Are you a fledgling business owner who’s still undecided on their catalog? If the answer is yes, consider this your lucky day. Even if you think your product selection is as good as it gets, it doesn’t hurt to double and triple check your convictions.
It may sound simple enough, but deciding what to sell is one of the biggest — and most overlooked — steps in launching an eCommerce store. In fact, the wrong offerings can spell serious turbulence for your business before it even gets off the ground.
Fortunately, this is a fairly easy issue to prevent. If a lack of direction is leaving you puzzled, mystified, or perhaps a bit bamboozled, we might be able to help. Keep reading!
What Are Niches in eCommerce?
In eCommerce terms, niches are product categories that are tied together by a common theme. They can be really specific, like polka-dotted mittens for Norwegian Forest cats, or broader, like a store that offers a range of sustainable beauty products for eco-conscious guys and gals. Either way, niches are the starting point for any product-based business.
What Are Niches Not?
Say that three times fast! Now that you know what niches are, here’s what they are not: different floors in a department store. Apparel, for example, has too many subdivisions to be a true niche — there’s athleisure, swimwear, cocktail dresses, and so on and so forth, to infinity and beyond. Basically, a niche has to have well-defined parameters and target a distinct demographic.
But don’t you want to sell to as many people as possible? Well, about that…
Why Does Your Online Business Need a Niche?
With our motto being “Stress Less, Grow More,” it’s safe to say that we at ShipMonk are enthusiastic proponents of scaling your operations. You want world domination, and so do we! But here’s the kicker: by targeting everyone, you end up targeting no one at all.
Essentially, your business needs a niche for two reasons. Going back to the apparel example, let’s say a prospective buyer is looking for a shirt. Shirts are a great way to narrow it down, but how often have you looked for just any shirt? More often than not, you have something concrete in mind, be it a color, cut, or slogan. By honing in on the exact item(s) you want to sell, you’ll actually make your customers’ lives a whole lot easier, which in turn increases the likelihood of a sale!
The second reason is tied to the first — finding your very own niche is mutually beneficial. While your newly-minted customers are basking in the convenience of stumbling upon precisely what they wanted, you’re patting yourself on the back for having outfoxed the competition. Instead of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing if it sticks, a smart marketer (and business owner extraordinaire) knows that sometimes, you have to think small to think big.
What About Amazon?
Speaking of thinking big, what about Amazon? After all, they’re known for selling everything under the sun and having a loyal and vast customer base. Shouldn’t you follow in their footsteps?
The short answer is that comparing your business to Amazon is like comparing apples to oranges, and genetically modified ones at that. Besides having a head start of approximately twenty years, Amazon, in their eCommerce sector, is mostly a marketplace, not a standalone store selling branded products. In other words, Amazon has 2.3 million active sellers that do the selling for them, resulting in a mammoth number of options that is virtually impossible for a single person to replicate.
In other other words, unless you’re able to hop on a time machine or defeat Jeff Bezos in an intergalactic battle, the best plan of action is to focus on creating an awesome brand with awesome, niche products… which you can, as part of your foxy strategy, also sell on Amazon!
How to Choose Your eCommerce Niche
Enough jibber-jabber! Now that you’re all caught up with the why, here are three, roughly chronological, ideas on how you can find the perfect niche for you!
#1. Think of a Problem You Want to Solve
This is, in our humble opinion, the best way to start a business. If you’re passionate about something, it’s likely that you’ve thought about how it can be improved, so take those thoughts and run with them! Or, if the path to nichedom isn’t quite so clear, don’t be afraid to ask around. Conversations with others who have similar interests can be totally eye-opening!
#2. Get the Bird’s-Eye View
Think you found the one? Time to run a background check. Generally, you’re going to want to know your niche’s…
- Market size (Who are your major competitors?)
- Historical trends (Was your niche more popular at a certain point in time?)
- Demographic (What kind of customers would be interested in your niche?)
- Popular keywords (What are people searching for?)
- Overall cost (What is the average order value and profit margin?)
- Limitations (Is your niche restricted or regulated in any way?)
Once you’ve done your research, you may find that your niche isn’t the turnkey winner you were expecting, but there’s no need to change course just yet! Try finding an unconquered corner of the digital market by getting even more specific with your parameters. And, if nothing works, you have our permission to switch gears!
#3. See the Whole Thing Through
Now that you’re armed with research, here comes the moment of truth. Before you commit to a niche, you have to see how well it fits in with your overall business plan and infrastructure. For example, let’s say you’re a chocoholic and you know that selling custom chocolate boxes paired with handwritten notes is your life’s chocolatey purpose. Now, let’s also say you live in an extremely hot climate — see the problem?
Of course, obstacles are just that, obstacles. The point here is not to get discouraged, but to think of solutions to potential problems. In this case, the logical fix is to store your custom chocolate boxes and handwritten notes in a place that won’t get too hot. If that’s not your garage, living room, or basement, outsourcing to a 3PL might do the trick. 😉
By now, if this article has gone according to plan, you’ve struck gold and found the niche you want to go steady with. That’s music to our ears! Just remember to stay consistent, persevering, and open-minded… and we’ll see you on the flip side!
P.S. Want more eCommerce insights? Our blog newsletter is where it’s at!