February 25, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 17 Comments

What Products to Sell on eBay When Starting Out?

Hi Andrew,

Reading your bog with great interest – loads of valuable information here! I have already followed your used goods business guide and made my first 40 pounds in profit! I will stick with used goods for now, but in the future I want to start selling brand new goods, maybe phone cases or something similar – small & cheap, just to build some experience.

My question is this – how to know what type of products and what versions (colours, styles, sizes etc.) should I start with if I’m on a limited budget? For example, take mobile phone cases – there are hundreds of different mobile phones out there, then there are plastic, leather, clear, metallic and other cases. From what I understand, to import from China, I’ll have to buy a decent quantity (probably hundreds per item) so won’t be able to start with all styles/models.

Hope this makes sense, Andrew.

Looking forward to your reply.

Richard.

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your question. It’s a good one and highlights a typical problem many new eBay sellers face – the hard choice of picking the right products to start with when limited buying power doesn’t allow you to start with dozens or hundreds of products.

There are 2 ways to go with this:

1) After doing some research and seeing what sells best, go the RISK TAKER way and start selling products that are different from the current offers on eBay. This approach involves some risk as it could well turn out that people don’t want to buy these ‘different’ products, styles or colours.

2) Start with products that already sell well on eBay! With this concept, the risk is minimal as you know that these particular products already sell well on eBay and if you source the same products and create superb listings, you too should be able to make sales and take some % of the overall market. This concept is more newbie friendly, especially suitable for people who are just starting out and want to gain some experience. There’s nothing worse than having loads of dead stock you can’t move!

But this doesn’t mean that the first approach can’t work, not at all! If you have good business sense, some experience and you spot a new product or modification of a current product that you think will become a best seller, consider the risk and order a trial amount. Once again, some risk is involved so it’s not recommended for newbie traders.

Doing Research on eBay & Terapeak

So, to find out which products sell well on eBay, you have to do some research directly on eBay OR using specialised eBay research tools such as Terapeak (7-day free trial available, no credit card needed). My own preference is Terapeak as it makes the whole process very quick and easy.

Let’s take the same mobile phone cases niche for this example. As it’s a huge niche carrying thousands of different items, you want to start your research by doing a basic search for “Phone Case”. Or you can narrow it down to a sub-category like “iPhone 5 case”. Either way, the overall data will show up like this:

Next – click on the “The Top Sellers who sell the item you are researching” icon: 

This creates a list of all the biggest sellers on eBay who sell the item you’re researching. Now, take the first result and click on “Research this seller’s top titles”:

Voila! Right there you see the best-selling items along with the sell through rate, number of listings, average price and total sales:

Now, pick one item and do a new general search for that item to see how it performs across all eBay platforms:

If the total sales look good and the sell through rate is high (above 50%-60%), it’s a potentially good item to put on your list. What you want to do next is go to eBay and do a manual search for the item you have researched and see how many good listings there are for this item, how many search result pages you get (competition) and generally get an idea of what’s going on with that item on eBay.

You can ‘rinse and repeat’ this process with dozens and even hundreds of items in a matter of a few hours to get a list of the absolutely best items with the most potential to start with. While doing this research, organise your results in Google Docs or an Excel spreadsheet, making notes of average prices and sell through rate and total sales per month (this data will come in handy later on in talks with suppliers).

Sometimes there will be multi-variation listings with several different styles, sizes or colours. How to know which sells best?

Easy!

Just click on Sales History for that particular item and quickly go over the last 100 transactions (that’s the maximum number shown on the page) to see which styles/colours/sizes sell best. If you’re on a limited budget, you should start with the best-selling colours/styles/sizes to not tie up your money in slow moving stock:

This way you can even get a precise number or percentage by simply counting how many sales there are for a particular colour/style/size.

Negotiating with Suppliers

Ideally, you want to start selling as many different product lines as possible just to make your eBay shop fuller and of course get more coverage in eBay’s search results. Unfortunately, most Chinese suppliers will have a decent (high) MOQ in place and you won’t be able to order as many different products from day one as you would like.

First thing you should always do is try negotiating the MOQ per item. In most cases, suppliers will decrease it by up to 50% if your TOTAL order exceeds their minimum requirements. It doesn’t cost you anything so always ask for a lower MOQ!

