In Part 1 of this article, I talked about tapping into the mindset of your target market to determine what your buyers are likely to want to buy next. Some of the best tools to better understand customers' desires are what I call Idea HotSpots™.
There are thousands of different Idea HotSpots™. They differ for every niche. Here are some to get you started. Once you understand the concept of Idea HotSpots™, you can begin to look for those that are unique to your niche.
1. Consumer publications
Country Living, Organic Style, Parenting, Field and Stream; all of these are examples of magazines that consumers read on a daily basis. And it's in these magazines that your customers get ideas for products they want to buy.
These days there's a magazine devoted to every major niche market. These publications contain pages and pages of articles, product reviews, advertisements and insights on the niches they cover.
Want to sell hunting or fishing products? Field and Stream is one of the top sportsman magazines on the marketplace, featuring in-depth articles on hunting, fishing and conservation news. Not only will you find out about the latest and greatest in products and trends, but you also learn from the articles. You'll see what the problems, needs and desires of sportsmen are. This is how you start to get an insight into the minds of your potential target market.
Are you a car fanatic, a quilting maven, a train nut? Then you probably already subscribe to your favorite consumer magazine. But if you are not into a niche and know nothing about it, consumer magazines put you right in the middle of the lifestyle and interests of your customers.
To find a wide variety of consumer magazines, go to your local Barnes & Noble bookstore or a full-service newsstand. You will see hundreds of publications—newspapers, magazines, special issues—displayed side by side for you to choose from. Or visit sites like Magazines.com or Maghound to find out what your buyers are reading and buying.
Want to know what your customers will be buying six, 12, even 18 months out? Trade publications hold the answers
2. Trade publications
Want to know what your customers will be buying six, 12, even 18 months out? Trade publications hold the answers. Trade publications are industry magazines designed to help retailers answer the question: "What will my customers buy in the near future?" The entire mission of the trade publication is to help make retailers successful. These publications are packed with industry trend information, new product profiles and interviews with customers and other retailers.
Every major industry has at least one trade publication. The styles of the publications vary—ranging from elaborate full-color magazines to brief but powerful plain-text e-mail newsletters.
You can locate trade publications online for your niche by using the search engines and entering the keywords for the industry + trade publication. For example search for "footwear trade publication" or "footwear trade magazine" (without the quotes).
If the trade publication for your niche is not part of your business library, you're missing a key resource that will help you answer the question of what your customers are going to buy.
3. Trend articles
The media love to profile consumer trends. Some of the best "scoops" on trends in consumers' lifestyles and buying habits come from consumer market profiles that you can find online or in offline publications.
Trend articles often outline—in detail—information on market demographics and new product profiles with an explanation of underlying trends and lifestyle changes. They run stories on what products are in demand, what the future is for the market, who is buying the products and how much money they're spending on them. You can often find the name and contact information for the manufacturer of the merchandise referenced right in the article.
A recent trend article provided a detailed outline of the evolution of Hello Kitty, the playful character from Japan with the yellow nose and ribbon in her hair whose image adorns toys, clothing, accessories and more. The article talked in-depth about which products were popular, profiled by age group, who was buying Hello Kitty products and what they were buying. The article also discussed the direction of the product line and gave a list of the top 10 Hello Kitty products. The writer even delved into the vintage Hello Kitty collectibles market. You couldn't have asked for a better product study to understand and source in this very successful niche.
You can locate trend articles online by Googling the keywords associated with your niche in conjunction with other keywords such as "trends," "product reviews" or "new products" (all without the quotes).
In the WhatDoISell Business Center, we offer a variety of methods for finding Idea Hotspots™ along with several other types of Idea Hotspots—both online and offline.
You should bring new products into your store to test each week
4. Test marketing new products
Ultimately, the best way to determine if you have a winning product on your hands is to test-market new products on a regular basis—and test-market a lot of them. When a customer votes on a product with their wallet, it's a strong indication that you have a winner on your hands.
Ideally you should be bringing new products into your store to test each week. But this doesn't mean buying cases and cases of unproven inventory. This entails buying very small quantities of new merchandise and testing your customers' response to them.
Once you know what they're interested in, you can order larger quantities of that product.
Unfortunately, when sourcing inventory, many people buy products in large quantities before they ever test the market. This puts them in the unfortunate position of having a store stocked with products their customers don't want—but which must be sold before new inventory can be purchased.
Always be interested
There are many more ways you can find out what your customers will buy. We've only started delving into the methods you can use to figure out what your customers will purchase next. Keep in mind that the most important factor in determining what people want to buy is your desire to tap into the minds of your customers. Once you set that intention and act on it, you'll discover what your customers want to buy on a regular basis.
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Lisa Suttora is an internationally known e-commerce expert, internet marketing strategist and veteran trendspotter. As Founder & CEO of WhatDoISell.com, Lisa has helped thousands of enterprising entrepreneurs build successful, niche-based online businesses. Since 2004, WhatDoISell.com has provided premier education and a global community for online retailers.
To get the latest on hot product niches and trends, don't miss the next issue of Lisa's free trendsheet Hot Trend Alerts. It could contain your next hot selling product idea! And if you're ready to learn 15 Ways to Make Money on today's eBay… you'll find them in this exclusive, free 15-day e-course.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.