I’ve made money selling everything from Furbys and board games to groceries and shoes on Amazon. That doesn’t mean you should run out and buy up a bunch of Furbys though.
If you just buy a product from someone else’s list of “currently profitable products”, there’s a good chance you’ll lose money.
There are millions of products that are potentially worth selling on Amazon. To make money, you have to understand how to identify a product you are allowed to sell that will sell quickly at a profit.
Below I’ll explain how my business finds and sells millions of dollars worth of products each year on Amazon. The system we use is straightforward and repeatable. Thousands of people have used it to figure out what to sell on Amazon. Hopefully you will be next!
How to Pick What To Sell on Amazon
When picking what to sell on Amazon, your first decision is whether you want to sell an existing product or create your own.
Creating your own product doesn’t have to involve inventing something. Most people just “private label” a product. This means they have a generic product manufactured with their own branding. Common private label products over the past decade include water bottles and hammocks.
Pretty much anything that isn’t protected by a patent can and is private labeled though.
Cons of Creating Your Own Brand
While proponents of private labeling will show you examples of products that earn lots of money in a short period of time, these are often the exceptions. Most people who private label products find that their products don’t make nearly as much money as they hoped. When they do, other private label sellers are quick to introduce their own products as competition.
On top of the general risk that your products won’t sell as well as you hope after investing thousands of dollars upfront, there is also a lot more work involved. You’ll be responsible for all this as well:
- Developing the brand
- Creating a new product listing
- Getting reviews and ranking in Amazon search
We think that the risks outweigh the reward for the typical beginner. After working with many people, we’ve found that most people who start selling with a private label product don’t earn a profit on their initial investment – which often amounts to a few thousand dollars.
The alternative is selling a product that already exists with an established brand.
How to Get Existing Products You Are Allowed to Sell
There are three main strategies that can be used to find existing products to sell on Amazon.
- Retail Arbitrage
- Online Arbitrage
Retail arbitrage involves buying products from brick and mortar stores in your area. Good stores for retail arbitrage include Walmart, Target, CVS, Home Depot. Any retail store is a potential source though.
Online arbitrage is very similar to retail arbitrage, except you are buying from websites. These are often the websites for the same stores you are targeting in person. For example, you may find a good pair of clearance shoes on the Dicks Sporting Goods website that are still selling for retail prices on Amazon.
With both retail and online arbitrage, the best opportunities are usually found in the clearance and sale sections. You can buy as little as one unit of a product. Sometimes this is all that is available.
Once you go to a store, your job is to “scan” items to find out their sales rank and if they can earn you a profit. This is done with the free Amazon Seller App that you get when you sign up for your Amazon seller account.
Wholesale sourcing involves setting up accounts with bulk suppliers. A wholesale order will cost at least a few hundred dollars, and is often more than $1000. Before you place a wholesale order, you have to set up a wholesale account with the supplier.
The accounts worth getting aren’t available to everyone though – there are gatekeepers that will be looking for established sellers that can offer some benefit to them.
For these reasons, we recommend that new sellers start with the arbitrage sourcing techniques to gain initial experience and work their way up to wholesale. Doing this can actually speed up how quickly you get your first wholesale account. Having an established Amazon seller account and some experience selling things online is very helpful when convincing suppliers to give you an account.
Advantages of Selling an Existing Product
When you sell an existing product, you leverage all of these benefits:
- The product is already listed and ranking on Amazon.
- Sales rank and price data give you a clear expectation of what you’ll earn.
- Your initial investment can be much lower.
New sellers who follow our system for finding products to sell on Amazon generally see a profit within their first month. One of the big reasons this is possible is the data you can use to make sure any item you sell will be profitable and sell quickly.
Use Sales Rank to Target Items That Sell Regularly
Amazon gives all items sold on the platform a “sales rank”. The sales rank indicates how well any item is selling based on the category it is in.
While it isn’t as simple as the item with the most sales will have the best rank, it is true that the better the rank, the more sales you can expect.
