Although it may not seem like it, the Internet is still in its infancy.
It's undergone incredible change in the two decades since its inception. Starting as nothing more than the nugget of an idea, it's grown into a revolutionary form of communication, information sharing, and commerce. Even today it continues to evolve, often in new and unforeseen directions.
One of these unforeseen directions has been the dramatic growth of Internet Business.
What is it that's fueled this dramatic growth? And at the same time, while we're asking important questions, what's kept it from growing even faster?
The Internet provides consumers with a shopping experience similar to that of going to the local mall, only without the crowds and traffic.
Customers have instant access to a huge inventory of products. They can buy a top-of-the-line golf club in one corner of the Internet, and five minutes later, they can buy a coffee gift basket in another corner. Whatever they want, they can probably find it on the Internet.
In addition, customers enjoy the ease with which they can make a purchase, and how quickly a transaction takes place. Order a book at Amazon.com and the entire process can be done in less time than it would take you to get ready to drive to the nearest bookstore.
On the downside, there's still a large segment of the population that's uncomfortable enough with technology that they've excluded themselves from the customer pool. And unlike shopping at the local mall, Internet transactions are done on a computer screen without any face-to-face interaction. Consumers have to trust someone they've never met.
They also have to overcome their fears of identity theft and concerns about credit card security.
Finally, for hard products (as opposed to information products that can be instantly downloaded), they have to pay shipping costs and forego the instant gratification that comes from a purchase made locally.
That's what it looks like from the consumer's perspective.
What does it look like from the businessman's?
Well, the businessman can reach customers around the world instead of being confined to a small geographical area. There's no physical storefront to maintain. Initially, there's no need for employees (though as the business expands, employees can always be added).
You can get started part time for relatively little investment and let the business grow as your income grows.
You don't have to deal face-to-face with angry customers. You can automate a great deal of your business system, replicating it whenever you take on new products or move into a new niche.
You can outsource much of the work required by your business.
You can start today, without a website if you wish, even without your own product if you wish.
On the downside, there's information overload. It's easy to become overwhelmed with all the business solutions out there. It can be easier to lose track of what you need to do today, this moment, to be successful.
There's no face-to-face contact with customers (if you enjoy social interaction, Internet Marketing might not be for you).
It's still a business ... which means long hours, hard work, marketing, testing, retesting, etc. There is no secret formula that will make you an Internet millionaire tomorrow.
As with any endeavor, starting an Internet business has its plusses and minuses.
If you're thinking about going into business, whether or not it's on the Internet, you need to take the time to seriously look at your skills and personality traits.
So here are some questions to ask yourself ...
Are you a self-starter?
Are you self-disciplined?
Are you willing to put in longer hours than you ever put in while working for someone else?
Do you know how to find your niche in the marketplace and how to identify your customers?
Are you psychologically equipped to take risk?
How long can you go without making a profit? Can you obtain or do you have enough money to get the business started, do the necessary initial marketing, and keep your head above water until the profits begin to arrive?
Do you have the expertise or can you quickly learn the expertise you'll need in your niche?
Can you organize, manage and supervise?
Do you have vision? Can you think ahead, anticipate, and plan for the future?
Don't just brush over these questions. Give them serious consideration. Your future depends on the effort you put into laying the proper foundation, and the first step is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Answer these questions honestly.