To evaluate inclusions for this list of profitable e-commerce business ideas for 2023, we looked for ones that tap into consumers’ passions and meet unique needs and, so, help our readers enter profitable markets. The e-commerce business ideas that met this criterion include handmade pet treats, toys, thrifted goods, dessert boxes, home decor and cosmetics in addition to educational platforms, eco-friendly baby products, specialty foods, plants, resold fashion and ideology-based products.
1. Sell Homemade Treats to Pet Owners
If you love animals, a handmade treats e-commerce store may be the perfect fit for you. In particular, dog treats are popular as they meet both owner and pup needs. Some baked treats are even made with ingredients to solve frequent pet-owner challenges. For example, cannabidiol (CBD)-infused treats are helping dog moms and dads relieve their pups’ anxiety even while delighting their canine senses.
To start this type of e-commerce business, do your research to find out what business licenses are necessary in your state. Also, pay attention to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) label requirements and testing pet food protocols delineated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Specifically, this idea is best for e-commerce entrepreneurs living in Nevada and Alaska because these states do not have pet food laws that create barriers to entry.
2. Educational Platform
An educational platform is a great way to create passive income by selling products that help people meet their personal or professional goals. Your educational platform can center around an expertise you’ve worked to develop. But instead of working one-on-one with students, you can sell courses, ebooks, workbooks and other educational materials in multiple formats to pass on your expertise to those who need it.
You can either create a website or take advantage of other platforms made for people like you to sell educational materials around their expertise. Udemy, for example, allows educators to sell educational materials in video format, complete with a landing page. Other sites, such as Amazon, allow you to self-publish ebooks for free, then sell them. By offering your educational material in various formats, you appeal to different learning styles and, therefore, wider audiences.
3. Sell Handmade Toys
If you sew, knit or crochet, this idea is for you. There are a few easy approaches you can take to selling handmade toys online. You can simply research what’s trendy now, then find similar knit, crochet or sewing patterns to create them yourself. Or, you can charge a premium price to take orders for custom toys based on parents’ nursery themes or children’s preferences. Finally, for an extra niche approach, consider making nostalgic gifts for adults.
If you plan on following trends and crafting your inventory to match, be sure to research trends by asking other crafters what sells the most from their handmade toy inventories. You can easily do so via Facebook groups dedicated to your craft. Alternatively, if creating custom toys, be sure to get a deposit to cover the full-price cost of materials before you begin crafting each toy.
4. Sell Biodegradable/Reusable Baby Toiletries
More than 18 billion disposable, chemical-filled diapers make it to landfills each year. One child uses 6,000 to 7,000 diapers before the age of three. Parents are quickly learning that they can make a big positive impact on caring for the earth simply by using disposable or reusable diapers to care for their children and many are quite passionate about it.
For a healthy profit, you can help them. There are a couple of ways to start an earth-friendly baby toiletries e-commerce store. You could, for example, purchase biodegradable diapers and other toiletries in bulk and sell them in smaller batches for a markup. You can also learn to use affordable biodegradable materials like cotton to make your own adorable but reusable diapers for children, then sell them at a premium price.
5. Flip and Sell Thrifted Goods
Flipping thrifted goods has become quite a trend. More importantly, buying flipped thrifted goods has become a trend. From unraveling wool thrift store sweaters and crocheting or knitting them into luxurious clothing items to antiquing furniture and marketing them as heirlooms, there are multiple markets for these goodies.
They’re not difficult to flip. A little paint or a few craft supplies and some YouTube tutorials are enough to create an heirloom masterpiece to display in your e-commerce store. Just be sure to use natural light to photograph them, then upload minimalist photos that keep your new prize in the spotlight. Use clear keywords so searchers can find your pieces. Then, watch trend-minded consumers empty your virtual shelves.
6. Online Specialty Food Ordering
With chain produce stores carrying much the same items across the board, there is a market for specialty foods. By sourcing foods that speak to consumers’ tastes or other preferences, you can fill this gap.
