Entrepreneurship in the Age of Ecommerce

by Rakuten Super Logistics | eCommerce Strategy

From Maine to Miami, Michigan to Mississippi and Seattle to San Diego, there is one commonality shared by most American businesspeople: an entrepreneurial spirit.

For as long as there has been an American nation, one of the hallmarks of successful American businesses has been a commitment to hard work, and a willingness to take the requisite risks required by entrepreneurialism.

Of course, taking risks and building a successful business is not unique to America; every Western nation has its share of prosperous companies and businesspeople that have emerged as industry leaders in their respective fields.

Still, it’s hard to think of American commerce without equating success to a high degree of entrepreneurialism. For example, the 2018 Small Business Profile, presented by the federal Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, reported over 30 million small businesses in the U.S. Of those 30 million companies, more than 24 million small businesses were individually operated.

American entrepreneurialism is alive and well. Further illustrating the scope of entrepreneurialism in the US and its importance to the overall economy, consider the fact that according to the 2010 Census (the most recent national survey) small businesses employ more than 120 million Americans—or approximately the entire population of France and the United Kingdom, combined.

Entrepreneurship in the US: A Gateway for Equal Opportunity

Of course, one of the hallmarks of America is the concept of a ‘melting pot’—where people from around the world have made their home and through hard work and risk taking, have historically been able to carve out their own American Dream.

With the advent of the Internet, over the last quarter century online businesses have joined the long line of American entrepreneurial success stories. For example, transforming the retail landscape, it’s estimated that ecommerce is now responsible for about half of all retail purchases made in America. And with today’s resources, building an online business has never been easier.

Of course, risk taking does not always result in success. According to US government statistics, the failure rate for small businesses is almost 50 percent. Still, despite the risks involved, every year, thousands of Americans roll the proverbial dice and open their own businesses with dreams of prosperity and ‘being their own boss.’

Interestingly, as technology continues to evolve and ecommerce continues to rapidly grow, one of the biggest trends among successful online entrepreneurs is recognition of the importance of innovation and a willingness to continue to evolve a company’s daily operations.

Innovation Remains Key to Entrepreneurial Prosperity

Michael Dell, founder and CEO of the computer company that bares his name, recently hosted an entrepreneurship panel at the 2018 South By Southwest (SXSW) conference; during the discussion, Dell outlined the many challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the IT space, but was succinct about the key ingredient in establishing entrepreneurial success.

“Entrepreneurship is innovation, and ecommerce definitely adds fuel to the fire,” Dell told the conference. Describing how his namesake company grew from its start in his college dorm room, Dell emphasized that regardless of where or how a new business is launched, innovation remains the one constant in a company’s journey to success.

SXSW panelists discussing entrepreneurial success also agreed that the focus of all decisions made by successful companies, ecommerce or otherwise, should always be the client. The panelists all agreed that unlike a ‘customer’ who might only make a one-time purchase, by contrast, a ‘client’ indicates an ongoing relationship between the company and someone choosing to do business with it on a regular basis.

Stephen Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of online travel site TripAdvisor, noted that many “business plans end up half right and half wrong,” but that if companies are willing to listen to their clients’ input, they will always be able to steer their businesses in the right direction.

Kaufer added that by listening to clients and responding to what they say, companies will not only be able to hold onto current clients but—in the age of social media—will also create a ‘buzz’ that will encourage new clients to explore their company’s products and services.

These Days, the New ‘Storefront’ is Very Often Online

When the wave of European immigrants arrived at the turn of the 20th Century, many brought with them an entrepreneurial spirit that ultimately resulted in opening countless stores or shops across the nation. The explosion of retail storefronts, in turn, then transformed cities and towns across the country, helping to shape urban planning and development for decades.

However, in 2018, the spirit of entrepreneurialism among both American citizens and new immigrants is just as—if not more—likely to be found online, as in traditional storefronts.
Unlike traditional retailing, ecommerce doesn’t require a physical space to set up shop. In many cases, online businesses can often open and operate—at least initially—with fewer laborers than would a traditional store.

Technology continues to play a major role in transforming American entrepreneurialism. For example, platforms such as Shopify provide a toolbox that you can use when you’re building an online business. Even entrepreneurs with limited skills that, in the past, would have been requisite to successfully operate a new company, are now able to begin building an online business and outsource many aspects of their operations, including such diverse functions as marketing and logistics.

Resources for Growing Ecommerce Entrepreneurs

If you’re building an online business, outsourcing to a 3PL (third party logistics) can also remove the burden of distribution, warehousing, transportation and fulfillment of ecommerce orders. By choosing to use such services, ecommerce businesses can then focus more of their time and energy on the ‘client experience’—the key to continued success.

“There are multiple advantages for ecommerce entrepreneurs using a 3PL,” explains Mary Marriott, Vice President of Operations for Rakuten Super Logistics. “There are numerous operational challenges confronting ecommerce business owners every day, and partnering with a 3PL allows ecommerce entrepreneurs to focus on their primary interests and duties: ensuring their clients receive an optimal purchasing experience.

Marriott adds that “by outsourcing their warehousing, transportation, delivery and related tasks to professionals who are experts in their fields, ecommerce entrepreneurs actually have an opportunity to spend more time ensuring their operations run smoothly, and that they are meeting the high expectations of their clients.”

For eCommerce entrepreneurs, there are also multiple free resources that they can utilize to seek guidance, and ensure they’re making the right choices when building an online business. Ecommerce podcasts, such as Shopify Masters and Ecommerce Fuel, can provide insight into running a successful online business. In addition, online blogs can help new ecommerce entrepreneurs, including sites such as Digital Marketer, Practical Ecommerce and Get Elastic.

Conclusion

From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, unique American business ideas were transformed into reality—often global commercial reality—by entrepreneurs who decided they would risk all they had to develop their unique business vision. That entrepreneurial spirit continues among ecommerce business people.

Still, when all is said and done, there are, of course, no guarantees of entrepreneurial success in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace. But that’s a risk American entrepreneurs have been willing to take throughout the nation’s history—and as seen in the explosive growth in the number of ecommerce businesses, there’s little reason to think that entrepreneurial sense of adventure will change any time soon.