The global ecommerce market is on pace to sell more than $22 trillion in products by the time 2016 comes to a close. Even though annual growth rates are set to slow down in the coming years, the ecommerce juggernaut shows no such signs of stalling. In fact, experts predict it will continue to post double-digit growth through 2020.
Given the extreme competition they face from established players, ecommerce startups are focusing on products as yet untapped by the existing market. The mere fact that worldwide consumers are willing to buy non-traditional products online is testimony to the growing faith they place in ecommerce. In the online marketplace, consumers are no longer shying away from clicking "buy" for items that in recent years many would have purchased only at a brick-and-mortar store.
Other startups are changing the game by offering products and services that challenge contemporary mindsets. Here are a few examples.
Guitar in a can
Ever seen a guitar crafted from an oil can? If you haven’t, check out Bohemian Guitars. This business' founders saw musicians from poor neighborhoods in South Africa build unique musical instruments out of discarded materials. The pair wasted no time turning this mother-of-invention occurrence into an extraordinary and artistic means of commerce.
Bohemian Guitars makes customizable guitars from reclaimed wood, oil cans and other upcycled items. The 90-day waiting period says a lot about these guitars’ popularity and demand.
What’s in a box?
Box subscription services are the new rage. Birchbox, Ipsy and hundreds of other such services started with a simple premise: Evaluate customers' preferences, curate items (from socks or personal care, to snacks and clothing) that align with those interests and ship them in beautiful boxes. The precise contents of each package are a surprise that arrives on a set weekly or monthly schedule. Due in part to the strong suspense factor, subscription boxes are gaining popularity throughout the world.
Jewelry in a click
Buying jewelry always has been considered a very personal experience. Women, in particular, tend to purchase pieces in stores. There, they receive personal attention, get to see and feel the items for themselves and may even try on a bauble or two before buying. But businesses such as BlueStone now offer jewelry the ecommerce way.
This Indian retailer is changing the way people buy jewelry, offering a range from everyday fashion pieces to precious solitaires. The website offers articles to educate customers and displays all relevant certifications to assure shoppers of the items' authenticity. BlueStone also regularly releases designer collections, offers gifting solutions and ships worldwide.
Shop a companion
This one will bring a sly smile from single women. Ever felt the need for a male friend to accompany you to a cocktail party, a wedding or just a day out enjoying the city? Now you can choose a companion from a list of smart, handsome men. Rent-A-Gent provides a strictly platonic, intelligent male friend for $200 an hour. A similar service called ManServants offers male companions who can become your bartender, personal photographer, bodyguard or butler.
Made for you
Not all ecommerce startups are built around unique products or services. Some stand apart from the competition by offering extreme customization of everyday products.
Shoes of Prey, an Australian business, believes fashion should be “personal, playful and never prescribed.” It allows customers to choose from various styles and personalize their shoes by color, heel style and height, occasion, size and width.
Rent A Dress solves the nothing-to-wear problem. It allows customers to try a dress for a 24-hour period, just to be sure. If it's a winner, the shopper can rent it. If the dress is just like everything else in the customer's closet, it can be exchanged for another. Rent A Dress even offers in-house stylists who can assist shoppers in choosing the dress that fits the customer and the occasion.
You can open an online shop, too.
The right web technology and ecommerce platform are the essential tools behind any online shop. As an entrepreneur, you have a lot to consider: number of products, system architecture, community and ease of adding functionalities.
While Magento is one of the oldest and most popular systems, it's complex and somewhat cumbersome by nature. Agile, community-driven shopping-cart platforms have filled the gap and are growing in popularity.
Prestashop, for example, is used by more than 250,000 small and large online retailers. Its intuitive administrator panel, robust community and ease of incorporating add-ons and plugins all make it efficient to use and modify. These features have endeared the platform to developers, programmers, owners and shoppers alike.
Building the site is only half the work. The more challenging part -- marketing -- still awaits. Retailers need to be increasingly innovative in how they bring products and services to consumers. Some retailers that started online now are choosing omni-channel approaches, opening brick-and-mortar shops to offer a more personal customer experience. Warby Parker, the popular online eyeglasses frame and lens retailer, is opening storefronts so customers can try on different looks before they buy.As the ecommerce scene heats up even further, businesses will require robust, cutting-edge technology. They need to sell nontraditional products and services while still managing site traffic. Due to the increasing competition among online businesses, the customer is the one who stands to gain the most.