the research?
So first of all you have to get rid of the mindset of asking/looking for miracle products that will make you rich on eBay. There’s no such thing.
What you should instead do is get into the RESEARCH mindset and simply execute my step-by-step formula on finding profitable products to sell on eBay for your start-up business. While common sense is your best friend in every step of this research process, with the help of some software available nowadays, you really don’t have to be that bright or creative to find solid products you can sell for profit on eBay.
So in today’s post I’ll share with you the exact strategy I’ve used countless times to find profitable products to sell on eBay (and not just eBay!). IF you follow this system, you’ll make money on eBay! Yes, it’s a bold claim BUT I’ve been doing this for years now and have personally helped hundreds of people to find products to sell on eBay. Trust me when I say – THIS WORKS!
Before we get started – a quick side note. This system relies on identifying proven sellers. I do not use the “inventor’s approach” here. What’s the inventor’s approach? It’s when you try to get on new trends, and come up with your own products and ideas.
I don’t do this.
It doesn’t mean it can’t work BUT if you want to get your own product to market, be ready to spend lots of money on advertising and even then – the risk of it being unsuccessful is still very high. If you do want to go down this route, this guide most likely won’t be suitable for you.
I’m not talking about OEM or slightly modified products – these are totally fine and you can still research such possibilities using the system covered in this post.
Ok then, let’s get started! This is how you find profitable products to sell on eBay….
Step 1 – Brainstorming
The first step of this process is to gather product ideas. Just brainstorm – any random product ideas you can come up with! Don’t think about how good or bad an idea it could be, just compile a list of as many possible products to sell as you can.
For creative people like me, this is super easy. I could write hundreds of product ideas down on paper in less than an hour. It’s enough for me to take a look at a car across the street to write down 10+ product ideas in less than 2 minutes’ time, like:
- Alloy wheels
- Dog safety car leashes
- Sun protectors
- Chair covers
- Car washing supplies
- Emergency kits
- First aid kits
- Car covers
- Parking sensors
- Car phone/iPad stands and covers
- Car DVD players
- Various electronic car chargers
- And so on!
With my years’ of experience and naturally creative mind, it’s super easy!
And you can do the same – just start looking AROUND! Look in your house, on the street, in a bar or restaurant, school, gym, your workplace. Everywhere you go you see hundreds of different products that could potentially be good sellers on eBay.
But I understand that this is not an easy task for everyone. In fact, after working with more than 100 clients in my personal eBay coaching program, I realise that MOST people can’t even come up with just a few ideas for products they can sell on eBay…
No problem! There are other, more systematic and mechanical ways to look for product ideas, such as:
- Magazines. Pick any lifestyle, tech, hobby or how-to magazine from your local news-stand and you’ll find plenty of product ideas inside. Pay close attention to the ads you see as many popular, hot products will be advertised there.
- Amazon best-seller list. A super easy way to find thousands of potentially good sellers! On Amazon, you can narrow down categories and sub-categories and in each see the best-selling items, which are updated in real time. These items will most likely also be popular on eBay but as I said – don’t over-think the products at this stage. Just get them written down.
- Alibaba product categories. Did you know that on Alibaba there are SEVERAL THOUSAND product categories and sub-categories, each carrying hundreds and thousands of different products… just by browsing these you’ll find plenty of product ideas.
- Best-seller lists from Ali Express, Deal Extreme, DH Gate and other similar Chinese websites. While on Amazon many items in the bestseller lists will be branded products, on sites like Ali Express, all top selling items will be un-branded. This means that they’ll be suitable for importing from China by default.
- Top gift lists. Every year around Xmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc. various online sites publish top gift lists. These are good indicators of trendy, new & hot products that most likely will be in high demand on eBay.
These are all good, very easy to use and FREE ways to find products for your list.
If you fancy something more advanced, I can’t recommend Terapeak highly enough.
Terapeak’s Hot Research function will show you what products are popular on eBay plus give you some valuable additional data.
There are 5 ways you can use Hot Research on Terapeak:
Hot Categories – this view shows the most popular categories and sub-categories based on their sell-through rate. Very handy if you’re not only looking for a few products to sell on eBay but rather to start a niche based business where you concentrate on one specific product category.
