Finding your Niche for an E-commerce business.
The first step before you can even begin to plan to sell online is to think of it as a plan for a plan to have to figure out what you’re going to sell.
Over the last 10 years, E-commerce has really changed a lot. Even looking back five years, there are a ton of disruptors in the e-commerce market, and those are the brands that you probably know and really love to shop at. Those are the really cool brands like Warby Parker and Hyphen Mattresses. We have so many examples of those. And then you still have your traditional brands like Gillette or Old Spice that are also launching very very competitive e-commerce experiences. There are thousands and thousands of these online stores. If you want yours to be successful, it’s going to have to be different.
Clearly, you cannot talk about e-commerce without mentioning the 800-pound gorilla or elephant or Amazon or whatever you might call it. Amazon is real and exists, and they have also really changed e-commerce. They launched a 2-day shipping years ago, and now that is just a standard across all of its web sites. They have their Prime Membership which is really just a loyalty membership, and that also is standard across pretty much anything Amazon does. Consumers get really used to and often really like what Amazon does, and you see that kind of trickle-down into all other stores and the legacy brands that exist out there.
On top of that, Amazon has become an online commodity market, so if you need to buy a toilet paper, you and you want to do it online. Amazon’s a really great place for that or razors or whatever else there is. Studies out there show parents mainly shop on Amazon and kind of only Amazon just because of the convenience factor of it. It gets to you quickly, and you can buy everything that you need there for you.
As a brand, that ultimately means that you do have to be very particular about the product that you sell and how you build a community around that product. Because why would somebody go shop from you or buy from you when they could just go to Amazon or honestly it’s probably going to be cheaper, and the shipping is probably going to be faster. There are strategies around how to get them to come to your site over going to Amazon. A lot of that is about content, a lot of that is about the experience, and a lot of that is about competitive research to understand what is happening in the market right now. This helps us understand how you can build a platform that’s going to resonate with customers. So let’s walk through some of the newer e-commerce brands, so you can get a little idea of what those look like and who some of those are.
First and foremost, let’s go to one of my favorite new e-commerce sites. This is Bon Bon Bon; they sell at as you may imagine bonbons online and in customized boxes. You can even go to their store and make bonbons with them, which is kind of this newer trend of a lot of the new online stores. There is an online experience, yes, but also really customized offline experience for consumers so they can get hands-on as a part of the community building process.
You see tons of brands doing this. The big differences between these companies and maybe what you might see folks doing over on Amazon is that you have these small little touches that help to build community. Like that offline experience that bonbonbon is doing or giving back to the community as an added experience. These reasons, these little small giveaways to audiences that encourage them to come shop here at this brand site rather than necessarily going over to Amazon and buying there.
The rest of the article is not going to just be me up here to tell you about all the e-commerce trends or really diving into shipping or logistics. Instead, I’m going to be teaching you how to find the right kind of product to sell how to make sure that it’s competitive on the market. How do you research all on your own and start companies like these? We’ll look at their sites to understand what they are doing to try to get customers to their site instead of Amazon or what they are doing to differentiate themselves from their competitors. So that you can do the exact same thing. All right, so let’s get started in this process finding your products niche.
Finding your Niche
The first step before you can even begin to plan to sell online is to think of it as a plan for a plan to have to figure out what you’re going to sell. What is it going to be? So there are essentially two types of products; commodity products and niche products. Amazon rules in the commodity market and you go there to buy your toilet paper and your razors and your detergent and your deodorant. Whereas more at niche stores, you can think of products that have really built a community that you go there and you buy from them based on emotion. You have a reason outside of the usual, I need this, and I need it now, and I need it fast I need a cheap. For you, I would recommend selling unique, and niche products and that’s because you just have more opportunity there as commoditized products are already being sold by Amazon and tons of other sellers. products that you can sell. There are commoditized products or commodities, and then there are unique products.
