Ecommerce grew 20% in 2019 alone, and we are not surprised. With brands like Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon Handmade expanding, online shops are booming like never before.
In a world dominated by online shopping, the opportunity to develop an e-commerce business idea is a ripe one! But how do you come up with an idea that will last? Enter piggybacking.
What is a piggyback business idea?
Piggybacking refers to the concept of creating products around successful businesses and trends that are already out in the world. In other words, it’s cleverly jumping on the bandwagon of products that are popular.
For example, IKEA is a successful brand that sells furniture and home goods in all different shapes and sizes.
Because of its huge customer base, piggyback entrepreneurs have been able to cash in by creating and selling IKEA accessories — things like couch legs and custom couch covers that are made for some of the more popular styles in store.
Successful piggybacking requires an understanding of what’s hot at any given time and determining the longevity of a brand and product. IKEA, for instance, has been around for decades, so it’s safe to say that creating accessories for its products isn’t a flash-in-the pan idea.
And we only have to look at the explosion of phone covers that emerge every time Apple releases a new model to know that there’s revenue waiting to be snapped up for piggyback businesses.
The great thing about piggybacking is the pre-built audience you have for your product. This means you can skip the part where you figure out if there’s an audience for your product and jump straight to the part where you figure out how popular your idea is among those fans.
How to find piggyback business ideas
1. Find a trending product to create a piggyback business idea around. Ideally, you want to launch a product around a brand or trend that’s successful, has been around for a while, and continues to be popular. You can start your search by using a range of free tools:
- TrendHunter and Product Hunt provide insights into currently trending topics, as well as a regularly updated list of viral products.
- Google Trends has a feature that lets you discover what people are searching for, and it has an “explore” option that dives into top trends.
- Instagram is the most visual social media platform. You can use hashtag research and the “discover” feature to determine what products are currently popular and to get a feel for the kind of crafts and accessories that people are piggybacking with at the moment.
- Keyword research gives you an insight into what consumers are currently searching for and the volume of searches for certain products.
2. See if your idea will cut it in the real world. This requires validation from potential buyers and to see if you have a place in the market you’re looking to get into. Find out where the customers of the business you’re piggybacking on hang out.
For example, owners of FitBits are likely to hang out on fitness sites and forums, as well as certain Instagram hashtags related to health and wellbeing.
3. Start testing the water. Create a landing page for your “coming soon” product and direct people through to sign up for updates from the platforms you’ve identified as relevant. From there, you can figure out how well your product is converting.
4. Evaluate results. If conversions aren’t as high as you like, it might be time to rethink your idea. You might want to create a survey to send out to potential buyers to learn what it is they want from a spin-off product.
5. Rinse and repeat. Follow steps 1-4 until you find a product that people are excited to buy. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time!
6. Determine longevity. Once you have a solid idea or shortlist, ask yourself: Does this idea have longevity? The trickiest part of coming up with a list of businesses that piggyback off others is choosing something that has long-term potential.
A lot of trends pass in a few years, so it’s important that your idea can evolve with the times. For example, the businesses that create IKEA accessories will always have product ideas because IKEA will always be releasing new pieces of furniture.
It’s also worth thinking about whether your idea can be expanded into different areas — if you make watch straps for Fitbits, can you expand your products to fit other emerging brands in the same category.
7. Check the competition. If you’re piggybacking on another brand, it’s useful to check if you can sell related products without stepping on the brand’s toes. Take the Instant Pot, the now-famous electronic pressure cooker.
The brand has an official accessories store and in its product literature, it warns customers not to buy accessories that aren’t officially “Instant Pot.” That said, there are other products that are complementary to the Instant Pot, but also have other uses — see this article for examples.
Examples of piggyback e-commerce business ideas
Below are a couple of ideas to get the juices flowing so you can come up with some great eCommerce business opportunities!
The growing trend of wearables (a.k.a. Wearable technology) has made room for an entire industry of accessories for wearables. The online store WITHit is a prime example:
The number of people searching for “wearables” has increased significantly in the past three years. As mentioned above, think of Fitbit and Jawbone, and the array of businesses that cropped up selling watch straps and charging docks for these devices.
This wearables trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as new watches and trackers enter the market every year. Piggyback on this ecommerce idea by coming up with your own wearable tech, or accessories to go with them, think: cases, cleaners, storage, displays, etc.
The health and fitness industry is always a good place to find unique e-commerce business ideas.
Take the turmeric trend — we’re talking turmeric pastes, smoothies, moisturizers, and spot treatments, all of which tout the power of this bright and ancient remedy. If wellness is your thing, this is an ecommerce business idea with a lot of potential.
Bigger brands have piggybacked on this trend, as well as smaller shops like this one:
As cannabis slowly becomes legal globally, cannabis-related products have skyrocketed. Marble storage jars, branded papers, crystal grinders—you name it.
Tokyo Smoke houses a variety of brands piggybacking on the new legalization of pot in Canada, offering high-quality, aesthetically pleasing goods that break the hippy cannabis stigma. Great inspiration for an e-commerce business idea of your own!
You can’t talk about the cannabis market without talking about CBD. A non-psychoactive property found in cannabis plants, CBD products are booming in the health and beauty industry. CBD oil has been said to relieve muscle pain, ease stress, and even assist with anxiety. Today, you can find CBD oils for relaxation, topical CBD moisturizers, face creams, and body oils, lip balms, and even CBD droppers for pets with anxiety! Setting up an ecommerce business with CBD products will have your bank account singing in no time flat.
Personal travel photographers
We can thank Instagram for infecting us with a chronic travel bug. Our social feeds are flooded with high-quality, beautifully styled travel-photos, and it makes you wonder if people have personal photographers following them around. The answer is likely, yes—they do. And we’re not just talking #boyfriendphotographers.
The increase in quality travel photos has lead to an interesting piggyback business—personal travel photographers. Companies like Flytographer, and ShootMyTravel have cropped up offering professional photography services to people with chronic wanderlust.
You’ll also notice a surprising number of photography-based Airbnb experiences that include a tour and professional photographer to take photos of you as you visit the most popular sites at your destination.
Research your way to piggyback ecommerce success
Piggybacking on trends is a great way to find product ideas to sell online in an area that interests you. And when you’re offering products that piggyback on another brand or trend, you know there’s a built-in audience already there.
The key to success is research—research on brands and trends, research on viability, and research on whether you can launch a product that doesn’t compete directly with the brand you’re piggybacking on!