I’ve always been a firm believer that online stores might be the way to go in Africa. To attest my hypothesis, it’s way cheaper to start an online store with the right niche. For example, the average cost of setting up a profitable physical store is close to $3000-$5000 on average (and that’s being conservative in Africa), whilst setting up a CMS based online store is $600 at most(ask me how, won’t you?). Anyway, no rent hustles, just a smart niche and clever digital marketing. Then you’re good to go! You can easily pick a niche, promote it and get profitable faster while evading any recurring costs (rent, salaries, electricity bills). That said, which fresh online stores can be profitable in an African setting?
What is a niche product?
For starters, a niche product is one that is popular among a segment of recurring customers. As a matter of fact, choosing a specific niche is one of the most important strategic business decisions you’ll ever make. It will allow you to serve a more specific customer base better in contrast to your competition. Notwithstanding, I believe that every market can be methodically refined, or segmented by the particular needs and preferences of its targets. This segmentation can be due to:
- Price (e.g. luxury, middle-class/moderate, low cost or discount)
- Demographics (gender, age, income level, social status, education level)
- Level of quality (premium, handmade, economical)
- Psychographics (values, interests, attitudes, tradition)
- Geographics (location elements of the country, city, or neighbourhood)
A niche will help define everything from the product features you aim at your market’s needs to the price range for your products. Furthermore, your niche will influence your choices in production quality, your positioning and branding decisions, and more importantly, your marketing strategy. So, it is quite imperative that you look at a niche, if you aim to enter the e-commerce market space and thrive. My niche suggestions will focus on aspects or repeatability and consistent business. Essentially products which can move with great digital marketing. Unless you already have an existing brand and just intend to go digital, then I suggest you pick a niche!
Fundamentally, a niche gives your online business a competitive edge since you’re more focused. Launching an online store in a crowded market requires a lot of intuitiveness, luck, timing and establishment. If you lack those, you will probably face an uphill battle against already established competition. A niche helps you compete not by selling different products necessarily, but by doubling down on a specific part of the market.
Store potential stores Ideas and niches.
In my business experience, research cycles and unique encounters with different clients, I’ve encountered diverse scenarios. So, I believe I can provide a little sound judgement about niches which could work in Africa. For instance, baby clothes are one of the most profitable niches in the e-commerce space, however, certain factors come into play. Factors could range from price range, environment, number of players in your market, gender focus, spending capacity of the target market. Though on a more positive note, I’ll labour to share my sentiments and possible ideas any of you guys can consider for an online business.
Before we delve in, I’ll give a few disclaimers. Starting an online store, like any other business, has principles. And notable ones are; resilience, smart marketing, passion, organisation and discipline. Once you’ve made up your mind walk this journey, instead of reading tons of blogs and forum threads for the best niches, I’d suggest that you more spend time understanding your niche with passion. Or at least get a niche that you can learn to be passionate about, otherwise, you’ll end up quitting. As a side note, part of these products are also applicable for brick and mortar businesses (physical stores), so you can consider doing both. So, let us get started with the feasible online store ideas that could work in Africa.
An untapped market in Africa, by 2022, the shapewear market is expected to skyrocket to about $5.6 billion in worldwide sales. Expect what started as an undergarment fashion to evolve into a piece of everyday wear for more Africans. Just a quick search on AliExpress and Alibaba can reveal my sentiments. From ladies’ bodysuits that help create a slimming silhouette to men’s corporate trouser holders, so many aspects can be marketed online in your country.
Furthermore, within the lingerie industry, the shapewear niche offers women a variety of different styles that can either be worn under clothing with different cuts or as a top. It offers aspiring retailers a lot of versatility: from specializing in only lingerie to adding as a category to an existing general apparel store. You can easily ship unique and trending shapewear in different colors, styles, and sizes to meet the needs of your diverse customer base.
2. Athleisure Merchandise
According to Google Trends, athleisure is a trend that is picking up. This can be due to the rise in health aware groups of people who are slowly becoming health conscious. Expect it to become an everyday trend beyond going to the gym. In this niche, you can sell everything from sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, sports bras, tank tops to headbands, capris, and shoes.
