How I Came Up With a Million-Dollar Ecommerce Idea in 20 Minutes

If people are lining up for a product, figure out how to make the line shorter and they'll buy from you.

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By Brian J. Roberts

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Several years ago I started a hip-hop jewelry ecommerce store. My most popular products were "grillz." For the unfamiliar, those are the shiny teeth you see a lot of rappers wear. I shipped tens of thousands of these grillz to customers from all over the world.

The idea to start selling these products came to me one night, over the course of just a few minutes, when I overheard people at a concert saying how they wished they could buy a set. They complained how the process to acquire them was too slow and expensive. That's when the lightbulb went on.

Related: The Gift and Curse of Entrepreneurship

Prior to me entering the space, most grillz for sale online required customers to ship dental molds back and forth to a jeweler then wait several weeks for the final product to arrive.

After doing some basic research -- which I'll detail in moment -- I determined that the concertgoers were right. It was a slow, expensive and inefficient process. So I started my brand with a focus on being faster, cheaper and more efficient. Because of this, my hip-hop jewelry brand did very well over the years, all the way up until my successful exit from the brand.

Regardless of the market you wish to enter, for you to succeed, your business idea has to fulfill an unmet need in the marketplace or meet current marketplace needs better than the competition.

You'll find that every good idea fulfills at least one, if not several, of the following:

  1. Saves time or money

  2. Builds up or strokes ego

  3. Improves happiness

  4. Provides safety

  5. Increases comfort

  6. Makes life easier

  7. Increases efficiency

Related: How Dollar Shave Club's Founder Built a $1 Billion Company That Changed the Industry

Using the above seven points as your framework, plus the basic research tips I'm about to share with you, you too can come up with a successful business idea in record time. I cover several other research methods and tips in my ecommerce guide, but the following are all great places to start doing your homework.

  1. Browse Amazon reviews. Amazon is the largest online marketplace in the world. With so much sales activity, it's also an excellent place to start researching your million dollar ecommerce idea. I recommend you read through 3-star reviews for critical feedback. Why comb through 3-star reviews instead of, say, 5- or 1-star reviews? Reviews at the extreme ends don't offer much in terms of critical feedback you can actually apply to make a new or better product.

  2. Spend time on Reddit. Much like Amazon, Reddit is massive. But it's not a marketplace. It's a community site. But this makes it just as, if not more, valuable. With so much engagement -- there are tens of thousands of communities on Reddit -- you'll find plenty of candid discussion around specific passions, pain points and other insights that can point you towards a business idea you can create or improve on. Once you settle on your idea, create an account and get active in your communities.

  3. Dive deep on Quora and Facebook Groups. Quora is a hugely popular Q&A website. The best part is, people love to share details here. If you find a lot of people asking questions around your idea or following a topic related to it, that's a good sign. Facebook Groups are also another great starting point. If you're finding a lot of groups with thousands of members around your idea, that's another tell-tale sign you're on the right path.

  4. Identify keyword volume. Using Google's Keyword Planner tool, determine if people are searching for keywords around your idea. But even better, you'll also be able to see what competitors in the space are paying to reach those people searching. Just look at the "Suggested Bid" column. This column is especially valuable because the presence of paid advertisers indicates consumers are actively spending money in or around the idea.

What you'll find after doing this basic research is that some ideas might not have a big enough market to sell to. Others might have limited income potential. Other markets may be oversaturated. But that's okay, because that only means you're getting closer to the idea you'll settle on. If it takes longer than 20 minutes, just keep digging and again, if you're still stuck, you can check out my ecommerce guide.

Related: 3 Ways to Build a Business That Gives You Mental Balance

The key is this: if your idea has the potential to make life easier for a lot of people in a niche with active communities and advertisers, you're golden. Don't be discouraged if it gets too difficult and don't get impatient when it takes too long. Remember: that's when most people quit, so that's when you should buckle down, refocus and keep getting after it.

Brian J. Roberts

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Writer | Host of All Gosts

Brian J. Roberts is a writer and the host of All Goats. His writing has been featured in The Washington Post and he's written for Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Time, CNBC and more.

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