What if you create an e-commerce service that is beautiful but no one buys anything?
It was a scenario highlighted by the Toronto Star in a story about Wondereur, which launched an iPad magazine that features photos of art, as well as the ability to make purchases.
Sophie Perceval, one of Wondereur’s co-founders, summed her the problem this way:
“They put something in the basket, click on ‘checkout’, but then something happens that seems to confuse them. There’s been a lot of intent to buy, but we haven’t made any sales yet. So we’re missing something.”
The problem is the “something” could be anything.
It could be the service doesn’t solve a big enough problem, it could be looking at beautiful art and actually buying it are completely different propositions, it could be Wondereur isn’t doing a good job convincing people to pull the trigger purchases, or it could be its marketing efforts are attracting browsers rather than buyers.
For startups, there are a variety of reasons why success doesn’t happen – just as there are many reasons why things work out as planned. For Wondereur, creating a lovely looking service isn’t a good enough value proposition. Yes, the Web is a great way to discover art but is it the way consumers buy art, particularly from an unknown startup?
Wondereur appears to be suffering from a problem experienced by many startups – a failure to find a product/market fit. While it is relatively easy to create an online service, the huge challenge is building something people want to use – a straightforward proposition but difficult to make happen.
Y Combinator’s Paul Graham explains it more simply in his “Do Good” essay: “Make something people want.”
Too many startups build a service because they can, not because they’re wanted or needed. This happens because the gap between ideas and launching a service has shrunk so the barriers to entry are getting lower. While this is great for entrepreneurs, it also creates a landscape with too many services without a vision, mission and, sadly, users.
Who knows, something may click for Wondereur. Maybe someone will make a purchase, tell some friends, and provide Wondereur with the jump-start it needs. Of course, Wondereur’s fortunes could go the other way as it may continue to struggle because there just aren’t enough people interested in buying art online – at least from Wondereur.