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The power of targeting niche audiences

feature-sustainable-200Putting all your eggs in one basket was once considered a dangerous move for a business. But as consumer behaviours change, many business owners are discovering that targeting a niche audience can result in repeat purchasing and ongoing loyalty.

Targeting a niche audience is a trend that has played out in the media, with corporate media struggling while niche titles that target fishing fanatics, for example, successfully building readers. And businesses that target a niche audience are also enjoying the financial rewards.

It can also be far cheaper to target your marketing to a specific niche audience and demonstrate your depth of knowledge than try and market your offering far and wide.

Katharina Kuehn, director of Retail Doctor Group Insights has researched this trend and agrees that consumers are turning their backs on corporate Australia in favour of brands that add meaning to their lives.

“In the past and up until now, consumers have often been treated by retailers as an average demographic – one size fits all. But the fact is that we are all individuals, with individual goals, and consumption is a means of self-expression and satisfaction of our own goals.

“So, it stands to reason that retailers and brands that truly and intimately understand and target consumers’ individual goals are much more likely to satisfy their needs.

“After all, people want brands and retail experiences they can identify with and express their own personality with, which means it’s the perfect time for a niche strategy,” Kuehn says.

Kuehn says a niche strategy should start with a profound understanding of the market opportunity and target consumer.

“Then, all touch points have to clearly communicate this niche proposition.”

A big footprint

People in business can learn a lot from operators that have successfully built a niche audience. And some of the best examples of these are the types of businesses operating in a niche themselves.

Brisbane’s The Shoe Garden is one such business. It was founded by Carol Haffke seven months ago and in that time she’s built a database of 600 female followers. Individually, these women might not have all that much in common, but they have all suffered the humiliation of being unable to buy shoes to fit.

Haffke has size 12 feet, but admits didn’t have any retail experience when she opened the store. But finding a niche and catering exclusively for it (despite regular calls from people to stock smaller sizes) has been the key to her success.

“My mantra is that I specialise in gorgeous shoes in size 10 and up, so I further narrowed my niche by not stocking comfort shoes in larger sizes, because if you want those types of shoes, you can find them. What you cannot find are sparkly sling backs or sexy sandals that look fashionable and amazing.”

Haffke denies she’s missing sales by targeting a niche. “I think offering as wide a choice as possible to women who have long been neglected is much more important than offering gorgeous shoes to women who can go to any shoe shop and buy what they like.”

Lucy Godoroja is also targeting a niche audience – button lovers. She has been selling nothing but buttons at her Sydney store All Buttons since 1989. She describes her customers as eclectic, original and creative.

While her customers differ, they all love buttons. Many expect her to be an expert in all things buttons, she says.

“When you operate in a niche, your customers are knowledgeable people who come to you because they expect the same level, or higher, of knowledge in your field.”

Funky Trunks is also targeting a niche audience: Those not afraid to wear seriously bright swimwear. The business launched a decade ago and was founded by Duncan McLean.

“The reason that you have a niche audience is because you’re giving them something they want that is tailored to their needs. The important thing about being a niche business is to retain the culture and the philosophy that people bought in to in the first place,” McLean says.

Carving out a niche audience has also worked well for Michelle Allen, who makes a living out of selling iPad covers online.

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