What to sell online: How to find the best DropShipping products
The great thing about DropShipping is the fact that you don’t need to have storage space, or invest in stock – meaning that essentially, you can get started with absolutely no investment required up front. However, when you’re thinking about selling online, one of the first things you’ll think about is how you’ll source the products that you’re going to sell. Since there is so much information – and misinformation – out there about the best way to find products to DropShip, we thought we’d write a little post to help make things a bit clearer.
What is DropShipping?
Before we get started with how to find the best products for your DropShipping business, let’s do a quick recap on what DropShipping is.
DropShipping is a retail fulfilment model. Retailers that are using this model do not hold stock. When they receive a customer order, the retailer sends the order details – plus payment and a fee – to a supplier, who picks, packs and despatches the order on the seller’s behalf. The seller has no part in shipping the order – that is all taken care of by the supplier.
Although there are some articles that occasionally crop up talking about how outrageous it is that retailers are making money this way, customers won’t know – and probably won’t care – that their item is being sent directly from a supplier. Most customers just care that their order costs them a price that they are happy to pay, and reaches them in good time, and in good condition.
Who can start a business DropShipping?
Almost anyone can start a business DropShipping. As long as you’re of legal age to own a business in the country that you’re operating, then you’re able to get started. If you’re under that age, it may be possible for you to start DropShipping – however, you will need to get the support of a parent or guardian, and have them oversee your business. We’re not suggesting you’ll get things wrong, necessarily – there are plenty of adults who make mistakes in business, after all! But having an adult who understands what you’re doing, and trying to achieve means you can get advice, and you’re more likely to succeed.
To start a DropShipping business is pretty easy – all you really need is a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection to start up, and to manage your business. There aren’t any restrictions that we know of anywhere in the world – although there are other implications that you might need to be aware of, such as making sure you’re able to pay any taxes that are due, and making sure you’re not selling anything that happens to be illegal in that country. We’re planning a deep-dive into the laws around DropShipping in the near future, so watch out for that.
Why start a business DropShipping products?
Over the last few years, there has been an upward trend in people having a side hustle. For many, that has involved taking your passion – something creative, such as photography, writing, making items from wood or fabric – and turning it into a business on the side. Although many creative types (yours truly included!) can indulge their passion in their endeavours in their spare time, some of us just don’t have a passion that translates to a lucrativeside hustle. Although the DropShipping model long pre-dates the side hustle phenomenon (there were many retail businesses using the model even prior to the 1960s) it’s a great side hustle for those individuals who are more business-minded than creative.
There are plenty of advantages of DropShipping – whether you keep your business as a side hustle or you eventually make it a full-time career move. It’s easy to start, and you can start with very little financial investment required. That means it’s also low risk – the only thing you have to lose is the time that you’ve invested! The other great thing about DropShipping is that it’s incredibly flexible and once it is set up, can be very easy to manage – so however much time you have to invest in your business, you’re set. You don’t need to have a huge amount of money to invest, or anywhere to store stock – because you’re not paying your supplier until you’ve received payment from your customer, and your supplier is taking care of storage and shipping.
We’ve spoken at length about how to set up a DropShipping business on the blog before, including what to sell – and there’s some valuable advice to be found, so carry on reading if you’re looking for more information.
What can you sell DropShipping?
In theory, since DropShipping is simply a retail model, you should be able to DropShip anything. However, in practice, it isn’t quite as simple as that.
It should go without saying – but we’ll say it anyway – you’ll need to be aware of the laws of the country, or countries that you’re operating in. Selling items that are illegal in the country you are operating in is not going to help you achieve success DropShipping, or with any future business endeavours! Always make sure you do your due diligence, and have carried out extensive research into your products before starting to sell. This is especially important when it comes to healthcare products and alternative medicines – for example, Melatonin is a widely available product that many US citizens use to combat insomnia and jet lag, but it is only available on prescription in the UK as it is a controlled substance. Of course, you may not be looking at selling items like this – but it is still worth doing checks before you start selling.
What you decide to sell may also depend on where you’re sourcing your products from. If you’re selling items that you have found on AliExpress, then most of those items are going to be coming from China. That means if you choose to sell smaller items, that will make for simpler postage arrangements – and potentially faster delivery. If you’re using a DropShipping platform to sell items from suppliers that already have stock available within your country, then you might decide to sell bigger items – including items of furniture, outdoor sports items and so on. As long as your supplier can deliver, and you can make enough profit on each item to make it worth your while, you can DropShip it.
