Let’s talk about…The online marketplace

With the end of the year drawing close, it’s once again time for the holiday season and all of its traditions – not least of all, gift-giving. December has always been a busy time for shopping, but the introduction of online shopping into the mix has changed how we shop.

Last year was our first time celebrating the holidays since Covid hit, and with the public very conscious of the effects that restrictions had had for so many small businesses, there was a real push to shop local and support them. However, while it’s encouraging to see a greater emphasis being put on choosing local businesses over huge companies, there is no denying the chunk of the marketplace that online retailers continue to occupy.

Online shopping is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s profitability only continues to mushroom as time goes on. The inherent convenience that comes along with shopping via the Internet has cemented its popularity, even more so when coupled with the competitive pricing online retailers can afford to offer. With this in mind, the correlation between the dwindling presence of smaller businesses and the ever-growing online marketplace is hard to miss. After all, Amazon – the biggest ecommerce retailer – built a business out of slashing prices so low, they couldn’t hope to be matched.

Of course, their success, while indeed rooted in the convenience and prices they offer, is also due in part to the data they accumulate from their users. When you purchase online through these big retailers, not only has your purchase history been taken note of, so too has every aspect of your online shopping experience – from every item you’ve viewed, to anything you added to the basket and decided against, etc. The aim is to make a record of every aspect of your shopping habits in order to figure out what you’re most likely to buy. From there, your experience is tailored accordingly in order to encourage you to spend as much as possible.

When it comes to the big names, the online marketplace acts as a well-oiled machine – using targeted marketing to advertise to customers and then using the way customers respond to improve their targeted marketing, starting off the whole process again. The efficacy of being able to monitor and predict people’s preferences like that is, of course, not something that could be done by smaller businesses, and as such, they are pushed to the side in favour of bigger ones.

However, in the past twenty months of so, Covid served to put things in a much clearer context, highlighting the disparity between the countless livelihoods lost due to the pandemic and the profits seen by huge online retailers during that same time. While traditional stores found themselves unable to open their doors, and with the general public on high alert over the risk of the virus, online retail companies thrived. These companies had been surpassing smaller traditional businesses for quite some time already, but the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic really served to shine a spotlight on these online retailers, and to watch them thrive as more and more local businesses were closing left a bad taste.

On the bright side however, it seems as though Covid did inadvertently offer small businesses an opportunity to put more focus into how their business can be accessed online. Although adapting to the online platform was something that many businesses had no choice but to do in order to survive the pandemic, it feels like a silver lining that at the very least, these businesses are now in a position to be accessed more and by a wider range of people.

Last year, the increased availability and access to local businesses online was one of the things that allowed people to support local over the holidays. People’s reliance on online shopping has only been exacerbated by the ongoing Covid pandemic, but there seems to be a real solution to the overdominance of huge retail giants online in giving smaller businesses the resources to sell online too.

So if you’ve got any more presents to get for your loved ones this year, side-step some of those bigger online retailers and opt to shop local!