In 2014 more new companies were created in the UK than ever before, amounting to more than one start-up a minute. It’s the same story across the world. A new report by Startups.co.uk gives a detailed analysis of emerging business and consumer trends identifying the top business opportunities expected to take off in 2015. I’m looking for a new area to start a niche blog so this caught my attention.
Several of these opportunities aren’t new. I know I’ve encountered some of them in my own life. But they point to areas set to experience dramatic expansion, areas ripe for new solutions. In all cases remember that the underlying need they answer is as ancient as mankind.
In many cases the current market may be primarily offline. The challenge here is to study these areas for new internet business ideas. Explore around the terms they suggest – take some pointers from 11 places to find business ideas online.I’ve given a few suggestions but please use the comments to bulk this out!
Care home services
Custom-made 3D printed products
Bike safety accessories
Sustainable and ethical clothing
‘Free from’ foods
‘Tech for good’
Protein products are no longer just for bodybuilders, they’ve entered the mainstream. The market is booming for people who see protein as a way to get lean and get healthy. The global protein product sector is predicted to rise to sales of £8bn by 2017.
You’ll see ‘high-protein’ emblazoned on a whole host of products. Big brands such as Danone have entered the sector with high-protein yoghurts and Marks & Spencer now offer a range of high-protein meals.
Internet business ideas may include a niche blog with affiliate products for consumers, information for retailers and suppliers, sector trends for manufacturers. This niche in particular could earn great engagement from social media.
The number of people aged 85 or over in the UK is predicted to double in the next 20 years. Only 40% of people would be willing to move a family member into a home. No doubt this low figure is in part due to recent scandals affecting the sector.
Alongside a range of medical services there are calls for services to boost resident’s wellbeing. Care homes must also cater for resident’s enjoyment so there is an opportunity to provide services which care homes may struggle to organise themselves, such as animal care, drama or other activities. One such company is Oomph! Wellness which provides ‘fun, inclusive and effective exercise classes for older adults’.
Internet business ideas may include a directory of service providers, training for in-house activities, a blog with information for care homes and service providers, online activities for residents.
3D printing is reaching the mainstream. The technology creates solid 3D objects primarily from plastic filament. Uses include functional items such as specific replacement parts for phones or highly personalised items such as bespoke shoes mirroring the curve of your foot.The great advantage is that items can be manufactured in small product runs with a quick turnaround and personalised to the needs of the customer.
Sales of consumer 3D printers are predicted to grow ten-fold from 81,000 in 2013 to 850,000 in 2018.
Internet business ideas include a facility to customise products online for home delivery, spare parts for a niche product type and brand, a repository for plans, an information blog about the capabilities of 3D printing for particular user groups, e.g. 3D printing for gardeners.
The next world cuisine set to soar in popularity is Peruvian. It will still lag behind staple ‘ethnic’ cusines such as Chinese, Indian, Thai or Mexican but South America is on the rise. In the UK the world foods market was worth £1.7bn in 2013 and is predicted to rise to £2.1bn by 2018.
You may already be familiar with specialist Peruvian food products like Quinoa, huacatay herb, Sacha Inchi nut oil and chilli peppers such as Ají limo and rocoto.
Internet business ideas include a blog focusing on Peruvian recipes and culture. There are many specialist terms that people will be searching for in Google and unique domain name possibilities. Penetration for Peruvian food is still low so there are opportunities for supplying ingredients or final products.
In recent years there’s been a surge in the number of people cycling, and unfortunately the number of casualties. This has led to a greater demand for cycle safety from consumers and the media. The market has seen products in the form of lights, lasers, helmets, clothing and other equipment. Solutions to warn vehicle drivers include Jaguar’s Virtual Urban Windscreen which projects external images of a vehicle’s blindspot to alert the driver.
Hovding offers a discreet ‘airbag for cyclists’ which expands on impact. It satisfies the need for bike safety while appealing to the fashion-conscious.
Internet business ideas include a blog with information for cyclists and vehicle drivers with information about the range of options, a mapping app for logging accident locations, directories of local services for cyclists.