When considering which are the best items for your business to DropShip, you’ll need to think about what you’re setting out to achieve. In our post about small business ideas that will make you money, we talked about some items that rarely fail to sell – and ones that you can make decent profits with. However, there are many, many other items that are perfect for DropShipping – and here are some points to consider when you’re thinking about what to sell.
How to decide what to DropShip
There is a lot of research to do before you decide what the right products are for you to sell online. You only need to go as far as Amazon to realise quite how many products are available already! Although it can be intimidating at first, we’ve taken a look at some advice that can help you get started when you’re deciding what to DropShip.
Establish a niche
A niche is the unique selling point for the products that you are selling, and a niche market covers who you are selling to. Niche products tend to be items that appeal to a certain section of the population – for example, fans of a certain movie franchise, sports team or a hobby that few people pursue. It might sound relatively simple, but finding a niche product can take a lot of research, hard work and trial and error.
The reason that we advise that it’s worth finding a niche to work in rather than just selling what is trending – like the drop surfing approach we spoke about – is because there are more chances to make more sales with niche products. If you are selling what is trending, it might appear that there are more opportunities to make sales, but you’re up against a phenomenal number of other sellers who are also trying to make the same sales. That means unless you’re the cheapest – or one of the most competitive, anyway – you’re unlikely to be able to make the kind of sales you want. And if you’re trying to match the cheapest sellers to make sales, your profit margins are going to be tiny – in some cases, we’re talking fractions of pennies on each item.
By selling items within a particular niche, the numbers of potential customers you might be able to reach are likely to be much smaller, compared with trending items. But – and this is the thing – each of those potential customers are more likely to make a purchase of your products. And because they’re already actively interested in your products, there is more chance they will buy more than one item from you in their order. Not only that, if they find your products are exactly what they are looking for, then they are more likely to become repeat customers – which is what you want, because repeat customers offer you better return on your investment when it comes to your marketing activities. Think of it a bit like the difference between quantity and quality. When it comes to getting customers, it’s worth finding the quality ones – the ones who will keep coming back to you.
You’re going to want to know how to find a niche, of course. There are three main ways that can help you identify niches that can make you money:
Examine hobbies and interests. You can look to your own hobbies and interests of course – and that’s a great idea, because you’ll be more interested in what you’re selling and will know whether the items are worth marketing immediately. But people who are really interested in something often spend a lot of money doing it – so, look to see if you can find a gap in the market for players of particular board games or computer games, certain crafts, sports, and so on.
Do your research. We’ve just mentioned finding items that are missing from the market, but you’ll also need to know your target customers as much as possible. Once you’ve established who your target customers are, you will be able to find out where they are likely to shop – so you’ll know where to sell, as well as the kind of prices you’ll be able to charge and so on.
Work with data. You’re looking for evidence that your products will sell and your niche will be profitable. Doing research before you jump in means you’re less likely to waste your time – and that you’re more likely to be successful when you do get going.
If you find that the data doesn’t show you what you had hoped, you’ve got a few options – you can drop that particular idea if you find that it really won’t work out. If you still have a gut feeling that you might be right though, then go back over your research to make sure there isn’t something you’ve missed. If that gut feeling is particularly strong, then you might still be right, even if the numbers don’t quite add up! If that’s the case, and you want to take a gamble and go ahead in that niche, then look at low-risk strategies for selling those products – choose a DropShipping platform that is free to start using, and allows you to scale up gradually. And definitely, choose sales channels that don’t charge you to list your items – so you’ll be looking at marketplaces that charge you a commission on the final purchase, rather than a listing fee or a subscription.
Once you’ve established your niche, you can think about adding print on demand items, since you won’t need to pay for those items until you’ve received payments from your customers, and diversifying your business further. Take a look at our post about low investment business ideas for ways that you might look to add additional income streams to your business.
Find the products customers buy repeatedly
Although a customer ordering one item from you once is undoubtedly a good thing, if the profit margins for your products are small, you’ll have to work harder to make sales. Therefore, finding products that your customers want, or need to buy regularly is a great thing. We’re talking about items like cosmetics and toiletries, items of clothing that might wear out quickly like socks or tights, and items like party supplies.
