The Next Big Thing: How to Research & Profit From eCommerce Trends
Are you paying attention to the latest eCommerce trends?
If you were one of the first online sellers to offer custom printed face masks, your quick thinking could have proved life changing.
Even if you have more modest goals for your online business, uncovering “the next big thing” in your chosen niche could give you a massive marketing boost, launching your brand ahead of the competition.
One of the most awesome things about print on demand for online sellers, is that it doesn’t require any startup capital. You also don’t need to take the gamble of buying in stock before you’ve made your first sale. That makes print on demand one of the best methods for quickly taking advantage of eCommerce trends, as it’s a low risk way of creating an online business.
But how do you predict what will be trending in the near future? And how do you use that information to your advantage?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the processes, tools and research required to uncover trends before they break out, whilst offering some tips to help you get in on the action.
Why Keeping an Eye on the Latest eCommerce Trends Is Important
Before we get started, let’s take a look at why spotting trends before they hit the mainstream is such an important skill to master:
You’ll Get an Edge Over Your Competitors
The most compelling reason for learning how to spot eCommerce trends is the advantage it gives you over the competition.
Google and the big sales platforms won’t necessarily reward you for being the first person to capitalize on a new eCommerce trend, but they will take notice if you’re way ahead of the game with an established marketing campaign and plenty of content relevant to your niche.
You’ll Get Early Access to Lucrative Keywords
For newcomers to selling products online, keywords are simply the words and phrases that people type into Google and marketplaces like Etsy when they’re searching for products to buy online.
As you can imagine, if your website or products appear at the top of these results pages, it’s much more likely that they will be clicked on and purchased.
We’ve already described some of the Etsy SEO secrets that you can utilize to help your items appear at the top of product searches. However, it should stand to reason that if you’re prepared ahead of time for an eCommerce trend, you’ll find it much easier to dominate your niche before the market gets crowded.
You Can Position Yourself as a Leader in Your Niche
Once an eCommerce trend begins to take hold and go mainstream, many shoppers will search out the industry leaders, perceiving them as higher quality than the competition. This can eventually lead to a snowball effect that can catapult tiny businesses to viral fame:
Gymshark, a fitness apparel business founded in the UK by two university students in 2012, was initially started in the garage of one of the founder’s parents. By 2019, Gymshark had sold £175.2 million in products to 180 countries.
How to Spot an eCommerce Trend - Adopting the Right Mindset
Now that you know why it’s so important to keep an eye out for emerging eCommerce trends, let’s explore a few ways that you can get yourself geared up to spot “the next big thing” and hopefully profit from it:
Anticipate and Embrace Change
This article is focused on eCommerce trends from a print on demand slant. So in a broad sense, we can define a trend or a trending product as something that is currently popular and in demand, but likely has a limited lifespan:
- A seasonal, short term trend of 3 months.
- A year long “medium term” trend.
- A longer, more established trend of 1-3 years.
Although those definitions don’t come with any real scientific backing, many of you will be nodding in agreement that products (especially in the clothing industry for example) have limited life cycles that roughly follow those durations.
The first step then, when it comes to uncovering new eCommerce trends and opportunities is to embrace the journey itself, knowing that everything you sell has a limited shelf-life.
The Takeaway Lesson: Stay Flexible
Starting an online business with an inflexible mindset is one of the biggest mistakes that newcomers make, especially when it comes to print on demand. Sure, there will almost always be a strong demand for items like t-shirts and hoodies, but the styles and designs that you choose to sell can fluctuate wildly in popularity.
If you can honestly (and regularly) ask yourself what the biggest changes and obstacles are likely to be within your niche in the next six months to a year, you’re much more likely to succeed in the long term.
Stay On the Hunt for a Unique Angle
Many people are naturally good at spotting trends. You may not consider yourself at the cutting edge of culture or fashion, but you’ve almost certainly noticed trending clothing designs, cars or even hairstyles as they’ve begun to grow in popularity.
The issue for most people is determining if these trends are going to hit the mainstream, and if they do, how to capitalize on them.
Create Your Own Merch for Free!
