By far, the best Shopify stores we’ve interviewed tend to be super nichified. These stores have better brands and perform better across all metrics. And at first glance, niches are easy to understand. After all, what is a niche but a defined audience segment? Turns out, it’s a lot more than that.
In this piece, we’ll go over the process of creating a niche for your store.
Why Niche Down?
For most seasoned entrepreneurs these days, niching down is a simple concept to understand and something in which they firmly believe.
The obvious reason to niche down is that the average human has a very short attention span, especially in 2019. We also have an abundance of information and choice. Therefore, we tend to buy from people and brands we know and trust. And we trust brands who cater to our self-interests.
From that perspective, the worst thing a Shopify store can do is cater to a wide variety of interests and personas. By doing so, not only is each audience less likely to trust that store, each audience will likely never discover said Shopify store.
So, the primary goal of niching down is to focus your marketing efforts, increase the likelihood that any given audience will pay attention to you, and increase conversion rates.
And yet so many Shopify stores aren’t niche at all. Many are far too generic to be of interest to any given audience.
Why Entrepreneurs Struggle to Niche Down
I believe that generic stores avoid niching down for two main reasons:
- They have too many interests to pick only one
- They don’t know which one will “work”
Too Many Interests
This is a problem with which I can relate, and it plagued my early career. There’s a lot of opportunity in this world and a lot of interesting things to which we can pay attention. Therefore, it stands to reason that we’d have a tough time picking just one niche for our Shopify stores.
Not Sure Which One Will Work
This problem stems from the problem above. Because we have many interests and limited time to successfully fulfill a business opportunity based on one of them, we want to know where we ought to spend our time. After all, if we’re wrong, we may never get our initial monetary investment back and we’ll certainly never get back our time.
The solution to both of these is the same. Roll the dice, flip a coin, or use whatever absolute decision-making mechanism you desire. Assuming we’d be happy doing any of our niche business ideas, it doesn’t matter which one we pick, because we don’t know which one will work. There are simply too many factors.
“But what if I fail?” I hear you saying.
Then you fail. Now you have the opportunity to try one of the other niches you were interested in.
The only mistake you can make is not niching down at all.
There’s More Ways to Niche Than You Think
When we think about niching down, most of us think like this: “We’ll be the X for Y.” In other words, we’ll provide X Product for Y Audience. Examples could include:
- We’ll be the shoe store for people who do CrossFit
- We’ll be the outdoor furniture brand for sustainability nuts
However, basic product and audience aren’t the only factors when it comes to niching down. You can also niche down in these ways:
- Price range
- Product features
- Delivery/Fulfillment method
For example, Parachute Coffee is a premium coffee roaster for people who love fancy coffee, and they also deliver their product via a subscription model.
Are you nichey enough?
So, how do you know if you’re nichey enough? I like to look at good niche selection through three lenses, which you must develop sequentially:
- Earned authority
- Word of mouth
Brand is the thing(s) for which you stand. If you don’t stand for something, you’re not niche. That doesn’t mean you need some grand vision statement or social impact mission. It simply means: when people think about you, what comes to mind. Here are two non-ecommerce examples:
- Ryanair: while it has competitors in its niche, Ryanair is widely known to be the low-cost airline in Europe, complete with frequent pilot strikes due to wage disputes.
- Emirates: this is the first airline that comes to mind for high-touch, luxury air travel.
The difference between these brands isn’t only price, but a combination of factors including customer experience, in-flight purchase options, and even the destinations to which they fly.
Earned authority or trust is the leverage you gain by developing a brand and delivering a consistent experience to customers and partners. As a content marketer, I think about earned authority constantly.
Depending on your brand, you earn the right to speak out on certain issues, publish opinions in various media outlets, and participate in industry events as a speaker or partner.
The Shopify ecosystem is filled with Shopify partners, including Judge.me, who have built up their earned authority through publishing content, delivering great customer experiences, and generally earning a reputation.
Many of you will be familiar with Kurt Elster, host of the Unofficial Shopify Podcast and founder of Ethercycle. Kurt has made it his mission to deliver incredible value to Shopify entrepreneurs over the years. As such, he’s earned massive authority in the industry. Were it not for his content and participation in the community, Ethercycle would be just another Shopify agency among hundreds.
Word of Mouth
The last ingredient to measure whether or not your niche is working is to measure how much word of mouth you’re generating. Word of mouth generally develops after you’ve built a brand and earned authority. Therefore, if nobody is talking about you, you haven’t built a brand nor earned authority.
At Judge.me, we know all about word of mouth. Our business was built on it. Over our nearly five years of existence, we’ve spent almost zero dollars on marketing efforts, aside from the money we invest in producing content.
That happened because we developed a brand as the reviews plugin with great customer service, an abundance of ever-evolving features, for the lowest price in the app store. What’s more, during that time, we consistently delivered a great experience to tens of thousands of customers all over the world.
As such, we are one of the most popular and talked about reviews plugin for Shopify entrepreneurs worldwide. It’s something we’re of which we’re incredibly proud.
Furthermore, as a reviews app developer, we understand the power of enabling word of mouth. After all, that’s what a customer review is: word of mouth.
Bringing it all together
With brand, earned authority/trust, and positive word of mouth going in the right direction, we can confidently say there’s good nichey-ness going on. If one of these things is missing, you are not niche enough.
Are you TOO niche?
Sometimes, though, you can make your business too nichey. This happens when the audience you’re focused on or the problem you’re trying to solve for said audience doesn’t result in a great business opportunity. This comes as a result of the audience being too small.
Having a business that’s too niche prevents you from scaling. Now, depending on your goals, a non-scaling lifestyle business might be fine. Not every Shopify store needs to grow big.
However, being too niche may even prevent you from making a living in the first place.
The best example that comes to mind for me is a non-Shopify example. I spend a good amount of time in the coworking industry. I started and sold a coworking blog and worked with a SaaS startup that developed software for coworking spaces. I wasn’t the only one with a coworking blog, nor was that startup the only one delivering such a product.
Turns out, coworking is a really tough niche. If you focus enough on a particular segment of the industry, there’s no way to make enough money to pay the bills and develop a good product. If you go too wide, nobody pays attention. Overall, the industry is just too small. Sure, some businesses have have made it in the coworking industry, but they were the original players in the industry, and their businesses aren’t worth more than several million dollars. Think about that: a few million dollars of value as the top player in your industry. That’s peanuts. That means that businesses coming up now in the coworking industry have almost no shot, at least not until the grows significantly.
There’s a lot more to niches than I’ve written here. I’ll revisit the topic in the future to talk about avoiding “hot” or crowded niches, as well as how to handle niches which are heavily regulated (e.g., cannabis or alcohol). I’d also like to go over a few of my favorite niches in an upcoming article.