Brian Chesky – co-founder and CEO of Airbnb – once said: “Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like”. This famous line is a perfect encapsulation of what niche marketing is all about.
Given the steep competition now characteristic of the global market, building a successful business today often requires focusing on a thin slice of a larger market, and looking for ways to cater to a relatively small, but loyal audience.
If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation – you’ve come to the right place! In this article we’ll be aiming to provide you with a comprehensive overview of everything related to niche markets and marketing strategy.
To top it all off, you’ll also find as many as 17 niche examples to get you started.
Let’s dive in!
What’s a niche market?
As noted above – and as the name itself suggests – a niche market is part of a larger market defined by any number of features, such as price range, demographic indicators like age or sex, product/service quality level, psychographic factors (values, interests, and attitudes), location, and much more. To give you an example, the broad footwear market includes countless niche segments like vegan shoes, plus-size footwear, or shoes for toddlers.
In addition to already being parts of a larger whole, niche markets can also be further subdivided pretty much ad infinitum. For instance, the hiking backpack niche can be said to include even narrower segments like ultra-light and running backpacks, as well as packs for extremely long trail runs and/or really hot weather conditions.
What are the benefits of niche marketing?
Selling to a niche consumer base can give you a leg up on your competition in a number of different ways, even if your marketing funds are limited.
First, by focusing on a small sliver of a larger market you can build up real expertise much faster and thereby establish yourself as a go-to place for a loyal audience which doesn’t mind paying a higher price for something they really want.
Moreover, field expertise makes it possible for new companies to develop higher quality products and/or services than competitors that have adopted a more generalist approach.
In many cases, knowing a whole lot about something very specific implies a good deal of passion, which can make it much easier to find like-minded consumers. This will, in all likelihood, also contribute to building a genuine rapport with your audience, securing customer loyalty, and further improving your offering.
How to build a niche marketing strategy
Before anything else, you should first identify your unique selling proposition, namely – the reason(s) why customers should choose your business. Are there any things that you are (or could be) doing better than your competitors? Is there a group of customers in your segment that are currently underserved? What kind of problem(s) is your business solving?
Next step is doing industry research. This may somewhat overlap with the point above, but what you want to do is get a solid picture of what your competitors are doing and what opportunities are open to you. One thing to keep in mind is the level of competition – the less competition there is in a specific niche, the less profitable it likely is.
After industry research comes market research, which basically means gathering information about your target audience and spotting relevant patterns. Depending on your goals, this can include things like educational attainment, shopping frequency, most used social media platforms, etc. Not everyone enjoys this process, but it is, without a doubt, crucial for squeezing out the most out of your approach.
Niche market examples
A survey conducted in 2020 by the creative research platform Visual GPS, in collaboration with the market research firm YouGov, found that 81% of the respondents expect companies to be environmentally conscious in their advertising and communications, and 69% said they were actively working towards reducing their carbon footprint.
Earlier research by the Shelton Group has also shown that 90% of millennials will buy from a brand which has social and environmental practices they trust, and 95% will recommend that brand to a friend.
Interestingly, according to PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, 50% of consumers have actually become more environmentally conscious during the pandemic. All of this clearly shows that finding eco-friendly alternatives to existing products is a huge business opportunity.
A good example in this regard is Patagonia – one of the world’s most popular outdoor brands – which provides top-quality products while striving to bring their environmental footprint as close to zero as possible.
Tourists and Travellers
The preferences and behaviours of travellers have shifted quite a bit over the past several decades. One key trend is “eco-mmodation” – well over half of travellers surveyed by Booking.com report intending to seek green accommodation for at least some of their trips.
Another important change is that people are becoming more and more interested in long-term, convenient trips, and authentic local experiences, usually located somewhat off the beaten path.
Needless to say, this shift towards authentic experiences and eco-friendly travel has opened the door to innovation and nimble start-ups with cool, fresh ideas. The best known example of that is arguably Airbnb, which managed to identify an underserved consumer segment in the accommodation and hospitality market.
Another good niche market example is Nomatic – a luggage brand aimed at digital nomads and other travellers who put a premium on light weight and functionality when it comes to travel gear. Part of the company’s success was a clear focus on its core audience not just in product design, but also in marketing and communication.
Starting out as an ultra-niche hobby in the 80’s and 90’s, gaming is now a massive industry, expected to surpass $200 billion by 2023. Almost one-third of the world’s population – 2.7 billion people – now consider themselves to be gamers!
In an industry so vast, there are lots of options that a company has – PC gamers, console gamers, mobile gamers, hardware, game development/distribution, live events, and much more.
What made the Polish video game development, publishing, and distribution company CD Projekt so special – apart from its massively successful Witcher franchise – was the digital video game distribution platform GOG (formerly Good Old Games), which, unlike its competitors, offers all of its titles DRM-free and compatible with multiple operating systems.