By targeting items with good sales ranks, you know that the item will sell frequently throughout the month. Even if you aren’t the only seller, this gives you much better odds of getting sales.
You can find the sales rank on the product page or by scanning an item with the free Amazon Seller App you can download once you get your Amazon Seller Account.
Only Buy Items That Offer A Clear ROI
When you scan or look up an item with the Amazon Seller App, it will show you:
- The current best FBA price
- The current best merchant fulfilled price
- How much you can expect to pay in fees
- If you are allowed to sell it
The app also allows you to input your own data, including how much it will cost you to acquire the item.
Here is an example.
By the end of the process, the app will show you exactly what you can expect to make on each sale.
How Much Can You Earn?
I earned over $16000 profit in my first 3 months after deciding to sell online full time. I didn’t have any wholesale accounts back then – it was all from arbitrage.
Since then, I’ve grown the arbitrage side of my business to the point that in an average year we sell several million dollars worth of products that were sourced via arbitrage.
The biggest barrier to achieving earnings like these is the work required on the front end. Many people don’t want to put in the time to figure out how to find these deals. While it really is as simple as going into stores and scanning items, most beginners are surprised by how many products are restricted or not profitable.
The more items you scan, the better you get at finding profitable products you can sell. You get a feel for the best times to go to certain stores, what items have the most potential, etc…
The good news is that while it takes a lot of work on the front end, over time you can outsource as much of it as you want. I only go into stores specifically to perform arbitrage a couple of times a year now, and that’s usually to train a new team member.
One of the key aspects to the success I’ve enjoyed is “outsourcing”. By hiring people to run systems for me, I free up my time to focus on the most important parts of the business like planning and strategy. I’ve also had a lot of time for family and travel.
In my experience, this path offers a greater potential income than the majority of careers while also offering far more freedom.
What I Sell on Amazon
Using the strategies above, I’ve sold thousands of different items on Amazon. While there are certain categories I’ve had more success in than others, I don’t commit myself to selling specific things.
The main things I think about are:
- Am I allowed to sell it?
- Can I sell it for more than it costs to buy?
- How quickly do I think it will sell?
One of My Favorite Early Items I Sold
One of my favorite arbitrage sales of all time comes from when I was still selling online part time when I had my full time accounting job. I was living in about a 750 square foot 2 bedroom apartment that I shared with a friend from college.
There wasn’t a ton of space so I had items I was selling stored on the floor of my closet and under my bed. Given the space limitations, I preferred selling smaller items when possible.
The item that was one of my favorites was a special type of replacement Scrabble tiles. For some reason the Black Diamond Scrabble tiles were selling for around $40.
I was able to buy these items from Hasbro Toy Shop for $6.99 plus tax, so my total investment was about $7.50 for a bag of these replacement tiles.
I was able to make a profit of between $25 and $35 on each order depending on the exact price, and if the customer paid for shipping or not.
I had to dig deep into my email to find these old screenshots.
A sale from 2/6/2012:
I would buy 10 of the refills at a time, and looking back in my email I had 35 orders for these Scrabble tiles in 2012.
If we assume a $30 profit on each order, that would be a little over $1,000 on this single item!
So when it comes to what to sell on Amazon, it’s more important to find items that you have access to at a price that makes sense to resell them at, as compared to going to look for a specific item.
Keeping an open mind when it comes to what items to potentially sell will lead you to all kinds of opportunities you’d likely never expect.
Step 1: Any questions?
If you have any questions about what to sell on Amazon, let us know in the comments below.
Step 2: Subscribe & take our free “Fundamentals of a Successful Online Selling Business” course.
There is a big difference between selling things online and creating a business that you actually enjoy. This course will help you get clear about what you want, then create a 6-month action plan to help you get it. You can learn more and sign up here.
Step 3: Additional Reading
We talked about some specific strategies for getting products above. Here are some guides that go into more detail about those strategies: