What to sell online: 14 profitable products trending in 2020
Whether you already have an online store or are thinking about starting one for the first time, keeping an eye on trends can help you better serve potential customers.
Obviously COVID-19 and the upheavals it's caused will define 2020, but that doesn't mean ecommerce will grind to a halt — it will actually play a more important role than ever.
With people ordered to stay at home as much as possible, they're depending on ecommerce merchants to provide them with the products they need.
That doesn't necessarily mean you need to start selling toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Instead, think about selling products that can make quarantine living a little bit better for people.
You might be surprised by what products saw the biggest spike in demand since COVID-19 restrictions have been put in place, like bread machines, snack food, and crafting supplies.
People are looking for things they can do at home. So if you're just starting a store, you might be able to find an underserved market need, and if you already have a store, there might be an opportunity to offer a new product that your audience can use.
But that doesn't mean you need to completely pivot whatever idea you had, or find a product that can get a COVID-19 spin. People still have the everyday needs they had before social distancing, meaning there's still opportunities to sell all kind of products.
Of course you should still do some research to make sure there's demand for that product you're thinking about selling. If people aren't interested in it, you can invest your entire life savings into marketing and your consumers still won’t bite.
So before you pick Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, or another platform and start setting up your website — or even deciding what kind of business model you want to run, like B2C or a subscription — you should put some thought into what products you want to sell.
Same goes if you're thinking about selling a new product on a store you already own.
Obviously, you should look at what trending products you should sell (which are likely to turn a profit), but there are other factors that come into the picture.
We'll look at this year's trending products in a moment. First, we'll look into what makes a good product to start selling online. This should help guide you through choosing a product.
But if you want to skip straight to the trending ecommerce product ideas, click here.
What makes a good product to sell online?
There are five keys to a great product:
When picking a product to sell this is the first question you should ask: is it profitable?
Some first-time entrepreneurs think they should just start selling products they use and love, but more should go into the selection process than personal preferences.
You’re running a business, not a hobby. You should only be selling something if it's making you money — and expenses add up quickly.
Say you purchase a thousand sets of bed sheets from your supplier and you pay $10 per set.
After you add in 20% duty fees, shipping fees, and credit card processing fees, the total cost of your product rises to $17.
Because you’ll probably need to run some Google AdWords or Facebook Ad campaigns as well, let’s add an extra $3 for marketing. Now we’re at $20.
In order to make a 33% margin on this product, you’ll have to sell it at a minimum of $30.
And we're not even including the other expenses of running a store, like website fees, packaging, branding, and any other marketing you have to pay for.
All that to say: put careful thought into how you can price the products you want to sell.
Pro Tip: if you’re trying to get a sense of how to price your products, check out Shopify’s Profit Margin Calculator. Just plug in the cost of your item and the percentage markup and it’ll spit out your item price and profit margin.
#2: Price point
Profitability might be important, but it’s only one part of the puzzle.
Let’s say you import hair accessories from China at $0.10 a pop, and resell them on your website for $1 each.
That’s a 90% profit margin, which sounds incredible!
BUT at the end of the day, you’re only making $0.90 per sale. And it’ll take you a long time to get rich with $0.90 transactions.
Personally, I recommend selling products priced at $50 or more.
Now, you might be wondering…
If I’m aiming for as large a profit as possible, why stop at $100? Why not sell items which are $1,000? Or $10,000?
Well, no one’s stopping you from selling more expensive items. But remember: the larger-ticket your item is, the harder you’ll have to work to earn your customer’s trust.
Let’s flip this on its head, and imagine you’re the one making the purchase.
If you’re buying a $10 t-shirt, you’ll probably complete your purchase pretty quickly without giving it too much thought. You might not even read the return policy. Even if the shirt doesn’t fit, it's just $10 — not the end of the world.
But if you’re buying a $1,000 camera, you’ll probably spend more time researching the camera (and comparing it to other models) before you click that checkout button.
You’ll also read the customer reviews, and I bet you’ll want to know if there’s a warranty included, how long it lasts, and what it covers. You might even ring up the company’s customer service hotline to confirm certain details with them.
Now, imagine a scenario where you’re in the market to purchase a $10,000 state-of-the-art speaker set.
