In 2020, COVID-19 closed down most businesses. Many big corporations that have been mainstays in American consciousness went down one by one. J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, Hertz, GNC, Chuck E. Chese, have all filed for bankruptcy in the past year. Unfortunately, smaller enterprises are also shutting down by the millions.
Inequality Exposed by Pandemic
It is not hard to imagine why many businesses are struggling. The virus has discouraged people from going out in fear of getting infected. Even if many of the restrictions created to curb the spread of the virus have been lifted, consumers are just not willing to return to their lives while the pandemic is still raging across the nation.
On the other hand, e-commerce took a much tighter hold of the market. While other businesses floundered, Amazon saw demand for its services increased so much that the company had to hire more workers. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, already one of the richest people in the world, also fiurther grew his wealth.
Local SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) have been battling e-commerce giants for years, and the pandemic has only made survival of these businesses more of a challenge. As positive cases surged, consumers turned to online shopping as a socially-distant way to access their necessities. Experts predict that the pandemic will only accelerate the growth and domination of online shopping. That is bad news for independent business owners.
Digitizing Mom and Pop
SMEs are the lifelines of the community. They make basic goods accessible to residents, especially in low-income neighborhoods and households. However, mom-and-pop shops continue to be threatened. Before, it was the arrival of big box stores within their communities that endangered the existence of mom-and-pop shops. Now, they are facing a bigger adversary in Amazon.
It will not be temporary. The future of retail is online shopping and, like all businesses, either adapt or sink to obscurity.
In recent years, mom-and-pop shops have also joined the digital revolution.
Shopify is the anti-Amazon. It is an e-commerce platform, but it empowers small businesses to open and manage their own digital storefront. It is an easy-to-use website that does not require a knowledge of code to set-up. Moreover, unlike Amazon that takes a chunk of profit, Shopify only charges a small monthly fee. Money made from sales through the platform goes straight to independent sellers.
Went COVID-19 seized control on almost every nation on Earth, Shopify was a godsend. Thousands of mom-and-pop shops joined the platform in the past year to continue operations despite lockdowns. Between March and April, the number of new stores on Shopify grew by 62%.
Selling Online Has Its Challenges
Shopify has been helping independent sellers move their stocks during the pandemic. Businesses that opened their online stores on the platform were able to recoup 94% of lost income from the disappearance of in-person transactions. For every one dollar lost during the pandemic, businesses gained back 94 cents through Shopify.
However, whether they will continue selling online the platform or not after the crisis, they still will face challenges. Amazon still dominates the e-commerce landscape.
In order to survive and succeed in the digital marketplace, mom-and-pop shops need to establish a strong online presence. They should consider investing some of their resources to hire a marketing company that can create a strategy to increase interest from consumers.
Utilizing social media is the most affordable yet one of the most effective ways to market online. There is no fee to open a business profile on either Facebook or Instagram. But, running an effective campaign on social media is easier said than done. There is a lot of work that goes into crafting a viral video. Entrepreneurs will need to plan what they post and post frequently in order to gain followers.
Every year, around 500,000 mom-and-pop shops disappear in the U.S. because of Amazon and big box chains such as Wal-Mart. The loss of SMEs will be devastating to the nation. SMEs create jobs, especially within the low-income neighborhoods they serve. In 2015, small businesses accounted for the creation of 1.9 million jobs. That is approximately 70% of all new jobs across the nation — much larger than what big enterprises contribute. Their disappearance will lead to a further rise of the unemployment rate.
Moreover, mom-and-pop shops are members of their community. They serve the needs of the community well because their business is built specifically to address the demand of the people who live there. Not Amazon nor Wal-Mart can say the same.