So you have an amazing idea for an ecommerce store. But, how do you know it is the next big idea? Have your potential customers told you so? Do you have pre-sales lined up?
Validating your idea is one of a few questions to ask before starting an online store. But don’t worry you can test your ecommerce idea before ever building your store. Here are 4 things you can do to validate your idea.
1. Browse What is Hot
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so why not see if others are finding success with what you plan on selling. The easiest way to check what is selling well is to search for your product on the big ecommerce sites like Amazon and eBay.
Check Best Sellers
On Amazon you can look at the best selling products in every department. This category lets you see what products are the most popular. If these products are similar to what you want to sell you are in good shape. For example lets look at the best selling baby products on Amazon.
If your idea is to sell baby toothbrushes this is great news! But you can also use this information to infer that parents care about a baby’s dental hygiene. Other related products would do well such as baby toothpaste or other baby hygiene products.
See if Your Category Exists
Maybe you are looking to sell something that is more obscure. Instead of looking through the best sellers list you should look to see if others are selling something similar.
If others are selling something similar it can prove there is demand (not always though). Be sure to also look for other indicators that the product is selling like: does it have reviews, do they have a store, what can you find about the product online.
Look for Positive Reviews
Just because a product is selling well does not mean that shoppers are enjoying the experience. You want to sell something that a shopper will want to continue purchasing, not a product that will quickly fizzle out.
Positive reviews are a great indicator that a product is not a one and done. Be sure to take a look at what customers are saying about the products you are looking at before making any conclusions.
2. Look at Your Market Size
If you have taken a look at other top selling products and determined that your product can sell, the next step is to see how many people can potentially buy it. The number of people in your target audience is your store’s potential market size.
This used to be a very difficult task in the past but with the help of Facebook it has become much more manageable. Facebook is the master of collecting information about how people live, play, work, and everything inbetween.
This vast repository of information is great news for you because you can see your potential market using Facebook’s Ad Tool. With this tool you can target your ads to a very specific niche, like:
Facebook is able to estimate the number of people who fit your target audience and thus showing you a rough estimate of the size of the market you are targeting. Ryan Nystrom was able to validate his idea using Facebook ads and chronicled it for everyone to learn from.
3. Talk to Some Potential Customers
No one can let you know if your product is worth purchasing better than a potential customer! Reach out to some people who are in your target audience and ask them what they think of your product, what they think of potential competitors, and even ask if they would buy it.
There are a few ways to get your idea in front of potential customers.
Topsy allows you to search the social sphere and discover what people are saying and sharing. It is a great way to take a pulse on what consumers think about your idea.
The tool will allow you to see how popular your product idea is (number of shares), sites where you can find additional audiences (links), and potential customers to contact.
Let’s look at an example. If you were looking to sell matcha tea:
You can see through Topsy that “matcha tea” has been in 22,557 tweets over the last 30 days and the sentiment (feeling of tweet) is positive. Looking good! You can also see a list of people who are tweeting about “matcha tea” these are the people you can reach out to and ask about your store.
Facebook Friend Search
Reaching out to strangers on Topsy can be intimidating. But talking to people who dont know you will provide you with unbiased results (they are not afraid to hurt your feelings). The alternative is to start with people you are familiar with.
You can search through your Facebook friends to find people who are interested in what you are selling. You can do this by simply searching “friends who like tea” and contacting your friends that show up in the result.
No matter how you decide to reach out the important thing is that you do. You can make all the assumptions you want about your potential market, but without asking you will never know.
4. Test Before You Invest
It is always a good idea to test your idea before you invest. It is easy to test interest in your store before you sink a ton of money into inventory and creating a site. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Create a Landing Page
Create a one page site that explains what you will be selling and at the bottom ask for an email address to be notified when the site launches. This is a great way to see if there is enough interest in your idea for a potential customer to leave a way for you to contact them. Like in the below example from Spearhead Male Grooming Supplies.
The customers that fill out your landing page are interested, and you didn’t have to reach out to anyone individually, they found you. The only problem is that an email isn’t payment. The next suggestion tests their interest even more.
Run a Pre-Sale
Instead of letting people register to be notified, ask them to pay right now. Have a page that explains your product and even shows an example product shot and ask people to pay as part of a pre-sale.
If you get enough interest you can get the inventory together to satisfy the demand. If not enough people register you now know that the idea is no good before you sunk money into it. Simply email the people who paid to apologize and refund the money. You can walk away with your wallet still intact.
Your Idea Not Looking So Good Anymore?
If you take your ideas through these tests and it doesn’t look as good as you had thought, don’t worry. Do your research and find another idea that passes these tests with flying colors.
A great resource for discovering what to sell is Shopify’s “How to find a product to sell online.” The guide covers everything you need to find what to sell.
Once you find what you want to sell, you can check out “The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an eCommerce Store.” It goes over how to select an ecommerce platform, build an audience, and make sales.