Unless you have a lot of disposable income, you probably wouldn’t dream of making the purchase online. You’ll go down to the company’s showroom and test it out for yourself before you hand over your credit card.
Moral of the story?
The more expensive your item, the more time you’ll spend pre-selling customers and responding to inquiries.
If you’re up for it, then by all means, go for it, but it will generally be easier and more profitable to sell items in the $50 - $200 range. You'll spend less time convincing people to buy and more time actually selling.
What you price things at also plays an important role in how consumers perceive the value of you products, so taking psychological factors into consideration is important as well.
#3: Size / weight
Ideally, you should be selling products which are light and don’t take up a lot of space.
This makes shipping your products more cost-effective, which in turn makes it easier for you to offer your customers free shipping (which has been shown to increase conversions).
Image from Acquisio.com.
If your products aren’t too bulky, this also makes it easier for you to expand your operations and start selling overseas.
Selling overseas might seem completely unnecessary if you’re just getting started, but don’t write it off completely.
Sure, you might be able to make a decent profit just by selling in the North America for now, but what happens two years down the road, when your business has peaked and you can’t get your sales figures to grow regardless of how much you invest in your pay-per-click campaigns?
That's when you’ll want to venture overseas to try and expand your market.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to store products in a warehouse yourself, you can always dabble in dropshipping!
Last but not least, make sure that the products you’re selling are popular and in-demand.
How do you know which products are in-demand? Simple — hop on over to Amazon’s Best Sellers page.
While you’re at it, also check out:
Now, once you’ve put together a list of options which fulfill all your criteria (profitable, lightweight, small, and in-demand), the next step is to run these through the Google Trends.
If you’re new to Google Trends, bookmark it now! This tool shows you how many people have searched for a particular product over the past few years, and it’s super easy to use.
You just need to enter your search term and Google Trends will generate a report showing you consumers’ interest over time.
Now, if you look at this graph I’ve got here, you’ll see that interest in acai berries is waning.
Bearing this in mind, I probably wouldn’t want to sell any sort of acai berry related product on my ecommerce site.
Let’s throw in a second search term: kombucha.
Now, look at that graph again.
It’s obvious that consumers are a lot more interested in kombucha, so you’ll be better off selling kombucha-related products in your store.
Pro Tip: You can change the settings in Google Trends shoppers to see what people in other countries are searching for. If you’re planning to ship to Canada, for example, click on the drop-down list on the top left hand corner and switch the country accordingly.
Keep in mind however that these scores have "no direct quantitive meaning." According to Google, they're a relative number based on search volume and geographic trends. Even then, it's still a good place to start.
From there, you can get a better idea of demand by doing some simple SEO research, like looking up search volume and keyword difficulty. These will help you gauge demand and competition.
Search volume: How many times people search that term every month. This can give you an idea about demand for the product. If there are only people Googling a product 10 times a month, it's reasonable to assume demand for that product is pretty low. Once you get to 100 plus searches a month, that's probably an indication people are actually interested in buying the product.
Keyword difficulty: How hard it will be to get your page to rank in the top ten results for that search term. This is based on a number of factors, but mostly how backlinks a page would need to get to the top of search results for that term. It helps gives you an idea of the competition you're up against.
If you want more details on how to get traffic through search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research (which is the best way to get unpaid traffic) check out our SEO guide here.
Now that you know how to assess a product’s demand, let’s look at things on the supply side. Obviously, the more exclusive your product is, the better.
That's not to say that you have to sell a product that’s completely unique and never-before-seen, but putting your own unique spin on something will definitely help.
But at the same time, you don’t want to be selling the same products that consumers can get from a multitude of different retailers, like power banks or generic, mass-produced phone cases.
With so many online retailers selling the exact same product, there’s really no way for a single store to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Because of this, retailers who are selling these items often resort to drastically dropping their prices and “spoiling” the market. It becomes a race to the bottom that no one wins.
Even conglomerates like Best Buy do this:
When this happens, everyone suffers.
If you can afford to slash your own prices to match your competitors, you might still be able to move some stock, but you won’t make much on these items.
And if you can’t slash your prices, your stock will just take up space in your warehouse (or your basement!). Sooner or later, your items will become obsolete, and you’ll have to write them off.
