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Succeeding in eCom by creating a branded/custom product

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Anything related to sourcing or importing products.

Crazy GG

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Hi guys,

I have tried selling different products on my Shopify site - starting from LED lights to vegetable choppers to thermal diffusers - all have failed.

My original idea was to test different products on a general store, and then build a brand around the products that worked.

My assuption was that if I can't even sell generic dropshipped products - means my marketing skills suck and spending lots of time/money on developing custom product will just waste resources.

After getting some feedback from other forum members and people in different eCom groups, I have realized that I need to differentiate my product from the market right away.

Now, if I am correct - there are 2 main ways of differentiating a product:

1) Taking a general product, private labelling it and building a brand around it
2) Actually customizing a product

My questions are the the following:

1) Is private labelling enough to differentiate?
2) If I wanted to customize the product, how could I even do it? (without hiring engineers to do expensive 3D mockups and sending this to suppliers)

Product customization seems to be easy in print on demand (just create your design and off you go), but how about other products?

For example, let's say I do market research and I find that current dog beds are "too flat", so I decide that I will make pet beds that are softer than 20% of the market.

Do I just email suppliers on Alibaba - "Hey, could you please make pet beds with 20% more cushion for me?" I assume it's not easy and I will need to pay a lot for bulk orders? And I will need to give them designs etc.

Would really love to get some feedback here.

Thank you!
 
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LiveEntrepreneur

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This is a really tough one. Even if you private label the chance that you will successful is quite low. In regards to market research, that's a good idea. If it was me, I would only private label if I was going all in and it was a long term gig for me. If you're product testing one product after another (which I don't recommend) then I would stick to dropshipping.
 

Xeon

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1) Taking a general product, private labelling it and building a brand around it
2) Actually customizing a product

There's a 3rd one. Building a loyal audience online (usually Youtube and TikTok), not investing in any product yet, then selling the product to that audience when the audience is big enough. You'll find that most of the successful youtubers can sell anything because their audience is already there.
 

MitchC

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My questions are the the following:

1) Is private labelling enough to differentiate?
2) If I wanted to customize the product, how could I even do it? (without hiring engineers to do expensive 3D mockups and sending this to suppliers)
The answer to both of these questions is it depends.

1. Probably not. Probably not worth doing if that’s all you are going to do.

If you have a sales channel where they are comparing the same product side by side a logo isn’t going to make a difference, especially if no one’s heard of your brand.

If you have a sales channel where you aren’t comparing side by side then the logos not going to push the sale over the edge.

I’d just dropship to test or go full custom product. A private label is just a nice to have and a little treat you get when you order in bulk that doesn’t cost you any extra.

2. Again depends on the product.

I’d usually start with an existing product then just talk to the manufacturer about any changes, they can do all the design and development.

Your example of a dog bed is exactly how you’d do something like that.

You can also do things scrappy at the start, go to the shop and buy some foam and make a dog bed or make a dog bed thicker.

Most products will likely already have a version on alibaba that isn’t being sold elsewhere that you can kind of just promote as your own and as if it’s the best. If you can’t make sales with that then I wouldn’t bother making a custom one. The only time you’d do a custom one is if you really thought it needed it to push the sale over the edge.

Purple cow is a good book for this, your product doesn’t have to be a purple cow but it’s a good book to help you get thinking about changes in a smart way. Small and simple changes probably aren’t going to be the difference between sales and no sales at all, so if you’re getting no sales at all on existing products I’d be thinking carefully about investing in changes.

It depends on the product but you can get pretty low moqs on custom products if you find the right manufacturer. At the start it may make sense to pay more per unit and order less to test.

Eg 100 units at $10 is $1000, 1000 units at $8 is $8000. Better just pay the $1000 until it’s selling.

Here’s a good thread outlining scrappy ways to test

If it was me I’d be finding existing products on alibaba and selling them. Pick a product and go deep messaging suppliers, they’ll show you some things they’ve been working on that you haven’t seen anywhere else. Or pick a product you want to improve and message suppliers see how much to get it custom. If you really want to do it cheap just get a render made and test without having the product. Or make it at home like the thread above.

I wouldn’t waste money on private label or small changes thinking it’s going to get you from 0 sales to millions.
 
