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Mom and Pop are Back?

Thanks to the eCommerce and social media, mom-and-pop businesses can compete effectively alongside multinational corporations on equal footing. Smaller, more agile companies may even have the advantage in some cases. In fact, users may not be able to tell if a site they visit is run by a guy in a hut or a board of directors in an office tower. Customers who use websites to conduct their business, however, often find that small businesses offer them the personal service and attention to detail they thought was no longer available.

With point-and-click website-building software and other advances on the side of the little guy, ecommerce sites built by small organizations look professional and include many of the same design elements as those that were once available only to companies with massive information technology budgets.  The Internet serves as a leveler, putting small businesses on par with big companies. In some industries, upstarts achieve great success.

Consider these two examples

In the case of bookselling, being a decades-old corporation may not have any advantages at all. The Borders chain of retail stores closed its doors after no buyer could be found to take over the failing company. Meanwhile, Amazon has grown into a bookselling powerhouse by using a web-only model and embracing changes in the industry like the move to ebooks. It should be noted that Borders accidentally positioned its online store against its retail outlets in a “perfect storm” of bad planning.  In addition to the advent of the ebook, Half-Price Books has dominated the publishing spectrum by droning out the best-sellers at 40% of what Borders was charging.

Amazon’s forward-looking model allowed the company to persevere through the economic downturn of recent years while the less flexible business model at Borders is part of the reason the chain failed.  This is obvious of course, given that Amazon has NO retail stores and relies primarily on eCommerce and social media.  As Borders closes its final doors, Amazon sits strong with a $195.93 stock price and continuous growth on its horizon.

The success of Amazon and failure of Borders also proves that customers do not necessarily want to shop in person when transactions can be completed easily on the web.  From this author’s experience, most the time spent in Borders was to browse the new titles and then order them from Amazon given the retail price was about 50% more.  It would have seemed that Borders might have picked up on this and established a cover charge.

On the opposite side of the product spectrum, smaller companies like Blue Sun Properties are proving that customers reward well-built, easy-to-navigate websites with their business.  A user can go through this site and shop for Panama City Beach condos from their own home, whether that is in Ohio or Washington State.  Family attractions surrounding that area such as Shipwreck Water Park and Barnacle Bay only add value to the experience; given the site itself is geared toward families.  This convenience is in direct competition with the resort cities of Destin and Cancun, who offer the “all-inclusive” rates and packages.  With eCommerce, this organization can match itself against such giants while emphasizing its message.

Whether buying a book or booking a vacation condo, customers are proving they prefer to work with companies that offer simple online shopping experiences, whether the companies behind those experiences are large or small.  As a result, the days of the Mom-and-Pop shop may be on the rise.

The Gift of Gab: Women’s Advantage in Social Media

Lauren MacEwen being social at a partyWomen have the business advantage in social media. We continue to be the majority of social media users. As a driving force behind a lot of the overall internet usage, women are commanding a powerful influence in shopping, B2B, social media, blogging and content driven sites.   But women are not just the consumers of retail, information and social activity, we are also the drivers.

Socially women are taught to communicate. We are taught to express our feelings and thoughts and spread information along to other interested parties. Community interactions teach us the art of gossip and gab. We are known as the purveyors of information, and we are often a vast and varied  storehouse of information.

Another school of thought argues that women are neurologically better communicators. According to The Female Brain women can process 13,000 more communication events than men and have 11% more brain cells in the planum temporale, which has to do with processing language.

“[F]rom a young age, women are conditioned to nurture, communicate, and express their feelings through words; all necessary qualities of a social medialite. Our male counterparts, no matter how accomplished or web savvy, have to work infinitely harder to master the art of casually dishing information and “gossiping” about industry hot topics.”

According to PsychTests, women are more comfortable sharing their thoughts and more willing to discuss issues and take others opinions into consideration. Also, women are better listeners and empathizers and are more skilled at handling “touchy-feely” conversations.  But does this mean that women are better at social media?

Whether or not you believe that women have a neurological or social advantage, many schools of thought support the idea that women are better communicators than men.  Communication is a skill, and like any skill it can be honed and developed.  This skill is culturally, and possibly neurologically, supported for women. For men, however, the cultural idea of masculinity as the “strong and silent” type is working in direct opposition to developing this ability.

The nature of social media is social. It is about community, communication, conversation and sharing information. The way in which women use the internet supports a social media advantage.  Though men and women both use the internet for research, the way women conduct their research is  is different. “Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process – one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal email exchanges.”

The business of being social is in interaction and the dissemination of information.

Through our skills in communication and our own user trends, women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in social media. “Women are enthusiastic online communicators.” Social media provides a platform where our natural or socially developed communication skills give us a business edge.

The joke in my house is that if you want to know what is going on ask me, not my husband. In fact, my husband often says how much he dislikes gossip and would rather abstain from a conversation than participate in what he feels is gossipy. Me, on the other hand, I am a collector of information. I collect gossip, news, sociological theory, tech developments, and maintain a repository of generally random information.

I often use this information in my business communication to deepen relationships.  Just like friendships, business relationships are not limited to the topic at hand. The gift of gab can be more than a friendly conversation starter, it can now be an entire business model

Some Facts:

Reposted from a guest post written by Lauren MacEwen for Dr. Shannon Reese