By identifying products that your customers buy repeatedly, you’re onto a winner. Once customers have identified a product they like, they are likely to buy that product again regularly, as long as they get a great price and receive good service. And that’s likely to be true whether they make their purchase from your website or a marketplace. Amazon has a section on every customer’s account offering ‘Buy It Again’, allowing customers to find items they have previously bought, and to click to order them instantly. eBay also offers customers the option to save sellers – meaning that customers can save your details and find you again easily.
Once you’ve made one or two sales – particularly through your website – you can use targeted emails to help the customer keep you in mind. You might think about adding a special offer to your regular customers – 10% off if they buy by a certain date, for example – rather than letting them search for the product on Amazon or eBay, which could mean you potentially losing the next sale to another seller.
Overall, this kind of repeat business takes less time and effort to win than for products that are one-off purchases, and the lifetime value of these customers can be significantly more than for single-purchase customers.
Identify the categories you want to avoid
Although there are potential sales to be made across all categories, there are categories that are already incredibly busy – we could say they are almost at capacity. That means that in those categories, you’ll find it hard to win sales. Customers are extremely likely to be able to find cheaper sellers, unless you slash your prices. By doing that, you’ll be reducing your margins significantly, which in the longer term, means your business isn’t likely to grow and perform the way you would like. Ideally, you want to be making much more than a fraction of a penny on each item, don’t you?!
So while we’re not saying you definitely shouldn’t be entering into those busy categories, what we are saying is that selling in those categories is going to be much more of a challenge. Categories like books and clothing are already heavily over-subscribed, as are jewellery and electronic items. In a lot of categories, you’re likely to find yourself up against sellers from China – and since some of those sellers might also be the manufacturer themselves, they really can offer those products at rock-bottom prices, with tiny profit margins.
On top of the challenge that cheaper sellers present, many customers are already buying these products online. That means they’re extremely likely to have already found their preferred sellers, or to have become loyal to a brand.
So in order to be successful in those busier categories – if that is what you really want to do – look to be more specific about what you’re selling. Rather than targeting clothing in general, can you find a specific niche within the category? You might consider specialising in funky socks, or sell items from across different categories that appeal to people who play certain sports. In these busier categories, that others might avoid, you need to find a way to stand out – which can be incredibly difficult to do.
Use Google Trends to help identify products on the up
Mark recently wrote a really useful post about Google Trends, highlighting how you can use it in your business, to help identify search terms that are on the up. It really is one of the easiest ways to get the information you’re looking for – and what’s even better is that it’s free to use, and since it is essentially just a web page, there isn’t any additional software that you need to install or learn how to use.
You can use Google Trends to establish which products are starting to trend – that is, starting to be searched more often. Useful worldwide, but the filters that Google Trends offer include geographical region, category, time period and type of search. You can also search images, Google Shopping, news and YouTube searches – giving you much more information about different search results.
Since you can examine data on Google Trends from a time period spanning almost twenty years, you might notice there are peaks and troughs in the number of searches that are being conducted. If that’s the case – for example, beach products in the UK often stop being searched in September and start to ramp back up again in April or May (the great British summer being the fickle beast she is!) then you can work out when demand for those products might start increasing, so you can be ready to capitalise on the next period it is going to be popular.
You can also make use of the compare section in Google Trends – which can help you to identify how popular products from similar brands are. Not only that, you’ll want to make use of the Daily Trending Searches page to see what people are looking for right now.
Don’t forget, you can also use Google Trends to identify whether your products are starting to be searched less often – which, if you’ve noticed from your sales data that an item isn’t performing as well, could confirm that it is time to stop selling it, or to divert your efforts into selling other products.
See what your competitors are selling
Looking to your competitors to see what they’re selling can be a great way to see what is going to be successful for you too. After all, your competitors will have done the same sort of research that you will be doing – so why not make use of that information?
When we say check out your competitors, that doesn’t just mean the companies that are the same size as you – although, of course, businesses that are your immediate peers can be useful to examine. But if you’re just starting out in eCommerce, then look at businesses and brands that you hope to be your competitors one day. That might mean, for example, if you’re selling women’s fashion items, you’ll be looking at boohoo and ASOS. If you’re selling beauty products, you might look at Boots and Superdrug, as well as online-only retailers like lookfantastic and Feelunique, to see how they’re making the most of what they are currently selling.