The bottom line?
Don’t sell generic, mass-produced items on your site. Unless you have enough capital to wage a price war and come out on top, it just isn’t worth it.
This begs the question:
How do you know whether there’s a ton of online stores selling a certain product?
Simple — just Google the product you have in mind and see what pops up.
At the same time, check to see if there are a lot of sellers offering the same item on Amazon as well.
While you’re doing that, look at their prices (do they have some breathing room, or are they making a tiny margin?) and quickly browse their reviews so you can gauge how long they’ve been in business.
Once you’ve dug up all the dirt on your competition and understand your target audience, you’ll be better prepared to make a decision on what products to sell!
14 profitable trending products in 2019 (and suppliers!)
Whether you want to launch your first store or expand the offering on a store you already run, the products below can help you meet consumers' needs and grow your business.
1. Reusable packaging
More and more people are looking to minimize their impact on the environment, and they're turning to reusable packaging to do that. Brands like Stasher are making waves with non-toxic, reusable storage bags as alternatives to single-use plastic baggies.
If you have a store that sells some sort of consumable good, you could offer reusable packaging to go with it. It could make for a successful upsell item or part of a bundled package.
If you're looking to launch your first store, the popularity of Stasher shows that there's a demand out there for sustainable packaging.
You could also go B2B: Sell eco-friendly packaging to brands who want to show customers that they minimize environmental impact.
For example, E6PR makes a biodegradable alternative to plastic six pack rings.
- Reusable packaging: 630
- Reusable food pouches: 1,000
- Reusable bag: 3,000
Keyword difficulty: All the above terms are rated easy to medium in terms of difficulty, meaning there's a chance to be competitive when it comes to ranking in search.
Pros of reusable packaging:
- Light, small, and easy to ship.
- Make a positive impact on the environment.
- Opportunities to design alternative packaging for products haven't been served yet.
- Easy to create bundles that increase average order values.
Cons of reusable packaging
- It might be hard to find a supplier that's vetted for their own economic impact.
- Could be hard to compete against established brands.
Potential profit estimate: $3 - $10 per piece
With all the isolation precautions in place, people are sitting around at home either stocking up on food or just wanting to taste new things. Whatever the reason, the demand for a variety of foods, but especially snacks, has increased.
This presents an opportunity either to start offering some munchies along with whatever products you already sell, or take that secret recipe grandma taught you and turn it into a business.
If you have a store, adding food to your offering might not always make sense, but if it does, it could be an opportunity to make a little extra cash.
For example, if you're selling tea or coffee, offer customer biscuits as an upsell. If you have a build-a-box, add snack options to it. A little snack add-on for any relevant products can make customers' orders a little bit better.
Perky Jerky offers their meaty snacks as a subscription.
There are a lot of possibilities for search terms on this one besides "snacks," so don't take the information below as a true indication of demand. The interest and competitiveness could be completely different for different types of food. Look up some of the specific products you'd like to offer and see where the opportunities are to grow or launch your brand.
Search volume: 191,000
Keyword difficulty: 56 (hard)
- Potentially high profit margins
- Cheap and light to ship
- Could expand it into a subscription
- Easy addition to an existing store as upsells or bundles
- High competitiveness depending on niche
- Shipping could present challenges (packaging, freshness)
- Depending on the food, it might be hard to source ingredients
3. Fitness equipment and services
Since millions of people can no longer get into their fitness centers and gyms, they're looking for ways to stay active at home. The first products that probably come to mind would hard to ship, like treadmills and weights, but there are some smaller alternatives.
- Resistance bands
- Yoga mats
- Exercise apparel
- Jump ropes
- Suspension training bands
You could also provide services that require no shipping at all:
- Virtual fitness lessons
- Exercise regimens
- Meal plan templates
If you already have a store that sells fitness supplies, you can try expanding your offering into paid services like classes, meal templates, and exercise plans.
You could even start a subscription-style membership that provides those services for a monthly fee. A lot of people are at home looking for fitness options, so this could be your opportunity to connect with new consumers, or build a a stronger relationship with your customers.
Buti provides a range of products and services from apparel to exercise plans to streaming classes.
