Why the “If You Build it they Will Come” Philosophy Fails for Ecommerce Businesses

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Do you remember the 1989 class “Field of Dreams?” It was a great movie, but I have an issue with the famous quote “If you build it he will come.” Too many people used variations of this quote for running a business. A similar quote was “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” However, you phrase this quote, you should ignore it while starting an ecommerce venture.

I am old enough to remember the dotcom bubble of the early 2000’s. People were enamored by online startups. They believed that any online business was destined for success. Thousands of eager entrepreneurs opened their virtual doors and expected money to start flowing into their pockets.

My high school friend Jake was among the people expecting to make millions from the growing digital economy. He was sorely disappointed when he started his online business and never generated a single sale. The following year, thousands of other e-commerce businesses were forced to close shop. They realized that they had overestimated the ease of generating a profit in the new industry and bought into the hype of the dotcom bubble.

Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the dotcom bubble, many new e-commerce entrepreneurs remain overly optimistic with their sales forecasts. I had to explain this to a business owner that started a new shop selling mugs on Etsy. She started her business months ago, but has struggled to draw customers to her online store.

As a business owner, it is imperative that you do not live by the fateful wisdom from that quote in Field of Dreams. Here are some reasons why.

You must work to get out from eBay and Amazon’s shadow

Type “buy mugs online” into Google. You will notice that the first two search results are for Amazon results. The next three results are for other large brands that are able to offer low prices and low cost deliveries that smaller companies may not be able to compete with.

This just leaves five spots for smaller e-commerce brands that wanted to capture a spot on the front page of Google for these search results. Those companies needed to fight tirelessly to get on the front page of Google, considering thousands of other online brands wanted access to the same traffic.

The good news is that most e-commerce entrepreneurs are not willing to put in the time and effort to optimize their web presence for that organic search engine traffic. However, it still required a significant investment.

The e-commerce industry is more saturated than ever

While Amazon, eBay and other large brands are major obstacles to many e-commerce entrepreneurs, they aren’t the only challenge. In fact, they may not even be the biggest threat.

For centuries, small underdog companies have managed to carve profitable niche is that larger competitors have overlooked. Even that is an uphill battle with many e-commerce verticals. The difficulty that many e-commerce businesses face is competing with a growing number of similar niche companies. There are already online retailers set up specifically to appeal to very tightly focused markets.

Fully automated marketing strategies are a myth

If you read literature from the early years of the dotcom boom, you will read entrepreneurs talk about the automated business models that they created. They brag about how they were able to make money in their sleep.

Such automated passive income systems are not nearly as easy to develop these days. Before Google captured the majority of the search engine market, It was much easier for new companies to dominate their niche. They could simply stuff their websites with relevant keywords to get to the top of other search engines. Since few were companies were competing for the same spots, they didn’t need to worry too much about losing their rankings.

Things have changed considerably over the last decade. It is much harder for companies to get to the top of the search engines and rely on a steady stream of dependable traffic. They must also factor for SERP algorithm changes, such as the Google Panda update. They must take much more active role in their marketing campaigns.E-commerce businesses must choose the right keywords and actively work on their SEO.

Do not buy into the “if you build it they will come” mindset

Are you aspiring to create the next million-dollar online store? That is a lofty goal. However, you are going to need to be realistic about the time, resources and energy that you’re going to need to expand to reach it.

Contrary to what many people believe, you are not going to be able to generate a profitable business the moment you open your online store. You are going to need to put in the effort to grow your brand reach and generate traffic. Make sure you are up for the task.


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Author: Chris Pentago

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