How to Come Up with Creative Ideas for What to Sell on eBay

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Everyone who decides to start an eBay business has to make the all-important decision of what to sell. The vast majority of new sellers immediately jump to the idea of selling the most popular, trendy items on the market. It’s no secret that these top-selling items on eBay must be making a lot of money for someone, somewhere.

But how do you get started? How do you decide which items to sell? There are millions of products available through suppliers, so what’s the best way to decide? In this article, we’ll talk about how to brainstorm and research the best items to sell on eBay.

Brainstorming: How to Choose Which Products to Sell on eBay

“What should I sell?” It’s a big question that has a lot of answers. What most people really mean is, “What should I sell to make the most money online?”

It’s often a good idea to sell what you know or what you’re passionate about, which is why we see so many collectibles dealers, but your interests might not come with large price tags. Here are a few good resources for brainstorming what to sell on eBay:

  • Magazines are great for finding bestselling niche items. You can check out publications such as Consumer Reports for the top electronics and gadgets, or look at hobbyist magazines for trending and top-selling products. The best part is, these magazines are already convincing your future customers to buy these products!
  • The SaleHoo Market Research Lab lets you research products to see if they’re worth selling on eBay, Amazon or anywhere else you choose to sell. You’ll find a huge range of data that lets you identify existing and upcoming sales trends. Search for high-selling products based on factors such as sell-through rate, price range and the level of competition you can expect. Once you’ve found these trends and picked the items to sell, SaleHoo Labs helps you find low-cost suppliers and lets you contact them instantly with pre-written templates.
  • The Amazon Best Sellers list contains a real-time list of recent top-selling items in every category on the marketplace. You’ll need to monitor the site frequently if you want to research trending data, but it’s a good place to start finding the best items to sell on eBay.
  • Do a Google search for top gift lists to find lists of top-selling items in any category. A few search terms to get started with are: top gifts for men, top gifts for women, top gifts 2017, Father’s Day gifts, best Christmas gifts.
  • The AliExpress Weekly Bestselling list covers the top items sold across all categories. Like Amazon, you’ll have to monitor the list on your own to collect any data.
  • Follow the eBay advanced search feature to find eBay listings that have a high number of items sold. You can refine your search to higher-priced items that will offer a better profit. Look for “New,” “Buy it Now” listings for the best results.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some great items to sell on eBay.

20 Items to Sell on eBay for 2021

Portable AC Units

Summer’s here and everyone is looking for ways to escape the heat! These top selling air conditioning units are a great item to add to your eBay listings this season.

Toys & Gadgets

Trendy items and inexpensive impulse buys will always be a great way for new eBay sellers to get their foot in the door. If you’re thinking about selling something really popular, try finding a niche version of the item, such as branded versions (see the NFL Fidget Spinner below.) Look out for trending items in gift list articles and blog posts for ideas.

Sneakers & Athletic Gear

Health and fitness is a big trend lately. Sneakers and other athletic gear are something everyone needs, and will also be something that attracts repeat customers once their first pair becomes worn out.

Phone Accessories

We don’t recommend investing in a huge batch of the latest iPhones to sell on eBay, as these will have tons of competition and you’ll be quickly undersold by other, bigger fish in your pond. Instead, try low-cost accessories that more customers will be willing to buy from a new, unknown source.

Home & Garden

There are many home decor products to sell and household “must-haves." They cover a wide audience that will make marketing your items easier, and general home decor items can be sold year-round so you won’t have to worry about switching out your eBay listings.

Related: Check out our article on dropshipping garden products for more info! 

Pet Care

Who doesn’t love to spoil their pets? Cat and dog accessories have a huge audience, and there are plenty of items to sell that won’t have too much competition on eBay. Try these ideas to get started.

Computer Peripherals & Accessories

Again, we don’t recommend trying to sell top name brand computers and laptops right off the bat, but starting with equipment and accessories that almost everyone will use is a great way to get your foot in the electronics and tech supplies door. Try must-haves such as keyboards and storage accessories, or reusables such as printer ink.

(Note that all prices listed are average sale prices in USD.)

Now, you may have been expecting to see more popular name-brand items on this list, such as Playstations, iPhones, and top selling laptops. The truth is, unless you’ve got thousands in spare cash lying around and you’re ready to go head-to-head with some of the top sellers on eBay, you should steer clear of those items.

Keep in mind that for every high-profile, top-selling product out there, you can be sure that there are already many, many other people selling it on eBay. You see, they had the same thought as everyone else—they immediately decided to sell the most popular, trendy products available.

