Have you ever dreamed about having your own, completely unique product that you could sell on eBay, Amazon and your own online shop? A product with no direct competition that you can charge premium prices for? A product that actually is THE BEST on the market?
Many people have a dream like this and the majority of them go down the Inventor’s Route to try and achieve it. By inventor’s route I mean – they spend years trying to come up with a new product, create and patent it – spending huge amounts of money producing prototypes. Most of these people end up broke, either because they ran out of money or their idea simply wasn’t that great in the first place. We’ve all seen these people on Dragons’ Den…
I’m personally not a huge fan of this concept for several reasons:
- It takes a lot of time! Even if you already have a good product idea, it still takes an awful lot of time to bring your idea to market. Searching for a manufacturer, creating prototypes, packaging design etc. – it all takes months and even years if you don’t already have connections in the industry.
- It’s very risky! If it’s a unique product idea, you really don’t know how well it will sell on eBay and other marketplaces. And no, it’s not enough that your friends and family like your product! You have to sell it to people you have never met, after all. What if no one actually searches for that product online? What if the majority of people simply don’t see the need for your product, nevermind actually want to buy it?
That means you need to spend thousands of pounds to create a product when the chance of it being a success is basically completely unknown. Can you afford to take that gamble?
- You’ll still be copied! Even if your product idea is amazing and it becomes a huge success, it will be copied sooner that you could ever imagine, regardless of whether or not you have a patent in place.
I have seen new, innovative products launch and then floods of copies hitting the market within WEEKS! And even if there are patents, it will be very difficult to enforce them in general, never mind with China based suppliers.
For these three reasons alone, you should think really hard before going down the Inventor’s Route…
Sure, some of them end up millionaires BUT what are the chances you’ll become one too? The risks are simply huge and the chance of success so small. Is it really worth it?
But what if I said there was another way? What if you could have your own unique products WITHOUT:
- Wasting years ’inventing’
- Wasting tons of money on prototypes
- Taking huge risks?
YES! There’s a business concept very few eBay sellers are aware of and those who are, they’re already making a killing on eBay!
Do YOU want to join them?
How to come up with UNIQUE products to sell on eBay WITHOUT re-inventing the wheel!
The easiest way to do this is by simply re-branding already popular products. This is the least expensive strategy and I have already covered it in detail in my Ultimate Product Branding Guide.
While re-branding is a great strategy that I definitely recommend checking out, there’s something better out there – modifying existing products!
Yes, this means taking a proven eBay seller and modifying it slightly to make it unique on the marketplace and hopefully BETTER than what’s currently selling. When you use this strategy along with your own BRAND, you essentially create NEW products WITHOUT the usual risks associated with inventing them yourself.
Here’s why I like & follow this strategy myself:
- It can be done very quickly! As you’ll find out later on in this guide, you can modify existing products in almost the same time frame as just ordering normal stock from China. If you’re dealing with true manufacturers, they still manufacturer your order specifically so the process remains basically the same when you introduce some small changes.
- The risks are minimal! You know that the product already sells well on eBay, Amazon or online in general. As you’re basically IMPROVING it, you have a near 100% guarantee that YOUR version will sell too. It’s a totally different approach compared to a situation where you come up with that next great idea (at least your family thinks it is) and don’t know how well the market will react to it.
- Can be done with a very small investment, or none at all! Some of the concepts explained in this post can be done for FREE! Yes, manufacturers will often do small changes to products for no additional cost, meaning that the only investment you need to put into this project to make it work is your TIME!
I hope you now see the advantages of this concept compared to the old investor’s mindset! Sure, the risk of being copied still remains BUT at least you won’t be investing years of your life into this product and all your savings! Also, by creating your own brand, you greatly reduce the chance of being copied on eBay as you can always sign up to the VERO program and basically prohibit anyone selling your brand products on eBay, apart from you.
So, what kind of modifications can you make to existing products?
Change the colour
This is probably the easiest way to modify a product and make it unique on the marketplace.
Years ago most products were just black, grey or white but nowadays we see a variety of colours in all kinds of product ranges, including things like:
- Kitchen appliances
- Home electronics
- DIY tools
- Car accessories
Colours are POPULAR right now! Why not take advantage of that and turn a boring looking product into an exciting, fresh one?
Usually it won’t even cost anything extra. You just have to talk to manufacturers and arrange a deal where they product a product in a specific colour for you.
