Hello, my name is Erich Stauffer. I am an IT business analyst with a background in IT, web, and business. For the last year I’ve been helping ecommerce companies get off the ground. As I look forward to 2015 I started to wonder what types of ecommerce companies will be the most successful based on current technological, economical, and societal changes evident today.
I’m no futurist, but I’ve been known to dip my hand into some trends I’ve noticed (1,2,3,4) in the past. I have a client who says I’m, “the best at looking back and figuring out what happened.” I’d like to think that some of those business analysis skills can be used to look forward. Humans are terrible at predicting the future. Regardless, this is my attempt at coming up with 10 ideas for ecommerce businesses in 2015.
How I Chose Each Business Type
Each ecommerce business idea is based on a general trend in either technology, healthcare, economics, or pop culture. I’ll do my best to explain the business type before explaining the idea so you have some context.
10 Ideas for eCommerce Businesses in 2015
1. Two-Factor eCommerce Businesses – two-factor authentication is “one in hand, one in the cloud” security, but that same concept of “smartphone in hand, web app in cloud” applies to businesses that connect the real world via a smartphone or web app. Examples include AirBnb or Lyft. We’re going to be seeing more ecommerce businesses that are “two-factor” – where online ecommerce technology is used to arrange and sell something in the real world that wasn’t previously organized – rather than a part off a shelf in inventory. Think more “TaskRabbit” and less “Amazon”-type startups.
2. Augmented Reality Products – if there was any doubt whether Minecraft has become mainstream, Microsoft’s purchase of them in August of 2014 sealed the deal. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for people to begin to want the ability to live in the creations they’ve so painstakingly created in that world. Imagine if there was a way to make it so that the viewer could design their own home or interiors to appear as though they were living in their own Minecraft world. eCommerce retailers could sell ‘skins’ for Google Glass – like rose-colored glasses – they would shape the way people see their world.
3. 3D Printed Products – I thought this trend would have had more of an effect in 2014, but it will no doubt eventually have an effect on society as a whole. Right now 3D printing equipment and supplies are already in ecommerce stores, but we haven’t seen a big breakout ecommerce company selling a product that is made via 3D printing yet. I have one idea for using 3D printing to make more life-size toys for kids, something which wasn’t an accessible idea even 2 years ago, but one that carbon-fiber 3D printing technology now makes possible due to superstrong, lightweight materials.
4. Paper Products – printing is not dead. It’s one of the biggest answers to The White Album Problem, but aside from that, I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me to help them print from their iPhones or iPads. Or how many times people have asked if they can have a personal printer on their desk. One thing I know: have printer – will print. People are taking a ton of pictures on their cell phones and over time those are going to need to go somewhere. Sure, you can store those on Dropbox, but for what? Pictures are for printing. eCommerce companies that come up with easier ways for people to print photos (or books) from their phones will win in 2015.
5. Home Energy Production – don’t look at me like I’m a hippie. Like Minecraft, alternative energy production is now becoming mainstream. It won’t be long before we will see home energy production appliances in Best Buy and Sears alongside the newest washing machine and dryer. And they will be about that size, too. The Rockefeller family, who made their money on gas and oil production, has recently switched their investments to alternative energy. Edison Electric has recognized the effect of solar power on net metering in the US. The writing is on the wall – home energy production is coming, but what ecommerce company will capitalize on it in 2015?
6. Drones – one of the hottest trends in late 2014 was the “#dronie” – a selfie taken with a drone, but that was only after Amazon announced they would be delivering packages with drones. Photographers have been using drones to capture shots that previously would have cost them much more to hire a crane or helicopter. And a drone supplier was one of the top ecommerce stores in this year’s Shopify Build a Business contest. Like 3D technology, drones are only just now starting to be utilized. An ecommerce company that can capitalize on this trend is set to be in the right spot going forward in 2015. I’m looking at you, RC gas boat companies!
7. Surveillance – Intelligence craves information. And intelligence groups are never satisfied, but they are so happy that you have chosen to carry a personal tracking device around with you at all times! “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” says anyone who can track your GPS coordinates, phone calls, text messages; view your pictures and videos; see all of your messages on social networks; and read all of your email. “Yes, give me more information”, say the gatherers – and entrepreneurs will continually look for ways to feed those gatherers with new and unique ways to surveil the masses and the individual – like you and me (Hello!).
8. Counter-Surveillance – we don’t really like to be watched, but we are always under surveillance. We know that now. It’s not a secret. Now that the public is aware of this “problem”, entrepreneurs will rise up with counter-surveillance solutions. What will those look like? You might see WiFi-detector-type devices that notify you when a camera is watching you or if your smartphone is transmitting without your knowledge. You might see apps that can detect whether or not your packets have been viewed before you can view them. If you’ve ever had a text message read before you’ve had the chance to read it, you know the creepy feeling others will be looking to avoid.
9. Tracking Technology – I’ve covered surveillance tracking, but what I mean is everything from tracking your health data (ala Quantified Self) to tracking where your keys are via your smartphone. You can track your dog, your car, and even each other. Why can’t you track your food through your digestion system (or better yet, watch your food travel through the sewer system). Jack Dorsey, one of the founders of Twitter says he made Twitter and Square because he liked to “track things”. Who else will profit from tracking things? Who will be the next “Mint” for your life in 2015? I’ve got an idea for an app to track staff utilization if anyone is interested.
10. Life Assistants – I see three trends merging here: virtual assistants, life coaches, and Siri/Google Now-type technologies. Even in 2014, Google Maps cannot recommend that you “might want to stop at Starbucks on your way” – even though by now it should know that you always want to stop at a Starbucks when you’re going somewhere. Remember travel agents? They helped you do stuff like this for big trips, but it doesn’t make sense for travel agents to plan your trip across town – or does it? I see an opportunity for virtual assistants to be the “brain” behind web apps that help people get where they are going.
Those are my ideas based on my spheres of influence. You might notice that I didn’t talk much about insurance, banking, finances, military, government, or any other industry not mentioned because I don’t know much about those things. I know that small business owners want to run their businesses from their smartphones. I know that people expect access to [their] data anywhere at anytime (and in any form). And I know that Google’s mission of “organizing the world’s information” is starting to spill over into all aspects of technological innovation. The world is becoming more “known”, but we still need someone to parse the information for us – that’s where ecommerce businesses come in. They help guide people to the solutions they need. And that’s the value they provide.