If you're just starting a store, you can test the water with some of those low cost items but with your own branding. For the same reason as above, this could be a great time to start selling your own online fitness routines.
As with the snacks, the data below is for a very broad search term. You should do your own research on the specific products or services you'd like to provide.
There are lots of different kinds of health products, fitness equipment, and exercise styles. You could cater to dance, spin, martial arts, aerobics, or sport-specific niches with your services and equiment.
Search volume: 23,000
Keyword difficulty: 36
- Low cost products with potentially high profits
- COVID-19 conditions have created demand
- Exercise regimens are cheap to produce
- High competition
4. Beard oil
Image from NotOnTheHighStreet.com.
It’s not just women who are spending money on beauty and skincare — men are getting in on the action too.
One men’s grooming product which has gained quite a bit of traction in the last few years?
Now, if you look at the Google Trends graph, you’ll notice that demand for this product peaks around December every year, which suggests that a lot of people purchase these oils as Christmas gifts.
Keyword difficulty: 12 (medium)
- Ties into a larger trend (men spending more on grooming)
- Can be marketed as a gift (people are willing to spend more on these!)
- Potential to expand into other grooming products.
Cons of beard oil:
- Due to special packaging, you might encounter complications with shipping
- Potential customer service problems
- High competition
Potential profit estimate: $8 - $18 per bottle
Image from Macom-Medical.com.
Nicki Minaj's Anaconda, Kim Kardashian's photo that “broke the internet," and the launch of her own shapewear brand, Skims, all helped usher in a noticeable shift in beauty standards. Today, societal trends suggest that the ideal body shape (for women, at least!) is a curvy one.
As it happens, for women who want to feel like they have a "perfect hourglass figure," shapewear can be the answer
Disclaimer: This is completely an observation of societal trends. I am NOT advocating any kind of diet, ideal body type, or passing judgement of any kind.
Keyword difficulty: 24 (medium)
And looking at the Google Trends graph, it seems as though women are biting! They want these niche products.
Pros of shapewear:
- Small and lightweight, making it easy to ship.
- Potentially high profit margins.
Cons of shapewear:
- Product might generate high volume of inquiries.
- High competition
- Some waist trainers can do more harm than good. Be sure you only sell high-quality waist trainers from a reputable supplier (for your safety as well as your customers), or you may run into liability and customer service issues.
Potential profit estimate: $8 - $50 per piece
6. Minimalist watches
Image from ManOfMany.com.
Watches might have traditionally been used to tell the time, but they’re now fashion accessories in their own right.
What brought on this change?
If you ask me, the growing trend comes from the influx of watch brands which offer beautifully-crafted watches at affordable price points (Daniel Wellington being the brand that started it all).
There are plenty of minimalist watch brands available today, but as evidenced by the Google Trends graph, demand is still growing. (Although it does have some intense peaks and valleys.)
In other words: it isn’t too late to join the party!
Pros of minimalist watches:
- Small, easy to ship
- Potentially high profit margins
Cons of minimalist watches:
- Designs can be easily copied.
- Batteries in packages can cause issues.
Potential profit estimates: $15 - $60 per piece
7. Laptop stands
There are a lot of people who just started working remotely, and they need supplies to be comfortable at home.
If you have a store that provides any kind of office supplies, craft supplies, or housewares, laptop stands could have potential for you.
If you're looking to launch your first store, handmade wooden laptop stands could serve a niche for an eco-conscience audiences. If you aren't crafty, you could put your own marketing spin on a dropshipped item.
Keyword difficulty: 1 (easy!)
- Potentially light and small for shipping
- Potentially high profit margin
- Could create a unique product for a niche audience
- High competition from big retailers
Suppliers: Coolcold Technology (Shenzen) Co., Ltd.
8. Korean skin care products
Image from PeachAndLily.com.
Skin care products, detox products, and beauty products are all excellent eCommerce niches to get into. But Korean skin care products are where it's at.
Koreans are known for their intricate skin care regimes that result in flawless skin and plenty of Korean skincare brands have amassed clout overseas. Their beauty products are in.
A key driver of that demand? The USA!
Just ask any friend who’s a beauty addict, and they’ll probably be able to rattle off at least three cult Korean skin care brands that you can find in the US. Just look at the search volume growth:
If you can find a way to tap into that demand, you’ve got a good shot at building a successful ecommerce business!
