Time for some real talk. Be honest: did your online spending increase at the height of the global pandemic? Don’t worry – you’re in good company. Catalyzed by widespread stay-at-home orders, ecommerce spending shot to a record $862.12 billion in 2020, a 44 percent increase from 2019.
While the 2020 quantum leap was unique and directly influenced by global events, it was not entirely unprecedented. Ecommerce spending has been trending upwards every year since 2012, and it’s not slowing down. But with retailers flooding an already saturated market, how can you start an ecommerce business that stands out from the crowd?
Niche businesses tailor their products and services to a narrow demographic that has very specific needs and interests and is motivated to buy. That’s good news for your burgeoning business, but the even better news is that niche ecommerce sites can be quick starts that turn a profit almost immediately. Here’s what you need to know about finding your niche — and making money from it — in 2021.
Benefits of Niche Ecommerce
Sure, niche by definition means your product will be in front of a smaller audience. But the size matters less than the motivation, interest and disposable income of that audience. If you find the right audience and offer them the right products, the pros of niche ecommerce far outweigh the cons. And now, ecommerce platforms have made it easier than ever to design a user-friendly site that will meet your customers’ needs. Here are some of the biggest benefits of going niche.
Customers Are Ready to Spend: They can’t find products like yours just anywhere, so when they do, they’ll be ready to pony up.
The Competition Isn’t as Fierce: Your business will have more opportunities to step into the spotlight when you find a niche that fills a gap and meets customer demand in a space where few others are doing so.
Inventory and Shipping Costs are Lower: Fewer products in your line means fewer items to source, store and ship, which means a cost savings for you.
Your Business Fills a Void in the Market: For pretty much anything you want to sell, there’s someone who wants to buy it. The trick is finding the gaps in the market and stepping up to fill them.
Choosing an Ecommerce Niche
So, once you decide to venture into the dark corners of the internet’s underserved consumers, how do you find the nook or cranny in which your business fits? Here are some steps to get you started:
Consider Your Interests: What are you most passionate about? What products have you spent hours Googling, only to come out of it with an empty shopping cart? Honing in on the things you love — and the communities that also love them — will help you identify opportunities.
Research Trends: Today it’s CBD oil for pets, tomorrow it’s vegan meal replacement shakes. The trends are always changing, and staying on top of them will help you forecast and plan for your business’s ongoing success. Check out Google Trends to get started.
Check Out the Competition: While competitors will hopefully be slim, they’ll still be out there. Find out what they’re doing, and more importantly, what they’re not. How can your business step up to fill any gaps in the niche marketing you’re targeting?
Ready to spark some ideas and find your niche?
9 Niche Ecommerce Business Ideas (You May Not Have Considered)
1. Subscription Boxes for Men
Don’t be afraid to bust some gender myths. Men want self-care and pampering just as much as women, and they may be even more likely to make an online purchase that saves them from wandering through store aisles in search of hard-to-find products. The subscription box industry brings in roughly $15 billion a year, and niche boxes lead the pack with 20 percent of sales. From skincare to handcrafted leather goods, high-end men’s products are a great way to corner a market that’s been otherwise neglected in the booming subscription industry.
2. Edgy Kids Clothing
Print-on-demand services make offering custom clothing items easier than ever, and the industry is expected to surpass $10 billion in sales by 2025. If you’ve got a clever wit or an important message to share, you might find an audience clamoring for your products. Think beyond dinosaurs and princesses, and give parents something that will surprise and delight. Be sarcastic, be woke…just don’t be boring.
3. Unique Vintage Decor
Online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Amazon give you the opportunity to turn old thrift store finds into modern-day treasure. Stay on top of trends, and specialize in an era or product, like mid-century modern brass or 70s macrame. If you enjoy the hunt almost as much as making the sale, this could be the niche for you.
4. Face Masks
While the CDC is in the process of revising mask-wearing recommendations, the recently booming industry isn’t going anywhere. Masks will still be necessary for the immunocompromised and will still be required in healthcare facilities, on airplanes and public transit, and in some private businesses. And the new recommendations are only for those who are fully vaccinated (two weeks past their last dose). With just 35 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated at the time of this writing, face masks will be a necessity (and a fashion statement), potentially into 2022. Find your market and design a line of fashion face masks that speaks for itself.
5. Delta-8 Products
CBD was all the rage a few years ago, but today, it’s all about Delta-8, a form of lower potency THC that’s legal in upwards of 40 U.S. states. While it’s possible to build a thriving ecommerce business around Delta-8, you’ll need to make sure you’re in compliance with federal regulations, shipping only to states where it’s legal and keeping an eye on manufacturing processes (it’s only legal when derived from hemp, and no more than .03 percent Delta-9 THC). Experts say to source only from reputable manufacturers, and do your research on shipping regulations before you begin.
6. Write-to-Market Ebooks
If you have a creative streak, but also want to earn some money, writing-to-market (and its cousin, writing-to-trend) may be right up your alley. Publishing ebooks is easier than ever, and with the rise of self-publishing via platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, you can write books in niche sub-genres that readers are clamoring to buy. Niche writing likely won’t make you famous, but if you find the right audience, it could pay the bills. Self-published authors typically earn 40–60 percent in royalties for each sale, while traditionally published authors bring in 10–12 percent. Amazon’s latest self-publishing experiment, Kindle Vella, will allow authors to publish serialized works of fiction. Readers will purchase token bundles, which can then be redeemed for new Vella “episodes.” Vella is expected to launch to readers in Summer 2021, but authors can begin uploading content now.
7. Remote Work Supplies
In 2020, the shift to remote work sent millions of people around the world into their home offices (and sometimes their kitchens, bedrooms, dens or backyards), which were frequently sorely lacking in both comfort and functionality. As remote work continues to boom in the wake of the pandemic, catering to the needs of the work-from-home crowd is a niche with staying power. You might specialize in ergonomic desk chairs, organizational products, planners or remote work apps and software — the sky’s the limit.
8. Exotic Pet Supplies
Dogs and cats get all the love, don't they? Furry friends already have their needs covered in an oversaturated market, but what about the scaly, winged or slithery companions? Tailoring your ecommerce sites to specialize in exotic or unconventional pet supplies will deliver you a ready audience. From bearded dragons to ferrets to scorpions, exotic pets have very specific needs, and a varied range of products can be tough to find in traditional pet stores.
9. International Foods
Meal kits and food-based subscription boxes have burst onto the scene in recent years, and the foodie set is here for it. This year, nearly one-third of Millennials have signed up for a food-based subscription, along with 26 percent of Gen-Xers. But for the more adventurous segment of this audience, their tastes run toward the exotic and unusual. These buyers aren’t looking for convenience or specific dietary needs — they just want a taste of the world. Give it to them with curated shipments of international delicacies, from cured meats and cheeses to bizarre and unexpected candies and sodas.
When it comes to building a niche ecommerce business, the only limitation is your imagination. These nine ideas are yours to take and run with — or use them as a starting point to brainstorm your own promising ideas. And don't forget that a website is vital to a successful ecommerce business. For an easy start, try using our partner Wix to build your ecommerce site and get your product in front of the right audience.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).