We human beings are trendsetters. To that extent, it is good to be. The problem is – we are also trend followers without being persuaded. Launching new businesses is not an exception to this. If E-commerce is hot trend, we will see host of new businesses getting into this space. Ride sharing, photo sharing, mobile messsaging, and the trend list goes on.
Just as we habitually follow trends, business evolution also follows a trend of its own. The first few disrupters will capture investor attention, become unicorns, late entrants are sceptically viewed by investors and consumers alike as “me too” businesses. They remain mediocratic or extinct. It is painful. Miserable.
I wonder, is there a way to break this trend? Fortunately, there is.
Let us take ecommerce example. Should everybody rush to set up click-buy-ship formula online stores? I think the fundamental question to answer is – I should do whatI am good at, and not what is nice to do. But, can I really isolate the what is hot (trend) with what is not (I am good at), yet be successful? I may not be, if I am narrowly focussing on the hot trend click-buy-ship ecommerce alone. Contrary to this, I may be successsful if I am focussing on the larger eosystem around ecommerce. My skill may not lie in the smaller domain of ecommerce, but I may find a match in the larger ecosystem of ecommerce. If I find, then I can continue to focus and sharpen my skills and resources in that area.
What is the larger ecosystem around ecommerce where diverse skills may promise success? Here is my take.
Merchandizing: If my skill is prototyping, designing, selecting, and procuring, then I have an opportunity to be an aggregator in merchandizing for ecommerce.
Packaging: Packaging is an intersection of art and science. As a standalone business area, packaging domain offers immense scope for innovating space saving, optimizing, safe and secure, user friendly, eco friendly and user experience enhancing business case. Steve Jobs focussed on packaging that he personally oversaw Apple products package designs. Jeff Bezos simplified packaging of amazon shipments when an eighty year old lady complained of how difficult it is for her to open a package received from amazon. Need any more endorsements for how important is packaging in ecommerce ecosystem?
Logistics: Consumer logistics is the lifeblood of ecommerce. The time delay between in-store purchase vs. online purchase is an unsolved puzzle to the ecommerce industry. Ecommerce leaders will bless any disruptive logistics business model that can give consumer the power to receive the ordered item just in as much time it takes to go to the nearest store and buy it. Big daddies of ecommerce are struggling to get there, but there is no proven logistics model that has solved this time delay.
Training: Does ecommerce have an industry specific training needs? Is there room for specializing in training for ecommerce industry, and be a leader in training domain? You bet there is. The delivery fleet, particularly on-road crew require training on road safety, customer etiquette, managing themselves and the space around, emergency and exception management areas.
Document verification: Employment in ecommerce industry is throwing up newer large scale opportunities for document and personal information verification business. A disruptive business in this area to that can be, while remaining a niche third party player, yet seamlessly integrate with the ecommerce internal business work flows. An ecommerce giant would rather want to contract with industry leader in this domain, than deal with multiple agencies in each city. For example, millions of crowd sourced or employed drivers personal information and document verification has to happen before they are on-boarded. There is a need for aggregator in this space too.
Creative ecommerce: If my skill set is coding and designing awesome mobile apps, web sites, online stores with minimal clicks, minimal data entry, with rich User Experience (UX), I may taste success in buildinga and maintaining mobile apps and web sites for ecommerce rather than I myself getting into ecommerce retailing.
Returns and refurbishing: I have the wherewithal to buy returned goods, refurbish, resell and offer a blanket of care and support to the buyers. Then I would venture into selling refurbished goods either online or offline. Managing returns, inspection, refurbishing and reselling is a resource straining area that ecommerce leaders wish someone takes it away from them.
Installation and servicing: Not all online purchases are installation-free. Consumers and ecommerce businesses alike are willing to pay suitably if a specialist can take away installation and servicing from them. Read the story of an autistic Canadian man who can install and assemble any complicated furniture in less than 1 hour here
In summary, ecommerce retailing as a business is narrow; it is not for everyone. But the ecosystem is wider. It is diverse. It has more room for play. Why crowd the space, when we can discover our niche and win? There are two choices – be successful and become story board. Crowd the space and become statistics. Mediocracy is not a conscious choice. It happens unconsciously.