Commoditized products are typically those products that may be marketable for a legacy brand with a lot more money in a lot more marketing power. They can maybe go after those products and figure out a way to get into that market. Think of brands like Gillette’s or Old spice. Whereas unique products give you the opportunity to come into the market and really build a community based on the product that you’ve produced. On top of that, when you sell a unique product nobody else is selling it, so you aren’t competing against other people just for the exact same audience or if you do decide to sell on Amazon for that coveted buy box. The three main ways for you to find and source products or find a niche that’s really really good for you are;
- Find or identify products that solve a real problem
- Find or identify products that already have a community that other people are passionate about
- Hop on a trend really really early
1. Find or identify products that solve a real problem
All right, so, first let’s talk about brands that are selling products that do a really really great job at solving a problem. Our first one is around that I’ve been following for a really long time and really really love it is called a Sun Bum. They now have really expanded into other product lines when they first started they were selling sunscreen. What their big differentiator with a problem that they were solving was; in the United States regulations around sunscreen are a lot less strict than they are in places like Europe or Australia. So Sunbum created a sunscreen to the US market that hit those same extreme regulations for skincare in skin protection. It wasn’t something that was being done by a lot of the larger brands, and if it was being done, they weren’t necessarily marketing it. As I said, they have expanded into a bunch of other product lines now. But if you head on over to their about us page and then scroll down, you can see that they are still really remaining true to some of those principles from the very beginning of solving a problem. They have this “I’m really hoping to get you an item that’s really hard for you to get in other places so head on over to that page, and you can look through and see some of their additional information.” They are showing you why is sunscreen essential, why some of the regulations and other countries are more effective for protecting your skin, particularly from cancer which none of us want and they are just really continuing to drive home this idea. This is the origins of this brand and how they really began to be successful. For you, the lesson here is:
- Start with a single product. figure out a way that that product solves a problem for other people
- As you grow and as you expand very similar to Sunbum, you can begin to expand into other product areas that are complementary to that original story, that original problem that you were trying to solve.
Let’s hop on over to Live Larq because they are doing a fantastic job at solving a problem by creating a single product that solves a problem and then marketing that problem really really well in terms of them being the solution for it. So, Live Larq is a water bottle that does water purification. You can get that water from anywhere if you are hiking out like I like to do and scooping up some water from a river. You can have it purified right there so that you are sure that you are drinking safe water. This also really great as I live down in Austin, Texas, where due to some floods, not too long ago, our water system was not great for drinking. This would have been something really really great to use as well. Larq has done just a really fantastic job at creating a single product for people throughout the country.
The big takeaway here is if you don’t have a product to sell already, think about what problem that product solves for other people. If you are still looking for a product to sell, then begin thinking through what problems and small annoyances and nuisances are I have running across in my daily life and can I create a product that will solve for those.
2.Find or identify products that already have a community that other people are passionate about
Another really great way to find a product to sell online or to verify if the product that you are planning on selling is to find a product that other people are really passionate about. A product that already has a community kind of built into it or better yet, products that you are incredibly passionate about that gives you a leg up to write content, educate people on something that you already know, love, and very very much profoundly care about.
So, a really great example of a product that already has a fantastic community behind it is bikes and bicycling. Let’s take a look at a company that I really like they’re called Glory Cycles. Glory Cycles is a brand that was established in 2001, which I know right now seems like that was a long time ago, but that does not really make them a legacy brand. What it started as was a couple of founders who were bicyclist who weren’t really finding the products that they needed precisely the way that they needed them. So they started working with manufacturers to build out products for folks precisely like themselves. So not only does bicycling have this kind of pre-built community but the founders of this company, in particular, were also members of that community. They knew people in that community, and They deeply understood the product and the problems that needed to be solved there. And they made it a fantastic platform for them to begin going after. They started only with some of the bike parts that you might need, and they have it now expanded into selling customized bikes and other gear that you might need.
