Recently, a reader named Sara left a comment on the blog asking an interesting question: “How do I choose a product to sell on Amazon that will still be in demand for years to come?” Basically, she wanted to know how to pick a product that is NOT a fad or trend! Something you can build a long-term, sustainable business around.
It’s a very good question because many people who are starting out on Amazon are actually in the wrong mindset. They are looking for HOT or TRENDY products that are in high demand, thinking that these types of products are the best and most profitable. But they’re not! Here’s why:
- Competition for such highly popular items is extremely high.
- Ranking such products on Amazon is a very difficult, expensive and long process.
- Margins for highly competitive items are small.
So, don’t be blinded by the super-high sales numbers you see in Jungle Scout! Sure, it’s great to see that top listings make tens of thousands of pounds in sales per month, but don’t think for a second that it will be easy, fast or cheap to get into those top search positions. And even if you do get there, chances are that your margins by that time will be non-existent.
Of course, if you’re someone who likes to take risks and you have the money to support that model, you can make good profits selling trendy items. You will need to act quick, have cash reserves to support quick-changing cash-flow situations, as well as know when to slow down and exit. You can do that, and it can work, BUT knowing that most people are not capable of it and simply won’t have enough money, I don’t think it’s a good plan for someone who is just starting out with no experience and a very limited budget.
For most people, trendy items can cause more problems than good. Usually, by the time you spot such trends, it’s already too late. It will take you several months to set up your branding, find suppliers and get the goods delivered before you can even start selling. During those months, the situation in the marketplace will have already changed. Competition levels will have increased and prices will most likely have fallen. What you may end up with is a lot of overpriced stock that you can’t move.
I have personally witnessed this exact scenario with the whole fidget spinner craze in 2017. People wrote me emails saying that they were stuck with all this stock they couldn’t sell as the demand had simply vanished. Obviously, this is an extreme example of a product with a very short lifespan, but it illustrates the problem perfectly. To put it simply: don’t sell such short-lived products—it’s far too risky!
Taking all this into consideration, I do think that for an “average” person who wants to sell on Amazon, it’s best to stay away from hot or trendy items and concentrate on more sustainable niches. Yes, you won’t get rich overnight by doing this, but your chances of succeeding in the long term are much higher. And risks are much lower, too!
So, how do you know if a product has “legs” so to speak? How do you know if there will be demand for your product for years to come?
Unfortunately, there are no tools that show us sales data for any product on Amazon for long periods of time, like several years. But we can use the Google Trends tool, which I find very valuable and accurate in most situations! I have to admit that I use Google Trends quite a lot! Not just for the product research process, but to analyse user behaviour, competition, find related products and more!
If you have never used Google Trends, definitely check it out and play around with it! There’s nothing you can break there! Just type in various keywords, products, phrases, company names, activities and see how its popularity has changed over time.
But for the purpose of this article, which is to check whether a product is a hot trend right now OR a sustainable opportunity, here are the settings I like to use:
Country: The UK or any other country I’m researching. I will also often compare this data with the US results and worldwide results to see if there is any correlation.
Data range: From 2004 to Present. The longer the timeframe we can analyse, the better. Then, if it looks like there’s a seasonality factor to the product, too, I would narrow down the data range to one single year and see how its popularity is changing throughout the year.
All categories & Web search
Once you have selected the options and entered your search term, the Popularity graph will show up. Now, obviously, these are not sales on Amazon. These are web searches on Google. But in 99% of cases, there’s a clear and direct correlation between these, so we can pretty clearly see the product’s trendiness and long-term potential.
Let’s go back to the fidget spinner example for a moment:
It’s so obvious that it was a fad. There was no demand for the product whatsoever before the Spring of 2017. Then, suddenly, within two to three months, it had reached the absolute HEIGHT of its popularity. After April, it was a quick and sharp decline in popularity. The trend didn’t even survive to the next Christmas, which was just a short eight months away.
This was the most short-lived product I have ever seen in my 15+ years of working in eCommerce. Seriously, it arrived so fast and went away even faster. Usually, these hot items sell for at least a year, or even up to a few years, but rarely do they last just a few months.
Apart from Google Trends, use common sense. Just think about the product in question. How long has it been available? Why do people buy it? Is it because of some hot trend right now OR because the product fixes a genuine problem?
Most trendy products are just unnecessary gadgets—things that don’t make much sense and can only be given as a gift or to prank someone.
I really recommend that you analyse each and every situation individually. Don’t just go with the generic template on how the Google Trends graphic should look for you to get into the product. Take, for example, the “slime” trend:
This is an interesting one. You may look at the Google Trends results and say, “See, it was a trendy product, and now it’s declining every year in popularity.” But in reality, it’s a little bit different. Yes, in 2017/2018, the whole slime trend became incredibly popular and everyone talked about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not selling anymore. Far from it!
If you look at the fidget spinner trend, you can see that its current popularity is almost zero. However, with slime, its popularity (compared to 2017/2018) is about 30% of what it was. Which means that there’s still a massive demand for slime. Yes, it’s just 30% of what it was at its peak, but it’s still a huge market with plenty of opportunities.
Slime is a prime example of a trendy item that becomes so huge that it creates a new industry around it. Nowadays, there are entire trade shows dedicated to slime. It’s an industry with its own influencers, competitions, education courses, live seminars, etc. I believe that the slime market will continue to thrive because millions of people around the world enjoy that product.
These are rather extreme examples, of course, and not everyone will see such massive swings in a product’s popularity. In an ideal scenario, we want to see a graph that looks like this:
Steady growth year over year with no signs of a sudden increase in popularity. Instead, the long-term demand for this product is increasing, which obviously is a good thing.
On the other hand, something like this would make me worried:
Why invest money, time and resources into a dying product/category? It doesn’t make much sense. The only time I would consider selling such a product on Amazon is if I discovered that there was literally no competition.
Basically, if the product and niche is so unattractive that no one else really wants to sell it, then, yes, I would come in and create the best offer or most amazing brand and make easy money all day long. I would be well prepared for the sales of this product to drop off over the years, but it’s not the end of the world. As long as you can make a profit and move items, why not do it, right?
But I wouldn’t do this in highly competitive niches because it takes time and money to establish rankings. If it’s a highly competitive market and demand for the product is dying, the game gets ugly very quickly. Sellers will lower their margins as time goes on, squeezing out anyone new who attempts to sell that product. I have seen this happen so many times on eBay. No thanks! Not for me.
If Google Trends shows no major swings in any direction, it means that the product’s popularity is stable and there’s nothing to worry about. When you see graphs like these, you will definitely know that this is NOT a trendy, short-lived product, that’s for sure.
To sum everything up, in order to build an Amazon business around long-term, sustainable product ideas, use Google Trends. This free tool will show you how popular the product is on Google, which, in most cases, also reflects its overall popularity on Amazon.
Look for products with steady growth or neutral growth and avoid products that show huge recent spikes. If you see a spike, do further research. Look at other countries and use common sense. Try to figure out why the product has become popular so suddenly and whether it has long-term potential or not.
If you’re willing to take a risk, there’s nothing wrong with getting into trendy items. Just understand the rules of that particular game and make no mistakes.