Chapter 1 Learn Ways to Find Niche Products and Start Selling Online in 2019 (Get Educated Before You Start)
Katey Ferenzi / 16 min read
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Thinking of starting an ecommerce website?
Online business competition is fiercer than ever.
This is why figuring out what to sell online is a strategy in and of itself.
You’d be surprised how many people set up a store before identifying ecommerce opportunities. This is setting yourself up for failure.
Choosing the right products to sell will impact every other business decision you make.
Forget a pretty theme.
Forget a catchy company name.
Forget about your social media following.
Forget which shipping options you offer.
They’re all important, but the most important thing you must get right from the very beginning is exactly what you sell and how you price those products.
Finding The Best Products To Sell Online:
Need product ideas for what to sell online?
Regardless of which industry you are in, there are generally two types of products you can sell: commoditized products and niche products.
Commoditized products are essential, high demand, or popular goods or services that can be physical or digital products. These are products everybody needs.
Niche products are goods or services that serve a specific customer base and product category.
In many instances, these are unique and one-of-a-kind, handmade products, making them some of the most popular items bought online.
Niche products are often made in small batch runs or on demand. Think of a unique beaded necklace, handmade frozen yogurt or leather iPad cases.
However, many store owners sell a combination of commoditized products and niche products to increase their profit margin.
Take a look at Spearmint Love, for instance.
This site aggregates baby clothes from across the web, and also offers a few unique products of their own.
Offering only commoditized items, especially if they are popular products sold on major online marketplaces, like Amazon, will make it extremely difficult to become successful.
Larger online retailers and marketplaces can buy items in large quantities, which makes for more profitable products. Your startup likely won’t be able to compete.
Instead, offer commoditized and niche products to your customers while delivering an on-brand experience to set your online shop up for success.
The Value in Unique
The motivation behind launching our business was a combination of wanting to be in charge of our own destiny and the thrill of making a high quality American-made product that others would enjoy and value.
In 2004, we saw an opportunity in a updating an existing apparel accessory that had not really changed in decades.
At that time you could still purchase the same style ribbon belt your father and grandfather purchased 20 year before: a simple repeated clip art designs finished with low quality materials.
After a couple years use it was worn out and you needed to purchase a new one.
So, we decided to up the game.
We started by using local artists as designers and constructed our belts using the highest quality raw materials.
The result has been much higher quality and longer lasting product adorned with unique whimsical designs.
We started our business because we wanted to create something new, fun and of value.
We’ve achieved that.
– Jim Taylor, President & Owner, Belted Cow
Here are seven different ways to generate ideas when trying to decide what to sell online.
1. Identify or create products that solve a problem.
We’ve all heard the saying: necessity is the mother of invention.
Taking this tack when generating ideas for a product or service is a reliable avenue to kickstart a successful business.
Opportunities may exist in a few forms, including an improved product feature, a market unrealized by your competitors, or even unique marketing.
Try tuning into your everyday tasks. What things put a hitch in your giddyup?
Those small annoyances can turn out to be a brilliant business idea. Pinpoint a problem and conveniently solve it.
Your product or service doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge, complicated endeavor.
It can be quite simple, yet exceptionally effective.
As an example, look at the story behind Kyle Kirkpatricki’s invention of Decibullz.
As an Olympic-level gymnastic coach, Kyle Kirkpatrick had a very specific problem. He wanted to listen to music while training athletes but needed headphones that would stay in place, regardless of whether he was running or jumping on the trampoline performing flips and other techniques.
After years spent researching and testing countless headphone brands in search of a product that offered solid sound quality along with flexibility and mobility, Kyle realized the product he wanted didn’t yet exist. So, he decided to build it.
As the business grew, the Decibullz team began to feel limited with their ecommerce solution. They began the search for a new ecommerce platform that was capable of scaling growth and could deliver faster page load times. That’s when they found BigCommerce.