EXAMPLE – take a popular garden reclining chair and ask a manufacturer to produce 10 different colour variations. For the manufacturer this simply means changing the fabric! Super easy and you instantly create an offer on the marketplace that no one else is competing with.
We all know how design has become such an important part of modern consumer products, well as a result this strategy, though similar to changing the colour, can be even more effective. Just look how popular designer phone cases have become… well the same strategy can be applied to thousands of other products!
And you even don’t have to be a DESIGNER to do this! You can purchase stock designs from sites like Colourbox.com and use them to manufacture your own, unique products.
EXAMPLE – take protein shake bottles and apply modern, interesting designs to them. Even funny themes can be very popular in a market like this.
Alter the Material
If you’re ready for a more complex strategy, you can change the material of a product, thus increasing its value and uniqueness in buyers’ eyes.
Here are some material-change ideas you can explore:
- Wood. Change part of the product to wood. Wood is very popular now with so many people starting to value traditional materials. If the product is made of pure steel or plastic, maybe you can replace parts of it with wooden details, instantly changing the way it looks and feels.
- Stainless steel in place of plastic. There are products out there that are great but have a limited life span simply due to cheap materials (plastic) being used. Why not change that and replace some parts of these items with stainless steel, aluminium, fibre glass or some other composite material? When you do this, you can instantly use this in your marketing activities as an added benefit as we all want to buy better quality products. Plus stainless steel can look very cool on many items.
- Rubber in place of plastic. Again, there are many product groups, like DIY tools, where cheap plastic is over-used. Why not change that grip or any other part of the item and replace plastic with rubber? Again, you’ll end up with a product that people really appreciate and value as you have not only changed the design of it but also improved its functionality.
- Higher quality materials. Often times all you have to do is just pay extra to the manufacturer to produce an item with higher quality materials. You see – many eBay sellers who import from China always go with the lowest priced offer. This often ends up with products that are sub-par quality, which people are not happy with. Like me when I mistakenly purchased an iPad leather (lol) cover which started to wear off just a few days after purchase!
EXAMPLE – if there’s an item that has glass parts in it and you know that the glass part is very fragile and often gets broken, why not replace it with Pyrex glass (which is 100x stronger than normal glass)? And then you can advertise your product as un-breakable as you’re using special, high quality Pyrex material instead of cheap, regular glass.
There are many other materials and combinations (including changing the colour/altering the design at the same time) you can use, but I hope you get my point here – by improving the materials used you IMPROVE the product, which allows you to position it more effectively, charge higher prices and get better feedback compared to your competition.
Add features to improve an item’s functionality and/or look!
This is the most complicated strategy as it requires some creativity from you, but it can also be the most profitable one! The formula is very simple:
Take a proven seller and IMPROVE it by changing some functionality and/or design!
Yes, you’ll have to work with the manufacturer more on this to get some samples etc. done but the rewards can be well worth it. As you’re not only changing the visuals of the product but you’re also making it better! Your customers will truly notice this and you’ll be able to advertise the benefits of your products compared to the competition on eBay.
EXAMPLE – headphones for running – with a clip and super short cable! What you do is take an existing product – headphones – and ask a manufacturer to shorten the cable and attach a small plastic clip to it. This way you turn ordinary headphones to headphones made specifically for runners!
What you can also do is research all variations of a product available on the market – and take the best features from each to combine them into one ideal product!
It’s not always about adding something to a product – you can also drop some features to make it simpler or easier to use, targeting kids let’s say, or in the case of technology – woman (who don’t always want a super complex product that you need to read through a 300 page manual to operate)
For this last strategy, it goes without saying that knowing the item inside out helps a lot with this task! So ideally you want to work with a product you’re familiar with and already have an idea about how to improve. With that being said, we live in the information age and you can effectively research ANY item by just:
- Reading Amazon reviews, blog reviews, forums;
- Watching YouTube reviews
Amazon & YouTube reviews are especially valuable as this way you can quickly find the weakest points in any product and work on them to create a version without those problems! Turn peoples’ experience with any product into your market research lab and use that information to fix it!
Putting It All Together
Now you have learned what this concept is all about and the various strategies you can use to modify an existing product into something unique. But now I’ll go over the exact steps you need to take to implement this in real life:
1) First and foremost you need to find a product you want to modify. Ideally you’ll already be selling on eBay and have some knowledge on a particular niche or product group. If that’s the case, I’m sure you already have some ideas for an item you could start with.
