How E-Commerce Entrepreneurs Can Inject Life Into ‘Sleepy’ Product Niches

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What does it take to bring some excitement, verve, and panache to a niche that most people think of as plain, humdrum, and boring? It takes something that will make people stop and look twice.

It takes creativity, hard work, and a little touch of thinking outside the box. And most of all, it takes a knowledge of your customers. Here’s how you can turn that “sleepy” niche into a lively brand.

Put a Unique Spin on Things

When you’re dealing with a “sleepy” product niche, the most important thing is what makes you different. I reached out via email to Colby and McKenzie Bauer, founders of Thread Wallets, to get an idea of what they’d done to distinguish themselves.

Wallets aren’t the most exciting product category, but when the Bauers jumped in, they were able to quickly make themselves stand out.

“We immediately decided that the best way to make ourselves stand out was to stake a claim on the cool factor,” said Colby.

“The idea for the wallets started when McKenzie made me one after I lost mine. I got it customized by a brand that makes cool clothing with unique designs, and when I started getting compliments on it, it was obvious that there was something there that we could capitalize on.”

To this day, Thread Wallets relies on its interesting designs and handmade style to distinguish themselves. Wallets are a dime a dozen—but this company has been able to set itself apart from the pack. Whatever your product is, you have a way you can make it different to anything else.

Find that way.

Find Your Tribe

One of marketer Seth Godin’s most well-known ideas is the concept of tribes.

People don’t want to connect to you—they want to connect to each other, and you’re only facilitating that. To quote his blog post on the subject, “Instead of looking for customers for your products, you seek out products (and services) for the tribe.”

If you want to succeed as an e-commerce entrepreneur in a “sleepy” niche, you’re building a unique product that serves the needs of a tribe—a group of people with common, linked interests that want what you can give them.

Apple has been one of the best examples of this over the years. Their company has built its own tribe of early adopters that love their products, and particularly under Steve Jobs, they were masterful at finding the people who could use their products.

McKenzie noted this as one of the reasons for Thread Wallets’ success, too.

“We found out early on through our crowdfunding that we had a dedicated audience that was interested in what we had to sell. Once we could figure out what set those people apart, it was easy to tailor our message to the platforms they frequented and the way they communicated.”

Once you find and build a group of people who are passionate about what you do, your niche will never be “sleepy” again.

Create Your Story

Creating an interesting brand story is absolutely key to injecting life into that boring niche. Patagonia is one of the best examples of this. They’ve been killing it since day one, and the reason is simple: their story is interesting and unique, and it resonates.

It’s the single common thread that runs through everything they do. They build products for people that think like them, believe in taking care of the environment, and don’t just pay lip service to the ideals of their company.

Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to: authenticity.

A story isn’t something you can just make up. You need to find what makes your brand unique, interesting, and different. Look at what’s most important to you and to your company and brand, too.

What are the areas you’d run your business into the ground to stay true to? Where would you take a loss if it meant avoiding breaking a principle? Find the crossing point between what’s interesting to your tribe and what’s essential to who you are and you have the skeleton of your story.

Colby and McKenzie found this when they were working on their company at the start. “We boiled what we were doing down to the essentials and focused on what made us different—who we are and how we were offering more interesting stuff than the bigger competitors out there,” said Colby. “I think our status as a young husband and wife entrepreneur team played a part in that too. It’s not so common a story to see.”

Figure out who you are and find where it overlaps with what your customers are looking for. Then, create a compelling brand story that runs through everything you do, like a continuous unbroken thread that connects no matter what the area of your business.

Once you have that, nothing you do can be boring anymore.

Selling in a “sleepy” niche can be hard, but if you’re willing to invest the time to get it right, you can transform the boring and mundane into the extraordinary. It doesn’t matter what it is you’re selling. It’s interesting. Your job is just to find out what makes it that way, and if you pay attention to these three areas, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition.

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