Another strategy you can use when starting to sell on eBay is to use ONE real manufacturer/wholesaler for best-selling items AND get an additional 10-20-30 items off AliExpress where you can place very small orders. What this does is it allows you to get decent margins on your main items and at same time fill up your shop with other related items to make you more attractive to the customers’ eyes.

For example, with the same phone cases, say you have £1000 to invest:

1) You buy 800 iPhone 5 crystal cases from one supplier for £800, in 8 different colours. This will be your main item.

2) You buy an additional 20 cases, 3 of each from various sellers on AliExpress for remaining 200 pounds. These items may not carry much profit with them BUT they will make your shop look full and your company more professional. As it would really look weird if you’re a mobile phone case seller and have just one item in stock.

AliExpress is perfect for this strategy and so are other online Chinese wholesalers who deal with small quantities, such as:

DealExtreme.com
FocalPrice.com
ChinaVasion.com

among others.

Another advantage of doing this is that you can actually test dozens and hundreds of products CHEAPLY without investing huge amounts of money buying in large MOQ. If you see that an item sells out quickly, simply find a real supplier on Alibaba and buy this item in bulk.

Ok, that’s it for today. I hope this helps you, Richard, to filter the best products to start selling on eBay in your chosen niche. Whatever you do, don’t guess anything! Do research using Terapeak OR manually on eBay using Advanced Search function.

Thanks,
Andrew

17 Comments
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  1. You are the man, Thank you I’ll try your strategy asap

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Gianni! 🙂

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for the great article! My question is for variation items where are you finding the Sales History for that particular item as mentioned in the article? I can’t seem to find that option on Terapeak or eBay.

    Thanks!
    Katie

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Katie,

      You do that manually by checking that listing on eBay and then clicking on the Sold history, right above Buy it Now button.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  3. Hi Andrew

    I followed your tips above and listed out hundreds of items. It seems that quite a number of them look like good products with potentially high profit margin. The problem is they come from different markets (like home, toys and sports accessories etc.) Question is should I stick to just one particular market in my new store, or just include all the potential profitable products from different markets?

    Cheers KC

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi There,

      Thanks for your email.

      This has been already covered several times – on eBay it’s perfectly fine to sell all kinds of un-related items BUT if you want to build a business where you have an eBay, Amazon and your own online shop, then you want to pick a niche to work in.

      But if it’s just eBay, you can sell everything under one general type of shop.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  4. Ukamaka Onwasigwe

    Hi Andrew,

    Really very impressed with your write up and response to e-mails. Want to find out if the procedure for finding out what to sell for used items the same as for unused (new items) goods.ie using Terapeak or e-bay search.

    Thanks,
    Amaka.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Amaka,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, basically the procedure is same. Check out these two related posts that go into more detail on how Terapeak research is being done:

      https://andrewminalto.com/how-to-start-a-profitable-ebay-business/

      https://andrewminalto.com/best-products-to-sell-on-ebay/

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  5. IS ALIEXPRESS SAFE?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      HI Kai,

      AliExpress is safe as long as you stick with reputable, established sellers with good feedback ratings. Stay away from any branded goods or goods with logos/characters on them.

      Use tracked delivery method and start with a small sample order to test out each seller.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  6. Hi Andrew whats happens when your turnover hits the VAT threshold when selling used goods on ebay?

    Do your profit margins not get squeezed in a big way or is there some way around this?

    many thanks

    Alessandro

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alessandro,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, your margins get literally squeezed by almost 20%.

      Unfortunately there’s no way around this…

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  7. Very good post, saved me sending you an email lol.

    i was in the same boat, got the stock list down on a spread sheet but with the 100’s of different items that there could be for each product it would have been mayhem trying to choose the best one.

    Once thing is for sure I now know that I will have to get tearpeak, been putting it off but the time has come to do it if i want to push thing further same with web hosting.

    Thanks for another great post.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Leon! 🙂

      Yes, def. invest in Terapeak’s subscription – it really makes the whole research process much faster and simpler.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Yeah that’s what i’m going to do this evening. And see where it takes me. Thanks again.

  8. excellent advice. Thaks Andrew

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Justinas!

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