“We saw a drastic improvement in our site load times after migrating to BigCommerce. Our page-load times were close to six seconds, on average, with WooCommerce, and now we’re at around 1.2 seconds on BigCommerce, which is an 80 percent improvement.,” says Clay Lyell, Marketing Manager at Decibullz.
“From a margin standpoint, our site is one of the best. Selling on BigCommerce helps us stay true to our brand because it enables us to deliver a holistic and powerful brand experience to every customer who orders from our site.”
2. Find products you and other people are passionate about.
Let’s be honest, starting your own business means long hours, likely some rocky terrain and the occasional, if not frequent, sacrifice.
Being passionate about what you do will not only help you see the forest through the trees during the hard times, but it will also help you in crafting a brand that speaks to people in a way that is meaningful and engaging.
Putting Love and Life to Work
In Japan, kigurumi costumes have become a popular way to break the conventions of traditional dress, often being worn as comfy loungewear.
Shoko Mimura was well aware of the growing trend from Japan, but once he learned of its exploding in popularity in the United Kingdom, Shoko decided to bring kigurumi to the United States in Spring 2011.
Since then, Kigurumi Shop has become an online retail powerhouse and North American distributor of the SAZAC brand, the originator of the kigurumi trend.
Like other brands, Kigurumi Shop started to outgrow their ecommerce solution. When looking for a new platform, Shoko Mimura, shared “Having a reliable platform is incredibly important to our company. All product transactions are completed online, so we lose major revenue if our platform fails in any way.”
Choosing BigCommerce to power the Kigurumi Shop came down to rich functionality, ease-of-use, price, and less development work. “I decided that transferring to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform would allow us to outsource the ecommerce development portion of our business, allowing us to instead focus on branding, customer experience and marketing. I didn’t want the stress of doing the development work myself or hiring and supervising programmers. Instead, I wanted my focus to be on creating a unique store and brand that would stand out.”
After two years of being on BigCommerce, Kigurumi Shop hasn’t experienced any issues. Mimura notes, “Changing platforms while running a business is inherently stressful, but with BigCommerce everything went incredibly smoothly.”
Combining Niche with Passion
I made a 26.2 Runner Girl anklet to commemorate my 1st Marathon.
When other runners saw it, they wanted one.
I realized that you can’t wear your race medal around to show off your accomplishment, so I create a new line of running themed jewelry and presented the line to a local running race director for her opinion on whether or not she thought this would be well received.
Her comment was “You got something special here! Go for it”
She allowed me to showcase and sell my line of running jewelry at her local race expos and it was a huge hit!
At the time no one else was doing this commercially!
– Melody Tabman, Owner & Designer at Milestones Sports Jewelry.
3. Find products with branding potential.
Creating a brand that resonates is particularly important if you’re thinking of pursuing a competitive ecommerce industry.
Crafting a recognizable and memorable brand means you’ll need to put in the time to research and truly understand your target audience.
Your brand should speak to your potential customers in a way that both resonates and compels them to come back.
In other words, you want to build loyalty based on audience identity.
Some great questions to start with here are:
- How does your target audience like to be addressed?
- How will you position your product?
- How will you design your website to communicate your brand and appeal to your potential customers through layout, color scheme and calls to action?
When a Brand Becomes a Lifestyle
When it comes to crafting a brand and experience that resonate, Miranda Burnet of Flash Tattoos is an expert.
The rapid rise of Flash Tattoos from its founding in 2013 was spurred initially by Burnet’s savvy use of social media and organically generated influencer marketing. She built a community of fans that included celebrities and fashion icons as well as stylists, editors and bloggers around the world.
As the brand grew, so did the interest from brands wanting to produce custom tattoos and collections, further propelling growth. Despite initial sales exceeding all of Burnet’s expectations, the best was yet to come.
