By Rodney Laws | Ecommerce
You don’t need a degree to operate your very own ecommerce business, but you do need desire — and a cracking idea to get the ball rolling.
Do you have the seedlings of a business idea ready-made for success? Ecommerce is a rapidly growing industry, home to unique opportunities and profitable niches — so there’s no better time to jump on the trend and build your dreams online.
Store builders like Shopify and WooCommerce are making it easier for the average Joe to set up a professional-looking online store, but one question remains: what do you fill the store with?
More and more people are leaping into entrepreneurship and the room for market innovation is endless. But in a world full to the brim with ideas, each business venture is paired with both inherent risks and enormous upsides.
Read on as we discover a list of the best ecommerce ideas and a few examples to help spark your entrepreneurial inspiration.
Ecommerce is all about connecting people with the right ideas. In this section we outline a few profitable niches with the help of some fantastic real-life examples:
Discover the best business ideas and get those ecommerce cogs whirring as we explore these niches on a deeper level.
2020 has been a testing year for all business owners, but for none more so than those who operate in the hospitality industry. As we jump from one lockdown to another, our local restaurants and bars are left in the lurch, viciously yo-yoing between sudden closures and grand reopenings.
From a consumer’s perspective, one of the biggest things we’ve missed is the comfort of attending our favourite eateries. Ordering a takeaway on Deliveroo always comes with a tinge of guilt, and — despite the desire to unleash our inner Gordon Ramsey — we quickly grow tired of our culinary repertoire, especially after polishing off the fifth spaghetti bolognese of the week.
Thankfully there is a solution to our foodie woes: DIY meal kits.
Restaurants affected by the coronavirus pandemic are exploring new online revenue streams to keep themselves afloat during lockdown, and meal kits are one brilliant example of this.
These meal kits contain pre-prepared ingredients along with step-by-step instructions, so you can recreate restaurant-quality dishes from the comfort of home.
The sudden trend of DIY meal kits showcases the versatile nature of ecommerce — and how it can be on-hand to help businesses survive through hardship.
Here is one of our favourite examples so far:
Image: Pizza Pilgrims
We first heard about Pizza in the Post on the Shopify Masters podcast — and just like good pizza, we couldn’t wait to share this ingenious idea with you.
Pizza Pilgrims are a wildly successful Neapolitan pizzeria who boast restaurants across central London, including hotspots like Camden and Carnaby. When the pandemic spread, these bustling locations fell silent and were forced to close. So, with the registers empty and doors firmly shut, what was the next logical step?
Nope — not Deliveroo… Instead, Pizza Pilgrims took a different approach by setting up an ecommerce pizza store on their website. This way they’re able to securely mail fresh ingredients across the country, without fear of it arriving stale or ruined.
Now, with the store up and running, its popularity has exceeded owners Thom and James’ wildest expectations.
If you’re not a skilled pizzaiolo, it doesn’t matter, because Pizza Pilgrims have you covered with a frying pan method guide to use when your ingredients arrive. Sorted.
Fancy yourself to be an ecommerce entrepreneur in the making — or simply relish the idea of distributing great food around the country? Use Pizza Pilgrims’ Pizza in the Post idea to inspire new ecommerce business opportunities.
When we hear the term ‘subscription service’, our minds conjure up images of Netflix and Amazon Prime — or we flashback to the magazines we read as children. But subscription services, or more specifically subscription boxes, rose to prominence in the early 2000s and are fast-becoming an ecommerce heavyweight.
Forbes says subscription boxes are here to stay, which makes these goodie bags an ideal foundation for your ecommerce business idea. In a world full of choice, these boxes allow people to escape their comfort zone and try new things, yet they also serve to make our daily routine a little more streamlined.
Take men’s grooming kits for instance, which make perfect sense as a set-it-and-forget-it subscription service. A monthly grooming kit can keep you stocked up on the essentials like shavers, moisturiser, and hair wax without ever needing to give your morning routine a second thought.
Men’s grooming kits come in many forms and cater for almost any need: beard nourishment, dental care, skin care, and fragrances, just to name a few.
In a saturated market it pays to stand out from the crowd — but how do you do that? Here’s how one ecommerce business became one of the most widely-recognised men’s grooming brands:
Image: Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club is an iconic subscription-based grooming kit known for its quality products and ability to personalise your orders. The idea started with a simple problem: people buy razors and shave regularly, so they need to be replaced.
Dollar Shave Club identified that this product category lends itself seamlessly to a regular subscription model, hence why they recorded an impressive 23.40% customer retention rate back in 2015.
Fast forward to the present day and the company has kept the name, but expanded far beyond shaving supplies to become a real all-rounder. They now supply kits tailored to individuals containing a range of items: cleansers, shower soaps, and oral care products too.
What’s the secret ingredient to Dollar Shave Club’s success? Customer care. Every move the company has made has been taken to bolster consumer experience — you can even take a quiz to find out which of their products suits you best.
As we’ve seen with grooming kits, subscription packages are a rich tapestry for ecommerce opportunities. But now many marketers are moving into new territory and exploring a much broader (and far younger) demographic: kids subscription boxes.
Kids subscription boxes are a rapidly growing trend. In fact, out of the top five ecommerce product categories, ‘kids’ experience some of the largest growth spurts of any ecommerce niche.
In such a broad market, there is plenty of scope for new products — but to make the most of the opportunity, you need to decide what parents and their children value most.
