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How to decide what to sell in your online store

How to decide what to sell in your online store

While some new merchants know exactly what to stock their online store with, we often find beginner entrepreneurs scratching their heads wondering what to sell.

Generally speaking, there are two avenues to take when deciding what to sell in your online store: selling products you’re passionate about or an expert in, or selling products that trending and that customers are actively searching for in high volumes. Ideally, whatever you end up selling will be a combination of the two.

Wherever you start, there are several different product types that might inspire you and help you specify the perfect product for your online store. Let’s go through these options now. 

Passion products

Writers are commonly advised to "write about what you know." The same advice applies to starting an online store. If you love hiking, there's a good chance you already have a lot of knowledge about what types of products hikers need and love. This is valuable insight that you can translate into a business. 

Consider your own passions, hobbies, or areas of interest and look for opportunities in the market. If you're a skincare guru, is there an underrated ingredient you think should be in a moisturizer, but haven't been able to find? If you love carpentry, is there a specific tool set that you think fellow wood workers would find really useful?

The point where your interests and market demand collide is usually an amazing place to start a business. 

Trending products

Many ecommerce businesses exist purely to sell what’s hot right now. And there's nothing wrong with that! The market demand has already been proven, and if you can add some unique flair to the version you're selling, there's a good chance you'll be successful.

If this sounds like a niche you want to explore, there are a few tools you can use to figure out what type of products are trending. 

  • Google Trends: Use this tool to see which general search terms are popular right now or to find what people are mostly searching for right now within a niche. 
  • Trend Hunter: Using a combination of AI, data, and human input, this service covers what’s hot right now across nearly every industry. 
  • Forums and social groups: If you’re looking into a particular niche, trawling online communities that share the same interest will give you insight into what the current topic of conversation is. We recommend joining some of these communities on platforms like Facebook and Reddit as well as following relevant hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. 

Remember, keeping on top of popular trends requires regular check-ins as the market is constantly changing. As well, if you decide to enter a saturated market, you'll likely be facing some stiff competition so you'll want to figure out what makes your offering different. 

Products that will help you achieve a goal

Ask yourself: What is your ideal outcome of having an online store?

If your goal is simply to make as much money as possible, research popular products that have a high profit margin and see if any of them interest you. 

If you’re more concerned with creating a unique brand that stands the test of time, remember: the riches are in the niches. Pick products that serve a particular niche, like gardening for millennials or vegan hair care products for men, and build an entire ecommerce experience that serves those kinds of customers specifically.

Want to build an online community? Research products that are popular among the groups of people you want to attract. If you want to form a community of environmental activists, consider products that are made using repurposed materials.

Do your keyword research

No matter what type of product you decide to sell, keyword research is critical. Keyword research sheds light on the exact search terms people are most often using in relation to a product. Similar to searching for trends, this more detailed research will help you determine which words will pique people’s interests and potentially help them find your products. Learn how to get started with keyword research with  Shopify’s keyword strategy


Find more helpful articles in The ultimate guide to starting an online store. 

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