So you want to make money from home but aren’t sure where to start. Or maybe you’re already running an ecommerce business, but have a feeling that something’s just off with your storefront.
One of the keys to small business success is targeting the right people and finding a niche.
A niche (pronounced as neesh or nitch) is a specialized market that attracts a specific audience. A niche-oriented business addresses the needs that aren’t being addressed by mainstream providers.
For example, office supplies is a broad niche that can have countless sub-niches like office supplies for left-handed people or notebooks from recycled materials.
Nevertheless, what truly separates one niche from another is the people who buy these products. For that reason, approach the niche-searching process with this in mind:
There’s a person behind every purchase, so think of your niche as a group of people who have at least one common interest, problem, or need.
In this post, I’m going to cover the 4 steps to finding a niche for your online store. And if you stick with me till the end, you’ll also get a free list of more than 100 ideas you can use in your brainstorming sessions!
A niche only focuses on a fraction of the market, so you might be wondering, “Why would I want to target just a small section of the population? Wouldn’t I get more sales if I targeted everyone?” These are valid questions; after all, there are companies like Amazon and Target that are able to sell everything to everyone, and still be successful.
Learn More: How to Develop an Effective Marketing Strategy
These companies, however, are an exception, not the rule. By targeting everyone, you end up targeting no one as a result, and your sales suffer.
Consider these benefits of narrowing your niche down:
Before you start building your online store, you need to know exactly who you’re building it for. This first step will help you understand which niche you belong to as a customer and help you make more informed decisions when you choose a niche for your own store.
Your personal taste, preferences, and needs put you in several sub-niches, making you a target for countless marketers. Take a look at your favorite brands and the online purchases you’ve made recently. Why did you choose the product from this company, and not from their competitors? What does your preferred brand offer that no one else does?
The Bad Dads Club clothing brand was started by hip dads who felt that the clothing and accessories available on the market did not represent their creative personalities and lifestyle.
Many stores offer custom t-shirts, but very few brands target dads who love motorcycles and tattoos. So if you’ve ever felt limited in the selection of products or services in a niche you belong to, take The Bad Dads Club example and fill that space.
Classic Dad is another brand targeting the fatherhood niche. What sets it apart? Dad jokes. Puns about feeding a baby (and getting thrown up on), doing yard work, grilling, and other typical dad moves quickly found an audience of like-minded “classic dads.”
Inspired by childhood memories and the brand owner’s own fatherhood experience, Classic Dad’s designs are personal yet relatable. That’s exactly what a niche-oriented design should be—not for everyone, but just right for the person with a particular interest or experience. In this case, for the “grillin,’ chillin,’ and refillin’” type of dad.
How do you reach an audience as ambiguous as classic dads? If you’re a part of the niche audience you want to target, create fun social media content you personally find engaging. Classic Dad’s founder Daniel Stone started out by posting dad memes on Facebook and Instagram. The strategy proved to be such a success that several years and hundreds of thousands of followers later, it’s still in use.
If you base your brand on something you believe in or are willing to fight for, your business will build itself.
StomaStoma was started by Nick and Darlene Abrams. Their son Owen was born prematurely and needing a breathing tube and feeding tube. During the long hospital stays, Nick noticed other families wearing inspiring t-shirts and felt it was a powerful way to bring people together.
A graphic designer himself, Nick soon started creating artwork for his family and friends. Other people started noticing his eye-catching designs, and today StomaStoma has become a close-knit community with families raising medically fragile children.
This is an example of a niche that shows how you can build your brand based on something that’s very personal to you or the people in your circle. If you’re emotionally invested in your brand, it will give you the strength to persevere when you face the challenges of running a business.
Take a look at some more examples of clothing brands that turned the passions and personal experiences of their founders into profitable businesses.
Passionfruit is a brand that has tapped into the fashion needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Run by Liz Bertorelli, it aims to create inclusive clothing and accessories that enable you to show your pride all year round. Liz started out by designing shirts that she and her friends could wear to the Pride festival. The brand’s audience gradually expanded from the local queer community to queer people around the world.
The Philosopher’s Shirt is another brand built with a particular niche audience in mind: philosophy enthusiasts. The brand sells printed and embroidered apparel with funny philosophy memes, references to famous thinkers, and witty pop culture wordplay.
If you’re more of a foodie, though, you can take inspiration from Vegan Savage. The brand targets vegan lifestyle enthusiasts by offering sustainable clothing with bold text-based designs like “Plant-based athlete” and “You had me at vegan.”
It used to be that small businesses had no way to compete with big companies. Things have changed, and with the right amount of SEO (search engine optimization) and dedication, you can make your way into your biggest competitor’s space.
Before launching or scaling your store, find out what’s already going on in the market.You might be unaware of a competitor your potential customers are already interested in, or you may discover the market you’re looking to enter is much more saturated than you expected.
These days, you won’t find a niche market that doesn’t have any competition at all. That’s why it’s important to find your niche competitors, note down their strengths, and decide on the competitive advantage that will make customers choose your business over others.
Here are 3 strategies for researching the competition within your niche.
