Starting out in ecommerce - or any online business - seems like a daunting dream, even for a seasoned entrepreneur looking to diversify their revenue streams. Opening that online shop doesn’t have to be as hard as it looks. Each new online business comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities, so it will be just as difficult for a new entrepreneur as it would be for someone with a portfolio of businesses under their belt.
If this is your first foray into starting an online shop or ecommerce business, take this as inspiration. You’ve got just as much chance of success as someone with all of the experience in the world. It's the ideas and the people behind a business that make it work.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to opening an online shop:
- Choosing a product
- Validating your product in the market
- Sourcing inventory
- Building your online shop
The most difficult step - the step that gets the ball rolling - is deciding what you’re going to sell. This dictates almost every other step, whether trying to source or create the product yourself, or choosing the channels through which you will market your product.
That’s why we have put together this guide on the best ecommerce businesses to start in 2018, to give you a headstart in your new venture.
1. Start a fashion brand
It might sound impossible to start a fashion brand. There’s so much noise in the industry, whether you’re looking at opening a high end online tailoring company, or a 90s inspired streetwear brand. People love their clothes, so there are a lot of businesses capitalising on that market. But that is exactly why you should start an online clothes shop: people love their clothes.
We've built a lot of successful ecommerce stores for fashion brands over the years.Take a look at our portfolio and find inspiration for the beautiful ecommerce store we could build for you.
In 2015, the fashion industry in the UK alone was worth £57.7 billion, according to Planet Retail (as quoted on Fabacus), and that is set to grow by almost 13% by 2020. In the US alone, the industry is worth almost 3 trillion dollars. There’s no reason some of those pounds and dollars can’t end up in your bank account. It doesn’t seem to matter how big the industry gets, there’s always demand for clothing.
Clothing related keywords have massive amounts of monthly search traffic. Women’s clothing dominates the industry, with keywords like Dresses averaging at 301,000 monthly searches. Men’s clothing itself gets around 40,000 monthly searches, with more specific items coming in higher. If you can find a niche in the clothing industry, you could secure yourself a huge and loyal customer base.
2. Health foods
Every week, there’s new superfood breakthrough. Some magical ingredient that is going to fix all of your health concerns. Feeling bloated? There’s a seed for that. Want to lose weight? Try drinking a smoothie with this berry in it. These health claims may or may not be founded in science. Either way, people will pay for it. They make people happier and they make people feel healthier.
The global health food industry has been on the rise in the last several years, whilst the fast food and fizzy drinks industries have been in decline. This has marked a shift in the eating habits of the world, with the health food industry rumoured to be worth 1 trillion dollars in 2017 with the health food industry rumoured to be worth 1 trillion dollars in 2017. If you’ve got an eye on health food trends, or have a particular talent for creating healthy snacks in your own kitchen, there’s no reason you couldn’t turn that into a business.
So what is the average monthly search traffic like? Health food itself gets an average on 33,100 monthly searches, and has low competition. Healthy Snacks is the same, with low competition, but a monthly search volume of around 50,000. These are just broad, top-level keywords, and if you add together all of the generic health food related terms, then there is an average monthly traffic of 800,000, peaking in January at 1,100,000 searches. With the right product, and an optimised website, how much of this traffic could be buying your products?
3. Subscription services
Everyone wants convenience. Is there something that you use regularly, or buy regularly, that could be conveniently delivered to your door? Take a look at Graze, Birchbox or Dollar Shave Club, the guys that popularised the subscription box. They took items that you buy regularly, in these cases razor blades, cosmetics, or snacks, and then had them delivered to your door every week, month, or quarter. Now the customer doesn’t have to think about factoring that into their regular shop, and it becomes a treat when it turns up on their doorstep.
Subscription boxes have become incredibly popular in a handful of industries. Cosmetics are dominating the arena, by allowing people to regularly top up on beauty products that they use every day.
Mystery subscription boxes are a popular choice too. Loot Crate started out as a mystery box filled with geeky gifts like comic books, clothing and miniature figures. Each month there is a theme, but you have no idea what you are going to get until you get it. Rather than being built on convenience, Loot Crate relies on people looking for a treat to hit their doorstep every month.
