In the last quarter of 2015 alone, U.S. ecommerce spending totaled $89.1 billion. Even more impressive, 2015 saw a grand total of $340 billion pass through the digital economy, a $36 billion increase from 2014’s total of $304 billion.
Related: What's Next for Ecommerce in 2016?
Those are impressive numbers, too be sure, but none of them are terribly surprising. What is surprising is that, according to the U.S. Small Business Association, a mere 28 percent of small businesses are currently getting in on the action. Why?
On the surface, many business owners have bought into the “too-little-too-late” mentality. Afterall, ecommerce is a crowded industry dominated by conglomerates like Amazon, Walmart and Costco.
However, as Entrepreneur contributor John Rampton has pointed out: "Don’t let the success of Amazon fool you. Delivering a unique experience for the [digital] buyer just may be the edge you need to remain under the radar from direct competition from the ecommerce giants and carve a lucrative space in a smaller niche.''
The real enemy -- as with most entrepreneurial roadblocks -- is a lack of inspiration.That's why, if you want to buildi your own ecommerce business, you need to find a product that fits your unique passion.To jumpstart your own entrepreneurial journey, consider the following seven non-traditional products.
1. Outlandish leggings
In a world where leggings are super cheap and a dime a dozen, Black Milk has set itself apart by not only making a high-quality product, but one embellished with outlandish prints, scifi-esque designs and cinematic marketing. For aspiring online entrepreneurs, the most compelling part of this story is how the brand got started. When Black Milk owner James Lillis faced universal rejection from traditional retailers, he found his audience online and went from a kitchen-table startup to a multi-million dollar brand.
2. Custom stickers
Although custom stickers may sound like something for an elementary school classroom, they’re actually one of the most effective tactics in guerilla marketing, innovative product labels and “(not so) standard business cards.” And you can’t get them at the corner bookstore. In addition to a traditional premade-sticker marketplace, Sticker Mule has landed an impressive list of clients -- like Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Comcast, Google, and Facebook -- by offering customers the opportunity to turn their logos, designs and artwork into into their own sticky words of art.
3. Prescription glasses
Fashion and stickers are one thing. But what if your product needs to merge those surface features with deep functionality? While the prescription industry itself is heavily regulated, the real problem for glasses hasn't been bureaucratic red tape, it's been -- as the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out -- overcoming the myth of must-have in-person customer experience. That’s why GlassesUSA stands out on the inspirational front. Using augmented reality (AR), its Virtual Mirror allows you to “try-it.” AR is something other niche ecommerce products, like furniture, clothing and the educational industry are also using more and more to duplicate the in-person experience, only online.
4. Just pillows
If you’re looking to get inspired by an entire world of unique handmade crafts, go no further than Etsy. The online marketplace has become a hub where creative hands make and sell their own wares. Etsy crafts range from handcrafted jewelry to wedding and home decor, like the following unique custom plush pillows from Wild Rabbits Burrow. The company's exclusive focus on one-off niche products gives hope to anyone still wondering, “Can I really sell just one thing?”
5. Gourmet get-well packages
Spoonful of Comfort’s ecommerce adaptation of caring for sick loved ones has made this company a stand-out in the digital economy. With a founder’s story rooted in tragedy-turned-triumph, Spoonful’s authenticity shines through. What’s more, by bundling its packages around needs -- for example, Get Well, College Care or New Baby -- it's simplified the buying process and offered buyers the opportunity to "love from a distance." If your own entrepreneurial inspiration pulls on the heartstrings, don’t forget to make both of those ingredients a part of your own approach.
6. Smart pills
An intelligence boost in a capsule? That’s exactly what NooTroo promises -- a once-a-day nootropic that claims to enhance memory and learning, and increase energy. The herbal supplement market has exploded over the past few years, but new products continue to prove it’s not too late . . . and it’s not just for muscle heads. In fact, if your product is lifestyle focused and aims to improve productivity, health or physical appearance, ecommerce may be your own personal gold mine.
7. Crowd-sourced bras. No, really.
Ecommerce thrives at the intersection of old problems and new solutions. Many of the products on this list prove that, but none more than Brayola. Brayola takes what people love about sites like Pandora and Netflix -- spot-on recommendations -- and brings it alive in a whole new way. As Tech.co reported, after first-time users create their own “drawer” based on what they already own and love, “Brayola then finds the perfect bra through its crowdsourced algorithms and data.”
The best part about Brayola is that it makes you ask yourself, “What other old problems are ripe for a new ecommerce solution?”