Finding a niche Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

It was 2001, and R. Tyler Smith believed that e-commerce was an opportunity waiting to be developed.

With a background of entrepreneurship and a desire to succeed, he and one of his clients, Brad Sorock, formed a partnership to start the company that became Niche Retail LLC.

Noting the lack of specialty Web stores on the Internet, Sorock had started his own specialty ski Web store, partnering with Jeff Wedren. Together, they built the Web store in a way that was unconventional at the time.

Later that year, Sorock and Smith partnered to expand the concept of creating niche Web stores to appeal to shoppers who liked to research a product before making a purchase. To encourage that, they not only allowed customers to post reviews — both positive and negative — they also provided charts that allowed customers to compare options and offered an easy shopping experience.

By 2005, Niche had 20 Web stores specializing in items such as jogging strollers and water trampolines.

Smith is continually innovating, coming up with new marketing techniques to set his company apart from competitors. He developed the concept of return shipping insurance, allowing customers to return a product for 2 percent of the product price. And to reward those who don’t use the insurance, he offers a percentage of the cost back on a future product.

He also developed the idea of same-day shipping if an order is placed by 4 p.m., an idea that has since been adopted by many other online retailers.

HOW TO REACH: Niche Retail LLC, www.nicheretail.com or (248) 738-6200