As a result, the markets for almost all these products are oversaturated—there's way too much competition for them on eBay already. And in most cases, the only sellers who can succeed at selling these items are large, high-volume and usually well-established on eBay and have lots of money to invest.

These sellers can buy products by the truckload, placing orders of $100,000+ at a time. That means they can then sell their products for a fraction of what other sellers can. If you don't fall into that category, you just can’t compete on the same products.

That doesn't mean you should give up your plans to sell on eBay altogether. Just because many products are oversaturated doesn't mean ALL the products on eBay are too competitive. Indeed, thousands of products and categories have plenty of room for new sellers. You just have to be more creative than all the others who jump on the trendy bandwagon and find themselves drowning in iPads they can't sell.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Find the Best Items to Sell on eBay

Step 1: Eliminate Risky Products/Categories

The first thing to do is make a list of as many popular, trendy products as possible so you can avoid them like the plague. If you can only think of a few, visit “What’s Popular?” on eBay DataLabs and look at the list of the top sold items for the past week. Those will almost always be among the main products to avoid.

In addition to the popular eBay searches listed above, the following five categories (which almost always correspond to the most popular searches/products) should also be avoided in most cases:

  • Electronics
  • Computers & Networking
  • Cameras & Photography
  • Cell Phones & PDAs
  • Video Games (particularly video game systems)

These categories are considered the most competitive for sellers. eBay also considers them high-risk, and new sellers operating in them tend to attract scammers.

Step 2: Start at Home

If you've only recently started selling on eBay, then before you make the leap into dropshipping or wholesaling, it's worth investigating a few other fantastic and underutilized sources of products: local, offline sources, such as garage/yard sales, local classifieds, thrift stores and your own home.

Sell Items from Home

The best way to start selling on eBay is slowly, selling items you already have at home with which you are willing to part. You might be surprised at what you can find in your home that others can’t wait to buy.

Yard Sales and Garage Sales

Although more and more of the world is going digital, all you have to do is look in the newspaper classifieds or drive around your neighborhood on the weekend to realize how many people still cling to old-fashioned sales methods like yard sales, and either don't know how to list their unwanted items for sale online or feel uncomfortable doing so. If they only knew what they were missing…

Well, now you have an opportunity to take advantage of that situation and be the one who REALLY makes a profit from others' unwanted items. Naturally, many of the items you find at yard sales aren’t worth selling online, but you'd be surprised at how many ARE, particularly if you go about finding these products in a strategic way.

First of all, it goes without saying that you should get up early on the day of the yard sale and be among the first ones there; otherwise, all the good stuff will be gone.

Even better, look in your local newspaper classifieds to see who has posted announcements of their upcoming yard sales, call them in advance and ask if they’ll let you come to their house early and select your purchases. You can try offering them an additional 10% on each product you decide to buy to make it worth their while.

Thrift Stores

Similar to yard sales, many thrift stores sell unwanted items people have donated. Although they generally have higher prices than most yard sales, the quality of the products is usually higher as well, since most thrift stores will only accept items that are in fairly good condition.

The secret with thrift stores is to ask one of the employees what day they put out their new acquisitions each week, if any, and show up right when the store opens on that day.

Classified Ads

The offline source of products that’s generally least promising but still potentially viable is newspaper classifieds.

Why is it usually the least promising? Because depending on the newspaper's audience size, newspaper classifieds usually have a much larger audience and therefore potential buyer pool than yard sales (except those posted in the classifieds) and thrift stores, which normally just attract buyers within a relatively small range.

Plus, since it usually costs money to post a classified ad, the seller is often more motivated to obtain a larger amount of money for a particular item than if they just sold it at their yard sale, for instance. Even when an ad says "OBO" ("or best offer"), oftentimes the seller has an amount in mind that's the least he'll willingly accept.

In any event, classified ads still harbor some incredible deals. And to make things even easier, many newspapers automatically post their classifieds on their websites as well, so you don't have to go out and buy or subscribe to the newspaper to access them.

You can also check out Facebook’s marketplace community feature to find items being sold in your area. You’ll generally find more listings than you might see in a newspaper, plus each listing should have photos and a direct contact link to the seller.

The key to taking greatest advantage of classified ads is to check them frequently, preferably every day, and when you find a promising deal, jump on it right away and contact the seller.

Be prepared to drop everything to go get the item before someone else shows up. Even if the seller accepts your offer over the phone, if someone else gets to their house first, they might sell it to them (a bird in the hand, so to speak).

