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Last updated: 22nd April, 2021

Online Business Academy

The most profitable products to sell online in 2021

These are some of the most profitable and emerging trends in e-commerce. While some entries are for whole markets, others are more specific products. Profit estimates will vary for products within markets, while the estimates for particular products will be more specific.

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It is also worth noting that the profit estimate – the expected profit – is only part of the profitability of a business. Some products will have lower profit margins – this reflects on the percentage of sales that become profits – but have bigger markets and increased sales potential. You must also note that while lots of people may be Googling certain products, it may be difficult to appear on Google if there is a lot of competition. As such, these popular items may be harder to sell than more niche products. All of these factors must be looked at in the round to define what is profitable.

What makes a product profitable?

Although you might think there’s a certain element of luck involved in running a profitable business, especially around garnering interest online, this isn’t true. Every successful business will rely on some of the same factors:

Ability to sell

How profitable can your business actually become with the products you’re trying to sell? You need to consider how large you can make your profit margins, while also being realistic about what customers are willing to pay.

Consider selling your items in bundles or introducing offers, to make your business more appealing to customers and ensure you do one thing: sell.

Find your niche

If you are planning to enter an already overcrowded market, your chances of success become smaller. How will you stand out from the competition?

If you find a niche that has demand but is not oversaturated, you are more likely to have a higher drive to your website and in turn more sales, and will have a larger margin for setting prices – as there will be less competition.

And if your niche is in a growing market, you can get the best of both worlds – garner customers in a smaller market, and when it grows you will have established yourself as a key competitor in the industry.

Repeat trade

Will people want to purchase your product again?

If you are selling furniture, for example, you will find less people willing to purchase a dining room table twice. However, if you have a variety of products on your website, customers might want other pieces from your collection.

If you are selling something with a short shelf life, such as perishable food or flowers, customers are more likely to return to purchase from you again.

The most profitable products to sell online

Here is a roundup of some of the most profitable products you can sell online. They include, but are not limited to, electronic goods, apparel and food. It’s important to remember that no matter what you sell, prices will vary.

The table below draws data from a number of sources. We have used the profit estimates that e-commerce platform Bold used in a similar article, adding in monthly search volumes to show how many people might be looking for such products – the potential size of the market. Even with this data it is important to note that broad topics may not capture the terms people are using with an area, while more specific products will give a more accurate picture of the size of the market for that product. This search data is new for 2021.

Electronics

ProductMonthly Google searches*ProsConsProfit estimate
TV accessories (such as wall brackets and sounds bars)1.9k● Sub-niches in which to specialise● Cost price is high
● Shapes and sizes may complicate packaging and shipping
£14-£40
Wireless phone chargers27k● Emerging tech productc. £5
Vaping products‘eliquid’ = 26k● No big brand competition
● Large market
● Repeat trade
● Regulations in some regions
● Potentially shrinking market
£1-£10
Electric toothbrushes146k● Small, easy to ship
● Still a steadily growing market
● Competition from supermarkets£2-£10
Non-contact infrared thermometer300● Awareness growing for non-contact tech due to 2020 pandemic
● Great for kids, especially young children
● Large market from domestic to workplace
● Demand may dry up quickly post-pandemic£10-£15
Home security IP camera700● Growing market
● Innovative tech is becoming affordable and people want the latest and best security
● Potential software support issues£10-£40
Video games‘buy video games’ = 1.5k● Huge market (even for second-hand games)
● Game producers invest heavily in marketing
● Easy to package and ship
● Need to differentiate yourself from competitors to ensure success: value, support, service, access etc.
● New and popular games may be hard to get
£1-£15

Clothes and accessories

ProductMonthly Google searches*ProsConsProfit estimate
Socks‘cool socks’ = 9.8k● High profit margin
● Potential to create strong brand
● Potential to upsell
● Low price point
● Competitive
£1-£5
Phone accessories24k● Opportunities to source unique cell phone accessories direct from manufacturers
● Fashion and models always changing so the market will remain buoyant
● Ease of shipping
● Low price point
● Competitive
£1-£10
Shoes1m● Sub-niches in which to specialise
● High profit margin on good-condition second-hand branded shoes
● Repeat trade
● Fashion-driven
● Competition from individuals selling their second-hand shoes on sites such as eBay£5-£35
JewelleryBuy jewellery = 500● Easy to sell
● Low or high-value options
● Repeat trade
● Potential to build a successful brand with the right range
● Competitive
● Shipping and packaging challenges for high-value items
£1-£40+
Women’s clothes (boutique, including accessories)Many specific searches, generic term not used● Easy to sell
● Low or high value options
● Repeat trade
● Potential to build a successful brand with the right range
● Competitive
● Need a strong brand to be successful
● High returns
● Fast-moving market
● Risk of holding stock that goes out of fashion
£3-£25
Shapewear104k● Easy to ship● Bad inquiry vs purchase ratio
● Competitive
● You will need to check the health impact of products to ensure they are not dangerous or bad for the wearer’s health
£5-£40

