Large companies such as Amazon, Ebay, and Newegg are dominating the shopping market with cutting edge prices and quick delivery times. However, these companies are bodiless, appearing to the consumer only in the form of a website. These companies define e-commerce, a recent economic development in which goods and services are sold over the Internet. Though e-commerce seems to be an overarching positive force in society, we must ask ourselves: what is to become of smaller businesses and “mom and pop shops”?
E-commerce is drastically shaping modern consumerism — more than 75% of shoppers over age 15 bought something online in the first quarter of 2014. Combine this with a 14.6% increase in e-commerce from 2014 and 2015, and there seems to be merely two options left for local businesses. One — to simply close their doors and allow bigger online retail companies to take over. The second, to fight fire with fire. That is, to help small businesses pioneer into the field of e-commerce.
Because of the popularity of e-commerce, it now seems that option two is inevitable, and that the current “mom and pop shop” will soon be integrated into large companies like Amazon and Ebay.
Although it may seem like this would further the success of local businesses, there are a few considerations not often associated with this shift into e-commerce. Perhaps most importantly, the aspect that defines “mom and pop shops”: the consumer experience. The traditional “brick and mortar” model of the local business may soon cease to exist due to this increase in e-commerce. Not only the structure of local businesses will be lost, but also the individuality and intimacy that local businesses usually have over other bigger corporations — an intimacy derived from providing more than merely a product, it is an intimacy derived from providing an entire customer experience.
The loss of a strong customer experience may seem like a minor issue to some, but in reality it plays a large part on our society. A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs says that 80% of US consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer experience. The experience that a consumer gets from a certain business not only improves customer satisfaction, but fosters repeat customers and customer loyalty. Therefore, when the customer experience is lost in local businesses, the businesses themselves are impacted heavily. When these businesses have a small customer base to begin with, they may not be able to survive in comparison to the capabilities that other bigger businesses have.
Will local businesses be able to successfully integrate into larger companies like Amazon? Yes, but in doing so, they will lose what makes them different. Establishing local businesses as an e-commerce venture will decrease their individuality and intimacy, which is the main distinguishing factor between smaller businesses and bigger enterprises. Because of this, the only difference between large companies and smaller ventures will become resources and size, rather than the experience a consumer purchases along with a product from small businesses. So perhaps the most provocative and lasting effects we will see in the face of ecommerce may be a loss of identity amongst “mom and pop shops”, as they merge into the online platform.