Hot Media. If you want to sell media items such as DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, audio CDs or books, this is a MUST HAVE function! It will show you the current best-selling media items on eBay with sell-through numbers (which are very important when dealing with media items). This function can also be used if you start your eBay business following my Used Goods concept.
Popular Keyword Searches – this is similar to eBay Pulse (discontinued) where you can clearly and easily see what keyword phrases are most popular on eBay.
Best Selling products – this is my FAVOURITE Terapeak function!
What you can do here is amazing – you can sort products by:
- Sell-through rate
- Average price
- Items sold
So if you set sell-through from high to low and items sold from high to low, you can easily identify hundreds of products that have a super high sell-through rate and are selling in large quantity on eBay. While the minimum sell-through rate I recommend is 50%, using this function you can EASILY find tons of products with a sell-through rate of 70%, 80% and even 100%! AMAZING!
Best Selling Titles – this is somewhat similar to the best-selling products function but even better! In this view you can see the EXACT listings which generate the most sales, the best sell-through rate, the highest average price or bids. You can sort data by any of these filters to see the results how you want.
I hope you can see how great Terapeak is and how easy the product research process becomes when you have it. I’ll also be using Terapeak in later research stages so I highly recommend you get an account. There’s a FREE 7 day, fully functional trial available so there are NO EXCUSES to not sign-up! I’m sure you’ll love it so much that even after the trial ends you’ll want to keep it for a month or two at minimum, while you do a full product research cycle.
Ok, after finishing this step, you should have at least 20-30 product ideas (ideally more) written down. The more the better really! The number of potential products you end up with on your list shows how dedicated and serious you are. Lazy people will quickly gather the minimum needed (20) and move onto the next step while people who are really hard working and want the absolute best results, will come up with 100+ ideas. I really hope the majority of you are in the second group.
To keep organised, use a spreadsheet in Google Drive or Excel and write your product ideas down in one column. I have even created a sample template for you which you can download by clicking on the image below:
This spreadsheet also has additional fields for data which we’ll gather in the next step….
Step 2 – Market data
When you have compiled your potential product list, it’s time to get some numbers behind them!
I wish I could tell you something else but in reality, Terapeak is the only tool that can give you such data on demand. You could of course try to manually count sold items, listings etc. via eBay’s advanced search but it will take you days if not weeks!
Why do all that work and get inaccurate results when you can simply use Terapeak to get the same job done with the click of a button? Exactly! Work smart and not hard!
So once you login to your Terapeak account, you basically want to use the main Product Research function (default on the homepage when you login) and research EVERY product you have on your list. Type the product name and hit that Go button.
After a few seconds of data processing, a screen with various blocks will come up, like this:
The first thing you want to do is:
1) Narrow down the category to the most suitable one for this particular product to ensure you get as accurate results as possible.
2) Use the NEW only filter to show results from listings for new products only. Why do this? To filter out all listings related to used goods as those will alter results.
Terapeak allows us to select what period of time data is collected from. From just 1 day to the past 90 days + custom data ranges which can go beyond that point. I personally have always used the 30 day term (one month) as for me it’s easier to calculate everything based on that. So all figures in this post are based on 30 day research data. That doesn’t mean you can’t use other settings, you can – just make sure to adjust your calculations accordingly.
From all the blocks of data that Terapeak shows us, at this stage we’re just interested in one – General Stats:
And more specifically these are the numbers we’re looking at:
- Sell-through rate. This number shows how many listings out of all ended with at least 1 sale. If it’s a GTC listing, it needs just one sale in the last 30 days to count towards this indicator.
The sell-through rate is in my opinion one of the most important numbers for indicating a potentially good niche. As a general rule of thumb, anything above 50% is considered good at this point though ideally it would be 60%+.
While there are always exceptions, I wouldn’t really consider a niche if the sell-through rate is 40% or less.
But remember, at this stage we’re only gathering data. Just get the sell-through rate for all items on your list and write it down in your spreadsheet.
- Sellers per day. This shows how many different sellers are competing for any given keyword/product. This number is very approximate and doesn’t really tell us much about how good a product is but still; add it to your spreadsheet so it can be used for further evaluation in the next step.
- Total Sales. This shows the total amount of sales generated over the last 30 days for a particular item. So in essence this shows us how big the market is.
- Average price. While in theory this should give you a good idea on what your selling price should be, in reality it’s wildly inaccurate. This number takes data from ALL listings – good and bad, correctly priced and over-priced and just shows the average. In the next step I’ll show you how to get the REAL price for a product you plan to sell.
