Colette: Thanks for joining us today. Iím Colette Marshall, Worldwide Brands Business Development Manager. Iím in for Chris Malta and Robin Cowie. You know, every year we see new trends driving product sales and every month or product trending editor, Lisa Suttora, of WhatDoISell.com, brings us the latest in consumer product trending news. Last month Lisa profiled five of the top new product trends and developments for 2008 and today she is back to continue telling us what consumers are going to be buying this year.
Colette: Lisa, welcome to the show.
Lisa: Good morning Colette, itís great to be here.
Colette: Oh, itís always wonderful to have you on the show. Itís exciting, you always bring some new facts and interesting tips of the trade, which is great to hear.
Lisa: Well, and Iíve got some more today trends to profile. But before I jump into that, can I do a quick follow-up on something we talked about last month?
Colette: That would be great, please.
Lisa: Well, one of the trends we talked about last month was eco-friendly products. And we were the first to break the news on this show about the tremendous interest in green gadgets at the consumer electronics show. Well, since then, something really exciting has happened and that is that there has been the first green gadgets conference dedicated towards eco-friendly electronics and that just took place in New York this weekend. And we got a tremendous amount of listener feedback from people who were interested in green gadgets. So I just wanted to mention that this conference just took place and they have a greener gadgets conference website for people who are interested to go and learn more about this niche, because itís going to be a huge growing niche and weíre just in the infancy of this niche. So we had a lot of people ask about that, so I wanted to mention that.
Another thing I wanted to mention, and this is actually related, something we also talked about was there was a huge media piece this weekend in the news, all the mass media, about toxicity levels in infants for products that had a chemical in it called phthalates. And phthalates are very common in baby shampoos, lotions, powders, etc. There are some studies that came out that found that they may be exposing infants to chemicals. So the reason why I wanted to mention this was for our listeners who sell organic or natural baby products, you want to showcase those right away. This was in the mass media. If you sell any type of natural toy, lotion, clothing, anything for babies, weíre going to see a tremendous surge in internet searches because of this mass media article. So I just wanted to give our listeners the heads up on that. And also, to demonstrate this as a reason why you need to be tracking whatís happening in the media, because itís going to drive what your customers buy next. So two big stories over the weekend.
Colette: And definitely, your Google Alerts will help you out with that as well.
Lisa: Absolutely. So moving on to our trends for 2008.
Colette: Yeah, what are consumers going to buy? Tell us more.
Lisa: One of the questions I get asked is, how deep should I source, how many products should I look at before I decide what to sell? And I wanted to mention that before we talk about our trends today because a lot of people do what I call surface sourcing. And this is something that Iíve been talking about for years. People say, Iím going to look at one or two products and thatís all Iím going to sell. Well, of course, what happens is everybody else is looking at those same one or two products and weíre going into tradeshow season now, a lot of people are hitting the tradeshows. Theyíre really starting up here in February, so people say, how many should I look at? If you are not looking at at least 15 to 20 different styles, brands, manufacturers. For example, if youíre selling lawn furniture you need to have a list in front of you of at least 15 to 20 different styles and brands and types and manufacturers of products before youíre even ready to make a decision as to what you want to sell on your website or in your store. So thatís something to think about as we talk about our trends today. You want to go deep. You want to go into those sub-niches and micro-niches.
Colette: Right. And itís definitely not something thatís hard to do, it just takes a little bit of research in your area and you can find them.
Lisa: Absolutely. And that is really one of the keys to success for an entrepreneur who wants to sell products online. Now, one of the trends that Iím going to talk about right now actually plays into this nicely, because after years of consuming mass produced products todayís buyers are hungry for something different. And this is where we get into those sub- and micro-niches. And what weíre seeing here in 2008 is a demand for customization of products from todayís consumers. A study that was recently done by Forrester Research shows 81% of customers are willing to pay more for customized products. This target market has higher incomes with 41% of household incomes of at least $75,000 or more compared to $23% of all online customers. 50% of custom product buyers consider themselves leaders and are more likely to tell others about the products that interest them. So that means that if youíre selling custom products youíve got a customer base who is willing to pay more, they have more disposable income, and theyíre more likely to tell their friends about your custom products. And the reason I wanted to put those stats out first is because I want people to understand how important this trend is. So let me talk about this custom product trend and what exactly it means, because there are two ways you can approach it.
Colette: Iím all ears.
Lisa: I know. Did you want to get a word in edgewise Colette? I could stop talking for just a moment. (laughter)
Colette: (Laughter) Well, what youíre describing is one of the reasons why home-based business owners have such an opportunity right now. This customized niche is something you can get settled in, you can actually really make a business out of it.
Lisa: Yes, you absolutely can, and there are multiple ways to do it. The first is, of course, to look to your suppliers, your manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and see what custom products they are already offering. Because there are different levels of customization. There is complete customization where itís specifically made to order and there is what we call semi-customization or pre-customization where a manufacturer will release a product that has maybe some custom colors that are limited or special editions that only will be available for a certain amount of time. For example, freestanding fireplace inserts where you can mount them onto your existing fireplace are very popular. Weíre seeing manufacturers now that are doing limited edition tile inserts where the customer can choose from five or six different colors. So the supplier still ships it, you still order it from the supplier, and then, of course, with something like that you would have it drop shipped. But they have the same look and feel all year round, but they may run these customized tile colors for three to six months and that generates a lot of interest in the product.
Lisa: So you want to look to your manufacturers and see if theyíre offering any customized products, any special edition products, any limited edition products that you can then get out there and really promote as a custom color, a custom style, a custom design.
Colette: Lisa, this is something we always talk to our customers about: your supplier communication, building that relationship with your supplier is so key. Because when you ask them these questions theyíre more than willing to tell you, yeah, these are the unique things we have, this is whatís selling well, this is something weíre just coming out with.
Lisa: Absolutely. And the advantage that our listeners have knowing about this customization trend up front is if the supplier gets a call from a retailer saying, I know thereís a big trend toward customization, I understand it, I know how to promote it, and I have a customer base for it, that supplier is going to be very interested in working with you as opposed to someone who has no clue that this is going on. And again, this is one of the ways that home-based retailers can get the advantage with the supplier, by being knowledgeable about the types of products that the supplier is selling. For example, Forrester Research identified that some of the most popular areas for customization were in these categories: jewelry, linens, home dťcor, apparel, footwear and accessories. No, Iíve found there are some other really interesting areas as well for customization. So let me talk about the second area of customization and then Iíll go over my examples. Letís say there are people who want to import an end table and itís a plain white table. You import these tables, but whatís special about them? Not much. However, when you, for those entrepreneurs who want to have a hand in this customization, when you customize or embellish that table, now all of a sudden youíve got a unique product, youíve got something that buyers want because theyíre looking for customization and you, or somebody youíve hired, has put the unique touch on it.
Colette: Lisa, I know weíve got lots more to talk about on this and there are so many thing you can do with customization. We will be right back. It is time for a quick break. Subscribe to our free product sourcing newsletter at ProductSourcingNews.com to stay up to date with the latest product sourcing news, check for upcoming tradeshows in your area, and find spotlighted suppliers you can use in your ebusiness. Weíll continue learning more with Lisa Suttora when we return. Iím Colette Marshall.