The Amazon marketplace is designed to be competitive — to the benefit of the customer.
That’s why so much of the Amazon clickbait out there uses hyper-masculine messaging: DOMINATE Amazon, WIN the Buy Box, CONQUER the competition.
Competition drives down cost for the buyer.
It’s part of the consumer-centered experience that makes Amazon such a success.
But new sellers might find this atmosphere intimidating.
How do you find a place to fit in on a marketplace where everyone is constantly jockeying for space?
The key is not in your marketing. It’s not in how you list. It’s not even in how you price.
That stuff is important, but when it comes to carving out your own space on Amazon, the most important thing you do begins perhaps before you even sign up.
It’s what you choose to sell.
The Product Paradox
How do you find what to sell on Amazon?
What products do well for third-party sellers on the site?
New sellers often want a list of the top selling items, assuming that if they throw their hat in the ring, the sales volume alone will be enough to earn a profit.
However, there’s so much competition for the most popular items, it’s nearly impossible for a new seller to establish themselves in those spaces.
Since price wins the Buy Box, the top seller for a product is already likely drawing the smallest profit margin possible. Even if you were somehow able to find a way to price lower, the most popular sellers use automatic repricing software that allows them to routinely keep their prices as low as possible.
How About a Niche?
Upon learning this, some sellers reach the natural conclusion that they should drift away from the generally popular items and focus on a niche. A niche, they presume, will have less competition.
They’re half right. They won’t be overwhelmed by sellers, but they’ll be overwhelmed by the niches themselves.
The first time I wanted to sell on Amazon, I thought I’d found a perfect niche: professional wrestling attire. I figured the market was consistent enough to guarantee buyers, but niche enough that I wouldn’t have to compete with tons of sellers.
I quickly found that I was wrong.
Pricing Out of Profits
First of all, there’s a lot that goes into professional wrestling attire. I drove myself crazy trying to find a supplier that sold trunks, tights, shorts, gloves, boots, costumes, masks and all the other gear the greased up bodybuilders would need for the ring.
Secondly, I found niche buyers tend to stick with experts in their field. The most popular manufacturers of professional wrestling gear all had loyal followings. I couldn’t find a way to break in that didn’t involve completely pricing myself out of profits.
That’s the paradox. There are too many sellers on the popular products, and too many options in the niches, while the sellers in the niche are much more well known. How do you overcome it?
Bypass Popularity, Ignore Niches
Based on my main two problems with selling pro wrestling gear, I began to develop a formula. I decided to work backwards. What if I began my search for a product not with the audience, but with me, the seller? What would be the easiest for me to sell? What would allow me the least competition?
What I learned in my research was that I should be looking for hassle-free products. These items are easy for customers to find, likely to convert and bypass competition as much as possible.
The specific products are for you to decide, but they aren’t unicorns. There are an endless number of hassle-free products.
If you can find and list these items successfully, you can create a smooth running e-commerce business on Amazon.
4 Characteristics of Hassle-Free Products
So what defines a hassle-free product? There are four characteristics:
This is one of the most important characteristics. The way to avoid competition is through a web of adjectives.
Go to Amazon right now and type in “coffee mug.” The options are overwhelming. You’re not likely to be able to compete with a lot of these front page sellers. But add some adjectives to your search and watch the results lessen.
“Coffee mug with map of North Carolina” yields a lot fewer results. Plus, any customer searching for something this specific is more likely to convert.
Experiment with how many adjectives you can add to an idea you have for a product, and then type them into Amazon to see how much competition you’d have.
Profits can sometimes be razor thin on Amazon, especially if you’re dropshipping. You’ve got to make every sale and every listing count for as much as it can.
That’s why you want to avoid seasonal products as much as possible. A seasonal product is any product whose demand is inconsistent.
For example, pumpkin-scented candles might do very well in the fall, but there are eight months out of the year where they won’t make you any money. Accessories for the hot new tech gadget might do well for a little while, but what happens when the trend wears off and the next tech gadget comes out? Stick to items whose appeal doesn’t shift.
Think back to our example about the coffee mugs. Why might a shopper be searching for such a specific item? Is it a gift for a friend? A personal interest?
Whatever the reason, the shopper has provided us with an important detail about him or her: the thing they care about most in this purchase is that the coffee mug has a map of North Carolina.
That means instantly you are on equal footing with all other sellers. What hurts us the most when it comes to competing on Amazon is that individual sellers are right next to big established brands. When we make sure our products are brand non-specific, we are excusing ourselves from a competition we don’t have the name recognition to win.
There’s a dozen reasons why you’ll never see me selling pizza ovens on Amazon. Sure, as some Amazon gurus suggest, the profit made from selling just a few big ticket, technical items mathematically balances out the lower amount of sales.
However, the more technical the item is, the pickier your buyers will be. The restauranteur knows exactly what to look for in a pizza oven. Do you?
There are likely known giants in the kitchen machinery industry that those of us outside the restaurant niche might not even know about. The niche is so specialized that your lack of a recognizable brand name stands to really hurt your chance at sales.
Sticking with items that require no technical knowledge keeps your customer base easily pleased and saves you the trouble of having to learn an entirely new field in order to sell to it.
Those are the main keys to keeping your Amazon catalog hassle-free.
This manner of finding products keeps your risks low, your returns high, and creates a less stressful environment for you as a seller.
Give it a chance the next time you’re exploring new items to add to your catalog. Enjoy your new hassle-free life — and get ready for the holiday shopping season.
Dion Beary writes about ecommerce for ecomdash, a software company that automates inventory management for small businesses selling online. He is responsible for conceptualizing, writing and editing blog, social media content, press releases, website content, email marketing materials and other promotional materials.