With acceptance of LGBTQ+ increasing around the world, there’s been a steady growth of companies geared towards their needs and desires. Some early and clumsy marketing gaffes notwithstanding, businesses are increasingly embracing difference in all forms.
According to a study by Hornet, 8% of “Boomers”, 13% of Gen X, 20% of millennials, and a whopping 31% of centennials (Gen Z born after 1997) identify as LGBTQ+. The community’s purchasing power is currently estimated at roughly $1 trillion in the U.S., and $3 trillion globally.
Kirrin Finch is one of many examples of progressive companies offering goods and services designed with LGBTQ+ people in mind.
“We challenge fashion industry norms for what is considered menswear & women swear and instead focus on creating great fitting clothing that makes you feel comfortable & confident in who you are.”
In recent years, sleep has been getting a fair deal of attention and coverage from the world’s largest media outlets, often writing about the latest studies on the harms of insufficient sleep, and how to achieve the most restful slumber.
As you may imagine, all of this attention has encouraged businesses to jump into the fray and develop a variety of sleep-promoting goods and services, including apps, blackout curtains, cooling blankets, etc.
Spektrum – founded by “two guys who just couldn’t get off their computers” – sells blue light-blocking glasses for sleep optimisation enthusiasts who like to wear them at least a couple of hours before sleep to prevent exposure to light on the more stimulating end of the spectrum.
FPV racing drones
One of the more fun applications of commercially available drones is amateur – and even professional – racing. Having started in Germany in 2011, so-called FPV (first-person view) drone racing has been steadily gaining in popularity – in 2019 the global drone racing market was valued at $411.8 million, and is anticipated to grow by 22% by 2026.
While not exactly a huge niche market, it does have a very enthusiastic customer base, as evidenced by the countless drone racing federations that have popped up over the years, and even several podcasts dedicated exclusively to FPV racing.
There aren’t too many companies that make drones specifically for racing at the moment, which means there’s quite a bit of potential for new players.
The labour market has been slowly moving in the direction of remote work for years now – at least partly due to an ever-increasing number of people becoming self-employed – and the pandemic has given it a great big push that might permanently change the way people work, even after the virus has been contained.
Research has shown that working remotely increases job satisfaction and enables people to find a better work-life balance. Furthermore, as many as 80% of employers now say they’ll allow their employees to work from home at least some of the time, and 47% intend to offer the option without limitations.
To help freelancers advertise their services wherever they go, Freelancer at Work sells laptop decals that let everyone know which industry they work in and what their skillset is, thereby increasing the chances of finding new employers while sitting comfortably at a coffee shop.
The male grooming niche market has been on the rise even during the pandemic, as reflected in, e.g., the 129% growth in searches for hair trimmers and 238% for hair clippers.
Previously relegated to dandies and other “unsavoury elements”, male grooming has witnessed a real paradigm shift in recent years, with men increasingly embracing a broader perspective on personal care.
Beyond shifting views about male grooming in society, there’s little doubt that social media and e-commerce, which saw massive growth during the pandemic, are at least some of the driving factors behind the market’s recent expansion.
According to Mordor Intelligence, the men’s grooming products market was valued at $55.22 billion in 202, and is projected to witness a CAGR of 4.29% in the 2021-2026 period.
Once tiny, the vegan foods niche market has seen healthy (pun intended) growth in recent years, and is currently estimated to reach $31.4 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 10.5% from 2019-2026.
This, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t smaller niches that you could target to great effect. For instance, vegan baking, massively popular several years ago, seems to have peaked around 2018.
However, since the relative turn away from baked vegan goods is driven by Gen Z prioritising healthy foods and more accountability from businesses they patronise, one way to turn a hefty profit by selling baked vegan foods is to make them more nutritious.
This is exactly the path taken by Délifrance – a major supplier of frozen bakery products – which recently started offering vegan croissants made with spelt and quinoa instead of wheat flour, and savoury vegan puff pastries free of palm oil and additives.
Sometimes, the way forward is not simply abandoning an already established niche, but responding and adapting to changing consumer preferences.
With the advent of platforms like Airbnb, people around the world have started offering their homes and other real estate to travellers looking for less expensive and convenient accommodation in the most attractive parts of major cities.
Even though most hosts are perfectly happy to meet with renters in person and show them around the property, some find it difficult to balance their obligations towards guests with work and family engagements.
Having identified this as a pain point, August developed a keyless entry and home security solution for homeowners, which allows them to grant their guests access to the property remotely, and for a specific period of time.
Despite being a real beast in terms of size, the health and fitness industry has plenty of opportunities not only for world-class stars and celebrities, but also for highly specialised professionals.
One of the best ways to find your niche in the fitness world is to work with a large and diverse clientele, which can help you find your own lane.
The possibilities are pretty much infinite: helping women get into shape in preparation for pregnancy, working with patients battling a chronic illness, coaching superhero fans – you name it!
