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How to Build a Product Line

Grow your business by giving customers more of what they want.

Would you like to…

  • Attract more customers to your Web site?
  • Sell more to each customer who visits your store?
  • Increase the lifetime value of every customer you gain by building a group of loyal, repeat buyers?

Then it’s time to build a product line that will have shoppers flocking to your store and coming back to buy, time and time again.

One of the most important factors in growing a thriving business is your ability to continually present your customers with a fresh, diverse product line—one that will get them excited about returning to your store to see what’s new and inspire them to make additional purchases.

When you master the art of building a robust product line, you’ll continually feed your business with new inventory that’s exactly what your customers are looking for!

Elements of a diverse product line

A diverse product line is one that offers a complete line of products and services designed to appeal specifically to your target market.

When shopping online, customers want to find variety and selection in your store. In many cases they are looking for products they can’t find anywhere else.

The ability to go “vertical” in a market is one of the big advantages independent online sellers have over large e-tailers. Yet it’s commonly overlooked. Going vertical with your product line means you offer a depth of selection that includes: Showcasing a robust product line will keep shoppers on your site longer

  • New product innovations
  • Up-and-coming brands
  • Multiple styles and colors of hot products
  • Accessory products
  • Seasonal merchandise
  • Levels of products (entry level, mid-range, deluxe)
  • Up-sell products
  • Cross-sell products
  • Cross category products

Building a vertical product line allows you to offer a product selection that mainstream and big box e-tailers won’t.

Web sites that showcase a robust product line will keep shoppers on the site longer and also see higher than average sales prices, as customers snap up related merchandise they wouldn’t find otherwise.

For example, if your market is the camping niche, a diverse product line related specifically to your niche market might include feather-light tents, solar-powered lanterns, deluxe camping cooking systems, extra-comfy camping furniture, sun showers, water purification systems, sporks (a hybrid spoon and fork), camping hammocks and so on!

4 steps to building a profitable product line

The key to creating the right product line for your business revolves around a very important principle:

Understand your customer first; then build your product line.

Interestingly, most people approach this in reverse. They find the product first and then look for someone to buy it, often resulting in merchandise that doesn’t sell.

When you get into the mind of your customer and think of building your product line as connecting your customers with the products that fill their needs, then you’re on the path to creating a product line that sells!

Here are four steps to building a profitable product line:

  1. Create a profile describing your typical customer. How old are they, how much money do they spend? Do they value selection and leading-edge products? What’s most important to them? If you sell running shoes to avid runners, fit, comfort and a lightweight shoe might be tops on their list. What other products can you source that would turn your site into a destination for one-stop shopping?

  2. People buy for two reasons: to satisfy a want and to fulfill a need
  3. What are their wants and desires? How can you fulfill them? People buy for two reasons: to satisfy a want and to fulfill a need. (Often, they’ll buy what they want and then justify it as a need). Your customer may need some towels for the bathroom, but they want the matching bath accessories. Do you have a product line that can both satisfy their wants and fulfill their needs? If you don’t, they’ll go somewhere else in search of these products.

  4. What are their problems? How can you solve them? Build your product line around the products that solve your customers’ problems and you’ll never have a shortage of buyers! If you go for the extras but forgo the basics, your product mix won’t have enough “staples” to bring people into your store.

  5. Continually learn about new products available in your niche. This is one area where most online retailers come up short. To build a diverse product line for your customers, you must first make yourself aware of the products that are new in your niche market. Staying on top of new product innovations, updated designs and up-and-coming brands is a must if you are to build a diverse product line. It’s your job to keep on top of the trends, contact suppliers for new product catalogs and attend the industry shows. When you immerse yourself in your niche, you’ll possess a merchandise awareness that will allow you to build a top-flight product line.

This method works for every market

You can use this approach to build a product line in any market. Most every product has multiple related or associated products that are of interest to the same type of buyer. If you find your niche has few products available, you’ll need to either find a new niche or expand into related niches in order to build a thriving product line.

Sometimes all it takes is an adjustment in your product line to dramatically increase your sales. At WhatDoISell.com, we’ve seen clients as much as quadruple their sales with the same customer base, simply by expanding their product line from bare bones into a robust product line.

Keep in mind that your product line should be a dynamic, changing entity. Some months you’ll carry more seasonal merchandise. Other months you’ll ramp up for a special promotion. Look at your sales reports and see what your top sellers are. Then source new versions and related products, and test-market brand new items. There’s an art and science to building a product line, so be willing to experiment and try new things!

About the author

Lisa Suttora
Lisa Suttora is an internationally known e-commerce expert, internet marketing strategist and veteran trend spotter. As founder and CEO of WhatDoISell.com, Suttora has helped thousands of enterprising entrepreneurs build successful, niche-based online businesses. Since 2004, WhatDoISell.com has provided premier education and a global community for online retailers. To get the latest on hot product niches and trends, subscribe to Suttora's free trend sheet Hot Trend Alerts. Suttora also has a 15-day e-course to help sellers make money on today's eBay. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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