While you’re looking at your competitors and their best selling items, you can try to identify products they don’t yet have in stock, to see if you can make sales on those items before they get them in.On top of that, while you’re checking out the sort of products your competitors are listing, keep an eye on how they sell their items – so, the type of images they’re using, and the type of language they’re using in their listings. You might not use their ideas or replicate their information, but they might have a suggestion of how to use, or wear a product that you hadn’t thought of.
Don’t forget to follow your competitors on social media too. You might not be using the same tactics and strategies as they are, but following all your competitors – both direct competitors, and the ones you aspire to be your competitors is a good idea. As well as being able to see how they’re promoting their products, many companies use their social media to give their customers sneak peeks of products that they’re about to start selling. By following them, you may be able to get in there first, or start promoting a product that is similar, but is lower in price. You might also be able to take advantage of knowing what discounts and promotions they’re running – allowing you to promote different items at that time.
Search social media
There’s a reason that people use hashtags on their social media posts – it’s to join in a wider discussion about whatever they are hash tagging! If you’re considering working with a new brand – let’s say, a new jewellery brand – then searching for their hashtag can give you insights into how they have been received. Customers like to use Twitter to voice their complaints to companies, so if you find lots of Twitter posts about items being brokenwhen they are received, (for example!) then you’ll know to be cautious in which products to choose.
Use hashtags on Instagram to help you find customer images. Many brands encourage their customers to tag them using their social media handle, but also using a dedicated hashtag. Using the ladieswear brand New Look as an example – customers who tag their post with @newlook and use #ThisIsNewLook may be featured on the New Look Instagram feed. This might be useful to you if, for example, you’re looking to DropShip a particular beauty product – searching the relevant hashtag can help you can establish whether it is being used by the sort of person you imagine your target customer to be.
You can also use hashtags to help you find posts that might be useful to you on the different social media platforms. We talked in-depth about hashtags on the blog previously, and so if you haven’t quite caught up with how to use hashtags on social media, or want to know how to follow a certain hashtag on Instagram, head there for more. We definitely recommend following hashtags like #dropshippingsupplier #dropshippingcompany #dropshippinglifestyle #dropshippingtool as well as following #dropshipping followed by the country you’re in – so, #dropshippingfrance #dropshippinguk or #dropshippingcanada.
Since social media platforms are adding eCommerce functionality to their platforms, you can look at what your competitors are selling on their social media channels. Are they using the swipe up functionality on their Instagram Stories to promote a particular product? Is what they’re promoting a best-selling product? If it definitely isn’t, that may indicate that adding it to your store might not be lucrative.
Use social shopping websites
What is a social shopping website, you might ask? Well, social shopping websites are websites that try to learn about the shopping habits of their users, and connect them with other similarly-minded users. Over time, users of the website see a more personalised feed of the website, and the website can start to build a community.
The biggest social shopping website isn’t strictly a shopping website, although many users do use it as a search engine, or as a starting point for their shopping – it’s Pinterest. As a seller, Pinterest can be incredibly useful for you in terms of marketing your products, but you can also use Pinterest to help you identify what people are looking for – and there are powerful search and filtering functionality that you can make use of. And while we’re on the subject of Pinterest, it’s worth mentioning how product pins might be useful for you when you’re marketing your items! To find out more about how to drive your sales with Pinterest marketing, see our post here.
Other social shopping websites that can be useful when identifying items to sell are ModCloth, Fancy and Wanelo. They’re not the only ones though, so try and identify ones that are active in the countries that you are expecting to sell in, so you can find the most relevant information for your business.
Join online communities to find out what to DropShip
You can find literally thousands of online communities about almost every subject under the sun. Chances are, you’re already a member of more than one! Facebook groups that keep you in touch with school friends from years ago, interest groups and activist groups are but a few examples. Facebook is a great place to start looking for any kinds of communities, and DropShipping groups – both open, and closed – are plentiful on Facebook. Being part of these groups can help you to identify what other sellers are having success with, if there are great suppliers you could work with, general advice and much, much more. We’ve even got our very own Facebook group! Whether you’re an Avasam user, you’re curious about what Avasam can do for your business or you’re just getting started, everyone is welcome.
