In the pre-digital age when retailers sold all their goods in brick-and-mortar buildings, farmer’s market booths or lemonade stands, the retailer owned and was responsible for all their company’s assets.
Their customers knew them, and they controlled everything about how they presented themselves to the marketplace. Merchants, especially those who produced their own merchandise, knew what their customers wanted and how to present their goods.
That character wasn’t simply a matter of pride — it’s how local entrepreneurs worked. It’s the basis for capitalism.
I don’t have to tell you how the digital age changed how we shop. But it also changed how we sell.
Today, small merchants must play a game run by forces they simply aren’t able to compete with: the online behemoths — Amazon, eBay and others. They must play by the rules of these platforms to have a chance at survival.
And while it’s relatively easy (though not necessarily cheap) for a small business to get started as a seller on these big sites, it’s not a playing field meant to benefit them.
One big reason is that small businesses no longer own their own shop windows in a digital sense. The platforms do.
These digital assets include product images, descriptions, customer reviews, and how the page is structured for viewing. A small business with an Amazon seller account has some input in how their product is presented — what images and descriptions to use, and what price to sell. But the final say is Amazon’s, because they own every single digital asset on their platform.
This gives Amazon massive leverage over their business that free enterprise never intended. It’s a monopoly in joint-ownership’s clothing.
Because retailers don’t own their digital assets on Amazon, their algorithms can manipulate your page as they deem fit. They can heighten or lessen its presence according to their own market assessments. They can even put a competitor’s product on your page as a recommended option.
Think about that one. Have you ever gone to a neighborhood hardware store and seen a poster for a hammer for sale at a competitor’s store down the street? Have you ever wandered past a McDonald's and seen ads for the Whopper in the window? We’re dealing with that level of ridiculousness here.
Amazon can describe that as “offering choices to our customers.” But, it’s not. It’s controlling the entire market — and degrading some retailers’ product value, while upgrading the value of the highest bidder (ie. their competition).
That’s why ownership of digital assets is a hugely important issue in today’s e-commerce ecosystem. Small merchants using Amazon and other big platforms have almost no option but to give that control over to corporate entities whose sole focus is rewarding themselves and their stockholders.
Is that worth the increased traffic and lower ROI?
No. And that’s why the new frontiers of blockchain are bringing the rights of small businesses into the spotlight. It’s imperative for small business owners to own as much of their digital commodities — assets, technology, and data — as they possibly can.
With blockchain technology, all ownership of digital assets can be recorded in a trustless environment to be bought, sold, leased, or transferred as the owner sees fit.
One promising project, ECoinmerce, is working on a solution to solve this exact issue. The ECoinmerce e-commerce platform allows all business owners to retain their own digital assets. They decide what goes on their landing pages, and maintain control of how it’s accessed, amended and presented.
With no centralized team, stockholders to answer to, and no commission on sellers’ profits, ECoinmerce only sets up a framework for storefronts to exist. Sellers decide the most important elements that their customers need to see. They control the appearance. Their marketing prerogatives drive their product pages; their own customer data lets them set inventory and priority.
Add that to the security of data on the blockchain, the flexibility of cryptocurrency and a self-regulating community, and you’ll see how ECoinmerce lets businesses control their destiny without intrusion or the capricious conclusions of an artificial algorithm designed by somebody else.
ECoinmerce is building an e-commerce platform to make small business owners’ investments into their own brand truly valuable — without taking away what they’ve worked hard to build.
This kind of innovation is why we have a free market in the first place. This kind of innovation is finally bringing a level playing field back to e-commerce.
Thoughts? What else is blockchain improving? Let me know what your think in the comment section below or start a discussion at your next meetup.