On one end, you’ll have kids to entertain; on the other, you’re providing a tool to parents that makes their job a little bit easier. Take these examples for instance:
But our standout favourite has to be BakedIn — a baking club subscription box ideal for keeping kids entertained during the lockdown months. Here’s the overview of our top children’s subscription box:
Good food is fast becoming the ultimate crux of lockdown life — and while parents share a fine-dining experience with restaurant standard meal kits, kids can explore their sweet tooth by making some BakedIn treats.
Applauded by the Independent as the best kids subscription box around right now, BakedIn boxes boast a non-wasteful approach to baking by pre-preparing every ingredient for you, which means no unnecessary trips to the shop or potential flour explosions.
With various avenues to explore, the kids subscription box is a creative and plentiful ecommerce niche. All you have to do is think about your theme and all the goodies to fill the box with — and in that sense, it pays to be a parent or a big kid yourself.
Ecommerce is a fantastic avenue to explore if you’re starting a business on a small budget — and to go one better, consider dropshipping as your go-to method of distribution.
You don’t need a warehouse stacked to the rafters with inventory, nor do you need a wad of startup capital. Instead, dropshipping lets you explore profitable ecommerce niches on a budget by sourcing pre-existing stock from a supplier and have them take care of fulfilment.
So how does dropshipping work?
Although the jargon might feel intimidating, the process is widely adopted because of its simplicity. When an order is made, you purchase the product from a third party wholesaler like Oberlo who handles tracking and delivery.
Adopting a dropshipping method means you dodge many of the potential worries that come with running a startup business: stock management, storage, and mailing packages. And as you don’t keep large quantities of stock around, dropshipping also provides a greater degree of flexibility, something which allows you to experiment and fine-tune your market research.
Need help picturing the potential of this ecommerce business idea? InspireUplift is one example of a wildly successful dropshipping store. Here’s what they’re all about:
Dropshipping is an ecommerce shipping method with bags of potential — and if you set up anything like InspireUplift then you’re onto a winner.
InspireUplift is one of the oldest and most successful dropshipping stores on the web today. Starting life back in 2015 (under the name Hype Dojo) they went through a rebrand in 2017 and haven’t looked back since.
As a general store, InspireUplift sells anything from quippy t-shirts to sink caddy racks, but this broad niche is what has founded their success. By selling useful tools and cool gadgets to a women-led demographic, InspireUplift has created a business which generates millions a month.
Dropshipping is no overnight success story or get-rich-quick scheme, the key is to keep chipping away and refine what best works for you and your market. If the dropshipping method piques your interest then check out this helpful guide.
90% of ecommerce startups fail in the first 120 days — a statistic that experts say is a result of bad business planning and poor search engine visibility.
If we’re talking about an idea your heart is set on, the thought of failure is a bitter pill to swallow. However, it’s something you need to consider — not least because it’ll be you who is emotionally and financially liable for doubling down on a bad business plan.
When scrutinised under a business lens, your big idea might mutate from a homerun into a foul ball; after all, there are a lot of boxes to tick off when it comes to turning an idea into a viable company.
Ecommerce success starts with knowing your target market, solving people’s problems and catering to their desires.
Not only does your ecommerce idea need to solve a problem, but it also has to tell a compelling story that makes consumers choose you over your competitors. Here are two steps you should take before choosing your niche and powering on with an ecommerce idea:
The Golden Circle is an idea theorised by acclaimed author and all-round marketing guru Simon Sinek. He suggests the difference between most companies and the Apples and Microsofts of the world is the word why.
Where most companies build a story around what they do, really you should be focusing on why you do it. So, if you’re thinking about ecommerce opportunities for your startup, ask yourself this in descending order of importance:
Why: the core beliefs of your startup and why it exists.
How: refers to how you fulfil your core beliefs.
What: answers what the company does to fulfil why.
The key thing to remember when formulating the perfect ecommerce idea is to realise people buy into who you are rather than what it is you sell.
After all, ecommerce is a big market — there are likely thousands of others who do what you do, but your unique story is what puts you ahead of the pack.
A SWOT analysis — or SWOT matrix — is an evaluation of your ideas strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s a method of planning which evaluates the validity of your business proposal, with the process being able to be carried out across industries, products, and even people.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs are advised to perform a SWOT analysis. Not only does it indicate a business’s chances of success, but it also results in research that fuels new opportunities and competitive strategy further down the road.
Strengths: consider what your ecommerce idea has going for it and ask: is it cheap to set up like a dropshipping store — or perhaps your company culture sets you apart?
Weaknesses: this should be a list of things that hold your idea back like a lack of capital, little to no immediate brand recognition, and the overall emotional hardship of running a business.
Opportunities: here you can dare to dream and think about your ecommerce store’s future: what lies ahead — and can you establish an expansion strategy when business picks up?
Threats: every idea has a list of threats that put everything at risk, be this market competitors, legal issues, or sole liability for the business.
SWOT analysis is an incremental tool to help you understand the health of your ecommerce business idea.
Some business plans fall in line and flourish into successful organisations; others fall flat at the first hurdle, doomed by the inherent risks of business management. But all of this starts by evaluating your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Are you ready to bring your ecommerce business idea to life? We can discuss potential ideas and create a detailed plan as big as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but sometimes it’s best to kick off and get things started.
Use our list of niches as inspiration, consider the risks, and go off to create the next big ecommerce success story.