4 Small Companies That Are Successfully Pushing the eCommerce Envelope

Online retail giants like Amazon, eBay and even Wal-Mart are now part of our everyday shopping experience. No matter what you need, you can find it online and have it shipped to your home in a matter of days.

Some brick-and-mortar retail niches are dying out as more and more of their sales go through eCommerce websites. When was the last time you went to a department store? Whether in a mall or as a standalone business, brick-and-mortar retail stores are having to compete for their share of customers in an online friendly market.

For most retailers, no matter how small their market is, this trend means that inevitably they will have an eCommerce component. Competing with the retail giants, however, is not as easy as creating a website and letting the customers come to you. Companies that want to flourish online must create or take advantage of a niche market that is being underserved by established eCommerce sites.

These online retailers don’t have to reinvent the wheel, they just have to find a way to make their wheel better or more convenient than their competitors. The following list includes four companies that have discovered their niche.


A decade ago it appeared that Amazon had wrapped up the online used book market, but when their focus shifted to general merchandise, their used book sales languished. Thriftbooks picked up the slack by networking with used book stores across the United States to create an eCommerce website with over seven million used books available.


No matter what kind of book you are looking for, there is a very good chance that Thriftbooks has it. In stock and available for delivery to your home.

West Marine

About 50 years ago, a revolution in sailing began. The adoption of inexpensive fiberglass boats made sailing available to almost everyone. It went from a strictly upper-class hobby to being available to everyone. In 1968, West Coast Ropes – the forerunner of West Marine – opened in Sunnyvale California.

Originally a brick-and-mortar retail chain, West Marine jumped into eCommerce early. With an emphasis on boating, West Marine can compete in areas that would be financially hazardous for less specialized companies to jump into.


Where would you go to buy small airplane or ultralight parts? If you own a plane, the likely answer is AERO. For over 40 years this company has been supplying parts ranging from spark plug cleaners to engine STC kits and everything in between. A leader in their niche market, AERO has four physical locations but the bulk of their business is done online.

Although airplane parts are not usually considered a reliable eCommerce item, AERO has created a market for them while retaining traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

My Freedom Smokes

Electronic cigarettes have the misfortune of being regulated like a tobacco product without enjoying the overwhelming support of Big Tobacco companies. Instead, entrepreneurs have had to fight against both governmental intrusion and negative advertising from cigarette companies to create and sell their products.

As regulations tighten, companies like My Freedom Smokes, who have a brick-and-mortar store in Charlotte, NC as well as being an online retailer, are still producing quality products that most retailers either will not carry or stock with products produced by companies associated with or owned by Big Tobacco companies.

These companies aren’t building better mousetraps, but they are marketing them in a way that appeals to their intended customers. This creates a better relationship between retailer and consumer giving them an outsized presence in their online marketing niches.