Ethical and sustainable fashion is emerging as a popular fashion niche benefiting from widespread celebrity endorsement. The latest example is Raw for the Oceans, a denim range from Pharrell Williams made using recycled plastic taken from the sea.
The top concerns
The ethical treatment of workers and environmental implications are two of the top concerns for customers when choosing a particular brand. This has already resulted in market responses from retailers such as ASOS who provide sustainable and ethical clothing in their Green Room.
Internet business ideas include a blog reporting on global issues, offering affiliate sales and reviewing stockists. This is another area that could benefit from social media engagement.
The ‘free from’ market is turning from specialist nutrition to a mainstream option. Once restricted to health food shops you can now find the labels ‘dairy free’, ‘gluten free’, ‘wheat free’ and many more displayed prominently in national supermarket chains. This has been driven by greater consumer awareness of food intolerance and health-conscious options. The market benefits from widespread celebrity endorsement.
The latest information from supermarket Waitrose reveals that sales of dairy-free and wheat-free food products jumped by 22% in 2014.
Internet business ideas include a blog with information for each ‘free from’ niche detailing health benefits and stockists. Within ‘free from’ products there are many diet niches, such as paleo or vegan.
More people are working longer hours which has led to a growing demand for domestic services. Pet-sitting is not a new activity but there has been a steady increase in demand as seen in the growth of pet-sitter platforms such as BorrowMyDoggy. The total pet care market in 2014 showed 4% growth while 46% of UK households have pets.
Pet-sitting has an image of small-scale temporary workers, and there is certainly room for this sort of employment. However pet-sitting is becoming an increasingly organised industry. There’s a range of franchise opportunities available and even a national association.
Internet business ideas include a blog for people searching for pet services, funded by affiliate sales of pet-related products, training services for people seeking work in this sector, an agency.
More and more start-ups are launching with a mission to make the world a better place. The problems they tackle include social and environmental issues, healthcare, social questions and sustainable living. Social enterprises benefit from a wider range of support and investment opportunities, on a national and international scale. Tech for good can engage consumers and gives the media a stronger story.
Three major areas
- Cleantech companies working towards tackling climate change.
- Healthtech companies dealing with a wide range of health issues, such as those arising from Britain’s ageing population
- Edtech companies addressing the education needs of the world, particularly the developing world.
Internet business ideas include a blog reviewing the choices for consumers, funding advice.
‘Quirky cafés’ is a wave of unique innovative cafés that have captured national media attention and consumer engagement. Unique café concepts include Cereal Killer Café which offers breakfast cereals from around the world; Biscuiteers Boutique which specialises in biscuits; and Velo Café which offers a community for cyclists. Other quirky cafés cater for comic book fans, board game enthusiasts and even cats.
The total UK coffee shop market was worth £6.2bn in 2013, that’s 6.4% sales growth on 2012. And Euromonitor concluded that specialist coffee shops are ‘amongst some of the best performing within the whole food service market’. Consumers have begun to look at coffee shops as a social setting rather than a place to simply buy a coffee. In fact consumption levels of coffee are actually decreasing.
Quirky cafés supplement their services with relevant products targeted at their niche, such as comic books for the customers of Geek Retreat. So a quirky cafe is not just a food and drink establishment but a niche retail opportunity.
Internet business ideas include a blog about local or regional facilities, an app mapping innovative cafes, advice and suggestions for cafe owners. It may be useful to think of this opportunity in reverse – create a niche website and then make a physical presence with a café.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot in common with these markets. One factor seems to be the importance of the individual and personalisation. We know that the internet has made people attuned to their own individual needs but the presence of quirky cafés suggests a broader appreciation of individuality itself. Mass production and mass marketing seem to have had their day (or possibly they’re already being taken care of by global brands). Now the key to growth is serving niche markets with exactly what individual consumers want, and that’s where small business excels.
I haven’t decided on a final choice for my own niche website but I have a better idea of where consumer trends are heading.
If you’re planning to develop a niche take a look at the books reviewed in the post Find a niche and dominate a niche.