So you want to start an ecommerce business but running short on ideas? Well, this post should be helpful.
BUT this post isn’t going to be talking about specific products and trends as it is always better to find products that aren’t listed in blog posts!
Why? Well because a percentage of people who read those posts will go and try and sell those products, meaning that those markets will probably be pretty saturated!
Instead, it is best to find a niche and then do product research within that niche to find opportunities to build your business around.
So what are we going to be looking at?
We are going to be looking at the actual business model idea that you could potentially use for your business as some models work better for different types of products.
1) Start a Niche Ecommerce Site
When most people think of starting an ecommerce business, they immediately think about selling physical products and it is a great business to start.
But in a world dominated by the likes of Amazon and Walmart, who sell everything and anything, it makes it very difficult for smaller stores trying to be a jack of all trades as there is no real room for a USP!
But this is where there lies an opportunity for small stores that specialize in a niche or even a niche within a niche (be careful not to limit your potential audience too much though!) as they can do a few things that the big boys can’t, such as:
- Being able to offer expert advice
- Personalize the service to the customer (learn about their situation, make individual recommendations etc)
- Sell high-quality goods
- Offer a great after-sales service (ok, Amazon is very good at this)
And the thing with a lot of specialist niches, is that you don’t need to be the cheapest and in some cases, this can work against you, instead, you want to be the best as that will help you grow your reputation and through word of mouth recommendations, you can become the go-to company in your niche.
With niche sites, it can often be best to target things like hobbies or professions as these are often niches where people are A) prepared to spend money and B) are more likely to buy higher quality products if it makes their life easier.
Niche Site Pros
Niche Site Cons
2) White Label Dropshipping
There are two big issues with normal dropshipping and they are:
- You are selling the same generic products as potentially hundreds or thousands of other stores
- Dropshipping from abroad can have stupidly long shipping times
And these two things can lead to low-profit margins as price is your only USP and unhappy customers who are waiting weeks for their order to arrive.
This is where white label dropshipping can be a much better option as you can differentiate yourself from the crowd but what does white label mean?
A white label product is when a supplier sells a product that can be branded to your business, it may be the same as what others are selling but it carries your unique branding.
By doing white label dropshipping, you can build a brand, not just sell products online and if you wanted to, you could start producing your own products further down the line.
And to add a competitive advantage over your competition, make sure you partner with a company that is either based in the country you are selling to or has fulfillment centers there as this will drastically reduce the shipping time and make customers happier.
White Label Dropshipping Pros
White Label Dropshipping Cons
3) Sell Custom Products with Print on Demand
Yes, Print-on-Demand (PoD) is mentioned everywhere and people automatically think about t-shirts but print-on-demand can be so much more than that!
If you are not sure what Print-on-Demand is, it is where you sell custom designs and potentially customizable designs via your website and when an order is placed, the item is printed and then shipped to the customer, which means that you don’t need to have any inventory sitting around that you hope will sell.
And while this did start with t-shirts, there are now many different items that can be printed on demand, including:
- All different types of clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies, hats and socks
- Accessories such as scarves, backpacks and tote bags
- Tablecloths and towels
- Phone cases
- Even Jewelry
This is just a short list but there are so many different products that can be printed on demand and you can choose to outsource the printing to a third-party company who stores the blanks, prints your design and any customization but also ships it out to the customer for you.
You can also choose to do this in-house but the costs and time learning how to do this are a lot higher.
But there is one print on demand that barely gets talked about and that is 3D printed products, which can be hugely profitable when done right as many things can now be 3D printed such as:
Once again, this can either be outsourced to third-party companies or you can choose to do this in-house but some knowledge of CAD (computer-aided design) is required in order to create the models, but you can choose to print other people’s designs as long as they allow it for commercial use.
Print on Demand Pros
Print on Demand Cons
4) Create a Product Based Subscription
Subscriptions are a little bit of a holy grail in the world of ecommerce as they lead to recurring income, meaning that your business gets income from customers who have signed up every month or year (or whatever time period is specified).
Which all sounds great but you still need to supply a product every month as part of this subscription and it depends on the niche you are in but you could do things like:
- For crafty things – a new design and the materials required to make said design
- For food – a new recipe and the ingredients
- Collectibles – send out a new collectible every month
- Variety boxes – send out a sample selection of products every month for people to try, this could be niche specific or just a random selection of things that may be of interest
This is just a short list that I came up with, but there are a lot of ways that you can create subscriptions around physical products and creativity can go a long way in making subscription-based ecommerce businesses successful.
One key thing is to make people excited about the subscription that you are going to provide by either offering them the chance to learn or try something new every month or giving them a surprise goodie box that they look forward to receiving.