4. Pet products
People love their pets. There are 8.5 million dogs in the UK, and 7.8 million cats, and these are just the ones that are tagged and registered. In the US, there are 78 million dogs registered to owners, and 85 million cats. That’s a lot of pets and a lot of owners worth a lot of money. Spending on pets is one of the few markets that saw steady growth during the 2007-9 financial crisis, and now, in the US alone, it is worth $62.7 billion.
On top of the obviously encouraging numbers, pets are being seen as companions in countries that previously only used them for utility purposes. China has recently lowered the license that you need to pay to own a pet, from around $285 dollars to $42 dollars, and with the low birth rates in China, more people are making the investment. Other new markets, such as India, Russia and Japan have all seen an increase in domestic pet spending over the last several years.
In terms of average search volume for the pet accessories industry, Dog Toys, gets roughly 22,000 monthly searches and cat toys gets around 15,000. Dog collars, Dog accessories, Harnesses and other related keywords all get north of 20,000 monthly searches, whilst similar cat related searches get about half of that. Either way, this is strong evidence that pet owners are turning to ecommerce to buy products for their animals.
5. Healthy pet food
Not only are people increasing the amount that spend on accessories for their pets, they are taking more and more control over the food that they eat. In the UK alone, the petfood market is worth around £2.8 billion, with £1.35bn of that going to dogs and £1.1bn to cats.
Natural and organic pet food is still a niche, but it is one that is only going to grow. The pet food industry follows closely with the trends that people follow with their food. Owners like to project their own dietary preferences onto their pets, whether they be ethical, for health reasons or just for personal taste. So, as the food market for us shifts towards healthier lifestyles, so too does the pet food market.
This market is much younger than the others listed, so the monthly search volumes are lower, but so is the competition to take a portion of the market for yourself. Natural Dog Food gets an average search volume of around 1,600, and raw dog food gets search traffic of around 8,000 a month. These search volumes are higher for dog treat related searches, and all signs point to this market growing.
Dropshipping isn’t technically an industry, it is a method of sourcing products from third parties. Rather than finding your product, storing, packaging and shipping them out, your supplier manages the whole process whilst you collect the margin. This is a fairly hands off method of starting an online shop, but it can either be an incredibly effective solution, or a simple way of testing if ecommerce is for you.
The benefit of dropshipping is that you can be as specific, or as general as you want. Whether you want to focus on a specific set of core products, or you want a vast store that covers a whole range, the choice is yours.
There are a range of dropshipping websites and apps out there, making it much easier for entrepreneurs to take a step into ecommerce. Oberlo is a dropshipping app built specifically for the Shopify platform. It allows you to import products from thousands of dropship suppliers from around the world, meaning that it is very easy to start your own ecommerce shop, with minimal investment.
7. Electric vehicles
This is a hard suggestion to narrow down, but electric vehicles are becoming more advanced, more efficient, and way more popular. In the UK, the government is set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. According to Clean Technica - a clean tech commentator in the US - fully electric cars have seen an 86% increase in sales in 2017. This is a market that is young, and primed to take off. This goes hand in hand with the theme of healthy living. Not only are people looking to improve their own health and the health of their pets, they are looking for products that improve the health of the planet.
As electric cars become more and more efficient, the market is going to grow and grow. Electric motorcycles aren’t quite there yet, but they will catch up.
What ecommerce business should you start in 2018?
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are all industries that are consistently growing. Find something that you are passionate about, something that you won’t get bored with after the initial research. Tie it in with your hobbies, and do a bit of research into how many people, and what type of person is looking for the kind of product that you want to sell. You can easily, and quickly find information on industry trends on the internet, so don’t run away with an idea without first qualifying it.
Then the hard work starts; Validating your product, sourcing your inventory, setting up an online storefront, marketing and finding your customers, and finally, profit.
There really is only one option when it comes to choosing your ecommerce platform. Take a look at our What is Shopify article, to find out why it is the number 1 choice for ecommerce.