Pros of Korean skin care products:
- High demand (especially if you import cult brands).
- Potential to branch into other categories (fashion, beauty, and so on).
Cons of Korean skin care products:
- Lower margins (if you’re purchasing products from an existing brand, and not white-labeling)
- Competition from traditional retailers (stores and pharmacies are now joining the Korean skincare bandwagon; CVS, for example, recently rolled out a “K-Beauty HQ” section in 2,100 stores nationwide)
Potential profit estimate: Varies according to product and brand
Suppliers: USA Cosmetics
9. Menstrual cups
Image from Slate.com.
If you’re a woman, you've already know what these are, for the guys, let me explain: they can replace tampons, preventing a mess but in a more sustainable way.
Now, there are quite a few benefits to using these cups that can marketed quite easily.
For one thing, these cups are a lot more environmentally-friendly and you don’t accumulate as much waste. On top of that, the cups also don’t contain chemicals (while some pads and tampons do).
Then there’s also the fact that menstrual cups require less “maintenance.” You’d have to change a pad or tampon every two to three hours, but you can get away with emptying a menstrual cup once every 8 to 12 hours. Personal care is one of the best ecommerce niches!
And since you don't have to replace it nearly as often as tampons, which you obviously have to buy refills for, it saves consumers money.
For many women, menstrual cups are a real game-changer.
Search volume: 6,900
Keyword difficulty: 48 (hard)
Pros of menstrual cups:
- Small, easy to ship
- High potential for word-of-mouth business
Cons of menstrual cups:
- Product might generate high volume of inquiries
- Customers are not likely to repurchase (for a couple of years at least!)
- Hard to rank for on search engines.
Potential profit estimate: $10 - $25 per piece
10. Bamboo toothbrushes
Image from MyPlasticFreeLife.com.
For conscious consumers bamboo toothbrushes are appealing because they're biodegradable, but still make for a durable tool.
Because of that, they’re actually pretty popular! This product could be a good opportunity for somebody looking to launch a new brand, or for stores that already sell housewares or health related products.
Search volume: 47,000
Keyword difficulty: 11 (medium)
Pros of bamboo toothbrushes:
- Small, easy to ship.
- High potential for repurchase (you’re supposed to change your toothbrush every three months)
- Hits on the environmentally friendly trend.
Cons of bamboo toothbrushes:
- Low price point.
- Sporadic interest according to Google Trend, including a projected drop.
Potential profit estimate: $8 - $15 for a pack of 4
11. Fairy lights
Image from Mason.com.
Fairy lights have been around for ages, and there’s nothing novel or innovative about this product idea.
So why is search volume for these lights still growing, after all this time?
Search volume: 52,000
Keyword difficulty: 5 (easy)
If you ask me, social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have a lot to do with it.
Think about it:
Pictures people tag with #homegoals (involving fairy lights!) are liked, shared, and pinned on social media platforms all the time. These platforms are essentially fuelling envy (as in: this bedroom is gorgeous, I want mine to look like that too!), contributing to demand.
You can also see them peak annually around Christmas, for obvious reasons! Maybe this year people will be decorating their tree with light you sold them!
Like many of the items on this list, this product could join the collection of products of a existing stores that sell housewares, furnishings, or crafts. For those looking to launch their first store, some unique branding and marketing could make this product a success.
Pros of fairy lights:
- Universal appeal (not limited to a specific gender or demographic).
- Trending because of social media.
- Low keyword difficulty.
Cons of fairy lights:
- Low price point.
- High competition from other supplies.
Potential profit estimate: $8 - $12 per set
12. Minimalist jewelry
With even the likes of Princess Markle forgoing flashy, bulky bling in favor of simplicity, and many designers doing the same, minimalist jewelry is a product that could make you some money this year — and for years to come.
Some brands, like Pura Vida, sell jewelry with little to no precious metals, and even do it on a subscription basis. Other brand like 4Ocean recycle plastic waste found in the sea to make unique jewelry while cleaning up the environment. So you don't have to be a goldsmith to start making a some money!
4Ocean also offers a monthly subscription club for those who want pledge money to ocean clean up — and get some cool bracelets.