If you’re looking for more general information about your target customers, then being part of, or reading interest group discussions online that they are likely to be part of can help you identify products that they want. Whatever you’re considering selling, there will be forums, groups, discussion pages and more that can help you decide if your items, or whether your proposed business isa good prospect or not. Don’t just look for people talking about products they’d like to see though – look at the problems that people are encountering that are being discussed, and see if you can identify items that could help them resolve those issues.
On top of using online communities for finding out what to sell, you can use these communities to see if there is genuine interest in your proposed products. Be humble when using these types of groups to identify interest though – ask politely if group members would mind providing feedback, and if you receive valuable information, be sure to thank contributors to the discussion sincerely. Be careful that you don’t go overboard asking too many questions though – you don’t want to end up annoying group members and being blocked from what could be an incredibly useful resource, even if you only dip in to read in the future.
If you have a few questions to ask group members, you could consider using a tool like Survey Monkey or JotForm to create a questionnaire, and post the link in the group instead. It’s definitely worth offering an incentive to group members that you invite to complete surveys – either a discount on their first order, or a free item. Costs like these might be minimal to you in money terms, but the kind of information you can glean is invaluable for your business, especially when you’re first starting out.
Talk to your suppliers
You might not be able to make use of this as an option for identifying items to DropShip before you’ve made contact with, and started using a supplier. But once you’re up and running, and especially once you’ve created a good working relationship with a supplier, talking to them about their products is something you might want to consider doing once in a while. Once you’re selling a lot of items for a supplier, they may look favourably on you, and give you information about what they are currently selling lots of, and what they expect to be their next big sellers.
If you haven’t created a working relationship with any suppliers yet, then attending trade events such as Spring Fair, Autumn Fair and White Label World Expo can be good ways to connect with suppliers. Many suppliers will exhibit at these events, and these events are often free to attend, so you can find out much more about their businesses before starting to work with them.
Search your DropShipping platform
It might seem like a logical thing once you’ve already started using it, but some people don’t think about searching DropShipping platforms for new products until after they have already signed up! Particularly on the DropShipping platforms that have free plans, it might pay you to sign in and have a good look at what suppliers are offering – there really isn’t anything to stop you, and it isn’t going to cost you anything. Again, this can be a valuable source of information for your business.
If you’ve made the decision which platform you’re going to be using and you’re already selling, then check out your sales reports. From the information contained in your reporting, you’ll be able to see which of your products are performing well, which may help you to identify which other items might be useful to to add to your range.
Where can you find products to sell?
With DropShipping, you’ve got a few ways to find products to sell, but they’re not all equally as good as each other.
You could choose to DropShip items using marketplaces like AliExpress – we’ve spoken about it on the blog before, but as we discussed in that post, there are quite a lot of potential problems with using this approach, so you need to use caution. You’re not necessarily going to be buying directly from a manufacturer if you’re DropShipping from AliExpress, there can be longer delivery times and there are potential issues with communications – which can add up to making your DropShipping business being a bit of a pain.
If these issues put you off DropShipping using AliExpress, you can work with suppliers directly – which, if you’re working with really niche products that there is only one supplier of in the whole world, might be OK. But working with more than one supplier can get complicated technically – meaning you’re back to only working with one supplier. But since you don’t want to restrict the success of your business, then the best way to find products to sell is by using a DropShipping platform.
The reliability of your suppliers is one of the important things that will determine the success of your business. Without building a relationship with great suppliers, you’re putting yourself at risk of using suppliers that don’t provide great service. For you as a seller, that could mean having to provide refunds, dealing with customer service issues, and potentially – at worst – losing customers because of negative reviews.
That’s why we recommend using a DropShipping platform – because you’re much less likely to encounter issues. If you choose a DropShipping platform that verifies their suppliers, you’re almost certainly going to avoid those problems! And with a great, reliable DropShipping platform, you can work with more than one supplier without needing to deal with different technology setups, meaning you have access to far more products than you would have with just one supplier. Not only that, you can cover yourself against issues that you might encounter, like a supplier being out of stock, simply by having a second supplier available to fulfil that order.
When is it a good time to sell online?
