When you’ve determined your shop’s mission, you should focus on finding the right niche for your business. Merriam Webster defines a niche as “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people”. If you find your niche, you’ll be able to optimize your products, sales, and marketing to target the needs and wishes of that specific group. In this post, we’ll help you find your shop’s niche by discussing the two most important pillars: your customer and your product.
Who is your customer?
To determine who your customer is, it might help to determine a number of buyer types. These buyer types may help you realize that there’s probably more than one customer profile for your website. To illustrate, I would like to refer to a study about buyer types (partially funded by Carnegie Mellon and the Russell Sage Foundation) that divides customers into three main groups:
- Unconflicted: the majority of people, also called the Average Spenders. A group of buyers that make common, logical buying decisions and that care about value-based pricing. “I need something, so where can I find the best buy with the best reviews for the company and product?”
- Spendthrifts: a small group of rather uncontrolled buyers. “I want it now, even though I don’t really need it right now.” This group is triggered by premium products and cares less about the price. To give another example, this group is triggered by scarcity more often than other customer types.
- Tightwads: a slightly larger group of careful buyers. You’ll need to work hard to convince this buyer to purchase your product. They tend to do more research and have a need for more details. More than the other groups, this is the type of buyer that will highly value a proper blog on your website.
The three groups mentioned above provide us with a very rough division in customers. Your (potential) customers probably have many more characteristics that will help you find your niche. So start by analyzing your audience to find out who your customer really is and determine the different customer types in your audience.
Read more: How to analyze your audience »
Besides that, I think most of us can be all of the three customer types discussed. It just depends on the type of product you want to buy online. The difficult task you face, as an online shop owner, is to make sure the right triggers reach the right person at the right time. Setting up this strategy will help you narrow your niche. But we’re not quite there yet, because’s there another question we need to answer before your niche is determined: what’s your product?
What is your product?
It might seem a bit silly to ask yourself what your product is. However, it’s important to really know your product to be able to find and narrow down your niche. For example, if you’re an online art shop, there’s lots of competition out there. And that makes it quite difficult to rank for the focus keyword ‘art’ because a lot of your competitors are probably making an effort to rank on this keyword as well.
But when you know your product through and through, you are able to focus on long-tail keywords, meaning keywords or keyphrases that are more specific. And although these keywords get less search traffic, they tend to have a higher conversion value. This SEO strategy helps you find your niche, and gradually get more (of the right) traffic to your site!
Keep reading: Why focus on long-tail keywords? »
Is your business B2C or B2B?
Are you (mainly) selling to end-users or other businesses? Now you might have expected this question under ‘Who is your customer?”, but I beg to differ. When you start your business, you unconsciously think about selling B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business). I think that in most cases the decision for B2C or B2B isn’t made in a business plan. Your business probably grew in a certain direction because of other choices you’ve made, such as:
- What is my main product?
- What other products relate to that?
- Do all these products fit a certain product group/assortment?
- Does it pay off to invest in the option to sell more related products?
So, does it matter whether your customer is a business or a consumer? Obviously, there are differences between the two. For one, consumers require other care than businesses. Businesses will come to your site, order and go. A common reason to choose your shop could be that you’re the cheapest one for that specific product in Google Shopping. Most B2B customers will probably be part of the Unconflicted group mentioned above. Consumers, on the other hand, want to experience your company and products. There will be more emotional buying in that group, which aligns more with the Tightwads group. But this obviously depends on the products you sell.
Is it possible to serve both B2C and B2B customers? Most definitely. To give an example: we sell plugins. A consumer will purchase one plugin, a business might want to buy several to use for different clients. That’s why we offer bulk prices. We know we serve both groups.
Finding your niche
Now that we’ve given you some food for thought on your customers and your product, let’s actually your niche. As you read above, this process aligns nicely with the process of finding long-tail keywords. So let me start by repeating the definition of a niche: “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people”. By knowing who your (potential) customer is and what makes your product different from other products, you can easily determine your niche!
Here’s an example: a luxury pen shop that is located in the Netherlands and focuses on quality, could choose the following niche: ‘luxury fountain pens for people that live in the Netherlands and are willing to spend an extra buck for quality and extra service’. It might seem quite obvious, but they could have also chosen to focus on people that live in a specific city for instance. Or people that only buy a certain brand of fountain pens. I hope this way of specifying their niche has got you thinking about the niche that suits your business.
Read on: How to find a niche for your blog »
Your niche evolves
One last thing about niches: they tend to evolve. Or perhaps I should say your business tends to evolve, and that might alter your niche. If you sell fountain pens and find that a lot of people buy a certain brand, you might open a brand-specific online shop. And this can also work the other way around: if you expand to a certain niche and purchase a company (or domain name) in that niche, you have to make the consideration whether to merge it with your main website or maintain the specialized online shop apart from your main website. Therefore, the evolution of your niche could, or perhaps I should say should, be a continuous process. Be sure to monitor that evolution to keep the right focus!
In short: how to find your shop’s niche
In this article we discussed how to find your shop’s niche. The first step in this journey is to determine the different customer types in your audience. After that, it’s important to find out what your product is or what makes it unique. With these insights you will be able to determine your niche and find the right long-tail keywords to reach the right audience. But remember that your niche might change over time, so it’s important to view finding your shop’s niche as a continuous process.
Keep on reading: The ultimate guide to small business SEO »