Its Instagram-ready aesthetic looks great in product photos and since the point of it is to be simple, designing and creating it a can be easy and cheap.
Search volume: 4,700
Keyword difficulty: 18 (easy)
You can research specific jewelry to gauge demand in each and find opportunities: jewelry, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, chains.
Add hypoallergenic, affordable, eco-friendly, bohemian, antique, feminine, masculine, or an array of other adjectives to each of those to discover potential in different niches.
Pros of minimalist jewelry:
- Low shipping cost for lightweight products.
- Influencer opportunities.
- Lots of options: precious jewelry, semi-precious, fashion.
- Potentially high profit margins.
- High keyword volume and low difficulty.
Cons of minimalist jewelry:
- Lots of competition from both established and emerging brands.
- Sourcing precious metals.
- Finding a low-competition niche
Potential profit estimate: $20-$60 per piece
13. Avocado oil
If you've been paying attention to headlines over the last couple of years, you might've thought that avocados were just for putting on toast, but the benefits go beyond a nutritious (but overpriced) breakfast!
Nowadays, avocado oil has become a popular part of beauty regimens.
With stars like Lupita Nyong'o proclaiming it a beauty secret, magazines touting its benefits, and Google Trends predicting an increase in interest, avocado oil shows signs of being a potentially lucrative ecommerce product.
Search volume: 32,000
Keyword difficulty: 45 (hard)
The search term "avocado oil" has high keyword difficulty, which means it could be hard to get people visiting your site from search engines like Google. But you can get around that!
Market your product to a narrower niche, drilling down into easier search terms that still have high volume, like "avocado oil for hair" or "avocado oil for skin." It will be easier to get your store show up on the first page of search results this way, getting you traffic.
Pros of avocado oil:
- Potentially high profit margins.
- Growing demand.
- Add other ingredients to make your own unique product.
Cons of avocado oil:
- Shipping could be difficult with packaging and regulations.
- Suppliers seem more difficult to find.
Potential profit estimate: $2-10 per bottle depending on size
14. Enamel pins
Image from EyeOnDesign.Aiga.Org.
Enamel Pins, which people use to jazz up their jackets or backpacks, are increasingly becoming a thing.
It’s easy to see why they're growing in popularity — they’re cute, inexpensive, and they help you transform an outfit into something that’s truly your own. (People LOVE to customize things, and fashion products that help them do that are almost always popular.)
Search volume: 42,000
Keyword difficulty: 7 (easy)
Now, the fashion industry is notoriously tough to crack (the competition is stiff and the keywords are expensive), but if you want to take a crack at it, I’d say this is a good product to start off with!
Eduardo Morales, founder of Pinlord, even has a whole series of Medium articles based around how he grew a following for his enamel pin business. It'll take hard work, but it's possible to achieve success!
And if you already have some sort of fashion or apparel store, it could be worth adding enamel pins to your offering. They could make for effective upsell products.
Pros of enamel pins:
- Small, easy to ship.
- Won’t take up much inventory space.
- Easy to create packages that increase average order values.
Cons of enamel pins:
- Low price point (to get around this, consider bundling your pins and selling them in a large packet — or even starting a pin subscription box!)
- Might be a challenge to find an underserved niche.
Potential profit estimate: $3 - $5 per piece
A final word on selling trending products online
Even though you’ve found trending items to sell, this doesn’t mean you can neglect your marketing efforts and simply count on the trend to tide you along. Driving traffic is still essential.
There are over 12 million stores online, but only 5% of them make over $1,000 per year. And $1,000 per year isn’t anywhere near enough to live on.
Here's the truth of the matter: the ecommerce industry is tough.
In order to survive and thrive, you’ve got to pull all the tricks you have out of the bag.
You’ve got plenty of work ahead of you, but as long as you’ve got the grit and determination, you can make a great living out of this business, and even under the economic impacts of COVID-19, there's still opportunities to start.
You can begin building your side hustle, or even your brand, today with Shopify. Once you've picked a product, you can get a 14-day free trial.
Here’s to making your first $1,000!
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Related Blog Post: The Ultimate Guide to Driving Traffic to Your Online Store (For Free!)
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