Depending on how you organise and position your brand, you could expand into other product verticals, such as fashion accessories and jewellery or fitness accessories like yoga mats. Furthermore, you can market your products to one of the many fitness sub-niches. Many millennial women are often the target market for athleisure, so, its possible to leverage Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to grow your brand. And influencer marketing too!
3. Pet Products
There is a pet culture growing in more African countries. From “dog beds” to “cat bed” more pet owners are getting intentional about showing love to their pets and can afford to. The only issue is online accessibility is pretty limited. In my country, there is literally no online pet shop which is operational. So, if you’re a pet owner who wants to get into business and have access to inventory, why not think about this. You can later branch into stocking organic pet food, pet accessories, clothing and treats online with a delivery system.
4. Posture correctors
Generally, most corporates people spend about 75% of their lives in a sitting or sedentary position. This is mainly while at their desks using laptops, so posture-related back issues are getting worse. So, you can consider selling trending products like this posture correctors in a smart way with an online shop. You can creatively market this product to people based on their job titles whilst detailing the benefits of posture corrector. Furthermore, you can target the most common desk jobs such as administrative assistants, content marketers, secretaries, writers, or software programmer. You can later diversify and start selling laptop accessories for people who like coffee shop work sessions.
5. Tourism and Travel merchandise
Africa is blessed with overwhelmingly beautiful wildlife and amazing sceneries. We host over 10 million tourists annually to various national parks, hotels and conservation sites. This represents a massive opportunity for brands to sell souvenirs and custom apparel online. Whether it’s a tourist ordering one in their hotel, or a friend picking a souvenir to take a relative whilst travelling to Europe. More tourists are for authentic local experiences, convenience, and long-term trips. So, consider T-shirts with slogans specific to local culture or city or selling prints/photobooks of your cityscape for collectors. Or even consider selling scratch maps for people who love collecting travel experiences. If you’re in this domain, then stretch your mind.
Video Game Products
Contrary to belief, more locals in most African cities are avid games. So, an online local video game platform selling used video games wouldn’t be a bad idea. Even if the platform’s purpose is to allow gamers to swap games they have finished while selling ergonomic products for lengthy gaming sessions such as controllers, blue-light blocking glasses and gaming chairs. Do you know the amount of male gamers out there who would appreciate a game-centric birthday gift? Don’t get me started. Gamer entrepreneurs can later advance into the sale of T-shirts referencing aspects of gamer culture. Check this list out!
Some honourable mentions which you can consider researching for your online shop considerations are:
- Makeup kits specifically designed for certain skin types.
- Home security cameras (in-home, doorbell, smart home devices, etc.)
- Furniture/home décor and art for small apartments.
- High-performing beauty products such as: facial sprays, eyeliner, highlighter, mascara, lip liner, concealers.
Once you’re confident of the path you wish to take. Spare a little more time to research intentionally on the internet. It is better to make data-based decisions than excitement based! This will allow you to be resilient, smart and thrive organically when the time is right. You can skim through different online communities based on your interests, passions, and hobbies in other words, ‘niches’. These communities could be Quora and Reddit (those are my personal favourites and will soon resonate with you too.
Consider a Consultation.
Once you are confident of your direction and committed to make this step towards running an online shop or pivoting towards one, consider asking for genuine help. It can get tempting to try to take this on by yourself, however, it’s easier with genuine guidance. The beauty is that some engineers who understand e-commerce do exist with expertise on how to start businesses affordably. All with your pragmatic execution and advise, I help my clients focus on using technology as a facilitator. All whilst avoiding unnecessary common mistakes. So, be sure to give me a shout on [email protected] or +256-773-049790 for a consultation for your digital migration effort.
Other posts you can reference for more ideas to start selling online are:
- 29 Private Label Product Ideas
- 7 Digital Product Ideas
- 21 Trending And Evergreen Niche Product Ideas
- 100+ Things To Make And Sell
HAPPY HUNTING AND BEST OF LUCK!
A Professional Computer Engineer, technical writer and Software Product Manager, Denis is very passionate about helping businesses create software products and succeed with technology. Denis spends his free time playing the guitar and writing music. Denis passionately believes in sharing any information to help enterprises grow.