Underrepresented online businesses
May 13, 2013 2:56 AM   Subscribe

Which sectors or industries are surprisingly underrepresented online? We all know books, games, music, etc are all extremely well represented online but are there any industries that aren't. They may be business to business or business to consumer. What gaps if any or left. Or is it only niche areas?
posted by trashcan to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
When you say "underrepresented," do you mean relative to the possible demand for an online presence, or simply a lack of online presence comparative to other industries and sectors?

I can think of plenty in the latter category - off the top of my head, it's rare to find a farrier or a saddler (of the repair variety, not the big company production sort) or a braider or a groom service with an online presence, and even many horse trainers and barn owners have at best a small, often outdated website - but in these cases, there really isn't any need. The horse industry in general operates by word of mouth and personal recommendations much more than it does by advertising. You could call this a "niche area," but it contributes around $39 billion to the US economy directly every year, which is not insignificant. This is slowly changing, and retailers of the hugely oversaturated horse products market are all over social media to try and urge their customers to spend spend spend some more, but on the supply and services level, the online presence is generally very unrepresentative of the true size of the industry.

I'm guessing you mean the former, though, in which case, well, if I knew of any, I'd probably be getting rich by exploiting the demand. ;)
posted by po at 4:32 AM on May 13, 2013

I work with a number of companies in the agricultural sector that only have a minimal online presence. They do business by old-fashioned means (phone and travelling salespeople), they target other businesses (not the general public) and it's a small world, so very little is visible online, including product sheets for instance. Entire ranges of products fly completely under the Google radar. I also work with a software development company (5 people) with a 1-page website that shows only a phone number and an email. They operate exclusively by word of mouth.
posted by elgilito at 4:49 AM on May 13, 2013

It is extremely difficult to find most lawyers on the internet, especially for mundane things like estate planning or property law. This goes double if you are not in a large metropolitan area.
posted by rockindata at 5:54 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think a big part of why the horse industry is lagging is that they are way over represented in the business locations without broadband category. The farm where my daughter's horse lives just got broadband a couple of months ago when FIOS was extended to their road.
posted by COD at 6:23 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I guess it depends on what you mean by "underrepresented". No presence at all? Or minimal presence and no Facebook, Twitter, online chat, bells-n-whistles that all the cool kids do?

In my area, services like auto repair shops tend to have very minimal online presence. At best, it's usually a static web page with contact info and shop hours. But, I'm hard-pressed to imagine why they'd need more than what is effectively a big Yellow Pages ad.

There is a local body shop that will post images online of your car as its being repaired. I suppose that's...interestiing. But, I don't know anyone who has actually used the service.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 AM on May 13, 2013

I've had a hell of a time finding significant information about general handy-people online in my area. They usually have an email, but they'll only give it to you after you find their number in the yellow pages and call them. My guess is that word-of-mouth gets them enough business. I would guess that any largely word-of-mouth industry would not place a huge value on web presence.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a general rule, the smaller the business, the less likely that it will be online. One-person businesses (like farriers, saddelry, auto repair, and agricultural operations mentioned above) almost never have more than a basic single-page contact website. Basically a business card that you can read online. And even then, only if someone has badgered them into building it. And it's usually a free account on some terrible service.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Individual business owners are often just too busy to spend time creating a website. They often have dedicated their lives to learning specialized skills (like auto repair or ironworking) to the detriment of learning advanced computer skills. And finally, most small businesses are frankly just not very good in the self-promotion department.
posted by ErikaB at 12:42 PM on May 13, 2013

Having worked for an insurance company, my understanding is that the insurance industry generally is slow to get on board with new technologies. This doesn't necessarily mean you can't find websites for insurance companies, but it does mean that most companies accept claims via fax or mail and then send paper checks. You don't typically see serious options to get a text message update on your claim status, contact people via email, have your claim check direct deposited to your bank, etc. Even though they just need info and what you get back is money, so it is something that really could be done digitally. But the insurance industry is super conservative. (These are statements from high ranking people at the company I used to work for, not my personal opinion.)

Not sure if that is exactly what you meant.
posted by Michele in California at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2013

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