Back to Posts

How to Experiment with Product Ideas (Without Wasting Money)

Author icon
By Emily Nelson - March 8, 2023- in Go-Getter Blog

Are you restless about trying something new and exciting in your ecommerce business but don’t want to take the financial risk? Instead of making a significant investment, there are plenty of ways to experiment with product ideas with little to no money down. Take a pick from one of our favorite ideas.

Survey Your Customers

One of the best ways to experiment with products and new ideas that are sure to sell is to ask your customers what they want. Whether you sell T-shirts or mugs, you can ask about what types of colors, patterns, and designs they like. Or you may find they’re interested in a totally different product altogether that you never considered. 

A quick poll, email, or survey can go a long way. Offer a 10% off coupon for customers who take the time to give you feedback and help usher along your product research.

Turn to Print-on-Demand

Print-on-demand (POD) is one of the simplest ways to experiment with product ideas without wasting money. Just upload your designs to CustomCat’s library and apply them to the products you want, from housewares to hoodies. We offer easy integrations into popular websites and seller platforms to streamline the process. When someone buys your product, we produce and fulfill it for you without any upfront costs.

Design and sell as many different products as you want, or approach it like a side hustle where you work on it in your spare time. With no orders to fulfill, you can focus on areas of your business you want, while CustomCat takes care of production, fulfillment, and shipping. Print-on-demand also makes it easy to scale your ecommerce business up or down to suit your lifestyle.

Get started with CustomCat now

Perform Some Product Research

Product research can be a large and complex project that expansive teams dig into. But you can also approach product research on a smaller scale that fits the needs of your business. Here are a few ways to approach it for your online store:

  • Study Amazon’s product categories
  • Analyze competitor products and look for standard features
  • Look at recurring product trends on the market season by season
  • Look at hashtags and trending products on social media 

The goal is to look for commonalities, trends, and how an audience responds to available products. You should have a stronger idea about what’s selling on the market, from color to size and pricing.

If you’re struggling to figure it out, you can hire a Virtual Assistant or look to a platform like Upwork to find someone to research for you. Make sure they have experience in the field and consider asking for a sample of their previous work. 

Do a Limited Time Product Run

Instead of investing in a large production run, start small with just a few dozen items. Send out an email blast, turn to social media, or launch a text message marketing campaign to see what happens. If no sales come in, you’re probably not hitting the right product or niche. 

Or you may find interest is slow and steady, signaling an opportunity to explore. For example, your audience may respond to specific product variations, like a design or fabric. You can turn to POD and run some A/B tests to see which designs perform best on which products to drill down to what’s working.

See What’s Trending on Social Media

Its true social media can be a fickle beast, but it’s also insightful about what’s trending. Go to where your customers are already hanging out, whether TikTok or Twitter. Next, look for what’s trending, popular hashtags, and what recently went viral. Not everything will translate to a great product idea, but you can get creative by referencing current events, sayings, or challenges in your product design.

Scour Your Analytics

Have you noticed sales trends in your business during certain times of year but can’t quite figure out what’s going on? Scour your analytics and do some super-sleuthing. Here are some clues to look for:

  • Where did your traffic come from during a sales spike?
  • Which products sold best during a sale?
  • Which products usually sell together?
  • Which products sell best seasonally

The more data you have on what sells, when, and how, the more you can reproduce those successes in your business.

Take Pre-Orders

Why produce anything before it sells? Beyond POD, you can also design your own product mock-ups and take pre-orders to avoid making a significant investment. But make sure to stay transparent as you’re generating some buzz. You should announce it’s a pre-order with a longer lead time and let your customers know exactly how long it will take to receive their items. 

Keep in mind you’ll need to sell enough to make it worth a production run. Selling just a handful of shirts may not be worth buying the stock individually and manually producing them one by one.

Use a Subscription Box Model

Subscription boxes are all the rage for their fun surprises and opportunity to try out new products. If you don’t have the resources to run your own subscription-based business, look to like-minded companies and offer your products. The goal is to introduce your hats, totes, or drinkware to new customers and earn repeat business. Make it worth their while with a discount code or reason to visit your online store directly.

Look to Your Competition for Clues

Your direct competition is a valuable resource for product research and new inspiration. The goal is not to swipe someone else’s ideas but see what’s working and how you can improve upon them. Super cute astronaut kitten T-shirts may be their best seller, but you might also notice they’re not taking advantage of selling like-minded items and designs. Your designs should look original, appear vibrant and sharp, and be applied to a broader scope of products. 

Print quality alone can help you stand out against the competition. Although many online sellers rely on the same old Direct-to-Garment (DTG) technology, they may miss out on something better. DTG is still valuable but does not usually look good on software fabrics like athletic wear. Here’s your chance to stand out. 

CustomCat uses DIGISOFT® print technology for high-quality prints on even the most challenging fabrics for ultra-vivid, soft-touch designs regardless of the brand of fabric or garment color.


How do you experiment with product ideas without breaking the bank? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *