If you type just about anything into Google about “e-commerce niches,” you’ll find thousands of articles about “how to choose a niche.” That’s great for someone who can cherry-pick what to sell in a new online venture, but for brands and manufacturers who already have a niche and want to know how to successfully join e-commerce, there are two questions that go unanswered:
- How do you research your niche online (if you already have one)?
- And how do you stand out in that niche?
The extraordinary growth in e-commerce since the first Amazon sale 25 years ago isn’t news to anyone, but the accelerated rate of growth in 2020 has captured the world’s attention. With the growth in e-commerce reaching four to six times the anticipated rate at the start of the year, it’s all most online brands could do to keep up with demand.
If staggering growth wasn’t the story for you, however, or if you’re just now looking to get into e-commerce for the first time, research and strategy for your niche will be the key to standing out.
How do you define an online niche?
You might have wondered if niches defined the same way online that they are in brick-and-mortar retail. The answer is both yes and no.
Larger niches are roughly the same in e-commerce as they are in physical retail, but more specific niches have been re-defined (and sub-defined) online because of how specific users can get in search. It doesn’t matter anymore what’s on a shelf in front of them. They aren’t comparison shopping between brands at the store. Now, they’re comparing products that ship from anywhere in the world and can easily navigate away to a product that more specifically fits their needs. This has given rise to sub-niches that get extremely specific, for example:
- Furniture leads to…
- Budget furniture which leads to…
- Budget furniture for small homes which leads to…
- Collapsible budget furniture for small homes (a micro-niche)
- Budget furniture for small homes which leads to…
- Budget furniture which leads to…
What’s more, each platform that users shop on will have its own spin on how these niches are broken down based on how their users search for products. This means that a micro-niche could be defined differently on Facebook Marketplace versus Amazon.
The first step to defining your own online niche is to decide which marketplaces or platforms you’ll sell on. Start by searching for products like yours, and then decide which niche(s) you want to stand out in.back to menu ↑
Can the way your niche is defined actually change?
You’re already selling products, and you already have a niche. You’re not a new brand—you’ve been around the block. Your product catalog is set, and your brand has been a name in its niche for years.
At the same time, e-commerce is a new frontier. The way your brand is found and classified can change in e-commerce, actively or passively, because you’re navigating new terrain.
Looking at the more active side of the coin, your launch to e-commerce is a natural opportunity to reposition your brand for online sales. This might include a more formal brand refresh (with a new logo or color palette), or a simple “redirection” of existing brand values that you want to highlight more for online audiences.
Similarly, you can re-define your niche at the time you launch e-commerce.
For example, say you make and sell sportswear. You have a popular line of sunglasses along with all the running and hiking gear your customers love. Online, you see that sunglasses are forked into several niches that are steeped with the competition. You could therefore redefine your e-commerce niche as athletic wear only to stand out (while your sunglasses are still available, anyway, since they’re designed for sports outings).back to menu ↑
Make a case for narrowing your niche
You can also consider narrowing your niche by selling only specific products online. Sure, you’ll eliminate potential customers if you do this, but you’ll also be able to focus more strategically on the niche you can best stand out in.
This strategy, called “micro-niche marketing,” has become more popular in the last year for that very reason. Essentially, you find the narrowest possible niche and then dominate it.
Coming back to our furniture example (furniture > budget furniture > budget furniture for small homes > collapsible budget furniture for small homes), you can rank your content and product listings more easily for “collapsible budget furniture for small homes” than you can for “furniture.” You’ll also reach consumers who are very specifically looking for what you offer, which then boosts your conversion rates.back to menu ↑
How to research your e-commerce niche
Now you’re ready to start researching your e-commerce niche to get better insights into how to stand out among the brands already there.
To kick off your research, go back to the marketplaces or channels you decided you want to sell on. For example, if you’re going to load your products to Amazon, that’s where your specific niche research should start.
Start typing in your product names, your niche, any sub-niches, and other popular search strings that could point a user to your products. As you do this, Amazon’s search bar will automatically show you long-tail keyword suggestions to fill in. Take note of these and then dive into the search results of each individually to see what other brands pop up most often.
Next, open the product pages of those top sellers and take notes on what they do (well and not-so-well). How do their product listings shape up? What kind of product media do they have (like product videos and enriched photos)?
Finally, scroll down to product reviews. You can learn loads from these reviews because any customers that take the time to say something here have strong opinions. The consumer sentiment you discover here will come in good, bad, and ugly:
- Good reviews will tell you where the bar is set. You have to meet this standard and, at the very least, offer whatever the customer liked about the product or buying experience.
- The bad is where you’ll start to see opportunities to stand out in your niche. Unsatisfied customers will state clear complaints that you can ensure are never part of your offering.
- The ugly is where you’ll see exactly how you can stand out and dominate your niche. Whatever your competition has failed at is what you should deliver perfectly.
To continue researching your niche, move down the list of channels you plan to sell on and do this same thing—search keywords and niches, review product pages and take notes on reviews. Be sure to peruse Google and social media channels, too.back to menu ↑
How to stand out in your e-commerce niche
Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll have all the information you need to stand out in your e-commerce niche. Even in a niche that’s over-saturated (which is just about every niche these days), there are two proven strategies that will set you up for success.back to menu ↑
Strategy 1: Give buyers something your competitors don’t
Take all your notes on the reviews you read on competitors’ products. The “bad” and the “ugly” you saw from consumers shed light on the very real need consumers have.
If you’re coming to e-commerce with an existing brand, you also have something many of your competitors do not: legacy capital. If you’ve been around longer than your competitors, you can easily leverage something like your time in business to build trust in a way your competitors can’t.
Your product listings can be made better than your competitors’, too, especially with the research you have from each platform you want to sell on. A product listing made better means managing your product data better (so it can be optimized for each channel), because the name of the game in customer experience (CX) today is product content. There’s always room for more product videos and better photos because that’s what consumers want most before buying online. You can own that level of attention to CX in your niche.back to menu ↑
Strategy 2: Consider additional products around your base products
This is a long-term strategy, but one that can offer you an unbeatable advantage in owning your niche: consider adding products to your line-up that better fill the e-commerce niche you’ve identified.
For example, say you’ve found that Amazon lists your niche as something a little off of what your brand has been defined by retailers before. In this case, there could be some new product offerings that would better fit your online niche and help establish your presence there. If you intend for e-commerce to become a big part of your sales strategy going forward, this kind of thinking can help inform your future product development.
Let’s get real—if you’re trying to stand out in the t-shirt niche online, you might be out of luck as the world reaches a level of comic saturation. For just about every other niche, however, we’re convinced the space is fair game for your brand to come in and stand out.
Whether you sell furniture, athletic apparel, or something else, e-commerce is a hotbed of disruption. Smart brands come in and own spaces with the right strategies in place, always remaining agile to roll with the punches.
Though there’s a lot of work that goes into it, the equation is simple: identify your niche, research it, and you’ll be set to stand out.back to menu ↑
- Author: Alex Borzo
- Author Bio:
- Amber Engine is a software company passionate about e-commerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors, and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months.
- Author Picture
The following blog was written by guest author Alex Borzo, a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about e-commerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors, and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months.