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Since the mid-1990s, the world has been watching small businesses pack up their brick-and-mortar stores and move into fancy new digs online. The eBays and Amazons have been there every step of the way. As has the U.S. consumer, that is until the market crash of 2008.
Since the selloff, it feels like the eBays (EBAY) and Amazons (AMZN) have become more powerful juggernauts, and the U.S. consumer has been replaced with the consumer du jour: Europe is hot, no; Australia is hot, no; Canada is hot, no; the U.S. consumer is back; and, on and on. Stability has been replaced with volatility, and it is in this kind of environment that small businesses innovate, and the Internet wins.
With that, here are three hopeful predictions for small businesses in 2011, and beyond.
Shipping will move toward fast and free. Just as we saw during Christmas, big retailers will continue to promote free shipping, and soon we’ll see smaller businesses enter the fight.
How can small businesses do this, especially with shipping costs going up every year?
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Watch for small businesses to initially look to the eBays and Amazons to share the benefits of their massive scale. At the same time, small businesses will subvert the Internet giants by pushing more and more volume through their own online stores, and pushing their businesses international faster. Small businesses will also start to ship more from international locations, making the distance between them and their customers shorter.
Products will move toward unique and custom. The emergence of marketplaces like Etsy and Kickstarter are proving that highly-targeted products can attract a loyal audience.
Small businesses are accepting that they can't compete head on with big online businesses that carry the same products and are turning to niche products to reduce competition.
Entrepreneurs will outlive this economic climate, and use the volatility in the international market to their advantage. Since fall 2008, entrepreneurs have been hit with everything that ails the global economy. Yet, they persevere relentlessly.
Shipwire recently posted 10 e-commerce predictions and a 2011 round-up on our blog. What will generate more conversions: search or social? Why is “local” worthy of our attention?
What predictions do you have for 2011?