And this is where finding not only the right niche but the right target audience in that niche is a very important factor, so make sure you put the research in before getting started.
Product Subscriptions Pros
Print on Demand Cons
5) Sell Digital Downloads
One of the most popular types of digital products to sell online is downloadables and while many people will probably think of things like Ebooks, there are actually many different types of downloadable products that you can sell.
But just looking at Ebooks, fiction and non-fiction are still very popular, especially if they can be used on an e-reader, just look at how popular the Amazon Kindle is!
So what type of downloads can you sell other than ebooks?
- Software – people still need software that they can use on their computers and things like video and photo editing software are still very popular
- Guides and Manuals – I’m not really talking about how-to guides but specific guides and manuals for products such as equipment, tools or cars, that might not be available anymore
- Printables – these could be printables for crafts, such as templates or even things like crosswords, word searches or coloring books
- Themes and Apps/Plugins – a lot of website themes/templates and apps/plugins need to be downloaded and then uploaded to the website, which means they definitely fall under this category
- Stock Images and Videos – with more and more content creators about, there is more need for stock footage, which is downloaded so it can be used in editors
I’m sure there are loads that I have missed here but hopefully, this gives you an idea as to the number of possibilities there are when it comes to digital downloads but if this is what you are planning on selling, make sure the ecommerce platform you want to use offers this functionality and also check for any limits on file sizes etc.
Digital Downloads Pros
Digital Downloads Cons
6) Offer Digital Services
An alternative is to provide digital services to individuals and businesses, such as:
- Virtual PA
- Video editing
This coincides with the rise in the gig-economy, which has got some bad press but it works very well for small companies and solopreneurs who need/want to outsource the work they either can’t do, don’t like doing or won’t do to freelancers.
Many people get started with this by using marketplaces such as fiverr, upwork or freelancer.com and while it is a great way to get started and access a large pool of potential clients, they are also extremely competitive.
Which is why freelancers who are serious about their business, will also have their own website, which allows clients to purchase their services directly and this can be much more profitable if you build a good reputation and get referrals through word of mouth.
To offer some services you may need specialized equipment such as computers powerful enough to do editing or rendering or software that allows you to do the job but most people who do this as a job will usually have this anyway.
Digital Services Pros
Digital Services Cons
7) Sell Software as a Service (SaaS)
The digital version of a subscription business as customers need to pay a monthly fee in order to be able to access the software and this is becoming much more profitable (which is why many businesses are adopting it).
But it actually provides a more cost effective way for consumers to access the product as well as it used to be that you would have to buy the software up front and this could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, which is out of reach for most people but with SaaS, the monthly fee can be a less than $100/m, which individuals and small businesses find much easier to stomach.
Now when it comes to the types of software that can be offered in this way, there are lots of options:
- Photo and video editors
- CAD programs
- Ecommerce platforms
- Website builders
- Marketing tools
- Accounting software
Even things like Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify are all SaaS companies as customers pay a monthly fee in order to get access to the service, meaning that SaaS can be used for both business and individual applications.
8) Teach Online
Online education has seen huge growth over the past few years and this was accelerated by the global pandemic but it will continue to grow as it gathers more mainstream momentum (it’s not all fake gurus telling you how to get rich quick!).
And what is good about teaching or providing training online is that there are two ways in which it can be done or a combination of both:
- Doing live lessons, this is where a customer books a 1 to 1 or joins a small group where the lesson is carried out over zoom or similar
- Creating a video based course which students can sign up to, access and work through at their own pace
Which one is best does often depend on the tutor and also the subject that is being taught but with the training being done completely online, it opens you up to students from all around the world and in some cases you may find that the bulk of your students come from a certain part of the world.
To be successful at this, you need to have a good knowledge of the subject and also the ability to pass that on to others as the delivery is just as important as the content.
There are also different options when it comes to delivering your course as you can opt to host your course on sites like Udemy and Skillshare, where they also promote your course or you can choose to just have it available on your own site and do all of the marketing yourself.
If you want it just on your own site, then make sure the website builder you are using can do this as you will need to upload and host your videos on the platform.
Online Education Pros
Online Education Cons
I hope this list has given you some ideas of the different types of ecommerce business that you can start and possibly even informed you of some things you weren’t aware of.
There really are so many different options and potential avenues when it comes to making money from ecommerce and there are many successful businesses that combine many of these methods to create multiple streams of income.
But which one is going to be best does depend on the type of product you want to sell, your personal knowledge and expertise and also your business goals, if any of these ideas have been of interest, we have created specific guides for some of these business ideas, which should be helpful in getting started.