If your competitors have optimized their online stores to be better visible to search engines, you’ll have no trouble finding them on Google. The easiest way to search is to combine the name of your niche and a product name. Try typing “labrador t-shirt” or “math hoodie” to get a general idea of how this works. Once you see what’s on the market, you can brainstorm design and marketing ideas that will make your store stand out among competitors.
Online marketplaces like Etsy and RedBubble are goldmines for creative content made by artists from around the globe. Successful marketplace business owners, especially in the printed apparel segment, are highly aware of how niches work and use it to their advantage.
Research online marketplaces even if you’re not selling on these platforms. Find businesses that target your niche audience, note down their marketing tactics and top products (it’s easy—just check the Reviews section or see how many people have favorited a product).
There are several ways to find your niche market competition with the help of social media.
First, try searching for influencers and public figures that your target audience is likely to follow, and check what kind of brands and products they promote.
Second, search for hashtags on social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest. Make a list of hashtags your target audience engages with most frequently, and note down the brands that use them to promote their products. Doing this will not only help you find competitors you should keep tabs on, but will also help you develop your own marketing strategy later on.
Now that you’ve found your competitors, let’s evaluate the niche market you’ve chosen and decide whether it’s worth entering.
Some competition is OK because it validates that there’s money to be made in this niche for you as well. Your competitors will keep you on your toes which in turn will help you improve the quality of your products or services.
To keep up with (and, eventually, get ahead of) the established brands in your niche, you need to figure out your competitive advantage—the thing that makes your product stand out from the rest. What problems can you solve better than your competitors? What’s unique about your approach?
Give people a reason to choose you. It might be product quality, outstanding customer service, or the number of products you offer—whatever it is customers in your niche care about the most.
SEO is the process of making your website rank higher in Google in order to bring in visitors. Here’s an outline of the basic metrics you should be looking at, as well as some great tools you can use in your research.
Search volume is the estimated volume (or number) of searches for a particular keyword in a given timeframe, and it’s one of the most important metrics that can help you evaluate the interest in and profitability of your niche.
Take advantage of the marketing tools out there and pinpoint what is it that people are searching for online. Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush will help you with keyword research and find the data behind Google searches. You can also use free tools like Answer the Public or Ubersuggest to find information about people’s search queries.
If the search volume is high, it means that there’s a lot of interest in this niche. A lot of interest also means a lot of potential—and a lot of competition. Ideally, you should target keywords with the search volume of 1,000 and higher.
If the search volume is very low, it doesn’t necessarily mean the niche doesn’t exist or it isn’t profitable. Low search volume may indicate that you’re about to be a pioneer in the niche. And if the product doesn’t exist, people don’t know to search for it. Use this to your advantage as your business continues to scale—the search volume will increase with the popularity of your niche.
Online shoppers get very specific, so pay attention to long-tail keywords. “Rose gold custom bracelet” will see far fewer searches than “women’s jewelry”, but it’s a search performed by someone who knows exactly what accessory they want.
When choosing products for your online store, keep an eye on what’s trending. Don’t fall for a fad though—use Google trends to help you to find out which of your niche ideas have a steady and growing trend. If you want your store to thrive as fads change, focus it on something that has more staying power than a fidget spinner.
Now that you’ve done your research, you need to get a better understanding of what exactly your potential customers need.
If you’re going to give your niche audience just another product, you may end up not getting anywhere. What you need to think about is how to solve their problems. Find the issues your target customers might be having, then determine whether you can actually provide a solution.
For a more in-depth look at your niche audience, explore forums on websites like Quora and Reddit related to your niche, then take a look at the discussions taking place. What questions are people asking? What problems do they have?
Iconspeak, a brand selling t-shirts for travelers, is a great example of a niche that has emerged from a problem-solving process. Iconspeak co-founders Georg and Florian came across the idea of their main product by accident.
During a trip across Southeast Asia, their motorbikes broke down frequently, and they had to find a way to communicate with the locals to find repair shops. Images speak a universal language, so they started drawing pictures of what they needed on paper. Georg and Florian realized that they kept reusing the drawings all the time, so they decided it would make more sense to put them on a t-shirt. And that’s how Iconspeak was born.
This is a textbook case of a niche: Georg and Florian discovered a niche (independent travelers) with a specific need (an easy way to communicate when words fail) and provided a unique solution with their niche t-shirts.
As promised, here are 100+ ideas you can base your online store upon. This list is not exhaustive, so feel free to mix and match these topics to create a unique niche for a t-shirt store, art shop, or any other form of ecommerce business.
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If you didn’t yet find the topic that makes your eyes light up, we have 50 more ideas prepared, you can download them below.
We have now covered the main aspects of finding your place in the ecommerce world. To recap, here are the 4 things you should do to find your niche:
And now it’s time to implement these tips in real life and start building your own niche business. Taking action is the scariest part for any entrepreneur, but fear not: if you go through these steps thoroughly, entering the market will be a calculated risk, not a shot in the dark.
Tell me in the comments how it went, I’d love to hear from you!
Madara is a content marketer for the Printful Blog. Her background in linguistics and belief in the power of SEO come in handy when she’s creating content that inspires ecommerce store owners and helps them grow their business.