Here’s an article I didn’t think I’d be writing. To protect our loved ones through these dark times, we must stay at home as much as possible. Seemingly out of nowhere, hand-washing and social distancing became vital survival skills. Needless to say, the coronavirus is scary and life under quarantine is uncomfortable.
As much as possible, people need to stay at home to prevent unnecessary misery and pain. Even still, staying at home isn’t easy and the economy still needs to run. Small businesses can succeed during this uncertain time by helping others procure the supplies they need to live comfortably under quarantine.
What do people need?
It’s tempting for someone to read this and think of an “X eCommerce Items” post to be crass. I almost didn’t write this for that reason. I hit the backspace so many times trying to come up with a title that didn’t reek of opportunism.
As you have noticed, I ultimately chose to write the post. This is because I thought long and hard about human needs. I went back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and thought about what people need to live a good life.
Above all, people need air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing. After that, they need a steady income and property to call their own. The next step up, they need a sense of love and belonging as well as mental stimulation to stave off boredom.
Beyond the basic needs, people need the ability to achieve, earn respect, exercise freedom, and become their best self. This may seem softer than the other needs – and it is – but it’s still very important to the human experience!
For better or worse, our world runs on commerce and capitalism. We live from item to item, package to package. This is true in the grocery store where we procure our food and in the car dealership where we buy our social status and freedom of mobility. The presence of an unseen villain – the indiscriminate evil of the coronavirus – doesn’t stop this.
So what can you do from your home to help others? What can you do without medical experience? As it turns out, business opportunities abound as does the opportunity to serve others.
How can you help?
So how can you as a small business owner or eCommerce store operator serve society from your position? Sure, you want to make a modest profit, but you don’t want to be the hand sanitizer price gouger from Tennessee.
We’re going to talk about some specific items you can sell to keep people safe, happy, and comfortable during long periods of self-imposed, altruistic confinement.
1. Affordable and tasty food
As the seriousness of the coronavirus became apparent in the United States, people began purchasing bulk quantities of supplies, particularly food and cleaning supplies. If my local grocery store is any indication, people were going after basic non-perishables: canned goods, dried beans, rice, cereal, and oats as well as frozen meats. They also purchased enormous amounts of toilet paper, because…honestly, who knows?
You know what all those foods have in common? They’re all kind of terrible. Well, at least they’re not great. They get old really fast, no matter how much you spice them up. For that reason, unique non-perishable food is a godsend for both nutrition and morale.
Even if you’re hanging around the house all day, you still need clothes. No matter what happens, clothing is an essential of modern life. People will buy clothes no matter what, and that’s why a lot of people consider the industry to be recession-proof.
There is also a positive psychological effect to buying new clothing of any kind. I love replacing socks with holes in them or getting new shirts that don’t feel worn. New pants or a new suit can make you feel like you’ve got your life together. This stuff matters in a crisis – it keeps you going!
3. Affordable health supplies
This almost goes without saying, but if you can make hand sanitizer, soap, N95 masks, and other critical supplies – do it! In particular, soap and hand sanitizer are not that tough to make. Even distilleries are switching from making booze to making hand sanitizer in these times of crisis.
Sell these supplies at a good price and you’re doing your good deed for the year.
4. Board games
Being stuck in your home for weeks on end can be brutal. Board games can make it a lot easier, especially if you have family or roommates to play them with. However, even if you don’t, there are a lot of solo board games out there now, and the trend has been going on for a long time.
Sell board games and you could be helping someone relax in a time of immense stress.
5. Video games
If you make video games – whether physical or online-only – you’re helping people pass long hours in confinement. Entertainment is a basic human need. It keeps our psyches together. I suspect a lot of people will be playing video games for this reason in the next few weeks (or months, who knows).
Books never went out of style. They have always sold and probably always will. Even in a world with Kindles, audiobooks, and PDFs, there will be nothing quite like having a hardcover or paperback book in your hands. It just feels right. Expect book purchases to go up in the next few months.
When is the last time you completed a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle? For that matter, when was the last time you saw one? Was it at a doctor’s office or quirky AirBNB, perhaps?
Actually, jigsaw puzzles are much more popular than you might thing. The whole market was $9.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow by 15% by 2025. I see a lot of room for this market to skyrocket during the quarantine days of the coronavirus pandemic.
8. Hobby and craft supplies
With extra time on their hands, many people will turn to hobbies that they’ve left on the backburner. What kind of crafts and hobbies, you ask? Here are just a few that come to mind:
- Crochet and knitting
- Painting and other arts
- Adult coloring books
- Soap and candlemaking
If you sell accessories for any of the above hobbies, or similar ones, you may very well see a surge in business soon.
9. Musical instruments and accessories
One of the most cliche bucket list items is to learn to play the guitar. Imagine how many people with extra time on their hands will say, “you know what, it’s time to learn the guitar.” This is true of other instruments too.
If you sell musical instruments, headphones, guitar picks, amplifiers, speakers, and other stuff like that, you might end up doing better than you expected. People need a way to occupy their time, and all the Spotify in the world cannot make up for the pleasure of learning to play music for yourself.
Children want to play no matter how bad the pandemic gets. This especially true when they’re inside all day. The truth is, it’s great to give kids toys to occupy their minds in troubled times. It keeps their lives light and happy so that they don’t have to carry with them the troubles of the world.
Whether for work or for play, computers are other devices like smartphones and tablets are great for passing the time. If you happen to sell any of these, you’ll likely see an uptick in the near future.
12. Cell phone accessories
People already buy phone cases, chargers, and other cell phone accessories pretty frequently. It’s even come up in one of our past item idea posts. This is going to be extra important because people are likely to be on their cell phone much more frequently to pass time throughout the day, thus draining the battery and running a higher risk of dropping the device.
13. Coffee, tea, and energy drinks
Coffee, tea, and energy drinks have the wonderful, magical power of caffeine. People are going to get their C8H10N4O2 fix no matter what – you can count on it! These beverages will sell through recessions, pandemics, and possibly even the actual apocalypse.
When times get hard, people turn to candy. This is a real psychological behavior that has been documented through the economic downturn that followed the 2008 recession. I’ve even seen this at play in my own personal life as I’ve emptied coworker’s candy bowls when my project work becomes excessive (sorry, John).
15. Exercise equipment
Being cooped up inside for a long period of time doesn’t mean you have to be stationary. Exercise is a great boredom reliever as well as a way to make people feel like they are taking care of their health. Many people will want to get in shape during the downtime caused by the pandemic. That means we could see spikes in sales from items as diverse as treadmills and weights to yoga mats and resistance bands.
If you can’t go out to eat, then you have to cook at home. Frozen meals quickly grow old, and many people will start cooking – possibly for the first time – during the pandemic. At the same time, food-strapped grocery stores will make customers loath to waste food. The end result? Well, let’s just say it’s a good day to be selling Tupperware or Pyrex.
The coronavirus pandemic has been scary for a number of different reasons. Immediate concerns about the health of ourselves and our family members can be nervewracking and heartbreaking. Quick changes to the economy and to the habits of billions of people across the globe can be disruptive, to put it very lightly.
Even in this dark time, you can still be a shining light. Our medical professionals, the heroes that they are, will heal the sick. But even a humble eCommerce store owner can make a positive difference in someone’s life. Give people comfort, security, and a way to occupy their troubled minds. It makes a difference 🙂