Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers

How to Determine What to Promote Online

Posted by Dean Asher on 3/30/16 11:00 PM
Topics: eCommerce

We're big proponents of eCommerce here at Foreword Online, but whether you've used it for years or are just now considering building a web store, it can be daunting to figure out the best items to sell and promote online. Are your students most interested in buying their books online? Are apparel better for in-store sales where people can try them on, or are they best to push online for alumni and distance learners?

It's a struggle for all retailers, regardless of their niche in the industry. In an article for developer website SitePoint, eCommerce expert Tomas Šlimas shares that the most common question he was asked during a recent Reddit AMA was "what should I sell online?" Thankfully, he provided the way to determine the best products and merchandise to showcase on your webstore.

How to Determine What to Promote Online

You can import dozens of products into your store in minutes, but the tricky part is knowing which products you should use in your marketing campaigns, feature on the front page of your store, and include in your promotional emails.

These main products that you are going to focus on are called ‘Alpha Products’. These are the products that bring the traffic to your store. After you know the Alpha Products, it takes no time to fill in the rest of the store with cross-sell, upsell, and related products.

I have structured this article into two to parts: Generating Product Ideas and Filtering Products.

My goal is to provide a roadmap for brainstorming product ideas and then filtering out the ones that aren’t worth testing.

This article will be useful for all eCommerce start-ups, small businesses, and medium businesses looking for new product ideas.

Generating Product Ideas


You never start with a blank page. Your head is already full of good ideas: your hobbies, products you like, trends, exciting products that you have heard of.

Write everything down that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if you think the product will be a best seller or not. Trust me — write it down.

Browse Other Shops

Back in the 1980’s, Sam Walton was arrested for crawling around stores on his hands and knees. He later told a friend he was measuring the spaces between product shelves to determine how they displayed their products.

At the time, Walmart was making $400M+ in sales, but Walton knew that there was more he could learn.

When you browse other stores, look at their offerings, best selling lists, and promoted products. Many stores have a tremendous amount of data and employ entire departments to organize their sales and pick their products. Use that information to your benefit.

Browse a lot. Browse frequently.

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