Amazon Product Research Strategy – How To Find Long-Term Products To Sell

Picture of Author: Martyn N.

Author: Martyn N.

Hi! I’m Martyn, a full-time Amazon E-Commerce Manager with over 5 years of experience selling and managing a wide range of products for various small businesses on Amazon.

How to conduct your product research on Amazon effectively – in this article, we will go over the old system for product research on Amazon that you most likely have seen in the past, why it’s obsolete, and explore which approach is recommended by leading business experts to give your own Amazon business the maximum chance of success.

Before this video begins, I want to give a quick disclaimer – this video isn’t going to be a linear step-by-step tutorial on which keyword research software to use, which buttons to click and so on. There are plenty of videos out there that give out step-by-step instructions for product research with the latest tools and Amazon updates. My objective with this video is to educate on the broader context of the Amazon product research process so you can understand what makes a good product research system that gives your Amazon business the maximum chances of growing and giving you what you want.

I/ The old system doesn’t work anymore – and here’s why

If you look online at how to conduct a product research on Amazon, you will find many videos and articles will show you the same process:

1 – find a good tool that scans Amazon keywords for search volume and ratings

2 – look at search results, listing quality, review count, ratings and price of the top results, note down the keywords with relatively high search volume with “poor” listings as top results

3 – Look up suppliers – often Chinese – and calculate if you can sell the same thing at a lower price while still making a profit

Now while this worked back in 2014, this isn’t going to work today and isn’t going to work in the future.

Why? Because anyone can do this kind of research. Whatever you will find that seems to be a good opportunity, someone else will have seen it or will see it very soon – it’s not a question of if, but when.

And with programs becoming exponentially better at processing big data, it becomes easier and faster for literally anyone to find hidden opportunities.

We can compare this to the history of the West discovering the world – in the 1600s, much of the world was still undiscovered to the Western civilizations – heck, even the Americas were a wild place that were mostly uncharted.

Fast forward a few hundred years – and we have satellites that can literally find buried houses under the dense jungle of the Amazon – yes, I mean the actual Amazon jungle.

It’s the same story on Amazon – now I mean the e-commerce platform. Go back a few years, you didn’t have the mass of AI-driven programs that are able to scan for product opportunities better than any human can – at least, if we’re talking only about data-based opportunities, such as low search volume, ratings and so on.

“But even if someone finds it soon – I should have the upper hand if I start selling first, right”?

Well, here’s where we have to think about competitive advantage.

If your strategy is to find a product with an opportunity that anyone can use – say offering a lower price, putting up some slightly better generic pictures or going from crap reviews to standard reviews – well, then anyone can and eventually someone will do it for cheaper.

If it’s just a matter of using a program and find a cheap supplier, you’ll find someone who will do the exact same and be able to live off a lower margin.

So long story short – you can’t rely on this method anymore.

Right – so what’s the right approach? How do you find products that you will be able to sell for a long time without having to wake up every morning wondering if someone’s put a listing that’s likely to put you out of business in a couple of weeks?

Let’s look at that right now.

II/ The approach you need: Add value + competitive advantage

In order to ensure that your business will survive, it needs to provide value to your customers that will not be easy for your competition to reproduce.

Let’s deconstruct this a little bit.

Providing value


First, providing something of value – what does that mean?

Value is the reason why your customers buy from you – or from anyone, in fact. A valuable product is a product that fulfils a customer’s unmet needs. A toothbrush is valuable insofar that it helps you keep your teeth clean. A teapot is valuable if you want to have something to hold your tea and keep it hot. I think you get the idea here.

If a product isn’t perceived by your customers as valuable – and I really must emphasize “perceived by your customers” here – then it will not sell. Simple as that.

You wouldn’t sell a rock, would you? No, because it’s got zero perceived value to almost everybody.

(well I mean you had that pet rock fad, which shows you how much customer perception can be manipulated, but you get my point)

Now the rock example might be extreme – but you’d be surprised how many businesses failed throughout history just because they failed to judge if they product could be perceived as valuable to anyone.

Okay, we’re clear about what value is. Let’s take this concept a bit further.

Make sure that your business sells products that can be perceived in some way as more valuable than your direct competition.