The 5 Step Method for Spotting and Capitalizing on New eCommerce Trends
In this section, we’re going to list some valuable tools and tricks that you can use to find emerging eCommerce trends. We’ll explore how you can find a unique angle to help get you started, then discuss optimizing your marketing strategy to take full advantage:
1. Trend Research Tools
A simple way to predict upcoming eCommerce trends is to manually research the disparity between online stores and their bricks-and-mortar counterparts: If you uncover a gap in your local market that seems to be selling well online, you might have uncovered a trend that hasn’t yet filtered through to the mass market.
Once you’ve exhausted this kind of manual research, or you’re having difficulty identifying any obvious patterns, it’s time to get familiar with some dedicated trend-hunting tools:
Google Trends is the most obvious place to start in this list. This is the gold-standard for trend research, and a hugely powerful tool for anyone looking for hard data on whether a particular product or topic is falling out of fashion or about to explode in popularity.
Google Trends has many great features, but we particularly like the ability to see what’s currently trending in graph form, as well as what’s at the top of the popularity charts.
If you’re unconvinced about the power of Google trends, check out the curated video playlist called “A Year in Search”, to see the trends and topics of interest that you’ve already forgotten!
Keyword.IO is a free research tool that allows you to compile huge lists of keyword suggestions (the terms people type into search engines such as Google, Bing and Yandex) and also the relevant trend data to build a picture of what’s catching public interest.
The tool offers data for a whole year, so you’re able to tell if a particular topic or type of product is growing in popularity or plateauing. In addition, you can also use Google’s autocomplete to get data from related searches.
Keyword.IO does have a Pro plan that charges a monthly fee, but the basic free tool is still a very powerful addition to your research armory.
Semrush is a tool that helps you to optimize your website in order to make it more appealing to search engines. Businesses use the tool to gain insights from their own website and those of the competition, identifying what kinds of content and keywords are most likely to attract new visitors.
At first glance, that might not seem so useful for uncovering new eCommerce trends. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that Semrush has many awesome features that allow you to snoop on leading industry websites, giving you valuable insights that can help you:
- Find out what people are searching for online.
- Identify what big brands are trying to rank for in search engines.
- Gain valuable data on how companies are spending their advertising budgets.
- Audit and improve your own content once you’ve identified eCommerce trends.
Semrush compliments Google Trends really well, allowing you to indulge in some really deep research on eCommerce trends and how they’re being exploited.
Trend Hunter bills itself as “the world’s #1 largest, most powerful trend platform”. The service leverages user data, AI and real human researchers to zone in on eCommerce trends, consumer insights and other valuable data.
Trend Hunter’s paid reports are no joke: They’re used by the likes of Walmart, Starbucks and even Google to get ahead of the trend curve. At nearly $200 a month, we can’t honestly recommend their services to cash strapped eCommerce novices, but there’s a ton of useful data to be had for free via the site’s blog and downloadable reports.
Everyone has heard of Reddit. “The front page of the internet” has forums (Subreddits) for every topic imaginable. The “popular” page can give some great insights into what the internet is going crazy about right now, but you’ll need to dig pretty deeply to find any data of real value.
A word of caution: Reddit is well known for being an enormous time sink. However, if you can stay disciplined and learn to be patient it can still be a great source of data on emerging eCommerce trends.
2. Sort Through Your Research
Once you’ve spent some time researching emerging eCommerce trends and upcoming products, it’s time to pick a couple of ideas and see how they develop.
At this stage, it’s important to understand the difference between genuine eCommerce trends and fads. Fads are trends that surge rapidly in popularity, going viral in just a few days or weeks, before burning out and disappearing without a trace.
How do you avoid accidentally targeting a fad?
It can be tricky, but your research should be turning up trending topics, products and styles that are steadily building in popularity, but haven’t yet peaked.
- Trends often lie dormant for a significant length of time, only being adopted by niche subcultures.
- Once a trend moves to mainstream media and big-name influencers, it’s almost certainly beginning to plateau.
A great way to understand the difference between a trend and a fad is to think about the world of nutrition: Dozens of fad diets have hit the mainstream over the years, but healthy eating and making educated food choices is a trend that has been slowly building for years.
Look For a Unique Angle or an Easy Win
Once you’ve picked a handful of trending topics or styles that seem like they might make it to the mainstream, it’s time to work out how you can capitalize on them.
