Article | March 2, 2020
The retail landscape is more crowded than ever. Nearly every day, a new brand pops up seeking consumer attention and buy-in across the globe, and this intense competition has fostered some questionable practices in the world of digital advertising. Hungry for impressions, retailers and online brands have invested billions into powerful advertising technology with the ability to collect very personal information on each customer in order to deliver them extremely, almost dangerously, targeted ads. As the retail experience shifts away from brick-and-mortar stores and hones in on e-commerce, retailers of all sizes will continue to spend egregious amounts to capture consumer sentiment.
Article | December 15, 2020
Prior to the pandemic and quarantine, less than 8% of commerce was online. As of Q3FY20 eCommerce grew north of 14% of all commerce. So while the Retailpocalypse was in its last phase, physical retail still outsold eCommerce by at least 7:1.
The failure rate of crowdfunding campaigns is 85%.
The failure rate of eCommerce store owners ranges from 80 to 97%.
What if there were a way to bridge the gap between these three failure rates? What if we could bridge what people consume online with what they purchase offline before waiting for brain-computer interfaces (BCI)? In short what if we could bridge social and commerce? (Example use case.)
Mostly missing are the memorable, meaningful, measurable and monetizable responses from people interested in stories about beagles, princesses and pitbulls, pets, car repair, raspberry blueberry vinaigrette gyros, budget-saving techniques for holiday travel, getting stuck at airports in blizzards, rental cars and Cup o’ Noodles, My Fair Lady and @Instacart, dining out at the delicious Banana Leaves café, cooking kosher halal gelatin-free, blue #1 artificial dye-free egg nog flavored marshmallows, 50th anniversaries and chocolate ganache, adventures camping with youth groups, birdhouses built by kids, rainbow hair dye, artificial dye-free cakes DIY for your child’s birthday party, and Halloween gingerbread houses and Greek Mount Olympus costumes.
Other than ad revenue Youtube collects which most of it’s video posters see little of, monetizing the DIY craze has proven quite tricky. Ditto for Christmas shopping, smartphone accessories, buying a new luxury Subaru online with no salesman, how to get hard to find contact lenses and vitamins for kids, how Amazon often has thrift store prices on inventory thrift stores rarely carry, the challenges of buying clothes on Amazon that don’t fit but you don’t realize that until the clothes arrive, DIY car repair, funny car repair, glorious victory of car repair, diaper cakes and muscle aches, drones and honey scones, Triple A baseball and blue-tailed skinks, favorite foods, fasting, and Boston, fused vertebrae and buried treasure, where to buy school supplies when most stores are sold out, creameries and charcuterie,
Bridging social media with eCommerce has been the white rhino of many investors and start-ups for many years.
Instead of working toward such solutions, we have VC’s and stockholders asking about vanity metrics:
- How many people looked at your website? Instead of: How many people subscribed or how many purchased an item?-
- How many downloads per month does your app have? Instead of: How many of the people who downloaded your app have note removed it less than 30 days later?
- What’s your ad revenue? Instead of: How can your product capture or create more value?
In reply entrepreneurs answer these questions, they often present their increased spend on marketing followed up with vanity milestones:
“We’re using Google Analytics and similar providers to track every movement of the supply chain, to ensure when the purchaser’s journey is completed, there’s no delay in delivery. This will lead to more frequent purchases ideally of higher priced products, and…
We are pitching to Chipotle on Friday!”
This leads to concentrated research on Chipotle’s SWAT, followed up with an excellent pitch including a demo via Zoom.
The result of this pitch is usually:
1. The person loved the pitch and accepts your invitation to meet again with his/her manager next week.
2. The person you pitched to is not the decision-maker
3. The person you pitched to doesn’t quite understand what you’re pitching
4. The person you pitched to had 3 other projects due by COB and wasn’t fully present and listening to your 10-minute pitch
5. You provided too many facts too quickly, trying to build rapport
6. You shared how you’re product can reduce shrink, increase ROI, decrease costs, increase retention, and cure cancer. The person you pitched to doesn’t believe all those promises.
7. The person you pitched to is afraid of advocating change; the risk from change that results in lesser results can lead to negative repercussions. The risk of “business as usual” is minimal.
