What sells online? That is probably the
question we get asked
most. At the risk of being repetitive, what sells online is work.
In our experience, the difference in success between one store
and another depends a lot more on how hard they work than on what
they are selling.
I know of two stores, Store A and Store B, that are selling exactly
the same products. Store A sells five times as much as Store
B. The reason is, Store A works a lot harder. They work on their
site almost every day, and they also do more to promote it.
work is the decisive factor, what you sell matters
too. As a general rule, whatever sells in print catalogs will also
sell on the Internet. If the customer has to see something before
buying it, then you probably can't sell it in a print catalog, or
online. Otherwise, you should be able to sell almost anything.
that more men use the Internet now than women, so if you
sell something that men buy, you are likely to have a slight edge.
Someone who works with computers is almost certain to have Web
access, so anything computer-related is likely to do comparatively
well. And Internet users are richer and better educated than the
population as a whole, so luxury items may do well.
But these trends are
not set in stone. When
televisions first became available, the first buyers were probably
richer and more technologically inclined than the population as a
whole. But TV rapidly became mainstream, and the same thing is
happening to the Web.
More important than the type of products you sell is the size of
the niche you choose.
In the physical world, niches are based on geography. I often buy
food at the corner store near my house, despite the small selection
and high prices. If this store were more than 100 yards away, I
would never buy anything there. But in the physical world, proximity
Not on the Internet. Geography is almost irrelevant on the Internet.
Niches on the Internet are based on what you sell, not where you
are. And whatever you sell, you have to be the place to
buy it, because your customers can just as easily visit any other
So you have to choose a niche small enough that you can dominate
it. For example, if you are a tiny company, it would
probably be a mistake
to try selling top-40 CDs online. You would
have a hard time competing with
But you would probably have a chance at becoming the site
for European folk music.
One certain way to dominate a niche is to be the manufacturer.Manufacturers may be the biggest winners on the Internet, especially small manufacturers who have till now been at the mercy of the channel.
Copyright © 1999 Paul Graham. Feel free to reproduce any of this text on your own Web site, so long as you reproduce it verbatim, and include this message. For any other use, please contact the author. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Store are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.