How was Black Friday and Cyber Monday for you?

You may have noticed online shoppers are in the midst of a massive buying frenzy right now – and hopefully you yourself are knee deep in festive orders!

However, as an online seller, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels as now is the time you should be thinking ahead and preparing for 2017!

There’s a lot to be said for being chilled out, relaxing and slowly drifting into the mince pie season. But it does pay to plan ahead.

Ideally, you should be thinking about the types of products people will be looking for once the Christmas rush is over – particularly if you’re currently selling a seasonal product likely to lose sales traction once the festive period is done.

It’s very easy, too, to think only about the now, rather than the future.

You really don’t want to find yourself in a poorly planned situation where you go from healthy, multiple daily sales to absolutely zero in the space of a few days.

The same is also true if you’re not selling yet but are contemplating starting an online business. Planning is key (as is research) so that you are ready to go, with the right product, at exactly the moment when prospective buyers are looking for it.

My advice today applies not only to experienced online sellers, but newbies too. That’s because while deciding which new products to add to your inventory is always extremely exciting, it can also be daunting, challenging, intimidating and quite frankly terrifying!

One of the biggest challenges is deciding exactly what to sell – in other words, finding a profitable niche and product. And that’s where good forward planning comes in.

The trick is to really consider what consumers will be looking for and the ways you can achieve a successful selling product line. This is far more effective than having a quick think about what you might like to sell, then selecting a product at random. That won’t work.

You need to think about a specific product or niche first so you have direction and focus. Then simply consider the opportunities all around you.

For example, historically, a new year brings an influx of people looking to purchase products in categories such as Fitness, Exercise, Slimming, Stopping Smoking and so on – all categories typically associated with New Year resolutions.

Now is the perfect time to get your research done with a view to having new products in your inventory ready to go in January.

Sound simple? Well, yes it is to a degree. But remember those categories I’ve just listed are all also highly competitive.

Your best plan of action will be to dig deep into the sub-niches within those categories and uncover specific products with less competition but are still in demand.

So, to find a niche and product with potential you’ll need to do some research before the onset of peak selling times. To do this you can apply a strategy I devised which I call ‘TOPPIK’.

TOPPIK is easy to remember because it sounds just like ‘topic’, which of course means a subject, a matter, an area or an issue. This in turn ties in with direction and focus and can also be associated with ‘Top Pick’ meaning the best of a selection.

So, what is TOPPIK? Well, first you need to look at Trends.

Trends come and trends go, but by recognizing a trend early enough and getting in to the market at the start ensures you make a name for yourself before anyone else.

Keep your eyes and ears open at all times – listen to what your children, your friends and family are talking about. Read newspapers, browse online – and keep your wits about you. Product opportunities appear in the unlikeliest of places!

For example, you already know fitness and exercise is a trend after the excesses of Christmas. So think about whether there’s a new fitness trend working its way up, or a particular item of clothing people will be looking to purchase as they throw themselves into their New Year resolutions with gusto.

Next is Opportunity.

Opportunities are everywhere, but finding a gap in a market is great news. You need to capitalize on that opportunity to the best of your ability.

Look at a particular niche and try and work out if there is a problem or something that is missing within that niche.

It comes down to my ‘similar but better’ strategy. Think about what you could introduce to the market that is similar but better than what is already on offer.

This could be a ‘luxury’ item or a ‘bargain’ item. It could be a product that already sells well, but with an added element or twist.

For example, if there is a slimming product currently selling well, can you research and source a superior model that gives faster or better results?

Try and follow your Passion.

You might decide to focus on products you have first-hand positive experiences of or a real passion for.

It’s likely then you’ll know exactly what potential buyers are searching for and when. You’ll be knowledgeable about products in the niche.

Just having this expertise can prove to be extremely profitable. For example, if your passion is for fashion accessories, consider what others may be looking to buy at particular times of the year and as seasons change.

Think about Problems.

Solving a problem has long been a surefire way to ensure you have a bestselling product on your hands.

What problems do people have (or that you may have had in the past) and how could you solve them with a particular product or set of products?

For example, if you have recently successfully stopped smoking and you used a particular product to help you achieve that then think about the product and others relating to it with a view to researching and sourcing something similar to resell.

You may be surprised to learn that a ‘problem’ doesn’t necessarily have to be in the realms of a physical pain, either.

To a young lady on her first date, her problem could be as simple as finding the perfect handbag to match her shoes!

Then Identify the need.

I mentioned ‘passion’ earlier and this actually applies to consumers too.

When people are immersed and passionate about something – for example a hobby, an interest, a sport, a goal they are determined to achieve – they will spend more money in order to get the best results.

For example, can you offer a product to a cycling enthusiast that enables them to cycle further and faster with far less effort?

If you can, then that cyclist would very likely be prepared to buy your superior product. This is identifying a need.

Finally, it’s the Knowledge you already have.

If you have knowledge of a particular industry, product or niche, or if you have a particular skill or have experienced something that makes you an expert on the subject, then you can use this to your advantage.

Perhaps you already know the exact peak selling times for a particular item, making it easy to plan ahead?

Perhaps you can offer that little bit extra with the product due to your expertise, or recommend an ‘add-on’ product that will increase your sales?

You can turn your expertise into a route into online selling, safe in the knowledge you know a huge amount about an area that competitors in the same niche may not.

This leads to better products, better listings, better service and ultimately more sales.

And that’s TOPPIK!

There are opportunities are all around you…

However, the most important aspect you need to consider when choosing a product is to not be scared of looking into smaller, less well-known niches.

In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the deeper you dig and the more specific you become, the more opportunities there are for you to achieve success due to less competition.

For example, if your research tells you yoga mats are in demand, consider selling not only just standard yoga mats but premium quality, thicker, longer, wider and/or patterned yoga mats instead!

Remember the niche. Ultimately, the products you choose to take further in your online business will each bring unique challenges.

But importantly, they will shape your business for the future, so plan ahead, choose carefully and choose well!