Ready to sell online? You’re in the right place. But where do you start?
Well, you can source inventory from a supplier – or, in the case of dropshipping, have that stock shipped straight to your customer. But sometimes, the product you really want to sell can’t be found on any supplier website. Because sometimes, the perfect product doesn’t exist yet – and is just waiting for you to create it.
Creating a product to sell online is an inventive, innovative way of making money. But one thing it isn’t? Easy.
Fret not, though – we’ve pulled together a step-by-step guide to show you how to make a product to sell. From deciding on, costing, and designing your product to creating prototypes and samples, we’ve got you covered. Every step of the way.
First up? Deciding exactly what kind of product you want to create.
Now presumably, you already have some idea (since you’re here, and all). But simply having an idea isn’t enough. If you’re serious about turning the theoretical into the tangible, you’ll need to test that idea on your target market.
After all, who better to validate your idea’s commercial potential than the people you’re planning to sell it to? Of course, that also means finding out who that audience is – and if companies selling a similar item are already out there.
So before you decide on what to sell online, make sure to:
- Conduct market research: does your product already exist? If not, should it? And, more importantly, will people pay for it?
- Research your competitors: draw up a list of any potential competitors or companies with similar product offerings.
- Figure out your target market: which demographics are you targeting? What are their passions and pain points, and how can your product solve their challenges?
- Find your niche: to make a dent in a saturated, overstuffed market, your product needs a point of difference. What is it?
(Need help finding your niche? We’ve got it.)
Now you’ve decided that the world needs your product, you need to make sure you’re not going to break the bank by bringing it into existence.
Basically, you need a budget. Because the earlier you can map this out – and the stricter you are at sticking to it as your product development unfolds – the better chance you have of turning that idea into a commercial success.
So sit down and figure out all the costs you’ll face creating your product – from ideation to when it lands on your customer’s front porch. These costs include:
- Raw materials
- Product development and production
- Setting up a website and online store
- Fulfillment (packing and packaging) and shipping
The more specific you can get about costs – and the more detail you go into about the financial hurdles you expect to face – the more realistic your budget will be. That’s good, though – it’ll make you more likely to stick to it!
Oh, boy – this is the fun part! You’ve already researched and budgeted for your project. But how do you go about actually designing a product to sell online?
Well, this is up to you – and it’ll depend on what type of product you’re designing. Wood projects would need a different design process to handmade soaps, for example. You might choose to go ahead and do it yourself: creating sketches and specifications, and working towards ever more detailed blueprints.
Alternatively, you could outsource this to a third-party industrial design company. To find one, we suggest starting with Cad Crowd. It’s a marketplace for 3D modeling and rendering, where you can connect with freelancers to design and develop your products.
Cad Crowd connects you with freelancers who can design and develop your product.
With design handled, it’s time to create a digital prototype.
A prototype is a kind of demo or simulation of your product – a mockup of how it might look. With a prototype, you can test your embryonic product out in the real world: assessing it, iterating on it, and making further refinements before you start construction in earnest.
With a prototype, you can really put your product through its paces. Plus, it’s a win-win situation.
Either you’ll prove the use for and validity of your prototype, and choose to go ahead with production. Or (worst case scenario) you’ll decide the world isn’t quite ready for your product’s brilliance yet, and choose not to proceed. If so, you haven’t lost the amount of money, time, or effort you would if you’d have ordered a full batch.
Proto.io is one of the finest free prototyping tools – and offers a free trial to boot.
With your digital prototype in hand, you’ll need to create a physical one. That means it’s time to start shopping your digital prototype around to manufacturers – and get some quotes.
It might take a little while to settle on a manufacturer – and no small amount of negotiation in terms of the price, and your product’s design and dimensions, too – but you’ll soon find one you’re happy with. Then, you can work with that manufacturer to create a physical prototype. And when you’re happy with that, the magic happens.
Now, it’s time to take the plunge – and create some samples of your product.
Samples, like prototypes, are important. And they serve a similar function. Except while prototypes are mainly for you – to let you refine and develop the product in its infancy – samples are for your potential customers.
Samples allow you to user test your product on a select portion of your target audience. By doing this, you can receive invaluable feedback – enabling further, more granular product development. You can even give your products away, or sell them at discounted prices, to build hype ahead of the official launch.
Ready to sell your brand-new product, but not sure how much to sell it for?
You’re not alone. Pricing is one of the trickiest parts of selling a product you’ve only just created, and it’s easy to see why. There’s nothing to benchmark it against!
But don’t stress – we’ve put together three of the most common pricing strategies to help out:
- Cost-plus pricing: take the amount it costs to produce your product, then add a specific percentage as a markup. A 50% markup is the industry standard, but you can play with this however you’d like.
- Competition-based pricing: also known as market-oriented pricing, this strategy involves looking at what similar businesses are selling their products for. Then, you can price yours accordingly: above market for a premium feel, below market to attract customers, or consistent with the market to remain competitive.
- Dynamic pricing: pricing that flexes with the demands of the market and customer purchasing habits. It can change several times a month, week… even day. (If that sounds complicated and hectic, don’t worry – there are tools, such as Quicklizard, which do this for you!)
Quicklizard can automate the shifting sands of your dynamic pricing strategy.
Want more information about how to price a product? Look no further!
With your prototypes successful, price set, and product ready, let’s get you online – and selling.
Fortunately, there’s a huge range of ways to sell online:
The good? You can instantly get your products under the noses of incredible amounts of engaged, established traffic. The bad? You’ll have no control over your branding (i.e. how your products are showcased), and you face competition. A lot of competition.
Like marketplaces, selling on social media has both upsides and downsides.
It’s quick and easy to set up, and – overall – is a low-cost way to sell. However, since you’ll be working within the constraints of the social media platform’s layout, you’ll have limited control over the look and feel of your store’s branding. For this reason, social commerce is better as part of a multi-channel sales strategy, rather than as your sole source of revenue.
Your Own Online Store
We’re biased (it’s in the name, after all), but using a website builder to create your own online store is by far the best route.
You’ll have full creative control over your store’s look and feel (including its color, layout, and theme), for one. And be able to provide a consistent, cohesive customer journey as they discover, browse, and – hopefully – buy from your store.
Sure, creating your own online store will take a little longer than getting on Amazon or Etsy. But in the long run, it’ll set you up for more stable, sustainable success.
Some of the ecommerce website builders we recommend here are:
- Wix – for a great all-round store, especially for beginners
- Shopify – best for selling more than 10 products
- Squarespace – best value, so we recommend it if you’re on a budget
- Square Online – lets you sell for free
- BigCommerce – aces multichannel, so it’s great for purely online businesses
- Big Cartel – best if you’re an artist creating your own products
Picking the path of your own online store? Let us know how you get on in the comments! Want more guidance? Learn about how much does a web site cost.
We’ll level with you – creating a product from scratch won’t be easy.
But, like most of the hardest things in life, it’s also rewarding – particularly when you create an online store, and start watching your brand-new product fly off those digital shelves.
So how do you create a product to sell online? Let’s recap our top tips:
- Decide on your product
- Calculate your product
- Design your product
- Create a digital prototype
- Create product samples
- Set your price
- Get online
So good luck, and get out there. It’s time to turn your dreams into reality – quite literally!
To this end, we recommend Wix for small businesses, and Shopify if you’re a larger enterprise. If you’re an independent artist, Big Cartel will suit you best.