Think of a company that sells its products on the internet. What brands come to mind?
Annoyingly, it takes real mental effort to think beyond the likes of Apple, Casper, and Peloton. These are all enormous public companies that depict an extreme form of ecommerce. For example, Casper’s groundbreaking IPO for DTC brands revealed a company that had barely surpassed its own VC funding in revenues. These megascale ecomm companies are as far from a bootstrap mentality as one could invent. So what do we make of them?
In economic speak, we should be optimizing for the maximum number of new companies, which will be the small businesses that provide all net new job creation to our economy.
Let’s ditch the economics though. Rather than thinking about the world we want to live in as an equation, let’s think about it in human terms.
It is not the convenience, pricing, and vast selection. Yes, I take advantage of these too. However, when the archeologists of 3000 AD uncover our vast internet economy, I want them to see something more interesting than perfectly tuned supply and demand.
Opt-in Commerce is a helpful economic framing of this phenomenon, but I like to take it a step further. Commerce is great, but what if I still enjoy the real-world experience of walking down to the town center on Sunday and seeing what happens? Maybe I can’t grab a croissant and coffee, but can I at least people watch?
The best markets let anyone set up shop. And I mean ANYONE. This is where the scale of the internet is unbeatable. Opt-in Commerce is really just the world’s greatest open-air market.
In this digital open-air market, the digital experiences are interesting. The products are unique. The humans behind the scenes are characters I am proud to support. And it is always Sunday.
For example, as a mountain biker, here is a Sunday ecomm stroll I’d suggest:
Some might love the sheer number of mushrooms and colors utilized by the above brands. Others, likely most, are repulsed. Either way, it is important that they have the right to profiteer in all their strangeness.
Capitalism isn’t meant to dilute our quirks and shepherd us all into the same homogenous utilitarian box. We wake up to the same smart alarm clock, make the same single-button coffee, take the same trendy supplements, pedal the same virtual ride, adorn the same athleisure clothes… Has Black Mirror made this episode yet?
Rather, ecomm allows anyone to plug into a vast worldwide marketplace where (almost) any niche is large enough to support a business. This diverse, strange, occasionally smelly, puzzling, hilarious version of commerce is economically sound, but more importantly, simply a better world to live in.
It prioritizes humans and celebrates them, and anyone can become a character or a business worthy of celebration.
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