When life imitates art. Or the Simpsons at least. But then the Simpsons predicts everything. From Groening, to groaning. Life in #ecommerce and #retail is hard right now. It feels like we are in a Dickens novel, not one of his funny ones like Hard Times. No, we are in a Tale of Two Cities. ( I only get to org charts and roles like 50% of the way down. Sorry. I added this edit upon completion.)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .
It was the best of times.
We are in a period of tech evolution which is unsurpassed. We have tech to do everything for us. Almost everything. Once we know it's true capability, cutting tech off will be tough. Instead of harnessing all it can do to make the world better, we are in a constant process of making things more convenient, more global, more sterile. History will tell us it is not in fact of the best of times. At the time of writing, you can buy a Shopify plan to build a webstore for as little as $29 per month - that is to manage
The power in our hands for the price of a steak dinner. This seems to have slipped out of our consciousness a little bit. The power to run a business like this (and all else baked into it) sits in our phones, in our pockets. Free roaming charges means it is conceivable to run a business from any little UNESCO site you like, whilst keeping your insta feed on fleek. (I've been googling uncool words for a 42 year old white male to be using. I realise I use them too much).
Image courtesy of Gordon Newman - Omnichannel Stories
The mantra of this hedonistic is bigger, faster, more. Alas, I am tired, overwhelmed, over worked and keeping my head above water. Somehow with all of this abundance and access, we still feel a little empty.
“What haunts me is not exactly the absence of literal space so much as a deep craving for metaphorical space: release, escape, some kind of open-ended freedom.”
― Naomi Klein, No Logo
It is the best of times
If you run a small business or a SaaS company you can access the world from anywhere. Barriers to entry and growth have been levelled. You can get your start up going, get a "pre-rev valuation" and investors at your door. Learn to pitch through Twitter and all is easy.
Image courtesy of Gordon Newman - Omnichannel Stories
Tech has been democratised. Life should be getting better, yet it feels a bit ...
“If AI can help humans become better chess players, it stands to reason that it can help us become better pilots, better doctors, better judges, better teachers.”
It was the worst of times.
You are a small business owner. You can access the world. Your new role, should you choose to accept it is:
Be a marketer
Be a social media marketer
Become a creator
Be on brand
Experts on corporate and social responsibility
Expert at finding moments of virality every day and pumping them into the "channel"
Warehouse and logstics guru
Back to normality. Where is this all leading to? eCommerce and digital is developing into a tiered society across a number of fronts and I find myself constantly immersed in disparate discussions about the same thing. Examples:
It is not enterprise software - to this point, I agree it is not sold in the way enterprise software should in the US. In Ireland, Belgium and Australia it is and can be sold as enterprise.
We need to volve how we think of Enterprise. We need to define what it means to us before we enter the discussion.
eCommerce now has hit a tipping point and I have hit a few certain views.
It can no longer be applied universally in all countries. We need to design specific versions to account for "in country" economics. For example selling car parts in Ireland is so damn tough compared to the UK - same parts, same source, smaller island to get them around, but more expensive? Why? Ireland is historically called "Treasure Island" to UK based salesmen. Products carry a layer (or 2) of margin on the way onto the island. Our prices almost never compete. Oh and our market is 60% different, the car park, as it is called varies that much - these two market facts means the markets operate differently.
Final example - I spoke today to Matthew Purt about the fact that Ireland 20 years ago (when he was country manager for sales of Ralph Lauren) had a different fit profile to the UK. Boot leg jeans and straight cut lines were teh "shtyle" of the day. Our fashion chops have improved though our body shape has not. Point being - the market is different, the economics are drastcailly different.
Ireland needs a CO-OP!
Having made tech so accessible and affordable, now there is just so much of it and so many of us using it, competing in the same space, it makes no sense that we can enjoy the same successes.
It is getting crowded here
It is getting tough
How do we get off this island - that is your strategic challenges
As a small business owner now, you are being asked to make decisions at the same level and with the same clarity, purpose and certainty as the worlds largest conglomerates. You are being told, you need to do this now. This is wrong -
Slow down, breathe, survive.
You are being asked to master the science of marketing, the craft of branding and a mastery of supply chain. You are being asked to interprate consumer insights and behaviours and turn them into campaigns. It is increasingly difficult. How many channels can a rural merchant from where I live, Tralee, Ireland - Pop. c. 30,000 people be present on: Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Etsy, Pinterest, Houzz, Snap, Twitter, eBay, Amazon, TikTok and the list goes on. This is not a job for 3 people, it is certainly not a job for 1.
eCommerce used to have a shape of a team, but with funnels, life cycles, product cycles we need to have the option to pick from an a la carte menu the skills we need. Without really knowing what and when, just that we do and this needs to be going all of the time.
Sign up rate
etc As 2023 closes, we are looking at roles emerging that are roles that can only exist in organisations big enough to exploit small extrapolations of data and turn them into bigger numbers elsewhere. But the skills are impressive, subtle and something we need to get us through the next few years.
Some of the roles I see being necessary:
Chief Digital Officer
Customer experience Director
Shopper Insights team
AI human liason
Trade and Merchandising manager
Promotions and Discounting scapegoat (if you read this far you deserved that laugh).
If you are in a headless or composable commerce team
And it goes on. Small business ecommerce does not equal big business digital commerce yet we expect them all to behave the same. We are not at a critical juncture because it feels like very few people think like this. But, this is out reality today. We have not invested in education. Infrastructure is not catching up. Right now, we are reliant on the failures of the brave to edge us closer to something better. To be better we have got to be different.
This is an actual headline from the Irish minister for enterprise yesterday in relation to retailers and alleged "price gouging" -
Name and shame threat for ‘profiteering’ supermarkets in suite of Government measures to tackle high prices
Those pesky retailers are known for their high margins!! This in an era, where are Christmas you can buy a 1kg bag of Brussel sprouts for €0.79 - this is a response to a farming problem, not a real retail issue. It demonstrates how far removed from small enterprise our government is.
What is the point of this meandering maelstrom of an article you might ask? Not only do we need to think about the way we do things today but how we want to build success into the future.
Closing quotes to Dickens, Klein and Kelly - Soothsayers and truthsayers
I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. . . .
“Culture jamming is enjoying a resurgence, in part because of technological advancements but also more pertinently, because of the good old rules of supply and demand. Something not far from the surfaces of the public psyche is delighted to see the icons of corporate power subverted and mocked. There is, in short, a market for it. With commercialism able to overpower the traditional authority of religion, politics and schools, corporations have emerged a the natural targets for all sorts of free-floating rage and rebellion. The new ethos that culture jamming taps into is go-for-the-corporate-jugular.”
― Naomi Klein, No Logo
“These forces are trajectories, not destinies.”