E-Commerce in Trump’s America
As the founder and CEO of a diverse, international technology company based in San Francisco, California and Indore, India, political developments in the United States over the last few months have given me much to contemplate. I'm a relatively new U.S. citizen, so it was recently my privilege to vote for the first time in a presidential election. Without going into my own personal politics, like many, I've been struck by the tenor of hostility and fear that seems to have a grip on much of America — and the world — around this particular issue. Maybe my perspective as an e-commerce software business owner is out of sync with most, however, I see several reasons to feel positive and, dare I say, hopeful about economic opportunities in the online retail industry in the coming years.
SMBs Hold All the Power
In fact, 56 million people are employed by small businesses and another 22 million small businesses are operated by a single owner. In a world where Etsy and Shopify continually turn a respectable profit alongside their overachieving, larger-than-life cousin Amazon.com, it’s evident that the market can expand to accommodate all comers. E-commerce marketplaces and shopping cart platforms need small businesses — and those they employ — to succeed, and are deeply motivated to provide stellar education and support to help merchants survive and thrive. And given that 63 percent of small businesses are now operating in the cloud, we know that today’s entrepreneurs see the full power of technology and are ready, willing and able to adjust their operations to reap its benefits.
Creativity Feeds the Economy
As mass manufacturing jobs have moved offshore, e-commerce is changing what American consumers value in their products. Through online stores, bloggers, social media and competitive shipping options, handmade and local products are enjoying a resurgence among Americans who long for a more direct connection to their growers, makers and builders. And no, it’s not all grass roots and farmers markets. Just last year Amazon introduced a handmade marketplace, and handmade leader Etsy went through a very high profile IPO. Despite the proliferation of cheaper, mass-produced goods, American consumer sensibilities have always — and will always — favor creativity, individuality and innovation. Today’s e-commerce industry provides both the exposure and capacity to fully support those preferences.
Automation is Not the Problem, it’s the Answer
It’s time to stop wringing our hands about jobs lost to automation and realize that all businesses, small and large, can benefit from the technological advances of the last 50 years. In 1962, General Motors introduced automation to the auto industry and now this faster, cheaper, easy-to-implement solution is available for businesses of every size and vertical, including single-owner e-commerce operations. In a world where Amazon is eating everyone’s lunch, cutting costs represents the best chance online retailers have to get their slice of the pie. Automation — of accounting, multichannel sales data, inventory management and shipping operations — is the most efficient way for e-commerce SMBs to cut labor costs, increase efficiency and save time to focus on growth. Entrepreneurs who embrace automation will build sustainable businesses and bolster the economy.
The American Dream is Alive and Well
Both sides of the political aisle would agree, a free-market economy is one of the elements that makes the United States great. And what the free economy is comprised of — freedom of choice, motive of self-interest, competition, and a system of markets and prices — perfectly embodies the e-commerce industry of both today and tomorrow. Much like the speed and unstoppable momentum of the Industrial Age, the Digital Age has and will continue to change and advance e-commerce at a breakneck pace until shopping as we know it is completely transformed. It's an exciting time to be an online merchant; the possibilities are endless.
This election has brought many important issues out into the open for all to discuss and debate. Whether you were one of the millions of folks who went online to buy a “Make America Great Again” hat or an “I’m With Her” T-shirt, you’ve seen firsthand how e-commerce can be the economic glue that connects us all. In these confusing times, I find it difficult to hear through the anger of those who yell. Similarly, I simply cannot trust a voice that's overly conciliatory. The only thing I can hear and trust is my own business instinct and experience, and I encourage all merchants to do the same. Listen and you’re sure to find a future full of promise and opportunity.
Parag Mamnani is the founder and CEO of Webgility, a multichannel e-commerce solutions company.