I’ve spent the last 8 years helping Entrepreneurs go from idea to finished product. While I’ve dealt with both good and (really) bad product concepts – I am a firm believer in a more creative product conceptualization approach.
The Entrepreneurs that succeed are not the ones who happen to find a ‘best seller product’, or by chance identify a one in a million market gap on Amazon.com.
I’d even go as far as saying that I can’t see much of a correlation between how much money they put in, and their chance of success.
I know Entrepreneurs that made it big, investing less than US$10,000 on the whole product launch. I know others that spend ten times that amount, and didn’t even get a final prototype ready.
It’s all about coming up with something new and finding a unique niche in an increasingly crowded ecommerce space.
But, as I will explain in this article, that is a whole lot easier than you probably think.
1. Use public domain artwork and photographs
Old paintings and photographs are generally open for anyone to use. This is also a huge resource that is very underutilized by Ecommerce companies.
There’s a wealth of beautiful European and Asian artwork, that can be applied to apparel, watches, accessories, phone cases and many other product categories.
Any textile, plastic or metal can be printed or engraved with classic artwork or photographs.
This is certainly where I would look for inspiration today, if I was about to launch a new product.
- Waxed cotton watch straps
- Classic artwork printed on textile wallets
- Photography etchings on aluminum phone cases
- Chinese art puzzles
- Rembrandt card game collection
2. Hyper localized products
This is one of the best tricks in the book. A few years ago, one of our customers managed to sell their entire first batch of wristwatches, before their first batch was even finished – entirely without Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
Their secret? They created a Watch brand unique for their hometown. A place with less than 120,000 people.
That’s not exactly on par with London or New York City.
This concept is not exactly new, but there are plenty of opportunities if you’re based on a smaller city that is yet to see its name on everything from caps and watches to hoodies.
Or, why not even take it even more local and create a brand for your city district or borough?
- Sacramento Watches
- Tower Hamlets Hoodies
- Kreuzberg Caps
- Singapore Coffee Cups
- Brooklyn Wine Glasses
Brimz is a Toronto based company that’s been incredibly successful, building a brand with a strong local identity.
3. Bundles and gift sets
Amazon and other marketplaces are becoming saturated because too many businesses try to sell the same product. It’s too late to just be another company selling private label coffee presses.
However, selling a gift set, consisting of that same coffee press, bundled together cups and other accessories, can make you stand out.
Throw in an illustrated 10 page booklet with coffee recipes, and you’ll have something unique.
Gift sets and bundles will only help you to stand out in today’s marketplace, but will also be able to charge more – compared to if you’d sell each product separately.
- Fathers day gift sets: Watch + Tie + Wallet
- Coffee gift sets: Italian coffee press + 2 x cups + Illustrated booklet
- Bonsai garden starter kit
- Organic cotton children’s clothing sets
4. Use premium materials
You can sell a cotton t-shirt, or, you can sell a GOTS certified organic cotton t-shirt.
Or, rather than just selling watch straps, why not sell watch straps made of the same material that Ferrari and Maserati use on their car sets?
There are plenty of high end materials manufactured in Europe, the United States and Japan that can be applied to existing product designs.
You will still need to work with a Chinese manufacturer, to turn that material into the final product, but it’s relatively easy to ship material from Europe, or elsewhere, to a factory in China.
It will add to the cost. However, you can also enjoy far better profit margins when you sell an actual premium product.
- Alcantara watch straps
- Italian leather watch straps
- Pinatex wallets
- Organic cotton bedding sets
5. Product subscriptions
Product subscription are not new. Companies like the Dollar Shave club, have offered product subscriptions for razors and other consumables for years.
While this may not work in every product category, I’m sure there are ways to expand this model.
Product subscriptions are very interesting, because the concept drastically changes the economics of Ecommerce.
One of the biggest challenges for Ecommerce companies is the constant need to sell to new customers. After all, you can only sell so many sunglasses or wallets to a single person.
Product subscriptions, however, allow you to sell products to the same customer for months or even years. The upside, especially when considering your company valuation, is huge. If you can make it work that is.
- Baby clothing subscription
- Low carb noodles subscription
- Packaging materials subscription
- Socks and underwear subscription
Follow these tips when launching a new product
1. There are no ‘profitable products’
I never subscribed to the ‘best seller product’ theory. It goes against basic supply and demand logic. Yet, I still get emails on an almost daily basis, asking me what they should sell now for ‘guaranteed success’.
It doesn’t work like that.
There are, however, a few things you should avoid doing:
- Don’t try to launch another generic private label product in a crowded market
- Don’t dropship non-compliant and hazardous products
- Don’t try to launch too many products at once
- Focus on testing the market, rather than achieving perfection
2. Focus on one or two products, in the same product cagegory
Don’t try to launch an entire collection of products on day one. Each product you add to your ‘launch list’ will take time and cost you money.
All Ecommerce companies that become successful these days are highly specialized in a certain product niche. Think Daniel Wellington, rather than trying to be Asos.com.
Focus on your product, rather than trying to launch an ‘online store’ selling a bit of everything.
3. Start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
It’s tempting to try to realize all your ideas at once. Be it product design, functionality or custom designed packaging.
However, you might end up spending years before you can launch a product, only to find that you are too late. Or, end up spending all your money on a never ending cycle of prototypes.
Ecommerce founders that try to achieve perfection on their first production run almost always fail. I’ve dealt with many Importers that spend up to 3 years, getting every little product and packaging detail right – only to find that there is no demand for their products.
I get it, Entrepreneurs care about their products. But, you have to be realistic, and try to test the market before you further develop your product.
A product is a living ecosystem, that is to be developed and tweaked continuously.
Try to get the basics right, and get your product out there as soon as possible. If it works you can spend a lifetime improving it.