Food

ProductMonthly Google searches*ProsConsProfit estimate
Vegan food64k● Growth market
● Potential to create strong brand
● Repeat trade
● Growing competition from supermarketsCan vary widely
Healthy snacks273k● Cheap and light to ship
● Repeat trade
● Upsell opportunities
● Competitive
● Shipping could present challenges with packaging and freshness
Can vary widely – especially depending on volume/ multibuy

Miscellaneous

ProductMonthly Google searches*ProsConsProfit estimate
Pet care suppliesExample: ‘pet clothes’ = 2.8k● Repeat trade
● Upsell opportunities
● Sub-niches in which to specialise
● No big-brand dominance
● Shipping can be expensive for large items which may put buyers off£4-£40
Home office equipment300
(‘office equipment’ = 19k)
● Emerging market during 2020 pandemic and ongoing changes to working practices
● Many small/light items
● Potential to create strong brand
● Competition from big retailersVaries widely from low to high ticket prices
Beauty products23k● Repeat trade
● Easy to showcase products
● Easy to package and ship
● Sub-niches in which to specialise
● Competition from big brands£2-£20
Outdoor furniture and accessories247k● Upsell opportunities● Shipping and costs will be a challenge
● Longer delivery times
£25-£100
Kids’ toys (which are highly regulated in the UK)48k● Easy to buy in bulk
● Large choice of products from which to create your range
● Competition from big brands
● Large items will have high shipping costs
● Potential issues with breakage and refunds
£5-£25
Reusable packaging700● Growing market
● Low big-brand competition
● Light, small and easy to ship
● Upsell opportunities
● Need to check sustainability credentials of suppliers
● Need to ensure product specifications meet buyer needs (e.g. can be used in microwave/dishwasher)
£1-£5

*This the search volume for this specific keyword, and not the combined search volume for specific products within types. The data was sourced from search tool Ahrefs.com. It is important to note that search volumes fluctuate and may differ now from the date of sourcing.

Can I make a living from an online-only business?

Many people have been able to turn their online side-hustle into their main income stream. So, what does it take to live off your online e-commerce business? If you start a business, you should create a comprehensive business plan with financial projections in, but the figures below show a simplified method to illustrate the kinds of sales you need to achieve to live off your online business. (Please note, this excludes set up costs such as websites, your time and tax).

Let’s assume you want to earn the UK national average wage, which is around £30,000 (£585 per week) according to 2019 figures from the Office of National Statistics.

  • You buy an electric toothbrush for £15
  • You spend £5 on advertising
  • You sell the toothbrush for £30 including shipping, which costs you £5
  • You earned £30 and spent £25, so your profit is £5
  • To make £30,000 a year, you need to sell 6,000 electric toothbrushes. That’s 16.5 toothbrushes every day.

Let’s run the numbers for a high-ticket item such as garden furniture:

  • You buy a garden furniture set for £100
  • You spend £5 on advertising
  • You sell it for £200 including shipping, which costs you £45
  • You earned £200 and spent £150, so your profit is £50
  • To make £30,000 a year, you need to sell 600 furniture sets. That’s 1.5 sales every day.

However, if you have more money to initially invest in your venture, you can purchase stock in bulk. You will have more stock to sell and will need to do so in order to earn your money back, but you can pay a lower cost-per-item and earn higher margins.

If you’re thinking of setting up your own e-commerce store and want to keep overheads to a minimum, so that profit is at its maximum potential, check out our detailed guide to dropshipping. ‘Dropshipping’ is a process whereby the retailer does not hold inventory, but sends customer orders directly to the manufacturer or wholesaler, who then sends the goods directly to the customer – meaning no need to fill your home with stock, or pay for premises.

For additional reading, we’ve also put together a useful guide to financial security for e-commerce businesses.

If you need to purchase products and goods abroad, you’ll need a low-cost and secure international payments service like PagoFX, which is backed by leading global bank Santander. PagoFX is an easy-to-use payments app that allows small businesses as well as individuals to securely send money abroad with transparent low costs and live customer support. It uses real-time, mid-market exchange rates, which ensures you get fair rates with no hidden charges.

This article is provided as general information purposes only and is not intended to cover all aspects of the topic. We recommend that you take professional and specialised advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the content of this publication, as this article is not intended to constitute expert advice. We do not guarantee, explicitly or implicitly, that the content of this article is accurate, complete or up-to-date. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from PagoFX or its affiliates.