For example, many people use honey to treat minor seasonal allergies. But for utmost effectiveness, they must digest honey from the locations that induce their allergies. By sourcing honey from local beekeepers across the United States, you can solve this problem for Americans via a profitable e-commerce store.
Some ways to source niche foods include building relationships with local food producers or buying produce from local markets. If sourced directly from local suppliers, you can upcharge your food products to make a profit. If sourced from local markets, correct marketing that highlights your products’ premium features can help you demand prices that earn a profit. Just be sure to follow FDA and other laws when selling food products to keep your brand thriving.
7. Dessert Boxes Store
Especially in the era of COVID-19, people are looking for ways to connect. Desserts bring people together around flavors and comfort foods. Starting a dessert box e-commerce store can further these trends by bringing people together around comfort food, even when they’re miles apart. They can send treat boxes to loved ones or order them for the people who live under their own roofs. Providing subscription boxes can help to keep the profits rolling in.
The trick is to offer a specialty that differentiates you from dessert trays that can be found in chain stores easily. For example, you could specialize in treats from Latin America by looking up their dessert recipes online and mastering them at home. Then, fill orders for treats from Guatemala or Ecuador. In doing so, culture aficionados can taste foreign flavors by ordering them online. Likewise, families from those countries can enjoy the comforts of home.
8. Brand-Name Fashion Reselling
Another trend you can easily tap into for profit is the decluttering trend. Once or twice a year, many people donate their clothing to thrift shops. If you’re an avid thrifter, you know that name brands land in thrift shops regularly. Fashion reselling at a profit is as easy as purchasing those items at thrift store prices and reselling them in your own e-commerce store for a more fitting price.
When buying pieces to resell, look them over thoroughly to ensure you don’t also purchase stains and rips. In addition, try to buy clothing in in-demand sizes. A size zero is often more difficult to sell than a size eight or 12. When selling your items, include multiple photos from different angles. Also, offer close-up photos of the brand name and other attractive details. Then, list your clothing for sale during the seasons they’re most likely to be worn.
9. Sell Plants Online
Plants are known to relieve stress, purify air and support cognitive health. With all of its benefits, selling plants online offers a means to market your e-commerce store to wide audiences, from stressed-out corporate professionals and health-conscious yoga moms to environmentally minded millennials.
To get started sourcing your plants, first choose a niche. Examples are health-beneficial plants like aloe or outdoor plants like potted fruit trees or flower bulbs. From there, you have several options for sourcing your plants. You could start small by growing plants in your yard. You can also buy them from wholesalers or local greenhouses and nurseries after building a relationship with them.
Finally, on your website, for each plant, offer a detailed description of what it is, how it was cultivated (organically, for example), where it was sourced and the planting zones in which it thrives. When pricing your plants, consider the cost of the goods you’ve purchased or grown, including supplies, if they are or are not in season, your labor, your profit margin and any overhead costs you’ve incurred like storage and shipping costs.
10. Sell Collectibles Online
When searching for an e-commerce store that is in high demand, look no further than collectibles. After all, collectibles are very popular things to own. Your collectibles e-commerce store can revolve around rare items, antique items or both.
You can source collectibles from online auctions. Consider searching thrift stores, eBay or estate sales for products sold by sellers with little knowledge or care regarding how much they are worth. By combining these two methods of collectible searches, you can find extremely rare and underestimated valuables that are easily sellable with healthy profit margins.
If not antiques, to price your items, focus on model numbers, editions, rarity, production dates, involved brands and condition. For antiques, pricing should revolve around the market value, the rarity of the item, its condition and its providence (individual history and the paperwork you have to back that history up). Also, roll in the cost of shipping, insurance, packaging materials (to keep sold collectibles safe when mailing) and your profit margin into the final listing price.
