So, say you’re ready for your next project. Congrats! And, say you want to start an online business.
But you aren’t sure whether your idea will be viable in 10, five, or even two years.
How do you know what niche your online business should be in? After all, you don’t want to waste your time building a business no one needs.
The first thing to recognize here is that online businesses typically fall into one of four categories: ecommerce, software as a service (SaaS), digital service and content. Examples include:
- Ecommerce — Amazon, eBay, Alibaba
- SaaS — Google Drive/Docs, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365
- Content — Wirecutter, the New York Times, Nerdwallet
- Digital service — BetterSelf, BetterHelp, Gengo
Whether you are thinking of starting an online business, or already running one, you should strongly consider targeting an evergreen niche. Evergreen niches typically never go out of style, nor are they usually subject to extreme seasonal dips and spikes, which makes them good candidates for starting a business in.
Evergreen niches are also not heavily dependent on trends. You may be doing a roaring trade in Fidget Spinners today, but how sustainable is that demand from consumers? Chances are, it will eventually go the way of the Tamagotchi, the Beanie Baby, and the Pet Rock.
Finding an evergreen niche that isn’t overly saturated is often one of the hardest parts to starting a business. Here are examples of the most evergreen niches and examples of websites that service them:
Sports and hobbies
Type: ecommerce/ Example: LifeFitness
Belong to a gym? You have most likely seen this piece of equipment before. LifeFitness is an elite manufacturer and wholesaler of exercise machines, such as treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes. This offering plays to the ever-expanding demand in the exercise niche. In fact, market analysis site FranchiseHelp notes that gym memberships rose 18.6 percent from 2008 to 2014, a trend which the article’s writers expect to continue.
Type: SaaS/ Example: Lose It
Lose It is a goal-oriented weight-loss program that helps you track your caloric intake. It allows you to set a target for how much weight you want to lose and how quickly you want to lose it, then offers suggestions based on those goals.
This is a subscription-based service that offers both a free basic plan and a paid plan with advanced features. This model is very common in the world of SaaS.
Type: content/ Example: PCGamer
PCGamer is a gamer’s paradise with extensive reviews of all the newest games and hardware. It is the go-to authority for anything PC-game related, which means it is positioned to continually update its content as the industry evolves.
Ubisoft, a mega-player in the industry, recently put out a third quarter earnings report, which pointed to growth opportunities in the $30 billion PC gaming market (according to the company), so it’s a promising industry. PCGamer also previews new game titles before they launch and reports on technology news outside the realm of gaming.
Type: SaaS/ Example: OkCupid
There are always people looking for love. OkCupid aims to help them find it. While many dating applications are mobile-based (think Tinder and Bumble), OkCupid is best experienced on a desktop or laptop.
OkCupid employs detailed questionnaires that try to elicit enough information to match you with your soulmate, meaning its offering grows more sophisticated as time passes and the company collects more data. This is sustainable, as it goes far beyond using just pictures to make a match.
Type: ecommerce/ Example: Sephora
LVMH-owned Sephora was founded in 1969 and has over 1,900 boutiques worldwide. Sephora revolutionized the brick-and-mortar beauty industry by replacing traditional sales reps with “beauty advisors” and encouraging customers to try before they buy.
The company’s ecommerce store is no less innovative, offering video how-to classes and an extensive community section where customers can interact with brand representatives, influencers and other Sephora customers. Sephora is home to nearly 200 brands as well as its own private label.
Type: SaaS/ Example: eToro
EToro is more than just an online stockbroker. Its OpenBook platform allows you to learn from the trades and portfolios of over five million other eToro traders worldwide. It even gives you the ability to easily copy their trades, all within a dedicated app.
With this type of social trading, eToro claims, “The collective well-being of the community is fostered through high levels of interaction, the wisdom of the crowds, strategy sharing and trading tips.”
Type: ecommerce/ Example: Seamless
Founded in New York City and now available in over 15 states, Seamless spotted an opportunity and made itself a food delivery option for the millions of people who eat lunch (or dinner) at their desks.
Seamless isn’t good only for consumers. In 2013 it merged with GrubHub, which along with food delivery services offers a point of sales (POS) system to restaurant partners that seamlessly integrate in-house orders with online ones.
Type: Digital Service/ Example: Lynda.com
Lynda.com was founded in 1995 and has been offering online classes since 2001. It was acquired by LinkedIn in 2015 for $1.5 billion. In turn, LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion in 2016.
There is little doubt that online education is a big business. Lynda.com offers over 6,000 video courses that teach business, technology, and creative skills. Other highly successful sites that operate in this evergreen niche include Coursera and Udemy.
Type: SaaS Example: BetterHelp
BetterHelp pairs its more than 1,500 licensed therapists with people in need of help. Clients fill out a questionnaire that details how they are feeling. It offers them the opportunity to name problems and areas of concern that they want to work on.
For a flat monthly fee, they get unlimited access to “their” therapist via an app, where they can message that therapist 24/7. Why is this evergreen? It’s a safe bet that humans will never run out of the desire to improve their mental health.
The ten evergreen niches here are among the most consistently lucrative. You can find an even more comprehensive list here. When choosing a niche, remember that competition isn’t always a bad thing. A competitive market indicates that there is strong demand and, thus, money can be made.
In short, there’s always room for someone with a new angle, idea or product. A niche without competition is unlikely to be a profitable one unless you’ve invented an entirely new product for which there is consumer demand.”
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