Market saturation is a major concern for every business – even Starbucks (SBUX) has begun to worry they’ve got too many stores and not enough customers after density mapping revealed an average of four additional cafes within a square mile of any given Starbucks. When your business is digital, though, or just has far less traffic than your average Starbucks, it can be harder to determine if you’ve reached market saturation. So how can you tell if your niche is overflowing?
For specialty product brands, marketplace saturation is rarely the problem it presents itself to be. Rather, if you can successfully innovate on your product, then you can make the market bigger. This is a phenomenon that doesn’t apply to standard products like toilet paper or milk, where everyone who needs the product is likely already buying it. Here, your unique offerings provide a particular edge.
The Breakdown on Saturation
If you want to increase sales but worry that your market has reached saturation, you’ll need to start by examining potential points of opportunity. One way to do this is by using the Paterson StratOp model, which focuses on four areas: current products within the current market; new products in the current market; current products in a new market; and new products in a new market.
Based on this breakdown, specialty businesses have several options. You can try to push the boundaries of your current market with the same products, seek a new market entirely, and/or introduce new products to these markets. In general, finding new markets and expanding your specialty offerings are both viable options.
Expansion Through Access
One of the leading reasons that specialty products have small markets is that, while they’re typically high-quality goods, many people can’t afford them or may not be willing to perform high maintenance care, such as polishing leather goods or dry cleaning fabrics. Specialty brands need to recognize that making their products more accessible don’t mean degrading them – it means growing your audience. Buyers who’ve invested in a more accessible version of a product are also more likely to purchase the higher quality option down the line.
Not convinced? This is exactly what Occitan Imports has accomplished with their line of French tablecloths. The Provence region of France has a rich cultural history that’s represented by their textiles, but many modern buyers are hesitant to invest in delicate linens. Occitan Imports has resolved this problem by offering tablecloths in multiple fabrics, including printed cloths with acrylic coating, allowing them to be wiped down for daily use.
Catch the Buzz
For brands that are committed to a particular market, another option is to think more broadly about your audience’s needs and focus on expanding your product offerings. If Occitan Imports looked to grow their audience, then the athleisure sector can be viewed as offering new products to the same market.
The athleisure market recently reached what many believed was maximum saturation, but companies weren’t convinced and based on growing sales, the companies wagered correctly. One primary reason for their growth was an emphasis on wellness and excellence in all areas of life. As one reporter noted, “sleep is the new frontier of wellness.” The blending of daily sports wear and pajamas may seem farfetched until you consider that one of the primary garments marketed to women is leggings. Suddenly it’s obvious how athleisure brands are spinning their new products.
Market saturation should never be considered an absolute, especially for specialty brands. With proper research and customer engagement, it’s entirely possible to reach new customers and grow your core consumers. Even Starbucks will probably find space for new locations – and your business surely has far more room to grow than they do.