Succeeding in ecommerce can be tough, but super rewarding. If you’re in business, you already know how many hours it takes to finally make a product you’re proud of. The next step is selling it, but how do you figure out to whom?
Even if your brand offers something as popular as t-shirts, your products aren’t going to appeal to everyone. That’s totally fine because you’d have a lot of competition and that makes it incredibly difficult to find customers. What you’re really looking for is a specific group of people interested in your product—this is your niche.
Most people already have a niche, they just don’t know what it is. If you’ve ever wondered how to find your niche and succeed in it, this article is for you.
There are 4 steps you’ll have to take:
- Identify your areas of expertise
- Solve your customers’ problem
- Research the market
- Promote your product
Let’s jump right in!
Step 1: Identify your areas of expertise
You need to define 3 things to find your niche:
- Strengths – what you’re good at doing
- Interests – what you’re curious about
- Weaknesses – what you need to improve
Your niche is a combination of the three. Let me explain how it all comes together.
One great example is Iconspeak, a brand selling t-shirts printed with colorful icons. The founders, Georg and Florian, loved travelling—it was definitely a strength of theirs. They came up with the idea for Iconspeak by complete accident though.
They had a ton of experience of traveling through the Vietnamese countryside. Going by motorbike, they’d often have to stop in some remote village and ask for repairs. How did they communicate with the locals who didn’t speak English when there was no Google translate around? They used something universal that everyone understands – pictures!
On their journey, they discovered a need most travelers are familiar with: an easy way to communicate. It was the unique circumstances they experienced in their travels that mattered. Many people can travel around the world, but very few will end up in remote villages asking for repairs using drawings.
Your strength should be unique to you, so think back to experiences that no one else can talk about the same way. That’s where you’ll find your biggest strengths.
Maybe you only have one, maybe you have a few. To narrow it down you’ll also need to factor in your interests.
Georg and Florian were far from professionals in visual communication, but they were persistent. Their interest was figuring out the best method of expressing their problems to locals who didn’t speak English. They quickly figured out that putting the drawings on a t-shirt solved this problem.
They thought of the idea for Iconspeak on the trip, but it took a couple of years for them to take the plunge and bring it to life.
Your niche will stem from a problem you’re trying to solve. It’s unlikely that your first attempt at solving the problem will be perfect, so your next step will be to iron out its kinks.
Iconspeak’s weakness at this point was actually marketing their product. They spent a lot of time pitching their brand to publications and getting rejected. Instead of giving up, they became very persistent. It paid off and they started making sales.
Their example is both lucky and smart. They didn’t know their mechanical troubles in Vietnam would lead to a brilliant t-shirt idea, but they did realize that with enough hard work they could turn it into a real business.
So think about the life experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from your hobbies or travels. Most likely you’ve had a solution to problems that others have experienced as well. This will be the next step to finding your niche in business.
Step 2: Solve your audience’s problem
The next step is finding a niche product and turning your concept into something that solves a problem. But how do you actually do that? You’ll need a solution that specifically addresses your audience.
Take for example StomaStoma, a brand started by Nick and Darlene Abrams, after their son Owen was born premature and needing both a breathing tube and feeding tube.
Initially, they designed t-shirts for themselves, friends, and family to help support their son. After Owen got out of the hospital, they designed shirts for other kids who are on the journey of getting better.
Part of owning your niche will mean reaching out to others. The Abrams were at first solving a problem for themselves, but quickly realized that others were experiencing it as well.
Their products tell an engaging story and help their customers connect with each other.
Nick’s designs are eye-catching tell a story of kids and families that are on a similar journey as the Abrams. But most importantly, StomaStoma products help make the everyday life of these families brighter by focusing on the good and positive.
Coming together in support of a medically fragile child is the problem StomaStoma solved. It was the emotional benefit to wearing the t-shirt that made them a hit.
How do you know your solution is the best one out there, though? Maybe someone else has come up with a similar concept and is trying to address the same problems as you are.
Now the third step comes into play. It’s time to do your research.
Step 3: Research the market
Before dipping your toes in a new market, it’s critical to know what’s going on with it. You might be unaware of a competitor that potential customers are already interested in.
Some competition is okay, as it gives you room to be innovative. It also means there’s money to be made in this niche. On the other hand, a market full of competitors is probably not where you want to be.
The popularity of your niche is also important. There should be enough people interested in your product, but how do you measure overall interest? There are two things you need to consider when estimating the market potential for your product: online search volume and your competitive advantage.
Online search volume
Knowing how often people search for information related to your niche is a good way to gauge general interest for it. Use Google to identify the local (or global) trends among online shoppers. This will help you find a gap in the market for your product.
The actual search term (keyword) should be related to your niche. A broad keyword or product, such as burgers, will have a high search volume and competition.