In 2015, the Flash Tattoos team found themselves in a position to collaborate with Beyoncé. With an opportunity to introduce Flash Tattoos to millions of Beyoncé fans and potential new customers, the team knew the brand’s online store would be critical to success
Launching the Beyoncé collection, a project nine months in the making, required the company to plan for every possible scenario: ranging from ordering appropriate inventory amounts to ensuring its website was prepared for the expected spike in traffic.
The exhaustive preparation wasn’t in vain; after launching the collection, the site experienced 10x its normal traffic.
Working closely with BigCommerce, Flash Tattoos was able to work through all of the anticipated technical issues well before launch. That allowed the team to focus on executing other aspects, such as its successful #BeyoncexFlashTattoos social campaign.
4. Hop on trends early.
Carving out a place for your brand within an emerging market is ideal.
To do this, it is pivotal that you stay up-to-date on recent, trending products and services –– and then launch an ecommerce site to capitalize on them before they hit peak popularity.
Suzanne Moore started an online rubber stamp store right as the creative market was booming, and her business grew so fast that she was able to sell the store and launch a new venture helping other online entrepreneurs grow their own businesses.
This business angle can be a slippery slope, given that many trends don’t last.
However, the upside can be tremendous for a small business owner, as you’ll have a leg up on SEO and establish yourself as a leader within the industry from early on.
Start thinking of products or services that have been trending up in recent years (e.g., technology, survival gear, vintage, healthy living, flash tattoos).
Launch Before the Craze
Serving as proof that launching in the right market at the right time leads to success, online store Fugoo was built on the backs of team members who played integral roles at Acer, eMachines, Harmon Kardon, JBL and Toshiba.
The Fugoo team even won “Best of CES” awards in 2015. These awards given out typically to brands like Apple and Google when they show off new, unseen technology and products.
“Fugoo’s team is comprised of award-winning industry leaders who have been integral in the creation of many key technology industry milestones, including driving the development and industry adoption of Bluetooth,” reads their website.
In all, the Fugoo team used their skills and industry knowledge to launch the Fugoo Bluetooth wireless speaker just before the bigger technology brands caught on to the trend.
With 300% growth YoY and #1 placement in Google search results, see how Fugoo used BigCommerce to grow their global brand.
5. Find products that fulfill guilty pleasures.
Another solid business avenue to pursue is catering to customers’ passions, or even their vices.
Shoppers often spend more on their guilty pleasures, developing deep loyalty to brands that understand their obsessions.
BonBonBon offers its customers customizable chocolate boxes and uses bright colors to serve a fun brand message. The brand knows customization coupled with a delicious product is important to their customer base.
6. Identify and serve niche segments.
Niche segments often spell success for ecommerce.
Take, for example, Berkey Water.
Berkey Water is a water purification system unlike anything else on the market. You could put radioactive sludge in it and it would pull out drinkable water for you.
It is that good.
And because it is that good, it has niche markets which are increasingly loyal to the brand.
For instance, the prepper market –– full of individuals who are readying for disaster 24/7. Or, the health and cancer recovery segment –– where individuals are looking for the absolute cleanest water possible.
Plenty of other shopping segments love the Berkey Water filter, as well, but their success has long been hinged on markets on the lookout for the absolute best in water purification.
And the love that these segments have for the product is proven in their testimonials:
10 Ideas For Niche Products To Sell Online:
- Unique beaded necklaces.
- Hand-made frozen yogurt.
- Leather iPad cases.
- Bluetooth wireless speakers.
- Baby clothes.
- Mason jar pour caps.
- Fidget spinners.
- Organic beard oil.
- Bow ties.
- Wood apparel.
Niche Crafting Over Generations
The desire to honor my father and other farmers who provide seasonal organic food was the main motivation behind starting CORKY’S NUTS.
Growing up on our walnut farm, I witnessed the care and passion my father put into growing his walnuts.
It seemed only natural for me to create a company which allows people to experience what fresh organic walnuts taste like just after harvest, rather than walnuts that sit on store shelves for unknown periods of time.