There are a couple of approaches here that you could take:
Start a New Side Business
When serial entrepreneurs discover new eCommerce trends, they’re more likely to start a whole new business, complete with fresh branding, a new domain name and a separate online store. They have experience in print on demand, and they know they can turn a profit.
The great thing about print on demand is that it doesn’t require any up front investment or inventory, so it’s relatively easy (and risk free) to pivot to a completely new niche.
On the negative side, newcomers to print on demand could quickly come unstuck if they leap on all the eCommerce trends that they come across. It takes time and dedication to build a successful business, and you’ll rarely be rewarded for chasing overnight fads.
So what can less experienced sellers do to jump on an emerging eCommerce trend?
Find a Way to Align Your Existing Products
Let’s say you’ve spotted a growing trend towards a particular environmental cause. You’ve also noticed that organic cotton products are more popular this year. As luck would have it, you’re currently in the process of growing a brand inspired by your passion for windsurfing.
You already offer lots of print on demand items that are making decent sales, and you’re happy with how your business is developing. You decide to swap to a “100% organic” clothing line, adding several new designs to your collection that feature a strong environmental slant.
By choosing emerging eCommerce trends that align well with your current business, you aren’t in danger of ruining your image or “selling out” just to make a quick buck. In this particular case, the niches go together hand-in-hand, and your brand is actually strengthened as a result.
3. Optimize Your Marketing
Once you’ve spotted an eCommerce trend that you’d like to incorporate into your current brand or online store, you’ll need to tailor your marketing to suit your new angle.
This is a subject that we’ve covered in detail before, in articles such as: “17 ways to increase sales conversion in your online store”, but there are a few obvious things that you can tweak to get optimum exposure:
- If you’re selling on a site like Etsy, use plenty of keywords related to the trend in your product descriptions.
- If you’re hoping to get traffic from search engines, craft long-form articles on your blog that reference relevant keywords throughout. Make sure your writing is fun and engaging to read, and don’t stuff your prose with so many keywords that you’re penalized by Google.
- Find influencers and content creators that are invested in the trend and network with them to get your brand recognized by a larger (targeted) audience.
4. Keep Potential Buyers Engaged and Excited
It’s important to ensure that visitors to your store can easily find the products they’re looking for and that your chosen trend plays an obvious part in your overall branding and look.
To use the example we mentioned a moment ago: Imagine you’re getting a positive reaction from your environmentally focussed windsurfing apparel. If you reach “critical mass” and really catch a rising trend, you might find yourself selling your designs to people that care deeply about your environmental slant, but aren’t so bothered about the sport of windsurfing.
And you know what? It really doesn’t matter!
If you give off the right signals and send out the correct message, people will gladly wear a niche brand even if they aren’t into the sport that originally spawned the business idea.
Take a look at this Forbes article to find out how Red Bull went from drinks company to extreme sport influencer by aligning themselves with an emerging trend.
5. Set Yourself up for a Long Game
Trends might come and go, and you’re almost certain to miss many business opportunities along the way. Think of trend hunting as a side project to the main goal of growing an online business, and set yourself up for the long game:
Bonus: Emerging eCommerce Trends to Keep In Mind
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that some trends (and global events) simply can’t be predicted. All you can do is get your business and mindset prepared so that you can quickly react to an emerging eCommerce opportunity.
With that being said, we’ve seen lately some long-term eCommerce trends taking place in the print-on-demand industry. Namely, a shift towards a more authentic market based on personalities due to the rise of platforms like TikTok.
Generation Z (Broadly speaking, the under 25 age group) are constantly searching for new products, many featuring themes such as world events and social causes.
“In terms of product assortment, I’ve seen that shoppers expect a steady stream of new products and a wider range of goods. At Printify, we’re predicting that 2021 will be a year of constant adaptation… examples include natural and organic clothing, new designs and of course, face masks.”
Gatis Dukurs – Technical co-founder of Printify
Start Spotting Emerging eCommerce Trends and Get Ahead of the Competition…
Identifying the next big trend is no easy task, and it’s always going to be difficult to predict what’s around the corner. One thing’s for certain though: Trends reshape industries every day, changing the fortunes of the entrepreneurs that spot them.
Create Your Own Merch for Free!
Share the article