Customer Discovery · Ecommerce (food)

Is ecommerce marketplace for a specific product category viable ?


March 17th, 2017

I plan to create eCommerce platform for a specific category of products. The idea is to have a deep and wide coverage of a single product category and cover all sub categories .

For example : Kitchen Utensils as main category and everything under it.

Basically a Goto shop for all things kitchen utensils

1. Is this a good strategy to begin with ?

2. What are the considerations required ?

3. What are the flaws in this strategy and what will break this ?

4. Some good examples of successes and failures will be helpful...

K. Robbins Head Moose at Moose WorldWide Digital

March 17th, 2017

For a narrow product focus, consider a social micro community as opposed to a straight eCommerce play. So your first mission is to find the digital watering hole where people who are passionate about kitchen utensils (or whatever your plan is) hang out. I assure you no matter how obscure the item is, there's a Yahoo Group, forum, listserv, etc. where they all hang out. In that group are one or two really active members - the evangelists - these are the people you need to cultivate a relationship with - as they will be your brand ambassadors.

The actual platform you choose depends on the volume you expect to get, what the fulfillment process is (e.g. how you deliver the product), and how big your budget is.

Chicke's advice is spot on. Spend 90% of your budget on acquisition and 10% on tools.

Chicke Fitzgerald 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗳𝗼𝗰𝘂𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴. 💡 I zig where others zag #͏z͏i͏g͏w͏i͏t͏h͏c͏h͏i͏c͏k͏e

March 17th, 2017

The challenge you face isn't building the platform or even sourcing the products. Certainly the focus on a single specialty makes sourcing even easier.

The hardest thing is always customer acquisition and understanding conversion.

In my industry (travel) there are many hotel only web sites, proving that the single category can work. But the average conversion online is 1%, which means you pay to drive 100 to the site and only one buys. So you must make sure that you make enough on that one sale to cover the cost of gaining the "lookers".

So this is a game of brand building and acquiring customers. You have to know the cost of acquiring traffic and then how you will convert them to a purchase and how much margin you make on each item.

If it involves physical fulfillment, then you have to understand that world too, including cancellations, returns and shipping costs.

If the margin is not large enough on a spatula to do that, then it may not be worth it.


March 17th, 2017


Agree, Sourcing is easier than customer acquisition and I need to factor in the customer acquisition costs.

But how do it go about building the brand for my platform. Lets say in our example store, Kitchen Aid and Rubbermaid will be some of the brands that will be sold, these are well established brands with good recall value, what do I need to create my brand (Platform) ?

Karen Adams

March 17th, 2017

Take a look at Wiggle, an online specialist cycling shop. Hugely successful

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

March 17th, 2017

Agreed- you are building a marketplace. You have to create demand in the space. However, they value at 1.3 (median) gross merchandise value (Forbes) so valuable if you can figure it out.

Mary Anne Wolf

March 20th, 2017

What you have already been told looks good to me.

Many of the new vendors I discover are first encountered on Amazon, ebay, or as a Google Trusted Store. I have never had any issues with a Google Trusted Store. I have had issues on ebay, and ebay dealt with them well, as long as I complained soon enough. I have had issues of people selling one thing and claiming it was another on Amazon, and Amazon did absolutely nothing to help me. So, from a customer's perspective, doing business on ebay as well as on your site is helpful for the initial trust building. This is especially true if you want to sell internationally.

I also search using Google Shopping, so search engine optimization (SEO) should help you.

If users of your special product already meet at meetups, conferences, or other gatherings, it is probably worth your time and money to make yourself visible there, and get feedback.

I would be more likely to shop in a specialized shop if it had products not available elsewhere, or if the kind of product needed customer service to choose correctly and you had especially good customer service. Do not staff your phones with people who are not fluent in the languages which your customers speak.

Some good examples of specialized successful businesses are those that sell unusual sizes of clothing (large, small adults, short or long arms and legs, disability friendly).

Another example is sellers of plant seeds that are friendly to bees and other pollinators. Localized help for customers in multiple locations is helpful when buying seeds.

Another example is food for people with special diets, such as gluten free, low carb, various allergies, vegan.

Another example would be replacement parts for a category of products, such as home appliances, bicycles, older cars maintained by do-it-yourself mechanics, specific brands of motorcycle. Connection to an existing online discussion group may help you.

I notice many businesses create a page on social media, but do not put useful content there. This probably does not attract traffic to them.

To the extent that your business also exists in meat space, putting yourself onto online maps, into review sites such as Yelp, and location aware search engine optimization should help you.

I am not a successful entrepreneur, so take all of the above with a grain of salt.