– Nicole Facciuto. Founder, CORKY’S NUTS
7. Spot business opportunities absolutely everywhere.
If the above suggestions aren’t resonating, here are a few ways to find great business ideas in your everyday life.
- Start taking people seriously when they give you compliments. What is it that people tell you you’re great at? Perhaps family and friends can’t get get enough of your online reviews. This is exactly how Spearmint Love started. Founder Shari Lott was a once-time baby clothes blogger and reviewer. Soon, she realized she was gaining more traffic and praise than many of the brands she promoted. So, she decided to start calling in wholesale orders and selling the goods herself. Today, Spearmint Love is a wildly successful brand, and Sheri is a well-known trend-spotter in the industry.
- Start snooping around websites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy. You’ll be amazed at the simple things being sold online, including vintage items found at a thrift store, party lights, dog toys, tablecloths, decorative pillows and wedding decor. Checkout a site like GolfEtail which uses eBay as an additional sales channel to significantly increase overall brand revenue.
- Think about a new spin for old items. Even just giving something a new paint job can turn a $5 item into a $50 gem. Check out the angle Bread & Jam took on standard items you’d likely find anywhere, turning them into treasured pieces.
- Consider impulse buys or items people buy regularly. This could include items like incense, candles, novelties and DVDs. NatoMounts, for instance, sells phone holders for cars –– which about 80% of their audience buys from their phone (but hopefully not in the car!).
Continue on to learn how to evaluate your list of business ideas to better understand what is realistic, feasible and market-ready.
FAQs About Selling Online:
How do you sell products online?
If you are interested in selling products online, we suggest the following steps to increase your chances of success.
It is rare that you will find any easy product to sell.
It takes work both pre and post-launch to successfully sell products online.
- Do market research.
- Finalize products to sell.
- Choose which ecommerce platforms to sell on such as your own online store, Amazon, eBay, Facebook and other sites customers buy from.
- Create high-quality product content (including product descriptions and imagery).
- Market to your potential customers to drive traffic to product listings.
Where can I sell my products?
For many B2C ecommerce merchants, branded stores, along with Amazon and eBay account for over 90% of all sales.
Below are several places to sell your products online:
- Your own branded store.
- Google Shopping.
- Affiliate sites.
- Ecommerce landing page
How do you start selling on Amazon?
- Decide what you want to sell.
- Choose either the Professional plan (sell an unlimited number of products with a listing fee of $39.99 per month or Individuals plan (pay $0.99 per item sold).
- Register and start listing products.
- Improve product visibility on Amazon.
- Drive traffic to your products.
After you list your products, customers will be able to purchase them on Amazon.com. However, you need to be strategic about helping customers find your products.
We suggest improving visibility of your products with tactics such as an Amazon SEO strategy.
We also recommend reading The Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon for more ideas to help you start selling on Amazon.
Resources To Help You Start Selling Online
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
As a budding online entrepreneur, there’s quite a bit of homework and first steps to take before you can make money.
Each of the articles in these sections will walk you through how to set yourself up for long term online selling success.
- Our in-depth guide, which this is Chapter 1 of 8, to help educate you on starting an ecommerce business. Includes chapters on evaluating marketing viability, conducting online market research, laws to consider, specific steps to launch an ecommerce store, and more.
Additional Resources For The Planning Phase.
Below are additional resources to help you plan out your ecommerce store. These are great for understanding your options when choosing an ecommerce website builder, website design inspiration and ideas for products to sell.
- Finding The Best Ecommerce Website Builder For Your Particular Use Case (Platform Comparisons + Things To Consider When Choosing)
- Do Ecommerce Niches Really Lead To Riches? How To Identify Overlooked Product Opportunities To Increase Revenue
- BigCommerce vs Shopify: The Clash of The E-Commerce Titans. Who Will Win? (Digital.com)
- Best Ecommerce Websites For Design Inspiration: 22 Award-Winning Examples (2019)
- Need Ecommerce Business Ideas? 27 Experts Give You Their Best Online Store Opportunities For 2019
- 26 Top Trending Products to Sell Online At Your Ecommerce & Dropshipping Store in 2019 (Cloudways)
- Top Ecommerce Niches of 2019 (Ecomdash)
Successful Ecommerce Business Basics.
