What's Business Vision for Ecommerce Businesses?

When it Comes to Ecommerce, What Is This Business Vision Thingie?

Business Vision
Business Vision. Boris Austin / Stone / Getty Images

Two decades ago, when I attended business school, I learned that "vision" was necessary for business success. Later, I found that websites and annual reports of corporations invariably include a vision statement -- not to mention a mission statement. In fact, business vision is attributed to the success of some business leaders; they were called "visionaries."

So What Is This Vision Thing Anyway?

I am going to stay away from promoting jargon.

So, here is a commonsense approach to business vision. Let us take this in the context of creating a vision statement. A good vision statement should include three essential components:

  1. What does the business stand for (its values, principles, and beliefs)?
  2. How does the business justify its existence (its uniqueness, purpose, and objectives)?
  3. What is the future of the company (its forecast, path, and role)?

If you have clarity about the three points above, you have a vision for your business. That is not to say that your vision is "right," sustainable, valuable, or even coherent. But you do have a vision, and if your actions are consistent with your vision, that vision will exert great influence on your company's future.

So What Are the Implications of Business Vision for Ecommerce?

The answer is not very different for ecommerce businesses when compared to any other business. However, compared to most other significant constituents of the business landscape, ecommerce businesses are very young.

So, we cannot compare leading ecommerce brands to a century-old global brand. That makes vision in ecommerce businesses trickier to understand.

Why Does it Seem Like Ecommerce Businesses Do Not Have Any Vision?

It is unfair to use such a broad brush when talking about thousands of companies. Certainly not all ecommerce businesses are equal on the vision scale.

But there are some problems with ecommerce that seem endemic to its business model. This makes me fear that vision is largely lacking in the ecommerce sector. Here are some problems:

  • Ecommerce Websites Are Cookie-Cutter

    If I overlook the logo and colors of ecommerce websites, I am often unable to distinguish one from another. The underlying shopping cart is also often the same. And they are selling the same goods. Therefore, which dimension of your ecommerce business is manifesting your unique business vision?
  • Ecommerce Businesses Are Not Making Money -- and That Does Not Seem to Bother Them

    What is particularly irksome to me is not that barely any ecommerce businesses are making money. Most of them are in the early stages of their lifecycle and need to focus on their top line growth. But I am certainly bothered when I notice ecommerce professionals getting comfortable with their precarious financials.
  • Several Ecommerce Businesses Seem Like They Are Being Built for Sale

    As an angel investor, I want to exit businesses that I invest in. Forgive my hypocrisy, but I have a problem when entrepreneurs build ecommerce businesses with a clear intention of flipping them. This gets all the more worrisome when viewed in the context of my earlier point about profitless growth. It is almost as if the path to profitability is no longer the founder's responsibility.

    What Kind of Vision Will Drive an Ecommerce Business to Stellar Success?

    If I really had the exact answer, I would not be wasting my time pounding at the keyboard right now. But there are some features that a successful ecommerce business should have. Of all such features, the one I value the most is creating a true differentiator in an ecommerce business. Whether that differentiator would take the business into the future is unknown. But it sure will give it a chance. And that is the most one can hope from business vision. If you still aren't clear about what business vision is, then it is probably time for some serious introspection.