I admire the notion of “competing against nonconsumption” put forth by the disruptive-innovation gurus at Innosight. I spent a lot of time — and the company spent a lot of money — in my last job trying to find product niches where such a seam of opportunity existed.
As I pass my 15th year in interactive services, though, I struggle more to find any online niche untapped, any opportunity to consume unfulfilled by someone, somewhere on the Internet.
I used to joke, and now say seriously: Every new interactive product already has competitors.
A new case-in-point popped up in a 30-second TV spot on a certain home-improvement oriented cable net last weekend: PineStraw.com.
Landscaping-challenged folks may not know that pine straw from the great Southeastern forests makes a good mulch material. In East Tennessee, where I live, one can buy it in little bales at garden shops and home centers. A little farther south, in most parts of Georgia, one can just rake it up from under the almost-inevitable stand of pine trees in one's own yard.
It never occurred to me that demand for the fragrant little needles arrived at a level where an e-commerce Web site could not only exist, but afford TV spots. But here's what PineStraw.com claims about itself:
“The Pine Straw Store ships pine straw mulch (pine needles) to homes and businesses in all 50 states. We are the premier Internet supplier of pine straw in the United States and we only ship out the finest of pine needles.”
So I wonder: Does the USDA have some kind of grade scale for pine needles to distinguish the finest from just pretty-good? And, more to my concern, does PineStraw.com represent a point of granularity where all profitable niches are hereby occupied?