So all in all you’ll end up with 4 numbers for each product idea:
1) Sell-through rate (%)
2) Sellers per day (number)
3) Total Sales (£/$)
4) Average price (£/$)
But as you can see in my example spreadsheet template, I have added a fifth column called – Target Price. What is target price? This is the actual price you plan to sell your item for. Not the average, lowest, or highest but your target price.
How do you calculate this?
Terapeak won’t give you this. You get your target price by doing a manual search on eBay and checking out the first page of results. This is where you’ll find your target price.
What you do is look at good looking listings from TRSs that are on page one for the same product and write down the average price you see there.
The logic behind this is very simple – the first page is where you eventually want to end up and those are the actual going prices on eBay for this item. But don’t just look at the first listing in your search! Quite often there you’ll see some underpriced stuff being sold by major players like Babz Media. You want to check out the whole first page and take into account all listings to come up with a target price.
Use common sense. Think for a minute about how you could make your listings look better, maybe offer some added value or a bonus so you can charge one of the highest prices on the first page.
Don’t forget that the quality of products can vary greatly. The same item can be selling for different prices because of a difference in quality. Materials used, warranty, style etc. – all are factors in the price. But even if you only get an approximate target price, that’s good enough for this research stage.
To sum it up – after Step 2 you’ll end up with a long list of product ideas with 5 numbers researched for each:
1) Sell through rate (%)
2) Sellers per day (number)
3) Total Sales (£/$)
4) Average price (£/$)
5) Target Price (£/$)
So far so good!
Now, let’s thin down this list by filtering out products with the least potential.
Step 3 – Filters
This step is more time consuming but it’s CRUCIAL to get this part done! The more accurate your research here, the easier the last step will be.
The very first technical filters you want to use are:
1) Sell-through rate. Delete any products with less than a 50% sell-through rate UNLESS total sales are large with very few competing sellers (very rare).
2) Total Sales. This will obviously depend on your buying power and future plans. But in general, if the total sales for a product are less than £1k-£2k, it’s not even worth looking into them any further UNLESS there are just a few sellers selling this product with close to a 100% sell-through rate. In this case, you could still look into this as it would mean a product with very little competition.
3) Sellers per day. You look at this number in conjunction with Total Sales – the more volume there is PER SELLER, the better.
So for example – if total sales are £110k for the last 30 days and there are 57 sellers, this means £1.9k per seller in sales volume. The higher this number is the better. Anything below £500 per seller is no good and ideally you should look for products with at least £1k in sales for each seller over the last 30 days.
After doing these simple mathematical evaluations, you’ll lose a large portion of your product ideas and that’s totally fine. That’s the goal here – to find the absolute BEST products for eBay! Products that are almost guaranteed to sell and make money for you.
The next filter (a MAJOR one) is to evaluate your buying power and find how suitable each of the items you researched are for you personally. While there are no exact formulas to share with you here, in most cases you’ll want to multiply the product’s price by at least 100.
For example, the product you’ve researched is car covers and the TARGET PRICE for them is £20. You would multiply that by 100 to find out approximately the buying power that would be needed to purchase this item. So in this case £20 x 100 = £2000
Why x100 and why target price?
Again, this is an estimate but with most items, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) if you want to order from manufacturers directly in China will be 100. For cheaper items this number can be as high as 500 or even 1000 and with more expensive items – just 10. But we use 100 to get an approximate estimate.
And the reason we use the target price is to essentially have a worst-case scenario once shipping costs and taxes to bring the product from China to the UK (or any other country) are included.
But please use your common sense here and don’t filter out all ideas that exceed your buying power. It could be that you can find a good trading company with low MOQs and decent prices and still be able to sell this item.
The purpose of this step is only to filter out items that are completely unviable for your buying power. For example, you have tablet PCs on your list that sell for £100 but your buying power is just £500. In cases like these, you can forget about selling such products as your buying power only lets you buy a max of 5 such tablets. That’s not wholesale and you’ll never be able to compete in this market.
The last set of filters are not number driven. These are all subjective filters you use to find whether these items are really suitable for you:
- Storage space. Evaluate your available storage space and whether it’s suitable for the goods you plan to sell. If you don’t have a spare room in your house, you’ll want to stick with small items only. If you’re ready to take some risk and rent out a self-storage space, you can of course consider bulkier items.
