Small businesses in fashion jewelry and accessories can capitalize on a subtle change in the public’s buying patterns. JWT Intelligence, a company that specializes in trend forecasting, recently added a new category called Nichification, which focuses on this change. According to JWT today’s shoppers seek self-expression rather than conformity. That translates to a shift from mass marketing to specialty shops.
To get a micro-picture of these patterns imagine booths at a craft show or flea market. Booths with a mix of merchandise attract treasure finders that quickly browse the booth and move on if something doesn’t quickly catch the eye. Other booths specializing in one item, say gemstone jewelry, draw customers and hold them. This is the power of niche markets-specialization.
Producers of nearly all consumer goods are trying to satisfy the fine nuances today’s consumers demand. Those remember shopping for toothpaste or laundry detergent ten years ago know that their favorite brand now comes in 5 or more different options. People that previously shopped for a toothpaste brand now want a whitener, an enamel hardener, or cavity prevention. They may prefer a gel, a paste, or a combination. One brand today provides several products to fill each preference.
These personalized preferences also move into fashion jewelry and accessories. Consumers want a specific look causing mushrooming choices in selection. They also want it right now. So how do today’s retailers deal with all this specialization?
The old idea of targeting your customer becomes a necessity with the highly diversified selection today. Showing a customer every possible solution to their search is not only impossible, it also overwhelms the buyer, paralyzing their decision making. So targeting a segment of buyers with a limited number of products and then advertising to that group creates a niche market. Can both online and brick and mortar businesses capitalize on the growing trend towards specialized buying?
Each marketing style has its own advantages and both can benefit from specialized buying trends. To demonstrate, let’s look at a specific example and start with online businesses. Online customers want a specific item and they want it fast. Organization that provides speed in drilling down to the item is key. Let’s take hats for an example. Awnol.com tries to take business owners to the hats they need for their store by concentrating them under wholesale hats and then sub-dividing the category into dress, casual, cowboy hats, and men’s hats. For even faster results, wholesale buyers can use the search. Online businesses have the advantage of neatly organizing a large number of products in a niche market so customers can quickly drill down to fill their specific needs.
Search and organization are the important ingredients for the online retailer, but what about the brick and mortar business? Actually the hat business has been ahead of the curve in serving a niche market. Hat retailers that do the best concentrate on this one accessory and target a certain market. For example, stores selling predominantly church hats appeal to a narrow segment of the overall market, but get most of the sales for this category. Another shop may specialize in men’s hats and still another in trendy hats for young adults. In addition, there are shops that concentrate on ball caps. Some other merchandise can provide some extra revenue for slow seasons, but the overall look of the shop is in the niche. The brick and mortar shop fills the needs of a specific segment of consumers and offers the advantage of letting customers try on a variety of hats for look and fit.
The move of consumers towards specialization can have a positive impact on smaller retailers. The pitfalls to avoid are a niche too small to support overhead or one with a short life expectancy. If the trend continues are we going to see a boom in small retailers? Only a look back a few years from now can answer the question.