How Local Communities Could Succeed in Digital Commerce

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Author: William F. Piedra.

Date: Oct. 26, 2016

How Local Communities Could Succeed in Digital Commerce.

Local communities have the option of observing the digital commerce revolution or taking part in a revolution that could very well rival the industrial revolution. The stealth nature of digital commerce sounds no alarms. For instance, if your neighbors are making Internet purchases the only noticeable difference to you would be a more frequent appearance of UPS trucks and less crowded shopping centers.

From the vantage point of a local community digital commerce may be characterized as a spiral of: The Three D’s.

  • Digital Commerce.
  • Digital Disruption.
  • Digital Destruction.

Some Examples of the Three D’s.

Decades have passed since the airline industry began to sell passenger tickets on the Internet. About the same time the Internet was evolving the airline industry starting to limit commission payments to travel agents. Hence travel agents lost their bread and butter income and the rest is history. Store front travel agencies began to close to the point that today a community store front travel agency is an endangered species.

In 1995 a startup company by the name of Amazon begins selling books on the Internet. Amazon has a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores, who are limited to about 200,000 titles and must pay rents in high traffic retail locations. Ironically, the same year that Amazon launches its business Borders Bookstores has 354 super stores with revenue over $1.5 billion. By July 18, 2011, after 40 years in business, Borders announces plans to liquidate. Some 10,700 people loose their jobs, including 400 in Ann Arbor, Michigan alone.

Many more examples of the three D’s impact on local communities could be found. Yet, the examples in the airline industry and the bookstore industry more than make the point that the three D’s is not only real but in Main Street, USA.

This message is one of hope, rather than doom and gloom. So, please read on !

Independent Bookstores (Indies) – A Success Story.

After the demise of Borders Bookstores many predicted the end of the independent bookstore. Yet, local book stores are on the rise. According to Oren Teicher, president of the American Bookstore Association membership has increased 25% from 2009 to 2016 and a recent census bureau report shows a 6% revenue increase by Indies sales in 2016. What is attributed to the Indies’ success when the odds seem stacked against them ?

Janaka Stucky wrote an article for the Poetry Foundation in January 2012 tilted, Independent Bookstores: How To Compete With Amazon and, more recently, Caitlin Kelly sites some reasons for Indies success in her recent Forbes Magazine article into why the success of Indies. Here are some insights into Indies success.

An Indie is an independent bookstore that serves the reading public. It is not a coffee shop that happens to sell books but rather bookstore that may happen to sell coffee. A book super market that sells books, DVDs, toys and games, like Barnes and Noble, would not be classified as an Indie.

An Indie competitor may be another Indie but the most likely competitor is Amazon or other cyber commerce behemoth. Indies also know they operate at a disadvantage regarding their ability to match Amazon prices and the fact that any Indie customer prospect is able to compare the Indie price to Amazon’s price from an Amazon App.

Indie patrons are book fans and for many of them the bookstore experience is as satisfying as the the purchase itself:

  • There is an awe in being in a room full of books.
  • A thrill in meeting a favorite author face to face.
  • The pleasure of looking through stacks of books
  • It is the best shot for finding a well read staff who can recommend books and authors.
  • There is comfort in being in an environment where there is rarely a rush to leave.
  • A bookstore is a place where people would actually talk with each other.

Some Indies find creative ways to encourage book fans to keep coming back. In addition to new books, some Indies also sell used books at lower prices. Many have robust websites that offer options to buy online with quick local delivery. They offer selections made by staff people you can talk to and host numerous readings a year.

Digital Commerce is Easier Than You Think.

Tipping Points.

Whether an enterprise is large or small, presence in mobile Apps is obtainable to all at a very cost effective price.  Changes in technology have made it possible for a local community or a chamber of commerce to sponsor a mobile Apps where community enterprises and chamber members feature themselves and the community sponsor or the chamber of commerce incur no cost.

The following two charts illustrate the synergy when a local chamber of commerce and the local community participate in promoting local enterprises.
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Some Sound Advice.

  • Mobile Apps are the vehicle in a journey.
  • Set goals. Remember, if you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know when you get there.
  • Be visible often and wherever you can.

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  • Create your own presence when you have.
  • Collaborate with others for greater presence.
  • Use high tech but do not loose high touch.
  • Don’t let cost overruns end your journey.
  • Quality value to customer comes first.
  • There may not be a better time as the present.