Let’s take an example: You might have a million searches for “sports shoes” and think “well, I should start selling sports shoes, everyone needs shoes, right?” but if your product is not perceived by your target customers as adding any value over the existing competition – and there’s lots of it, Nike, Adidas, Puma, heck I don’t know, I wear barefoot shoes – then there’s no reason to try to sell those products.

Now “added value” comes in many different flavours – it can be that you’re offering a product at a lower price, have different colours, different materials, slightly different features…loads of possibilities here. But the key thing is that it must be an attribute that the customer values.

In this case, you’d want to offer sports shoes with at least one aspect or feature that customers perceive as valuable that other competitors like Nike, Adidas and the like do not offer.

I mean – good luck with that. But this brings us to the second part – offering something of value that your competitors cannot offer.

Competitive Advantage

This is commonly referred as “competitive advantage”. A competitive advantage is defined as “a condition or circumstance that puts a company in a favourable or superior business position.”

There are many different things that can be competitive advantages – for example, Amazon’s ability to deliver a selection of millions of products overnight with its Prime system is considered a competitive advantage.

I won’t extend too much on competitive advantages in this video – but I’ll go into more detail in a future video. However, one critical concept that’s closely related to competitive advantages has to be covered if you want to conduct successful product research, and that’s the concept of “core competency”.

Core-competency-based product research

First of all – what is “core competency”?

core competency is defined by C. K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel.[1]  as “a harmonized combination of multiple resources and skills that distinguish a firm in the marketplace”

Core competencies fulfill three criteria:[1]

  1. Provides potential access to a wide variety of markets.
  2. Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product.
  3. Difficult to imitate by competitors.

References:

  1. Prahalad, C.K. and Hamel, G. (1990) “The core competence of the corporation “, Harvard Business Review (v. 68, no. 3).

Having core competencies in your business means that you will be able to derive a competitive advantage for the products that can benefit from these core competencies.

Okay, let’s look at a practical example of how this would look like on Amazon:

Let’s say that you love BBQing. You’ve been into it ever since you first saw your Dad as a toddler flip some tasty, sizzling burgers in your backyard with your friends and family. You’ve been doing it almost every Sunday during the summer for years – you know exactly how to best set it up, how to avoid getting the food burnt, and mastered the art of socializing while ensuring everyone gets their patty how they like it.

In this case, some core competencies of yours could be the years of experience in BBQing, the ability to learn new knowledge relating to your exciting hobby – for example, new kinds of tools and utensils, new BBQ grills, different kinds of wood and coal – as well as the ability to easily and quickly test out new BBQing ideas – basically, you can work on research and development better than your competitors who have never even touched a BBQ before.

This can then be translated into competitive advantages, for example having a website dedicated to BBQ tools and techniques, reviews, tips and so on, or great BBQ pictures that look real and genuine and not stock photos – because unlike your competitors in smoggy Shenzhen, you have a great looking garden, a real BBQ set, and real-looking friends with whom you can take some awesome shots and videos. Whoever will then view your listing will know that you’re the “real thing” and this translates into a stronger brand and increased perceived expertise and thus, quality.

As mentioned before, you’d want to make sure that this would be perceived as valuable by your customers – for instance, by looking at reviews, websites about BBQing, forums, social media and so on.


And guess what? That could be too much boring work that’s not worth the effort to your competitors – or maybe they would do it, but they wouldn’t “get” the customers.

But to a BBQ fanatic like you, it could be an actual pleasure to spend a weekend reading up on BBQ opinions and unmet needs, along with sharing your expertise and knowledge about a topic that you’re passionate about.

Here, it’s all about adding value to your customers. And if you have this knowledge, it’s a competitive advantage you can leverage.

Maybe your competitor will still be making more sales than you because they just offer the same BBQ products at a much lower price, sure. But then again, you don’t need to be better than them on all aspects. You just need to be good enough to enough customers to meet your business objectives so you can have a business that first survives then thrives then gives you the financial freedom you want.

This was one example of a competitive advantage that you can use for product research. Again, competitive advantages come in many different forms, some of which I haven’t explained. It’s up to you to use both your knowledge and imagination to find out how you can make some people’s lives better in a way that you can do best.

Once you know that your idea is valuable, searched for, and competitors are not fulfilling it or are leaving some space for improvement that you can fulfil in a way that would be hard for them to copy, we’re much more likely to have a successful product research.

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