Sometimes, you just have to bring it back to the basics. Explore these resources to learn more on how to successfully manage and run your online business.
- How to Master Product Photography on a Tight Budget (We Did it With Less Than $50)
- How to Write a Returns and Exchanges Policy That Grows Sales
- The Complete Guide to Writing Product Copy That Sells Itself
- 27 Experts Give You Ideas For Ecommerce Businesses
Designing Your Store.
Ecommerce store designs goes much further than an eye-catching design. Learn what features and functionality you need to meet your customers’ expectations.
- 22 Ecommerce Sites For Awesome Website Design Inspiration
- Get Inspiration From Innovative Ecommerce Brands
- Ecommerce Store Inspiration: Designs We Love + Sites With Awesome Functionality
- Your Guide To Ecommerce Themes: How To Choose The Right Design For Your Online Store
Resources For Optimizing Your Store
Once you have your design ready to go, it’s time to focus on product photography, website copy, CTAs, and more. Check out these articles to learn how you can best optimize your online store.
- How to Master Product Photography on a Tight Budget (We Did it With Less Than $50)
- The Complete Guide to Writing Product Copy That Sells Itself
- How to Create Ecommerce Product Videos That Drive Traffic
- 17 Best Ecommerce Product Video Examples
Conversion is the goal, which means you need to master your checkout. Explore these resources to learn more about what payments you should accept and why.
- How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online in 2019: What Are Your Best Options?
- Payment Gateways: Keeping Your Ecommerce Transactions Safe + Customers Happy (2019)
- These Brands Make It Big By Using Amazon Pay (Benefits + Examples)
- 7 Ecommerce Merchants Discuss Apple Pay’s Growing Benefits (2019)
- 6 Surprising Ways Accepting Mobile Payments Helps Businesses (Square)
- 8 Things to Know About Payment Security (PNC)
Protecting Customer Data
Returns + Shipping and Fulfillment Resources.
Let’s talk post-conversion. How do you manage your returns, shipping and fulfillment? It’s key to meet your customers expectations post-purchase, so they’ll continue shopping with your brand in the future. Whether it be small business shipping, dropshipping, or fulfillment centers, you can count on us to help you find what works best for your business.
- How to Write a Returns and Exchanges Policy That Grows Sales
- Next Steps After The Sale: Your Guide to Small Business Shipping
- Calculating Ecommerce Shipping Costs: Rates & Fees
- Shipping Sales Tax in 2019: Taxability Examples, Laws & More
- Ecommerce Fulfillment: 3 Strategies To Fulfill Online Orders (2019)
- Ecommerce Shipping: Strategies, Solutions & Best Practices (Advanced)
- Ecommerce Warehousing 101: Best Practices + Checklist (2019)
- Dropshipping in 2019: Does It Actually Work? (Pros + Cons)
- Finding Dropshipping Companies & Suppliers (Free Directory Updated for 2019)
- Learn About Bigcommerce Shipping
- Startup Fulfillment Services by ShipBob
Make Your First Sale.
Once you have your site set up for success, it’s time to start driving traffic and converting visitors into customers. Here’s everything you need to increase your brand’s visibility and stay top of mind with customers.
In order to generate sales, you’ll need to drive traffic – to all the channels you participate in. Use these resources to create a strategy around online traffic.
- 30 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Ecommerce Store
- How to Create Ecommerce Product Videos That Drive Traffic
- Ecommerce SEO Guide: How Online Stores Can Drive Organic Traffic in 2019
Your customers are now on your site. What type of experience do you give them? What makes them want to engage in business with you? Take note from these articles and think about how you can apply your learning to your business.
