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How to Decide What to Sell on Amazon

  • Feb 18, 2016 | Avalara

Amazon is one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, and trying to learn what to start selling can seem daunting. But there are some easy ways to get into using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) without getting overwhelmed.

Here are four tips to make the process of finding inventory to sell less intimidating.

What Do You Know?

Basically, what do you personally buy? When you go to the store, what products are always on your list? It may seem odd, but Amazon ships to a lot of people who may not have easy access to stores like you do.

This is especially true for seasonal or specialized products -- people would love pumpkin bread mix in the summer, for example, but are likely to only find it in stores during the fall. Products can also be specialized by location, and when people move away they may still want what used to be easy to get and now isn’t.

Want to try this tip? Use your Amazon Seller App on your phone to scan products that you already have around the house and see what the app says in terms of price, sales rank, and how many other sellers there are, especially if Amazon is selling the item itself.

What Do You Like?

Another way to narrow the field is to focus on what you like -- your interests and hobbies. You likely have a wide knowledge on at least one area -- arts and crafts, for example -- that can lead you to specializing in a niche.

You may already have a large trove of jewelry-making supplies and not be actively shopping for much, but there are people just getting into it now who would like to get what you have. You can help by making sure Amazon has exactly what they will need or be looking for.

The Difference Between FBA & MF

One last thing to think about when finding products is the difference between those you can use FBA for and those that you merchant fulfill (MF) yourself. Amazon has several gated categories -- two common ones being health and beauty, and grocery -- that you must get approval before selling in. Keep this in mind when you find a new item you would like to sell: You want to be sure you can actually send it in.

Amazon also has regulations applying to hazardous materials. The Amazon Seller App is great for this and the categories -- it will tell you if you have any issues that would prevent you from using FBA for them. Keep in mind that materials may be hazardous that you don’t realize at first, like aerosol cans of cleaning sprays or nail polish. It’s best to check Amazon before acquiring too much product and then learning you can’t send it in as you intended.

Inventory Is Everywhere

The last tip is on where to find new products for you to sell using FBA -- and the simple answer is: everywhere. Once you start learning what to sell you won’t be able to go shopping anywhere without seeing shelves of potential inventory.

The best way, as previously mentioned, is to start by scanning items in your own home. From there, pick a few things each time you’re out and can spare a few moments. The more you scan, the more you’ll learn what sells, what doesn’t, and how to spot the items that will.

Great places to start are the stores where you already shop -- grocery stores, home improvement stores, dollar stores, and so on. When you’re ready to move up into larger quantities, finding a liquidation store might be what you’re looking for, or any of a variety of liquidation websites that sell products by the box-, pallet-, or even truckload. It is also possible to find new items for FBA in second-hand stores. The best way is to try a variety of places and see what works best for you. Again, the Amazon Seller App makes this easy, and even fun.

Get Out and Scan!

While Amazon offers a huge variety of items, the reason FBA works so well as a business strategy is because with a large number of sellers in the program, Amazon shoppers can find things that the company does not sell itself. By using FBA you are helping Amazon to become a one-stop shopping site for millions of people who could be delighted to find just the thing you end up bringing to the catalog.

The best ways to find your niche are to start with what you know and like, and then branch out from there. Until you are comfortable, heed the adage of “a mile wide and an inch deep,” and do not buy more product than you can be reasonably sure will move in a comfortable time frame.

While you'll eventually want to focus and deepen your production selection, start with the approach of not investing too much in any given type of inventory until you know the selling rate of those items.

FBA offers great potential for your business, and the best part is you can do as much or as little as you want…but you will have to start somewhere.

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
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