Online shopping is becoming the norm rather than the exception: The 2017 holiday shopping season proved that with a record number of sales just over the Black Friday shopping weekend. As a result, more and more entrepreneurs are looking for ways to gain a foothold in the online marketplace. The question is: How do you carve out a place for your business in that increasingly competitive environment?

With a few tips for spotting opportunities and profitable ideas, you too can build and launch an online business that drives impressive sales.

1. Target a niche community.

Rather than trying to market to any and every customer, try to find a niche in which you can market to a small, focused group of customers. This approach means you can specifically offer products that address the wants and needs of that one audience.

One example of this can be seen via The Sneaky Chef. This brand created a line of healthy food products for children and specifically targets the demographic of parents who want high quality food options for their children.

2. Look for gaps in the marketplace.

Another way to make headway in the online sales environment is to spot current gaps in product offerings--and then fill them. Sites like specifically highlight different opportunities like these. However, with a little outreach and research, you can easily find areas in which you can fulfill an unmet need.

WholeMe, a gluten-free snack company, found their foothold within the competitive grocery vertical by creating an entirely new product that a specific group of customers (those with a gluten allergy) was looking for.

3. Appeal to an audience's values.

You should also consider how you can target your messaging and products to audiences with specific values and ideologies.

When you can differentiate yourself as an online brand that supports different causes (think military, environmental issues, under-served populations, etc.), you give potential customers another way to connect with you. Nine Line Apparel does this well: Their entire online product catalog is focused on supporting US veterans.

4. Be the anti-Amazon.

We all know that Amazon does a lot of things well--but what can your online business do that they can't? Think about how customer experience, customer service, and highly personalized products can give you a leg up over big brands like Amazon (and other big box stores.)

Dazadi is an online company that has capitalized on this approach and made more than $100 million in sales as a result. Their focus is on stellar customer experiences even after the purchase is complete: When they sell large items like pool tables and ping pong tables, they coordinate home construction and installation so it's hassle-free for the buyer.