Fitbunch is a fitness coaching business geared towards amputees who’d like to rebuild their bodies and reclaim their independence following a tragic event. The company founder Trevor Bunch, an amputee himself, found success by bringing his genuine passion for helping people make the most of their “new normal” and overcome both physical and mental limitations.
The book market is obviously very large, and much of the e-commerce side of things is now dominated by marketplaces like Amazon, yet it’s still totally possible to carve out a niche for your business.
For example, you could sell classic books for children, provide same day delivery, or develop a unique concept for your bookstore, such as having an area where customers can hang out with some cats or other pet animals while leafing through a book they might be interested in.
What Powell’s City of Books (Portland, U.S.) did was focus on selling real books from local authors. In addition to advertising online, the bookstore also hosts regular in-person events and connects with its audience through social media. Today, Powell’s spans an entire city block, and visitors find their way around the store by using fold-up maps.
Quirky phone cases, selfie sticks, magnetic chargers, power banks – there’s never any shortage of fun and/or actually useful accessories and gadgets for smartphones. And since pretty much everyone has one, niche marketing opportunities are only limited by your imagination.
An obvious benefit of specialising in smartphone accessories is that you probably won’t need a very large upfront investment (unless you’re going for something high-tech), which is great for starting and growing your business slowly-but-surely.
As we’ve already discussed, gaming has grown into a massive industry, and there are probably more people casually gaming on their smartphones than console or PC gamers. With this in mind, Razer developed a video game controller called Kishi that wraps around your smartphone, essentially turning it into a mini gaming console, and then neatly folds down to a relatively small size when not in use.
Just like we said – the only limit here is your imagination and creativity!
The pet industry reached a milestone in 2020, with total sales exceeding $100 billion for the first time – and this is just in the U.S. Furthermore, pet food and treat sales increased by nearly 10% during the pandemic, and are projected to keep growing at a higher-than-historical rate.
Depending on which specific niche you have in mind, you could focus on selling products for cats, dogs, fish, or even more exotic pets like lizards, spiders, or turtles.
Other examples include pet accessories (e.g., chew toys, winter clothing), organic pet food, and pet cameras used for making sure that your pets are okay when you’re not at home.
Whistle Go Explore is one of the best GPS trackers for pets, boasting high location accuracy, network reliability, durable yet lightweight hardware, excellent battery life, and intuitive app design.
According to available data, roughly 10% of the world’s population, or a good 790 million people, are left-handed. This constitutes a natural niche with a loyal customer base, as most shops don’t bother dedicating an entire section for their lefty patrons.
You know who does, though? Lefty’s! Based in San Francisco, Lefty’s is a retail store that sells a variety of products where right- or left-handedness matters, e.g., office supplies, gardening tools, kitchen goods, and more.
A key ingredient to the company’s success was niche marketing based around PPC advertising for search terms that lefties are likely to use online.
Faith-based communities and charities
Modern technology has permeated the lives of pretty much everyone on the planet, and faith-based communities and charities are no exception.
Pushpay, according to one of its co-founders Chris Heaslip, was developed “to bring people together by strengthening community, connection, and belonging”. What started out as a mobile giving app for church congregations has evolved into a full mobile giving and engagement solution that serves over 7,000 churches around the world.
This is another great example of identifying real problems that people face in their daily lives, and finding an innovative way to solve them, thereby creating a brand new market niche that benefits your business and your new-found customers alike.
Our last example is a piece of software called GallerySystems aimed at museums and other cultural institutions. As part of the broader inventory management segment, GallerySystems allows curators and other cultural employees with the acquisition, cataloguing, exhibition, photography, and rights management process.
Founded way back in 1981, the company now has more than 800 elite clients in over 30 countries around the world. The GallerySystems suite is currently available in 24 languages.
What’s a niche market?
A niche market is a part of a larger market distinguished by specific preferences and customers. Niche markets are by definition smaller than the markets that contain them, but aren’t necessarily small in general. Niche markets usually have a loyal customer base and consist of highly specialised companies with lots of field expertise.
Why use niche marketing?
Niche marketing can allow you to focus your efforts on a clearly defined target group, thereby reducing your marketing budget, developing high quality goods/services, building up expertise relatively quickly, and standing out from competition in a crowded market.
How do I create a niche marketing strategy?
The first order of business is identifying your unique selling proposition, namely – what makes your offering unique and what kind of problem it solves for your target audience.
Next up – industry research. To maximise your effectiveness, you need to get a clear picture of what your competitors are or aren’t doing. In other words, you need to figure out what and how you can do better, and/or identify an underserved group that you could cater to.
Finally, you need to carry out an extensive investigation of what makes your target audience tick. Beyond basic demographics, try to understand their values, aspiration, shopping habits, educational attainment, etc.
Once you’ve taken care of the above, coming up with a way to reach your target audience should be fairly straightforward.