3 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn From Amazon, eBay and Etsy This Holiday Season
As more and more tech and Internet giants emerge, their names are becoming virtually synonymous with the service they provide, as in: "Google something," "Facebook someone" and "I got it on Amazon." It's easy to forget that these companies began just as yours may have begun -- in a garage, a dorm room or a nondescript office.
Another common link that these giants share may, again, also apply to your company's own idea or innovation: on-target decisions made in an online consumer market that has proven consistently receptive to that idea or innovation.
Small business owners and merchants make up the biggest client segment at our company, Wix.com, so we make it our priority to understand their needs and develop a tool set that will help them create, manage and grow their businesses online. Our ability to develop the right tools, at the right time, is the result of constant research into our audience and market -- a value that any small business owner should embrace.
The advent of the Internet, meanwhile, has opened a door of infinite possibilities for new commerce, placing many capabilities at the hands of smaller retailers. In order to maximize your own online store’s performance this holiday season, take some lessons from some of the existing giants. In fact, take three lessons, from three of the most successful e-commerce brands, Amazon, Etsy and eBay. Together, these iconic companies' experience can provide critical lessons for their smaller competitors.
The world’s largest retailer opened its doors back in the 1990s as an online bookstore. Remember? Today, the company nets upwards of $100 billion a year in revenues, its hottest product currently being Amazon Web Service (AWS).
That's quite a few layers of industry away from the mother ship's humble origins. Amazon is currently involved in everything from retail goods to original digital content to cellular service plans, with steps under way for a drone-delivery service in urban American centers.
The lesson: Things in the tech world can move quickly and unforeseeably. Don’t limit yourself by remaining stuck in the "small zone," no matter how much time you invested in drafting your original business plan. The digital revolution is by no means over -- and while going according to plan may seem wise, what's also important is staying lithe and open to unexpected opportunities for new growth.
This quintessential online crafts and vintage marketplace is a great example of a P2P company that launched based on a deep understanding of current and future trends. DIY culture, stoked by the prevailing online culture of imagery and sharing, was just coming into the mainstream in the mid-2000s, and Etsy was there to organize the movement into a central and profitable hub. Today, online DIY commerce is virtually synonymous with Etsy, which boasts almost 700,000 new users per month.
The lesson: Startup opportunities based on Internet culture and trends are boundless. Across the online spectrum, the old entrepreneurial adage about "right time, right place" has never been truer. Hugely disruptive companies, such as Airbnb and Uber, have sprung up based on P2P culture or the ‘"sharing economy." In the process, they've shaken up industries that had been blissfully entrenched and untouchable for decades. By doing what Etsy and other disruptive companies are doing -- employing a finely tuned understanding of consumer movement and web tech, and a visionary eye on the future -- you may see your project end up being bigger than you ever imagined.
eBay, the first company to jettison from purely consumer purchases to commission-based revenue from C2C and B2C exchanges, has set the bar for dozens of future online marketing platforms. eBay launched in 1995, offering online auctioning -- a method of transaction as old as time -- and expanded to include multiple innovative options, such as the popular new Group Gift feature, which allows multiple parties to pay for a single item.
The lesson: "Real world" sales structures and techniques can be radically successful in the online space and lead to expanded opportunities. Remember to infuse your digital presence with advanced features and plugins. Some may be free, some not -- and that’s okay. It would be hard to take on Target, for example, in sheer sales might. Retail giants with a strong presence in both brick and mortar and online channels are fairly difficult to unseat. But you can introduce original ease-of-use, shipping and programmatic advertising techniques that will propel you to the top within your sphere.
In sum, the online arena affords entrepreneurs both deeply traditional and radically new ways of doing business. Building your product and marketing foundation on tried-and-true models familiar to consumers, and moving from there into the "wow factor" with your particular innovation is a paradigm many successful companies are now employing, with high impact, across the spectrum.
Staying light, flexible and open to modification on top of that formula will propel you to a position of dominance. The sky’s the limit. And that's the biggest "lesson" of all.