It’s true what they say — when you try to sell to everyone, you sell to no-one. But identifying your customers (and the products that will appeal to them) is arguably the hardest part of selling online. Try these five simple strategies and you’ll find your niche in no time.
With thousands of online marketplaces, billions of potential customers and a near-infinite supply of goods to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to setting up shop online.
Your best strategy is to find a niche – a subset of a larger market with identifiable problems or desires that you can meet.
The best niches have:
For example – within the wider market of the DIY industry, a successful niche could be an online shop catering specifically for left-handed hobbyists who struggle to use regular tools.
The home improvement market has year-round appeal, a younger audience with money to spend, an infrequent turnover and plenty of DIY forums to populate with ads. Add the left-handed specialism to the equation and you have a solid niche to target.
Beyond these factors, the key to success is carefully researching potential audiences and trying out different approaches to find a viable angle.
Here are five tried-and-tested strategies to get you started.
The best way to find out which products have appeal is to work out what your audience is recommending themselves. That means spending lots of time reading and searching through forums, message boards, and social media groups.
First, you’ll need to work out where your audience is gathering. Try searching Reddit threads, Facebook groups and the message boards of dedicated publications and websites. Make a note of the problems that are mentioned again and again — and what solutions are being offered in response.
You might also want to keep tabs on what industry or community figures, prominent hobbyists and influencers are recommending. But be wary that reviews might have been paid for, and that recommendations might have been written by other online sellers.
To make your offering stand out, consider choosing products that can be customized or altered according to the customer’s preferences. More freedom to personalize could be what sets you apart from the competition.
Alternately, you might apply your own logo to the products and work on building a name for your brand. It lends credibility to a newer seller and it’s a sure-fire way to stand out if your market gets more saturated down the line.
Lastly, you may want to think about picking items that accessories can be added to. Customers are far less averse to splashing out on accessories if they’ve already committed to a larger item, and if you find a niche with a lot of desirable accessories, you’ll enjoy higher profit margins overall.
Does your audience wish that a better product existed? Or that an existing product was more readily available?
If your audience is lusting over a range of products online, but shipping individual orders is prohibitively expensive or unavailable, could you contact the manufacturer and be the seller that bridges the gap?
Pay attention to what your audience wishes they had and you might well find your niche.
As you go about your day, make a note every time someone around you encounters a problem they can’t easily fix. Every time you get frustrated with an object you’re interacting with, write a memo so you can search for solutions later.
People will always be willing to spend money on products that can eliminate persistent problems or fulfill a desire — if you can make people happy, you’ll have a profitable niche.
The explosion in monthly subscriber boxes in recent years just goes to show — niche audiences like to be understood and catered for directly.
Whether you’re selling beauty boxes, a coffee subscription or collections of geeky memorabilia, creating kits allows you to build a whole new product out of existing ones and market it directly to a specific audience. It also helps you tap into the lucrative gifting market, where gift-givers often base their searches around a loved one’s hobbies or interests.
And you don’t always have to theme a kit around an interest – life events such as ‘back to school’ or ‘hen do’ also provide opportunities to group products. Brands that make regular deliveries of quality everyday items such as razors or vitamins make shopping less of a headache for their customers, and often gain a loyal fan base.
When you start thinking laterally, the possibilities are endless.
Of course, you’ll probably have to adjust your inventory and marketing plan several times until you hit on a combination that works.
So, cash and time allowing, why not try a few different angles at once? It’s easy enough to set up an online shop on an existing marketplace or create a basic ecommerce site. You could then choose two or three of your strongest product lines (or combinations) and replicate your set up, setting clear goals and monitoring sales and engagement.
Testing your ideas this way means you reduce the chance of consecutive failures. If one shop begins to outperform the others, that’s a real-world confirmation of which product line to put your weight behind.
Hopefully, you now have some angles to explore when you get down to doing your research. Finding your identity as an online seller can take time, but it’s worth remembering that even ecommerce titans like Amazon grew out of one small, successful niche.