Step 3: Acquire Data

If you’ve spent at least 1–3 months selling items from home and your local area and started to feel comfortable selling items on eBay, it may be time to start looking into more stable, long-term product sources.

Depending on your situation and financial resources, your best choices are most likely dropshipping, wholesaling or liquidating products on eBay. The first method requires little to no upfront investment, inventory space, packing or shipping, but usually doesn't yield as much profit as the latter two.

No matter which option you choose, however, you're pulled back to the question, "What do I sell?"

One of the best places to get ideas for products to sell and instantly determine whether they will make money is the SaleHoo Market Research Lab. There you’ll find fresh ideas for items to sell and can run them through specialized software that helps you accurately forecast how much money you will make.

In the SaleHoo Lab, you can search for top-selling products by product type, then further refine your search by sell rate, the average product price and even the potential level of competition. From there, you’ll instantly see a list of suppliers and can contact them easily, all without ever leaving the lab! Access to the Market Research Lab is free when you join SaleHoo.

Step 4: Research, research, research!

The last but quite possibly most important step is thorough, accurate, methodical market research. Listing a product for sale on eBay without researching it first is like throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks.

Completed Listings

Many new sellers get so caught up in obtaining products and submitting listings that they forget their item is not going to show up alone on the page. Instead, the item will be only one in a long list of search results. Buyers can sort those results using filters like “Price + Shipping: lowest first,” and/or narrow them down according to various item specifics.

When buyers review the long list of products in the search results, they focus on the price of the item more than just about anything else, followed by the shipping cost, the item's gallery image and the keywords in the title in most cases. If you want to sell your item successfully, then your price and shipping cost need to be right in line with those of the other products on the list.

The best way to know what price or starting price to set, as well as acceptable shipping costs, the best category, listing format and item specifics to select and the best title keywords to use, is to research the product thoroughly BEFORE listing it for sale.

Don't just look at the current listings for the product, since those won't give you an accurate picture of what buyers are willing to pay. Those listings haven't been purchased or won yet, so you have no idea whether they will sell nor for what price.

Instead, you should focus on the completed listings, the listings for that product which have already ended within the past 15 days. Select "Completed Listings" about halfway down the left column of the search results page and look at the price listed next to each item. The prices in black indicate that the item didn't sell successfully, while the prices in green indicate that it did.

After taking note of the prices for which the item sold, click on the title of each listing with a green price and make note of any other aspect of the listing which you think may have contributed to its success. That way you can use some of those techniques yourself. Make sure you don't copy anyone else's images or description text word for word, though.

Market Research Tools

Although the completed listings will usually give you a decent idea of how well a product has been selling, as well as the price range buyers have been willing to pay for it, it's just scratching the surface of what you should know before listing an item for sale.

In addition to reviewing the completed listings, you should also utilize a good eBay market research tool. A market research tool will tell you the same things the completed listings will but analyze them to create more valuable data. It will give you the exact average selling price and sell-through/success rate of each product, as well as the listing format, categories, day, time and keywords that have the greatest chance of selling the item successfully.

10 Important Tips for Selling on eBay

  1. Be a spy. Look at what top sellers are listing and then try to avoid those items. Then look at what your actual competitors are doing and see what’s working for them.
  2. Look out for eBay’s Free Listing days and take advantage of them! Occasionally, eBay will announce a day of zero insertion fees, but you’ll have to keep an eye out, as they’re rarely promoted beforehand. You’ll be able to post your items completely for free, but keep in mind you’ll still be charged a sales fee.
  3. Use the right words. Be as descriptive as possible in your eBay listing’s title and description to help your customers know exactly what they’re getting.
  4. Research, research, research! Use seller tools to find hard data on how well an item is (or isn’t) selling, the average price range and the best format, time and keywords to use in your listing.
  5. Make your items easy to find by using the right keywords and category placements when you list your items for sale.
  6. Use quality photos. Your supplier should have high-quality, professional photos you can use in your eBay listing.
  7. Go (a)broad. Consider selling outside your home country to increase your sales potential. Be sure to check international shipping fees and adjust your prices accordingly.
  8. Screen your suppliers to avoid future problems with your orders.
  9. Check outside resources for the best items to sell. Magazines and top gift lists are great places to find hidden gems.
  10. Brands aren’t everything. Selling high-ticket, name-brand items is a great idea—the only problem is that everyone else has the same idea! To avoid heavy competition, search for top-selling unbranded items.

If you’ve just started selling on eBay, it’s important to avoid those “top trending” items and find your own niche. If you put in the time and effort to conduct market research to find the best items to sell, you’ll have a much better chance at building a lasting, profitable online business.


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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