The Internet: Pathway to Fame and Fortune—or a Closing Window of Opportunity?
The Internet is the way to fame, fortune and the gilded lifestyle you have always dreamed of, right? If you could just think of that one brilliant idea or invent the perfect product your problems would be over. You’d slap up a website, place your products on there and wait for the wads of cash to roll in, right?
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The Hard Truth
The reality is much more challenging than that. Even in the early days of the Internet it was never easy to get rich quick online. In those early days, there was not as much online demand. People were just getting used to the Internet. They were figuring out how it worked, how to find things on it and what it was good for.
Then personal computers became more prevalent and proper Internet browsers and search engines became widely available. The Internet rapidly expanded beyond its early academic roots and quickly became widely used for modern communication.
Early forays into e-commerce were not pretty, however. Most were single pages that were designed to look and act as simple business brochures. These early sites merely provided contact details for an existing brick-and-mortar business.
It’s unclear exactly when the first true buy-online e-commerce site went live. However, according to Internet lore, it might have been a Pizza Hut in California in 1994.
And then the race was on.
Since then the Internet has burgeoned. Now you can buy almost anything online. Nuts and bolts, baby diapers, sports cars, even entire islands!
By far the most common payment methods are credit and debit cards. This has accelerated online adoption because it sped the payment clearing process. These days, there is little delay from purchase to delivery.
Today, there are typically hundreds of sites for any one product. Multinational corporations have understandably taken notice. This has led to the next phase of Internet and e-commerce development…
It was always clear from the outset. Due to the geographic reach of the Internet as well as the efficiency of modern courier services, there was no need to have as many stores operating online as there were in the real world.
Therefore, early online players carved out niches for themselves. However, like all businesses they had to do right by their customers. If they failed to do so, they faced rapid extermination. Better and brighter shops popped up online to take their place.
Today, the main players and online stores are well entrenched. They have good brand recognition and good search visibility.
However, some niche industries and truly unique ideas continue to seemingly spring from nowhere. Some of them even create new business opportunities where there wasn’t one to begin with. These businesses create their own demand, as opposed to exploiting and capturing existing demand.
However, the name of the online game today is consolidation. This ultimately happens in all mature business models. But the Internet, due to its rapid growth, has reached a level of maturity much sooner than previous business models. Therefore, the big players are either out-competing and eliminating their rivals or buying them up. Then, they either shut them down or run them under the umbrella of the parent company.
Barriers to Entry
All the same, establishing an online business is still not all that hard or costly. The problem is getting the word out to potential customers.
Then, too, you are still competing with legacy brick-and-mortar stores, because some products simply lend themselves to being more easily sold in person. While it’s true that some shoppers will do their browsing in a physical shop and then look for the best deal online, you can’t count on that. Savvy salespeople know this, and they will aggressively close a deal in person if they can.
SEO and PPC: the Pot of Gold?
When it comes to SEO, the reality is that the top search results for almost every existing vertical and product are already dominated by someone. And since consumers do not typically look past the first few search results or ads, if your store turns up on the second page or later, you might as well forget it and not even be in business online.
Because of ever-increasing competition and the rising cost of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, it’s simply not viable for many businesses to try to survive on ad traffic alone. As such, if you’re thinking of going into business online, it would be in your best interests to do plenty of research first. Determine how much demand there is for your products as well as how much competition already exists in your intended vertical.
That online pot of gold is more elusive now than ever.
The longer you wait to open your online business, the more challenging it will become. You will have to deal with more competition, for one thing. What’s more, your competitors are likely to have either better brand recognition or deep pockets or both. So if you have always had a passion for business and the Internet, don’t delay.
The Good Life
Because who knows? You just might do very well. Perhaps you could become an acquisition target to a multinational and find yourself in the driver’s seat. You would be able to write your own check and retire living the good life you always thought the Internet could provide you. On the other hand, you could keep your business and let others run it for you, retaining ownership and an income stream so you can live happily ever after.
So if you have a great idea and a knack for sniffing out opportunity, then do at least one thing every day that will move you closer to making your online dreams come true.