Who would have predicted Facebook when the Internet was just getting started in the 1990s? Since its birth, the Internet has changed the way we shop, the way we communicate, the way we get around and even the way we think about the world around us. There isn't a single element of modern human existence that the rise of the Internet hasn't affected and the world of business is no exception; but the most exciting thing is that we're only at the beginning. The technology to which businesses have access today is capable of doing far more than what it's currently used for but business inertia is a barrier to progress. What is really distinctive about the likes of Facebook, Uber and Airbnb is not cutting-edge technology but cutting-edge uses of technology.
So you don't have to have access to all the latest gadgets to come up with the next winning business idea. Obviously we can't tell you what that idea will be but here are a few useful tips.
1. Cut out the middle man
From retail to publishing, huge sections of our economy are dependent upon organisations that facilitate connections between producers (authors, manufacturers, farmers) and consumers; the fees charged by these companies can add significantly to the cost of products. Even though the Internet has the potential to end this costly dependence, we've been reluctant to step outside our comfort zone and phenomena like self-publishing have enjoyed only very modest success.
However, while fundamentally altering the shape of the global economy might be a bit of a tall order, it's worth asking yourself what services you rely on that could be done more cheaply online. If you depend on distributors and retailers to sell your products, perhaps you could move your store online and save. If you're a musician looking to publish your work, you could create a digital archive with free samples and a charge for downloads.
2. Be the middle man
In exact contrast to the last suggestion, the Internet has also created enormous opportunities for some organisations to establish connections between vendors and consumers on a massive scale. Consider Uber; it owns no taxis but has achieved phenomenal success by linking would-be private-hire drivers with paying customers.
Again, being the next Uber might not be on the cards just yet, but it's worth thinking about whether there are any areas of the market in your locality which might be ripe for connecting. Perhaps you could connect musicians looking for work with venues looking for musicians. Even something as simple of car sharing can be, and has been, monetised very successfully.
3. Turn chatter into cha-ching
It's much easier to create hype and generate discussion of your business when you're online. If you build up a big enough fan base it might be worth thinking about alternative means of raising money. In the digital age, information (both its collection and distribution) is extremely valuable. Why not examine the potential for advertising revenue on your site? Or consider the possibility of data collection and sale (it's important to remember the potential legal issues surrounding this option)?
4. Don't just streamline the market, rebuild it
This last point is the hardiest to offer advice on but also probably the most important. The key point about our new interconnected world is that there are potential applications for technology that no-one has even thought of yet. But that's not to say that there aren't hints. Look carefully at trends in technological development and think long and hard about how the digital world can change the way we interact with the physical one. Most importantly of all, be innovative and take risks. Ideas that seem crazy or niche at first may end up becoming part of the global mainstream.
So good luck with that next killer idea! If you need any technical support getting your new online business venture off the ground, don't hesitate to contact us for a quote.