We think the question that is more appropriate here is when is it not a good time to sell online? Customers worldwide are buying around the clock – all day, every day. In the UK, on Christmas Day 2019, over £1bn of sales were expected to be made (actual figures weren’t yet released as we wrote this!) and that figure is substantially bigger when you look globally.
If you’re thinking about when it is a good time to start selling online, well – there’s only one time that we suggest might be the trickiest – and that’s in the run-up to the holiday season, from October through past Singles’ Day and Christmas. It isn’t impossible to launch in the last few months of the year for the run-up to Christmas, but if you can get your business launched ahead of the busiest time of the year, it means you can more effectively make sales during that period.
Where should you sell online?
Where do you like to buy from online? That’s a great place to start, but it might not be the right place for your customers, soonce you’ve thought about where you like to buy from, you’ll need to think about where your target customers are shopping. Wherever your target customers are, in the long term, that is where you need to sell.
But you definitely shouldn’t stick to just one sales channel. Multichannel DropShipping is the most effective way to ensure that your products are found by as many customers as possible, in as many places around the world as possible.
What is multichannel DropShipping?
It’s very simple really – multichannel DropShipping is simply DropShipping where the seller is selling products on multiple sales channels. That might be a combination of a Shopify website, Amazon and eBay, or it might be on eBay, Wish and Wayfair, as well as a few local marketplaces worldwide.
Some DropShipping platforms don’t make it easy to sell on multiple sales channels, and will restrict you to one sales channel, such as selling on a Shopify website – or make it difficult for you to sell on those other sales channels. So when you’re choosing your DropShipping platform, be sure to do extensive testing and make sure you can sell where you want to be able to sell.
Your own website is a logical place to start selling your items. Since – unlike on marketplaces – you won’t pay listings fees or commission when you sell on your website, your costs are significantly lower. Shopify is an easy way to set up your own eCommerce website, but it doesn’t afford quite the same amount of flexibility as other website builders. If you’re looking to create a really unique eCommerce website, then you’re likely to want to head for BigCommerce or WooCommerce. These aren’t the only solutions though, so if you’re thinking about setting up your own website, check out our post about DropShipping on Shopify. As part of that post we looked at some of the alternatives for creating your website, and there’s a lot of options, with a lot of different price implications.
When you first start thinking about selling online, your thoughts are likely to go to Amazon and eBay first, likely to be followed by Wish and maybe OnBuy. If you’re thinking about selling furniture and homewares, you might have thought about selling on Wayfair. They’re all great options for sellers who are DropShipping, but you might find competition is fierce and fees high.
Of course, if you’re thinking about selling internationally, you’ll have probably already thought that you will be able to sell on Amazon and eBay, through their worldwide marketplaces. That’s perfect to start with, but what about the countries that Amazon and eBay don’t make the most sales? Adding local marketplaces to your DropShipping setup might not make you your fortune, but some are free to list on and you only pay commission on each sale. That means as long as your supplier can fulfil those overseas orders and shipping costs aren’t prohibitively expensive, then it’s a risk-free way to make additional sales.
How can you manage your DropShipping business?
Especially if you are using the spare time around your 9-5 job to create your DropShipping business, you’re going to need an easy way to manage your business. The simplest way to create and manage a DropShipping business is by using a DropShipping platform – as we have mentioned throughout. The best DropShipping platforms completely automate all of the processes required for DropShipping, and allow you to manage your DropShipping business without any other software required. We talked about some of the leading DropShipping platforms in this post, so if you’re just starting to look for one, head there.
There isn’t really a one-size fits all way to establish what to sell online. We’ve laid out quite a lot of guidance here, and pointed you in the right direction for a lot more. The main point we think you need to take away with you from this article, is that it all boils down to your research. Get that right, and you’re a long way toward getting your business right.
That said, if you try something and it doesn’t work for you – don’t worry, there’s plenty of us who have tried things and they’ve not turned out the way we hoped! The beauty of DropShipping is that you can reassess your products regularly, especially when you’re using a DropShipping platform like Avasam. If one product doesn’t work, or even none of your products sell as you’d hoped, you can either wipe the slate clean and start again, or you can continue to refine your strategy until you find the approach that does work for you.
We wish you the best of luck with your DropShipping business – if you have questions and want to get in touch with our team, you can do so via our Facebook page, or using the details here. If you’re ready to sign up for your free account, you can do so here.
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