Forgotten by almost all eCommerce platforms and store owners are the facts that:
- People behave differently when they are observed (best behavior vs. average behavior). Despite this, we are seeing an incredible number of start-ups that offer to help track everything your customers do. “We’re Palantir for eCommerce” is essentially the ethos of these companies.
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwarz – too many choices overwhelm the person making the choice, to the point that no decision is made. If you don’t train your mind to buy what you want even if you have to look on pages other than Amazon and Google Shopping, you might end up buying the product you almost wanted.
- The concept of incentivized virality – when PayPal gave $20 to each person who referred another person who joined, and when DropBox offered free data storage to people who referred friends who joined – which Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh brilliantly detailed in Blitzscaling:
The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.
So now each eCommerce platform tries to copy Amazon who built their model on the opposite of physical retail. Consider your last experience renting a car at an airport vs. Amazon:
- Do you want to refill the gas tank or would you like us to?
- Would you like liability only or more comprehensive types of insurance coverage?
- Would you like a GPS?
- Would you like to join our exclusive members club? etc., etc.
Adding to what @ElevateDemand said, “ B2B marketing is broken,” Raj De Datta, CEO and cofounder of @Bloomreach said, “The future of B2C marketing looks like B2B marketing,” Kevin Marasco, CMO of @Zenefits correctly said “marketing is going back in time from B2B to B2C” or person to person.
Smart speakers in every phone, tablet, laptop PC, TV, and car succeeded by BCI, which @Facebook and @Neuralink are pioneering, hold great potential. Until those products arrive or after their R&D phase, @Homemaide’s object recognition and image recognition models can provide the sorely needed bridge between Social and Commerce.
Article | March 22, 2020
Brick-and-mortar retailers have embodied this concept since the inception of physical stores. The saying is taking on a different meaning for retailers seeking to reimagine the concept of physical stores. No-inventory stores, like Bonobos, are exchanging storefronts filled with large amounts of costly inventory for showrooms stocked with personal stylists, cafés or office space. The concept of the store as a showroom benefits retailers, their customers and their workers. The combination of decreased square footage, lower rents and freed-up cash typically tied up in massive inventories creates new opportunities for all to enjoy. Consolidating most inventory in a few central locations, rather than scattering it across all stores, will increase margin and inventory turns significantly.
Article | October 16, 2020
In 2004, Tobias Lutke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Luke established an online website to sell snowboards. They tried a bunch of online store builders but were not satisfied with the status quo. So, they decided to build a tool that could operate their website. Soon, they realized that the tool was more powerful than the website's business. And hence, Shopify was born.
Eventually, Shopify became one of the largest eCommerce store builders in the world. By 2009, the company had $100 million in sales and decided to launch its own API as well as an app store. More than a decade later, Shopify is now supporting over 800,000 stores globally and is a $125 billion company.
While the company has shown remarkable growth in its business, it would be ignorant to say the market's needs have been fulfilled by the Shopify platform. Shopify's eCommerce platform works for a lot of businesses, but that does not mean it will work for every business.
Here is why Shopify is Not the Right Fit for Every Business:
Shopify's growth over the years shows that the company has taken several steps to address the market's inherent needs. However, the presence of several other companies and the issues still faced by merchants show some significant gaps in Shopify's offerings:
1. Cost of Setting Up: Each price-point offers a fixed set of features and functionalities. If you want anything over and above that, you will have to buy the subsequent package. For instance – something as conventional as a Gift Card is not available in the $29 per month package; to get it activated, pay as much as $299 per month.
2. Cost of Operations: The additional functionalities and features cost extra in your package. Even basic features like transaction or credit card processing attract an additional fee. To add to that, you have to purchase the app to activate the feature from the Shopify app store. Even though some apps are free, the apps that offer maximum value tend to cost north of $39.99 per month.
3. Limited and Expensive Themes: The entire Shopify store has a total of 73 themes, with the prices going as high as $180 a theme. This means that as a merchant, even after paying the high price, you may end up with an eCommerce platform that hardly stands out from the crowd.
In short, while Shopify was started with great intentions, the cost of using it has started outweighing the probable value it has to offer. This issue gets further highlighted when one starts looking at the Shopify alternatives.