11. Make Natural Cosmetic Products for Selling
As people become more environmentally and health conscious, they are increasingly looking for natural products to meet their day-to-day needs. In 2020, the natural cosmetic products industry was worth $33.4 billion. In 2030, it is projected to be a $56 billion industry. Earning a piece of this pie is not as difficult as it may seem. Many products can be made naturally in your own home, including cosmetics.
For example, you could make natural cosmetics in your home. Surprisingly, the FDA has few regulations surrounding the production process. You don’t have to test your products but you are responsible for ensuring they are safe when they are used according to the directions you put on the label. Just be sure to follow FDA guidelines when it comes to packaging and color additives. Be sure your home provides an environment for good manufacturing practices.
For more information on following FDA guidelines when making your homemade cosmetics, read the FDA’s Small Business and Home Cosmetics: Fact Sheet.
12. Home Decor
While home decor is a niche e-commerce market, it offers endless products you can use to fill your e-commerce store. From paintings, coasters, candles and rugs to bedding, artificial plants and utensil holders, the possibilities are endless. This reality creates a low barrier to entry for entrepreneurs looking to start a home decor e-commerce site.
For example, with some essential oils, making and selling homemade candles is an easy process. Your supply list should include cotton wicks, a clean can for melting your oils, a wooden spoon or other stirring utensil, a pot, some organic beeswax or soy and essential oils of your or your client’s choice. Many YouTube videos are available to guide you as you create unique creations with these supplies and ingredients.
Other examples of home decor products you can easily make include coasters, cloth napkins, rugs and table runners. YouTube videos offer beginner to advanced tutorials on how to knit, crochet or rug hook. You can also tap into dropshipping. After applying for a dropshipping relationship with a supplier like Sagebrook Home, you can list home decor items on your e-commerce site, collect orders, then send them to your supplier to fill and ship.
13. Ideology-Based Products
Perhaps nothing is more personal than a person’s ideologies and the underlying values that come with them. To many people, ideologies form part of their identities and many want to express their ideologies as a means of sharing themselves with others. They often passionately do so via the products they purchase.
This means you can help them express their ideologies by selling ideology-based products. A cross necklace, a veterans hat, a face mask with a human rights slogan are all examples of ideology-based products. The good news is that all of these items are commonplace and easily personalized for different target markets.
Dropshipping can be a powerful tool to offer a wide variety of ideology-based products to your customers. Vistaprint, for example, allows you to design common products, then list them on your website. When customers place an order, Vistaprint is notified and ships the ordered product directly to your customer with no Vistaprint branding on the package or product. In this way, you cut down on overhead and labor costs while still offering a high-demand product.
There are hundreds of e-commerce business ideas available to entrepreneurs. When evaluating ideas for this list, we looked for unique ones to allow our readers to find a market that is not already saturated and, so, is profitable. But, for the highest profitability, we encourage you to take these ideas and make them your own based on what you know about your audience. By uniquely meeting audience needs, you further drive up your profit margin.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I start an e-commerce business?
To start an e-commerce business, first find out what products you can realistically sell. Then, research competitors, find ways to differentiate your store from competitors, write a business plan, put together a branding kit, including logos, a store name, a domain and more, develop relationships with necessary partners, such as suppliers, choose your shipping strategy, set your sales goals and, finally, launch your business.
Is e-commerce profitable?
Some e-commerce stores are more profitable than others. As in any business venture, the profitability of your e-commerce store will come down to product demand and quality, pricing, marketing and the ability to get your products before the audiences who will buy them. Still, handmade products are some of the most profitable e-commerce products because supplies can often be sourced at low costs while final products often demand premium prices.
Can I start an e-commerce store with no money?
You can start an e-commerce store for just a few dollars. With dropshipping, for example, you can create a website and market your products but not hold any inventory. Instead, products are shipped straight from the manufacturer to your customers. This means you can create a dropshipping arrangement for free. However, to set up a website with a branded domain, expect to pay between $10 and $20 per month.