5/11/2020

Where will Niche-market Providers sit in the New Norm?

I've published a number of personal thoughts on the new norm in the world of business or as I see it the "Second Front". These are views from my perspective and are open for comment, discussion and disagreement. Please let me know as commentary is always appreciated.

I arrived in Japan at the end of the 1990s, mid-October, on a rainy, humid day in Tokyo. This would begin a journey that lasted 13 years and was the beginnings of my entrepreneurial career as well as a story-line filled full of invaluable life lessons. During that time I worked for a business that catered to a niche-market opportunity. Considering where we are with COVID-19, I started to think about that experience and how things will or have changed for businesses starting a niche-market?

I say starting a niche-market because those MSMEs who cut a small slice off a larger market segment, have seen an opportunity to diversify and specialize. Creating something different to fulfill a need by studying and reviewing consumer trends and habits. Consumer demand can gain in popularity and eventually become as big as the larger market segment, or become diluted, seeing an influx of new players or products causing a down-turn in demand.

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Two examples could be craft beer, once a garage based industry that moved into main stream popularity; big beer has picked up the leading micro-brewed brands to offer all beer segments to their beer loving consumers. A phenomena I witnessed in Japan and that started as a local festival in France, was celebrating the end of the wine making season by producing and drinking Beaujolais Nouveau. Taking excess grapes, fermenting them quickly to produce a clean and refreshing wine. An amazing opportunity to generate quick revenue, especially when exporting and marketing to a new wine market, Japan in the late 1990s. Demand peaked in 2004 and since then Beaujolais Nouveau has declined as the Japanese Consumers taste for wine has matured.

However; in the past niche-market providers relied on word of mouth, in-house marketing, signage and print advertising. The gradual development of the digital marketplace changed ideology when trying to engage with consumers or partnerships of interest. Fast forward to COVID-19 and the virtual market place is shaping up to be the primary transacting environment. Will this dilute or enhance the creation of niche-markets, will the noise in the virtual space make it as hard as it was pre-digital for MSMEs to reach consumers to bring them to their specialized products and services?

The chapter on this has yet to be written but MSME Owners and Operators will definitely need to review their current strategies and the tool-box they have at hand to address the drastically changing virtual landscape. Niche-market providers have always been the renegades to break away from the norm to either do it better or put a spin on it that attracts a new genre of consumer. This may be the key ingredient for success, seeing the demand forming on the peripheral, to embrace its uniqueness and to create awareness and demand.

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