Use tools like Ahrefs to find the data behind Google searches for burgers in the United States. You can also play around with free tools like Answer the Public or Ubersuggest to find this kind of information.
Right away we see search volume (91K) per month globally, and almost half of it (45k) in the US. How do you know what lies behind burgers search? Is it a burger restaurant, or maybe a recipe?
The keyword difficulty also gives you an idea of how tough it will be to compete against related niche products. Burgers aren’t quite a niche product, but they can become part of a niche, e.g. hamburger phones.
Let’s try searching for vegan burgers instead.
Here we see a smaller search volume, only 6.8K globally and 3.6K in the United States. The keyword difficulty is lower too, so you can make an assumption that vegan burgers are less popular than normal burgers. This could be a burger-related niche that you’d want to explore.
As a broad rule of thumb is to go for a 1K to 10K monthly keyword search volume. This won’t always be the case though.
If your keyword search volume is low, it doesn’t necessarily mean the niche doesn’t exist or that it isn’t popular. It could be because the keywords are language-specific, and not English, for example.
Search volume will also be low if you’re the first to explore that specific niche. If the product doesn’t exist people don’t know to search for it. Use this to your advantage as you continue to grow— the niche’s increased popularity over time means the search volume will increase.
Everything I’ve mentioned about online search volume is part of a broader topic called SEO (search engine optimization). I won’t go into further detail for the time being, but if you’d like more tips on how to rank in Google, be sure to check out our blog.
Beating the competitors
If you’re a new player on the market, you’re already behind the established brands in your niche. To get ahead of them, you’ll need to figure out your competitive advantage—the thing that makes your product stand out from the rest.
It might be product quality, it could also be customer service or the number of products you offer—whatever it is that customers in your niche care about the most.
If you don’t have the luxury of being the first in your niche, you need to give people a reason to choose you. Take notes from your favorite brands, what do they offer that no one else does? Why do you choose them over the competition?
No matter what it is, a good brand will focus on one specific aspect of their business and do that better than anyone else.
Step 4: Promote your Product
Practice makes perfect. You can do all the theorizing in the world, but unless you actually do something with your product, it’ll be tough to earn any money.
Promotion can help you find your niche by getting insight from your customers. When starting out, the first reviews matter the most—they’re an important source of feedback and social proof. Here are ways you can get them:
- Sharing on free channels
- Creating ads on Facebook or on Google
- Writing a blog
- Make an email list
- Using influencers
Ask your friends and family to try out the product and give feedback. They’ll be honest and can provide constructive criticism, and maybe if they really love it, they’ll recommend it to their own friends.
Forums or message boards can also be helpful. Find one that specializes in your niche and see what like-minded people have to say. You’re going to reach a broader audience and gain better insight into your niche product.
Thanks to Facebook and Google, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get the word out about your product.
If you have a Facebook page, you can create custom ads for your business and target audiences specific to your niche based on their age, gender, hobbies & interests, and many other factors. You can read about how to advertise using Facebook ads to learn more.
Google ads is another powerful tool to add to your arsenal. These sponsored ads appear at the top of Google search results and are noted with the ad label.
Here are the main differences between advertising on Facebook and Google:
Research and see where your audience is more likely to be. If they’re using search engines to find what they’re looking for, then Google makes sense. If they spend most of their time on social media, then Facebook is what you should use.
A blog is another great way to drive traffic to your website. Writing about clever or useful ways to use your product is interesting for readers. You can also make videos or tutorials for new customers. This is an opportunity to showcase your own expertise in the product field and increase the credibility of your brand by giving customers helpful, actionable advice.
Email marketing is the industry standard for reaching out to a growing customer base. You can use it for sharing product promos, blog posts, and any special deals you might be running. Klaviyo is good for when you’re just starting out. Signup is free and the service is easy to use—automating email campaigns will save you tons of time, as well.
As a budding ecommerce business, you should start by reaching out to blogs or micro influencers to promote your brand. They don’t have to be exactly within your niche but should be related. For example, your niche might be incredibly specific (such as drawing caricatures) but still, fall within a broader interest range (art and portrait drawing).
You can offer a free sample to the authors of these websites in exchange for writing content about you. Often they’ll be happy to have new and exciting content to write about; and if they do charge you, then offering them a sample might get you a discount.
The key takeaway from this step is to promote as much as you can through relevant channels. Your product isn’t going to be perfect the first time you launch it, and that’s totally OK.
Grow your niche
I hope these 4 steps will help you turn that idea in your head into a business. You might not be the only one who’s wished for a product that solves a particular problem, but you could be the first to create and sell it.
So start brainstorming today, because it’s never too late to launch an online store. Be brave, take a risk and see where your passion leads you, it just might become the next big thing!
If you’ve already found your niche and would like to share the story, please do so in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!