Best Alternatives of Shopify
While Shopify suits the needs of a certain set of merchants, here are the alternatives that can suit the merchants looking for more tailored, affordable, or customizable solutions:
1. Quick eSelling
Quick eSelling is one of the most affordable and easy to deploy ecommerce store builder among the Shopify alternatives. It can be deployed in under 10 minutes for the basic variant. Its free variant has some prolific features like a native Android app, responsive website, and a catalog that can support up to 1000 products.
The free package requires a 5% transaction fee, which gets eliminated the moment you upgrade to a paid plan. All the paid plans have a fixed monthly fee and no setup costs. The list of standard features includes a wide set of functionalities like customizable web-store themes, SMS & Email marketing, comprehensive payment gateway integrations, detailed analytics reports, inventory management systems, social media plugins, discount coupon codes, and even live chat.
The premium package which costs around 50% the price of the $299 Shopify package, comes with a dedicated account manager and enterprise-level integrations.
Ideal for: Merchants who are seeking an affordable, easily usable, and quickly deployable solution.
WooCommerce is popularly considered one of the most preferred alternatives for Shopify. It is quite convenient for website owners as it is a plugin for WordPress.
Unlike other tools in the list, WooCommerce is designed to make WordPress sites work as functional eCommerce platforms. And in that particular aspect, it does a great job.
However, if you are not already using an established WordPress site with high traffic, running WooCommerce can become quite expensive. On average, a website owner has to spend as much as $1000 in setting up a WooCommerce store with a moderate degree of customization.
Even if you are not customizing a lot, running a WooCommerce store can cost you as much as $150 in a month. This would cover your hosting, themes, shipping plugins, security, and SEO. You will pay additional 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Ideal for: Someone who has a successful WordPress website and now wants to convert it into an eCommerce store.
Yo!Kart is a popular self-hosted multi-vendor platform for building online marketplaces. Unlike Shopify, it is a standalone platform that comes with a lifetime license and rich ecommerce features. The platform is fully customizable and scalable.
Yo!Kart packages start from $999 and every package comes with a 1-year free technical support, free installation, and full source code. There are no monthly or yearly recurring fees.
Considering it is a comprehensive platform, you may need some technical training to understand the system.
Ideal for: Business owners who want to start ecommerce websites like Amazon or ebay where multiple sellers are selling under the same roof.
PrestaShop runs on the basic premise that creating an online eCommerce store should be an affordable exercise for any merchant. That is the reason why it is available for free and comes without any additional monthly fees.
Its features include eCommerce functionalities like CRM & Email Marketing, Inventory Management, Multi-Store Management, and SEO Management. You can get a basic eCommerce store running by paying the registration fee for the domain and the hosting fee dues.
While this may seem like a great alternative, given the fact that it is practically free, there is one major caveat – you cannot deploy or personalize your PrestaShop eCommerce store unless you know how to code. The entire platform has been designed, keeping in mind people who can code at professional levels of proficiency. The cost of hiring a developer who can add features to your store or modify the theme can be very costly.
In addition to this, some basic features like promotions & reviews management, data security, and mobile access are not available on the platform.
Ideal for: The merchants who have access to programming talent and don't mind a basic eCommerce store.
Wix became popular as an online website builder. It also offers interesting eCommerce functionalities. For as low as $35 a year, you can have the Business Basic package that comes with a free year of using the domain, analytics reports, and 20 GB of storage.
If you want greater control of your eCommerce platform but are not a professional programmer and are not interested in hiring one, Wix can be a great alternative. Its most expensive package costs about $80 a year. It comes with features like email marketing, SEO management, inventory management, data security, and promotions management.
The challenge is – most of the charges marketed by Wix are very affordable for the first year in operations. After a year, many of these features, like the domain, will become payable elements. This way as soon as the first year of your operations is over, your cost of running the eCommerce platform will dramatically go up.
Ideal for: Merchants who want to have greater control of their website's design without the need for coding skills and those who want the first year of operations to be largely affordable.
Shopify can work for you if you are seeking a limited set of features. However, for lesser price-points, the alternatives for Shopify offer great functionalities. Quick eSelling is good for cost-effective and rapidly deployable eCommerce websites that come loaded with native features. WooCommerce is a viable option if you have a WordPress site and want to convert it into an eCommerce store. Yo!Kart specializes in building multi-vendor marketplaces.
PrestaShop can be handy and very budget-friendly if you have access to coding talent. And Wix is good if you want greater control over what your store looks like, without getting into the programming aspects.