To be honest, I’m not sure what a Deathwing Terminator is and I definitely didn’t know you could paint one. The video was published by BuyPainted.com, a miniature painting service that seems to specialise in painting figures for the fantasy game Warhammer.
Painting these tiny figures looks like painstaking work, but judging by the number of hits for the video, plenty of people love doing it.
Fantasy games are a world unto themselves and painting miniature figures is a niche hobby within that world. Welcome to modern retailing and the world of online commerce.
Closer to my particular niche interest, or tribe, is cycling. When my friend Sam Salter and I started Bike Exchange in 2007 we could see the groundswell of interest in road cycling that was taking it from a marginal sport to a broader leisure activity – the cycling tribe was growing. We could see a certain group of people interested in very specific products and we realised that creating a marketplace would bring these parties together.
The thing with an online marketplace is that it brings together a tribe of people who share a particular niche interest, globally.
That group of 50-something women in lycra on their $5000 Wilier Cento road bikes doing the hard yards through Sydney’s Royal National Park on Sunday morning are not alone. They can find more of their tribe in Nairobi, Kenya, or in Atlanta, Georgia, or in Dublin, Ireland. They can connect and share information and experiences through websites, blogs and social media. They know when they go to work on Monday they might be the only cyclist in their workplace, but their tribe is global.
It’s a pretty amazing thing because it’s all about the connection we feel to other people through a shared interest; something that might be considered a niche to others, but means the world to members of the tribe. That’s a very powerful force in people’s lives and a very persuasive factor when it comes to how people spend their time and money.
In developed, rich economies, people have generally had their basic physiological (food, water, shelter) and safety (rule of law, peace) needs met. After these needs are met people start to think about connection (family, friendships), prestige (ownership of goods), and self-fulfillment (hobbies, travel, education).
Businesses in advanced market economies, such as the US, Australia and Western Europe, are well and truly in the phase of responding to the demands made by consumers for connection, prestige, and self-fulfillment. Online marketplaces play a big role in facilitating that supply and demand.
Increasingly, as the middle classes of the developing world continue to grow (don’t just think BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, China – start thinking places like Kenya and its cyclists too), so too will the opportunities for niche retailers to tap those newly affluent and sophisticated markets. The story for online niche retailers is only just beginning to unfold, and it’s a global one.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Deathwing Terminators to paint…