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5 Tips to Refresh Your Product Line

Breathe new life into your online business in 2012—starting now.

The holiday season has wrapped up, and it’s time to refresh your product line from the inside out. You can’t build a thriving business selling outdated products. And there’s no better time than the new year to breathe some new life into your product line mix and plan for success in the year ahead.

Last time, we looked at how to do a year-end product line assessment to determine what’s working and what’s not working in your product mix. Now it’s time to take that information and leverage the winners to branch out into new inventory.

1. Look for new versions of your most popular products

The beginning of the year marks the start of tradeshow season, a time when manufacturers announce new versions of existing products and update last year’s styles and colors. They also introduce brand new products that will be added to this year’s product offerings. This is the first place to start when it comes to refreshing your product line.

Using your existing best-sellers as a springboard to look at new versions, styles and colors will help you leverage the products that are already selling well and expand on their success. Getting up to date on new product releases gives you the opportunity to be the first to market the latest styles and trends—exactly the products your customers will be buying this year.

Getting up to date on new product releases gives you the opportunity to be the first to market the latest styles and trends

What’s one of the best ways to find out about these new products? Attend an industry tradeshow. Tradeshows enable you to check out products coming into the marketplace in one location. After attending the show, make a “branch out list” of all the new products you saw at the show. Then set a schedule to test market some new products each month.

2. Keep at least 10 potential new products in the pipeline

How many new products do you bring in each month to test market with your customers? If the answer is less than 10, it’s time to push the envelope. Thriving e-commerce businesses are always test marketing new products.

Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to do it. To test market, purchase a few units at retail (look for discounts and sales), and bring the items into your store for the purpose of test marketing. Until you test market a product, it’s an unproven product. An unproven product is one that you personally haven’t sold yet. Others may have sold it, but until you sell it, it’s unproven.

Once it sells at a price you’re happy with, it becomes a proven product. From there, you can move to the next step: placing a minimum order with a wholesale supplier.

3. Keep a pulse on your niche

Make it your mission to know about all the products being manufactured in your niche. If you make this one commitment, you’ll never again be at a loss for products to sell. The most successful online merchants are well versed in all the merchandise opportunities out there. And while this does take a bit of digging, fortunately it’s not hard to do.

Tradeshows, trade publications, consumer publications, even shopping malls are all Idea Hotspots™ that will give you a constant, unending stream of ideas for products to sell.

If you’re looking specifically for products to sell on Amazon, Sourcing the Right Products Wholesale to Sell on Amazon will show you how to source new, in-demand products for the Amazon marketplace. Power of 10 Product Sourcing will help you build a profitable product line for eBay or your own e-commerce website.

Keep in mind that one of the primary reasons people come to the Internet to shop is selection. If you’re only carrying the most common 2 percent of merchandise available in any category (products that can be found at any local retailer in town), you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to go vertical in your niche and carry a deeper selection than your competition.

4. Expand your horizons with year-round seasonal products

The holiday selling season isn’t the only selling season with increased sales. There are many selling seasons throughout the year that provide additional opportunities to increase your sales with seasonal specific products.

There’s a difference between being ultra-conservative in your inventory buys and making bold, informed sourcing decisions

These include:

  • Winter-specific products
  • Valentine’s Day
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Spring inventory
  • Easter
  • Earth Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Wedding season
  • Father’s Day
  • Graduation season
  • Vacation season
  • Summer-specific products
  • Back to school
  • Fall
  • Halloween
  • And of course, the holidays!

Participating in any one of these selling seasons can open up a variety of opportunities to refresh your product line.

5. Become bolder in your sourcing

This year, get comfortable with taking more “informed sourcing risks.” Sourcing products that don’t sell can be a costly mistake. And recklessly spending money on inventory without thoughtful research is a bad thing.

But there’s a difference between being ultra-conservative in your inventory buys and making bold, informed sourcing decisions.

When you follow steps 1 through 4, you’ll become bolder in your sourcing by making product selection decisions based on your historical sales data, trend research and expertise in your niche—all things that give you the insight to make fresh, bold sourcing choices, while at the same time minimizing risk. When it comes to sourcing inventory, you can never completely eliminate risk, but venturing into new territory is part of the fun and profit in running an e-commerce business.

Finally, resolve to plan ahead this year. Take some time away from your computer and make a sourcing plan for the coming year. No matter what you sell or where you sell it, the money is in the sourcing. Your product line is the engine of your business, and refreshing your product line mix with great new inventory will provide a return on your efforts, many times over.

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.

  • Thanks for sharing your insights Lisa. How long would you recommend should be an average lifecyle of full priced product before you should look to move it by offering discounts and sales?

  • Hi Lisa,

    That was a good article, thanks!

    A few years ago I decided I never had enough time to find new products to sell, so I wrote a program to scour Amazon. It turns up a few good ideas every month, and saves me a lot of time.



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