- Seasonality. There’s nothing wrong with seasonal items but still, they do carry more negatives compared to products that sell well all year round. With seasonal items you always have the risk of having a large amount of unsold stock left over when the season ends. Also, make sure for such items that you do more extensive research using Terapeak and go back 90 days+ to see exactly how big the market and competition is.
I usually recommend staying away from heavily season-based items (like Christmas trees for example).
- Brand domination. Stay away from items that are heavily dominated by well known brand names. You won’t be able to import them from China!
For example – baby movement monitors – it’s a product that (as the name suggests) monitors a baby’s movement and tries to detect when a baby stops breathing. Parents, when buying an item like this, won’t even look at cheap Chinese models as they want to be 100% sure the product will work perfectly and will therefore only trust well known brands.
Filter out any such products from your list.
- Offline availability. The more difficult it is to buy an item locally, in a B&M shop, the higher online potential it will carry.
For example – when a person needs one pack of A4 sized printing paper for home use, he will just buy it from a local office stationary store or even a supermarket. On the other hand, if a person needs water decal paper, which can’t easily be bought locally, internet/eBay comes into play as the favourite place to order such items.
Hope this makes sense.
Sure, if an item sells like crazy on eBay, this won’t matter that much! But what I have found is that items that are easily available offline carry very small margins and, generally, are not worth dealing with.
So with that in mind, try to stay away from products that can easily be bought offline from major retailers and supermarkets.
- Google Trends. Check Google Trends to see whether the product is increasing or decreasing in popularity.
A good example would be:
A bad example with decreasing popularity:
This would be ok as long as everything else related to the product looks good:
You can of course still sell products which are decreasing in popularity but you just have to be aware of the fact that the same number of sales may not be there in a year or two. So not ideal for long term planning or if you intend to expand into product-related niches later on.
- Knowledge. Ideally you should have some basic understanding of what the product is, how it works etc. This will help you greatly when writing product descriptions and dealing with customer support requests.
It’s not like you have to be an expert to sell an ordinary item, not at all. You can always read up on a product and within a few hours have a basic understanding of the most important points.
What this step should do though is filter out items that are really complex and require a much deeper knowledge. For example, it wouldn’t be a wise idea to sell electronic components if you have no understanding of electronics whatsoever.
Just write down some quick comments in this field so later on you can possibly use it to choose between some different products that have passed all the other stages.
When you finish this rather time consuming task, you’ll end up with a small list of items with the best market potential that are most suitable for your buying power. When you do, you can move on to the last step which is….
Step 4 – Suppliers
Yes, the last step of this process is to actually get prices from suppliers, see if your buying power is really suitable and most importantly, find out your potential profit for that product.
Here’s a simplified step by step action plan:
1) Go to Alibaba and search for your product.
2) Find the best suppliers using these filters.
3) Contact them – get prices and terms and then negotiate the best possible deal.
4) Put together a virtual order and get a shipping quote from Woodland Global.
5) Put all costs in the Excel spreadsheet and calculate potential profits.
When you do your calculations, don’t forget about VAT and import duty. You can read more about this in my importing from China guide.
After doing this, you’ll end up with the product’s COST price. This is the total price you’ll pay to import the product and get it shipped to your address.
Then you have to find out how much the shipping cost will be, add eBay/PayPal fees and you’ll instantly see the profit potential for this product.
Remember, you have already established a target price and if you can’t match it with all costs and your target profit taken into account, then that product is not suitable for you (most likely because of your buying power or that there are too many competitors).
Ideally you want to look for items with a ROI of at least 20-30%. But again, this will vary greatly based on the product’s price as with higher priced goods, margins will be smaller.
Here you have it – a step by step guide on how to find profitable products to sell on eBay! No more excuses and no more lame questions on “what to sell on eBay?” No one will tell you that! So get yourself a Terapeak subscription and start WORKING on this!
This is a simplified guide but I have tried to cover the most important things you have to keep in mind when looking for new products to sell on eBay. If you want to learn more about this process + learn how to import from Alibaba in the most effective way, check out my Easy Auction Business video course here.
In EAB members area you’ll not only learn the ins and outs of importing, you’ll also find the best ways to SELL items for the most profit, which is of course another crucial part of any eBay business.