Data Inspired Selling – How to decide what to sell online?

You may think you know what sells – you may even have some limited proof that you’re right – but until you’ve done the stats and the research, you can’t be completely sure.

Instead of wasting time and energy trying to figure out what sells by actually selling it, which (statistically speaking) is a fairly limited sample in the scale of the internet, it’s possible to use other people’s hard work to bootstrap your own online operations. In fact, you can let the demand lead your supply. It gives the careful seller an advantage over those who have already committed to a product category, because the careful seller has not already sunk their hard earned money into inventory. In all likelihood, having no experience in a particular category of retail can be an entirely positive thing!

The very first stage in any transaction is to actually get the customer to view what you’re selling, and if nobody is interested in what you’re selling then you won’t get that many sales. This presumes that you’re selling lower value items, and planning on getting lots of sales. It would be expected that fewer people are interested in higher value items at any particular point in time, purely because individuals don’t have as much disposable income.

The easiest way of approaching this is by example, so I will settle quite randomly on the electronics category – headphones, maybe. I go to Google Trends, and type in ‘headphones’, and I can see between 2005 and 2013 that searches for headphones have been rising.

World Map

A more interesting statistic is what’s currently being searched for, and what is on the rise. Here, we can see that the top search associated with ‘headphones’ is the word ‘best’. This would typically take you to a comparison site. The highest brand name associated with headphones is Bose, followed by Sony. If we then click on the ‘rising’ tab, ‘beats’, ‘Dr Dre’ and ‘Skull Candy’ have all been increasing rapidly. It’s a bit difficult to ascertain what the relationship between say ‘Bose’ and ‘Dr Dre’, so we can then use these as terms in a new search, all in relation to ‘headphones’ as a search term.


It’s possible to see that Dr Dre and SkullCandy are doing reasonably well, and the regular peaks are Christmas demand, as they come just before the start of every new year. Nothing really grabs me however as something I should be selling. I then typed out ‘Beats’ and ‘Bose’ which gave me a much stronger trend.


If we then look purely for Indian searches, this gives us quite a different trend;


Where Bose (though this is somewhat shaped by the popularity of Subhash Bose), is by far the most popular search.

Google Trends is a very simple tool with a lot of power, and I would highly recommend any seller starting out, or deciding what new items to sell, to try a few things out to test out any preconceptions they might have.

Let us know any other tools you might use to test out your sales decisions.

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