- How to Use Psychology and Sales Triggers to Double Your Conversion Rate
- The Science of Emotional Buying and What Marketers Can Do About It
- How to Remove Friction From Your Buyer Journey
- 3 Ways to Use Customer Data Right Now to Increase Conversions
- 31 Email Marketing Tips to 5x Conversion
- 6 Ideas for Landing Pages
Retaining Customers With Marketing.
Marketing is key to customer retention. This means you’ll need to spend time getting to know your customers and what they value.
- How to Set Up an Ecommerce Loyalty Program
- We Spent a Year Building an Ecommerce Email Automation Platform: Here’s What We Learned
- The 3 Phases of Ecommerce Personalization
Success is nothing without the evidence to back it up. Think about how you will track your growth by exploring these articles.
- 55 Ecommerce Metrics and KPIs You Need to Measure to Drive 10x Growth
- Why Conversion Rate is the One Metric That Determines Your Success
The fastest growing businesses on the BigCommerce platform view themselves similarly to a stock portfolio and they have found that diversification is key to success.
This means that a customer has no preference on whether they shop on Amazon or your ecommerce store.
A consumer’s only preference is convenience.
Simply put – if you aren’t selling across channels, you could lose the sale to a competitor who has better diversified.
Here’s all the information you need to know to expand your revenue portfolio and grow your sales by 10x.
Selling on Amazon.
Yes, the ‘A’ word. Discover how you can use the online marketplace powerhouse to grow your business.
Selling on eBay.
Another great online marketplace, but with different tactics. Discover how you can take your brand to the next level with eBay.
- The Complete Guide to Selling on eBay & Scaling to $1,200+ in Monthly Sales
- How Selling on eBay Can Future-Proof Your Business
- Sell to 165,000,000 Potential Customers on eBay
Selling on Google.
Most of us know Google for its search power, but have you ever thought about selling on the platform? Read the articles below for everything you need to know.
Selling on Facebook.
Facebook is essential to omnichannel strategy. Between the marketing and sales benefits, you’ll want to learn how you can leverage its power for the success of your brand.
Selling on Pinterest.
Do you have high quality product photography that’s eye-catching? Then Pinterest may be a great omnichannel solution for your business.
Selling on Twitter.
Learn how to master the art of selling on Twitter with a complete guide.
Selling on Instagram.
With photo, video, and user generated content opportunities, Instagram serves as a great platform to drive traffic and conversions. Dive into these resources to learn how to optimize your Instagram strategy.
- How Your Business Can Make Money Selling on Instagram
- Shopping on Instagram Results Are In: Brands Report +1,416% Traffic, +20% Revenue
15 Ecommerce Success Stories
The best how-to articles come right from the source – those business owners who have been knee deep in the day-in and day-out activities of success.
Learn below from 15 businesses who grew exponentially over the last 2 years – and read what they have in store for the year ahead.
- Specialty oil and vinegar shop boosts sales using advanced ecommerce features
- Jewelry-inspired tattoos spark demand from
- A move from a custom platform to BigCommerce grew sales 400% –– and that was just the beginning.
- How one Australian shaving company quickly scaled their brand using powerful marketing tools.
- How one B2B company uncovered higher margins, happier customers and a (much) bigger bottom line
- How an Australian furniture company grew to a successful global operation
- Neon Poodle takes on the international challenge, and rises revenue to the occasion
- How the LA-based costume company accelerated growth through automation
- How one woman disrupted the bridal industry, one sample box at a time
- How the niche shop sized up the competition and increased direct sales, bringing in almost 60% higher AOV on website orders versus other channels
- How the hearing protection and headphones company listened to its customers and flipped the switch from WooCommerce to BigCommerce
- How a luxury lingerie brand increased conversion and found the right level of support with BigCommerce
- How the golf shoe company drove sales growth with a unique shopping destination
Ideas are great, but it is all about execution.
It is now time to finalize the products you are going to sell, launch your online store and start driving traffic to your website. Good luck!
Know of any other trending products to sell online? Let us know and we will add it to the post!