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As entrepreneurs, we are always looking for the next big opportunity. While setting up an e-commerce store for goods has been the go-to business (or side hustle) idea for the last decade, e-commerce for services is likely to dominate the next decade.
Services are a massive 15.5-trillion-dollar industry in the US alone and include everything from cleaning services to legal services to medical care, beauty, hospitality and beyond.
To better understand this opportunity, let’s see what the service industry has gone through and where it’s going next. This, in turn, will highlight the key opportunities for the next big batch of entrepreneurs. Back in olden days, many services were offered at the town square. The entire process of offering a service and delivering value was handled in person in a geographically specific community.
The first major change to the service industry came with the advent of the internet, which made the discovery of services easier, giving rise to discovery platforms. Classified sites like Craigslist, Angie’s List, and others made it simple for services to be both offered and discovered online. The key value these platforms offered was the ability to discover and find the right providers for a given service.
Related: Exploring E-Commerce
The next big opportunity was the move from merely offering service discovery to providing service delivery. What started with Uber and Airbnb, where instead of finding a taxi driver on the street, we hail the taxi with the Uber platform and instead of using a local agent to suggest available properties, we can actually book a house directly ourselves, has expanded to other industries and platforms–for example rather than finding and interviewing nannies and babysitters via a neighborhood email listserv, we can get trusted nannies from Care.com. We can surely expect this phenomenon to proliferate across many more industries and sectors.
We call all of these – Uber, Airbnb, Care.com – the on-demand platforms.
Successful on-demand platforms have two key traits:
They are hyperfocused on a specific segment or service and/or specific geographic locations.
Instead of just finding the right service providers, these platforms ensure the delivery of quality service and handle payments and other legal requirements, should there be any involved.
The next big opportunity is transforming the trillion-dollar services industry, just as e-commerce did for goods a decade ago. This will impact the lives of 125 million Americans working in said industry.
Similar to the e-commerce wave, we are going to see thousands—if not millions—of entrepreneurs in the coming years launching their own niche-based on-demand platforms.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Profitable E-commerce Business
Here is a simple recipe for anyone looking to start their own on-demand platform. Let’s look at Craigslist, which has 20 service sections. From the automotive services, one could start a platform for towing services on-demand. In beauty, perhaps there could be a platform offering manicures and pedicures on-demand. From labor services, one could start a platform in the construction industry or home improvement areas.
We can take any of these sections and make a platform of its own, even though each section could also be offering a multitude of services and subsequent opportunities for on-demand platforms. Using the base rate calculation of Craigslist’s 50+ sections, offered in 700+ cities across the world, this makes way for over 35,000 new on-demand platform opportunities.
These opportunities are especially appealing to those who love interacting and connecting with people. Starting a platform to offer services is easier than ever before. To get started, all you need is knowledge of the services being offered, the ability to interview and vet service providers, the capacity to market to clients and the will to begin.
Related: 12 Steps to Building a Successful E-commerce Site in 12 Months
With a number of off-the-shelf and no-code platforms available that allow anyone to launch their own niche on-demand staffing business without any programming skills required, it’s now easier than ever to launch your own on-demand platform.
The service industry isn’t a monolith. Whether you’re an experienced manicurist, nurse, bartender or virtual assistant, you’re a part of a trillion-dollar industry that’s ripe to be transformed. If you’ve been looking for the chance to start an e-commerce business or side hustle, offering services via your own on-demand staffing platform may be the first step towards an exciting new endeavor.