2016 Unclaimed Diamonds Scholarship Award Winner – Anastasiya Chapko
For most of America’s population, technology is a constant, never-ending presence. Through our smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, we are bombarded with online media, and we readily and hungrily consume this media. Some of the most recent and popular online features we feast on are e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. The overwhelming success of these sites demonstrates the cultural shift taking place toward virtual businesses in our modern-day, connected society. This shift, while it does have some drawbacks, is beneficial for the majority of small businesses.
The drawbacks mainly lie with small businesses that are resistant to change. As American culture evolves and becomes more centered around the technology we crave, businesses must also evolve. One of the basic requirements for a business in this day and age is a web presence. This web presence can be a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or the business’s own website. If a business does not have a web presence, it will lose out on potential customers. For example, a tourist unfamiliar with their surroundings could be looking for Chinese food near their hotel. The tourist conducts a quick google search for “Chinese food near me.” The greatest family-owned Chinese restaurant that ever existed could be just one block away from the tourist, but if that restaurant has no web presence, the tourist is unlikely to find them and would instead go to one of the locations whose pages the internet search had returned. In this theoretical example, it is easy to see how potential customers could be lost with no web presence.
Though, even if a small business does have a strong web presence, it can still fall apart. Because the business is now online, the owners are not only competing with other local businesses, but they are competing with a global marketplace. An artist working out of their home in Modesto, California, for example, would be competing with artists based in India, China, the UK, and every other state on the planet that has people interested in art and an internet connection available. It is inevitable that some of the businesses shall fail and go bankrupt as a result of the competition.
Nevertheless, we should not allow the possibility of a few failures to discourage us or make us think that moving businesses online is a bad thing. Small businesses with no physical presence in their local community have a chance to survive via their web presence in the global community. Somebody just starting a small business selling scarves out of their house, for example, would find it hard to compete with a department store containing not only a selection of scarves but other tempting items as well. Customers would generally rather go to the department store for the scarves so they could get other shopping done while there instead of entering a stranger’s house and purchasing only one item. The first option seems more professional and business like; it is more familiar and reassuring to the potential customer since they are going to a place of business to conduct a business transaction. The differences between the professional business setting of the department store and the unprofessional business setting of a stranger’s house are too obvious.
However, the differences aren’t as easy to notice online. If somebody is looking for scarves, it doesn’t really matter whether they get them from website A or website B. Whichever place has the best scarf for the best price will get the customer’s patronage. In this way, the internet has helped to level the playing field between big and small businesses. A small business that doesn’t have the resources for an impressive and inviting physical store can still have an impressive and inviting website. There are various free or cheap website builders (many of which don’t even require programming knowledge) that can create sites indistinguishable from those of big businesses. All these sites require is time and dedication.
Online, anything is possible. Even though most businesses won’t experience an overnight success, there will be some that do, and the rest will go on as they were. The internet is merely a tool, a platform, it’s something for the owner to take advantage of and utilize to take their business to the next level. A small business that has a physical store and a local customer base does not need to give those things up to have an online store; the online store would just give them extra business on top of what they already have. The increase in e-commerce is a benefactor to small businesses. The negatives only come from businesses that don’t take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. If the owner of a small business is driven and determined to succeed, the internet is a great place for them to make their mark. One or two failures won’t stop them; even if one business goes down, ten businesses can be put up in its place. Anybody can create a website, anybody can create a business, and anybody can compete in the global online marketplace, all thanks to the increase in e-commerce.