I would recommend working with a simple item for your first project so that it can be modified with ease. Don’t touch electronics or other super complicated items. Later on, when you gain some experience, you can switch to more complicated items.
This strategy is not really for total beginners on eBay but still – if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to begin by finding the best products to sell on eBay and then narrow it down to just a single item to start with.
2) Next step is to find a manufacturer for the item you want to modify. If you already import this product from China, good for you! You can skip this step. If not, you’ll want to use these 3 Chinese B2B portals to find manufacturers:
3) Once you have found a supplier or two, get in touch with them and explain your product idea and what modifications you want to make. Most manufacturers will be ok with this as long as you can meet their minimum order requirements. Yes, it can cost a bit more to create the item you want but at the end of the day, it will be well worth it as you won’t be competing with those lowest price sellers on eBay.
4) Upon agreement of changes, order details, pricing, you’ll want to order a sample so you know exactly how your newly modified product will look in real life. This is where you’ll need to invest some money, especially if custom moulds, dies and other such tools are needed to produce your item. But in most cases it won’t be a huge sum of money if you’re just changing the colour, design or materials of the product.
5) When you have received the sample and are 100% happy with everything, you can then place the real order with your manufacturer! I won’t go into detail on how to do this as I have already gone over supplier verification, payments, importing procedure etc. in my other blog posts. In essence, this is no different to when you’re just importing standard products from China.
In a nutshell, that’s it – five steps to get your own modified product! As you can see, the process is pretty much the same as when you import un-branded products from China, so why not go the extra mile and put a few more hours into it to get your own, totally unique products to sell on eBay and other marketplaces?
Here are some final tips for people who are seriously interested in trying this business concept out:
- Branding. Don’t forget that you want to create your own BRAND when coming up with these modified products. There’s no point in putting in all this extra work if you don’t get the basics right! You want to come up with a brand name, get a logo done and branded packaging (if needed). Most manufacturers will happily put your logo on the product and do custom packaging for you as long as you meet their minimum order requirements for OEM orders.
- Contact several manufacturers. To get the best possible prices, try contacting at least 3-4 manufacturers in China. Don’t settle with the first offer and don’t be afraid of negotiating a better deal. Also, when working with this concept, you should be very selective about who you deal with. You only want to work with an established, reputable company with fast and efficient communication; otherwise they may mess up your entire order!
- Stay away from middle-men. You should only deal directly with manufacturers as trading companies, wholesalers and other middle-men will only increase your costs and increase the chance of miscommunication.
- Do an inspection on the finished products BEFORE they’re dispatched to you. I recommend doing this even for simple imports so it only makes sense to do this when you’re essentially manufacturing your own goods. Find a 3rd party company that can do a pre-shipment inspection before the goods leave the supplier. If dealing with complicated modifications, it will definitely be worth paying that $150 for an inspection to make sure the manufacturer is creating the product to the specifications and materials that you requested.
- Contract. As I said, there’s really nothing you can do to stop a manufacturer copying your ideas and selling it to other customers. Still, ideally you at least want to put a basic contract together that gives you some exclusivity to the product you have come up with, even if it’s just regional rights to sell that item, in the UK alone for example.
- Patents. Before you pick an item for modification, try doing some research on Google about any patents this item may potentially hold. Even though Chinese suppliers won’t care much about it, you really want to stay away from using any patented ideas in your product.
- Selling. Lastly, when your goods arrive and are ready to be sold, don’t mess it all up! You want to create an outstanding eBay listing, with great product pictures and most importantly – you want to highlight all the modifications you have done which separates your product from the rest! Buy from your competitors, take pictures of their products and do a side by side comparison in your eBay listing.
- Guarantee. If your item uses more durable materials, make sure to emphasise it by offering some sort of guarantee to further increase your credibility and conversion rates.
And that’s about it. I have tried to explain this business model as best as I can because I truly believe this is a SUPERB concept and can yield great results for you. How do I know? Well, I’ve used this exact strategy myself many times before and it’s worked wonders! So why can’t you do the same?
Yes, this may not be suitable for total newbies but then again, there’s nothing very complicated about this process either. As long as you pick a simple, cheap item as your first experiment and find a reputable manufacturer, there’s not too much that can go wrong here.
If you have any questions about this whole process, feel free to leave your comments below this post.