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LiveEntrepreneur

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There's a 3rd one. Building a loyal audience online (usually Youtube and TikTok), not investing in any product yet, then selling the product to that audience when the audience is big enough. You'll find that most of the successful youtubers can sell anything because their audience is already there.
This is probably the best things to do for the long term and like you said, having an audience makes it 100x easier to sell something. Especially when you represent yourself as an individual and not a company. Way easier than just launching a product and building and audience.
 

Crazy GG

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There's a 3rd one. Building a loyal audience online (usually Youtube and TikTok), not investing in any product yet, then selling the product to that audience when the audience is big enough. You'll find that most of the successful youtubers can sell anything because their audience is already there.
I agree but I think becoming an influencer is just a different business model right?
 

Crazy GG

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The answer to both of these questions is it depends.

1. Probably not. Probably not worth doing if that’s all you are going to do.

If you have a sales channel where they are comparing the same product side by side a logo isn’t going to make a difference, especially if no one’s heard of your brand.

If you have a sales channel where you aren’t comparing side by side then the logos not going to push the sale over the edge.

I’d just dropship to test or go full custom product. A private label is just a nice to have and a little treat you get when you order in bulk that doesn’t cost you any extra.

2. Again depends on the product.

I’d usually start with an existing product then just talk to the manufacturer about any changes, they can do all the design and development.

Your example of a dog bed is exactly how you’d do something like that.

You can also do things scrappy at the start, go to the shop and buy some foam and make a dog bed or make a dog bed thicker.

Most products will likely already have a version on alibaba that isn’t being sold elsewhere that you can kind of just promote as your own and as if it’s the best. If you can’t make sales with that then I wouldn’t bother making a custom one. The only time you’d do a custom one is if you really thought it needed it to push the sale over the edge.

Purple cow is a good book for this, your product doesn’t have to be a purple cow but it’s a good book to help you get thinking about changes in a smart way. Small and simple changes probably aren’t going to be the difference between sales and no sales at all, so if you’re getting no sales at all on existing products I’d be thinking carefully about investing in changes.

It depends on the product but you can get pretty low moqs on custom products if you find the right manufacturer. At the start it may make sense to pay more per unit and order less to test.

Eg 100 units at $10 is $1000, 1000 units at $8 is $8000. Better just pay the $1000 until it’s selling.

Here’s a good thread outlining scrappy ways to test

If it was me I’d be finding existing products on alibaba and selling them. Pick a product and go deep messaging suppliers, they’ll show you some things they’ve been working on that you haven’t seen anywhere else. Or pick a product you want to improve and message suppliers see how much to get it custom. If you really want to do it cheap just get a render made and test without having the product. Or make it at home like the thread above.

I wouldn’t waste money on private label or small changes thinking it’s going to get you from 0 sales to millions.
Okay thanks for the actionable advice.

On Alibaba though you need minimum order quantity - so would you focus on products that are not as expensive (in case it flops and you are left with expensive inventory)?

Or you would just run an experiment with a sample and if you validate it then order it?
 
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fridge

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Okay thanks for the actionable advice.

On Alibaba though you need minimum order quantity - so would you focus on products that are not as expensive (in case it flops and you are left with expensive inventory)?

Or you would just run an experiment with a sample and if you validate it then order it?
Please don't source through Alibaba. I use Jingsourcing based off Walter Hays recommendation - they're amazing at sourcing right in China and charge a 5-10% fee. Sounds like a lot but they customize my product AFTER receiving it from the manufacturer, and they bag it and label it. It does take away a bit of control but can save you a lot of time in the beginning.
 

Walter Hay

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@CrazyGG There is a better option than buying generics, or modifying existing products made in China:

Search for unique products that have never been imported into Latvia, or any other country where you want to sell.

Alibaba is the lazy man's sourcing platform, and the other Chinese sourcing sites are no better. For a little more effort you could browse some of the 30+ genuine export sites around the world that I list in my book.

As an example, while testing one such site by browsing, I found high end ceramic watches. I didn't know that such a product existed. You don't have to look for high value products, but I can assure you that it is easier to buy something unique than to go through the process of modifying an existing Chinese product.

Walter
 

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