Another really great example as a site that I really love is called Olive Oil Lovers. Olive oil lovers is exactly what the name sounds like which makes it great for SEO, but it is a brand that sells olive oil and not just like the regular kind. This really dives into all of the different types of oil you can get, all the different quantity types and quality, types, and quality. I don’t know all of those as I get mine from the local grocery store, but I’m not the target customer or this product by any means. Olive oil has a real community around it from chefs to just really fantastic home cooks. This product is going directly after those folks trying to solve a problem for them that and also trying to just build a community around really great products that they really really love.
So, for your brand, as we’re thinking about what product to sell think about what you are incredibly passionate about. The things you spend hours telling your friends about over a beer or what you do on the weekends. If that isn’t something that you think you could really sell a product into or figure something out there, then start looking around talking to your friends, figuring out what other communities exist out there. What products could you create to really rally those people around a single idea?
3. Hop on a trend really really early
The final way and one of my best tips for finding the product and a niche product to sell is to hop on Trends early. Now I’m being totally honest with you guys; this is the hardest one to do but potentially the most profitable. It’s hard because how do you predict the future. I mean, brands that started selling CBD oil a year or 2 years ago are booming out of control right now.
How to figure out and know what those new trends are going to be? Let’s look at a couple of excellent examples. The first is a brand called WONE , and this brand was started by a former employee of Nike. He has now launched what seems to be kind of the next phase of a luxury e-commerce business. So Wone has been able to hop on the train not just of athleisure and athletic wear, but also they’ve really tapped into this community that really desires experience and like being early adopters and exclusivity to products. That is an online experience that hasn’t really been made online yet. The kind of buyers in that audience is willing to spend $300 on a pair of leggings or might shop at Louis Vuitton. These people don’t have a lot of experiences online, and the site tries to create that luxury offline experience in an online environment.
Another really great example is the Hyphen mattresses. Everybody has heard of brands like Casper or like Parachute just launched a new line. Hyphen is another company that pretty early on launched a mattress. It’s actually a direct-to-consumer version of their parent company which is Diamond mattress. They pretty quickly got the popularity that other brands were having. The product that they had wasn’t necessarily a foam mattress could quickly be wrapped up into a package that can be delivered to your door. They had to go in and do some product testing and make that come to life, but the trend was there. People were beginning to buy mattresses online and because they moved quickly and they hopped onto that trend they were able to get a share of that voice and get a share of that revenue.
So how do you find early trends? The best answer to that is to follow through on an idea if you see that there is an opening in the market. Go for that. The only difference between a brand like Hyphen or brand like Wone is that the founders went after it. They saw a trend, and they saw the opening in the market, and they created an experience and a product that fit that. This is not a strategy that would work for people who rest; it’s for people who are willing to put the work and effort into it. So, as those ideas come up as you’re going to joking around with friend thinking I wish there was XYZ product or XYZ product. Those are really a great product to begin putting a little bit of your time and effort and strategy behind in order to bring those to market so that you are ahead of the trend.
Beyond that, there are a few tools that can help you do this like Google Trends. This is really great, as one can head on over there and type in a few keywords, and you’ll be able to see some of the search terms that are beginning to trend on Google. It can give you a fantastic indication that more people are beginning to search for this particular item. Especially if you see it’s a very high lift and a lot of people are really beginning to search for it. It’s probably a perfect idea to go ahead and create a product around that.
Let’s look real quick at one. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a fun one to look at because it has really only begun booming, so you see, beginning in 2016 there was hockey stick-like growth for the number of searches for this product. That shows that it is a fantastic indicator for a product that you probably want to sell. It shows that there’s more market demand for it, which means you can create a product and get your product in front of those people faster than you could have compared to going after a community or if you’re trying to build a product that solves a problem. Hopping on trends is probably the harder way to find a product but typically one of the ones to become more profitable or profitable and successful. Once you’ve decided which product you want to sell then head on over to the next article, and we are going to walk through Market viability for that product