Welcome to my new E-commerce series. My first article set enjoyed a great run and still contain useful information applicable today. I thought it fitting to freshen things up a bit and put you more at ease, especially with the accessibility of our only local payment gateway via First Atlantic Commerce which also put a fresh spin on the topic.
There is a second reason I must admit. I want to encourage you ‘fence-sitter-onners’ to bite the bullet, go forth, go brave and multiply the e-commerce fortunes that I see on the horizon. And to adapt a phrase from an old movie iRobot (which I love btw): does thinking you’re the last sane man in T&T make you crazy? If it does, then maybe I am, for I really foresee the future of E-Commerce in Trinidad & Tobago (and no one else does) and it’s going to be huge, mark my words!
Never mind the naysayers, someone I met by-the-way just recently. He told me E-commerce doesn’t make sense in T&T, that we’re too small a market, only 1.2M people, sigh…
Let me state that I countered his point intelligently and objectively but in my mind I was beating him to the pulp with a bat. That statement has to be the most dotish one I have heard about local E-commerce very easily picked apart for the BS that it is. Every corner shop and business in communities all over the country have been doing just fine without the 1.2M people as customers. If such is the case then Digicel and cable companies have monumentally wasted their time and millions of dollars.
But that’s not even the reason why there’s no mad rush to set up online stores now that we have a TT dollar payment gateway. There are two reasons from what I see.
What’s holding businesses back
- Lack of will
- Lack of wherewithal
1. Lack of will
Funny, there’s a huge supply of wishful thinking but acute shortage of will. Not that people don’t have good ideas or good plans that work perfectly in their heads. It’s the lack of will to make a commitment. And notwithstanding the existing circumstances but it seems to me that some are waiting for the stars to align and the right conditions to miraculously appear.
The good thing is that they recognize that there’s a level of commitment necessary for an online store to work in T&T, especially in our young E-commerce marketplace, which perhaps gives them pause. Yes it’s a long hard road ahead but who said business was easy?
2. Lack of wherewithal
This encompasses a wide range, and I’m generally referring to quality resources to make it work: money, people and other infrastructure. I’ll say that perhaps the top reason people have to stop before they start is lack of start-up costs, which pretty much make the other potential roadblock points moot. I agree that funding is a culprit but it’s often made the scapegoat. Don’t entrepreneurs find a way?
Why you don’t have to be afraid
Newsflash: The wheel has already been invented
You know, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Amazon has been around for EIGHTEEN YEARS and counting. For heaven’s sake E-commerce is not a new thing so let’s stop treating it like it is. Have you noticed, that despite all the inefficiencies of our Trini systems, infrastructure, people, local businesses work anyway? That’s because they’ve figured out the way.
Where are all the business school graduates?
Business schools abound in T&T, churning out trained business graduates with their youthful energy (who are also growing up on the internet by the way), but where are they? All over the world it’s the young kids, even while in college, who take their ideas and start their own business. Is it that our Trini business grads are just going out looking for jobs? These grads should be taking the lead.
Forget the long in the tooth business people
I’ve been in the website business long enough to observe that the staid old brick and mortar companies may have the faint glimmer of a desire but they lack the passion. Their generation just don’t understand how this business works and are afraid and somewhat intimidated by it. Many things that have to be done they’ll have to take my word for it. Few know about websites, online marketing, and SEO. Stop wasting time trying to convince them. I’m looking at the new generation and you should be too.
It’s all about the business model
Agreed, an online store is not for the faint of heart but for the serious entrepreneur. You have to afford the investment to start it. My starting cost alone for a Magento online store is $9,000 TT. Add the payment gateway, marketing and promotion etc, could easily run you into the $15K-$20K range— and that’s excluding inventory and operating expenses. I’m of the view that that’s a good thing, because (and you can hate me for this), there is the propensity of many a Trini to ‘try a ting’ which will be far less when it’s $20K+ ‘jumping up’. And by the way, you don’t need inventory…HELLO, BUSINESS MODEL?
95% of the E-commerce equation is regular commerce
You find that hard to believe? Stripped to the lowest common denominator, an online store does ONE THING and ONE THING ONLY. Everything else is the plain regular business that’s been going along its merry way in T&T all along. Oooh… E-Commerce is scaring you for nothing, NOTHING! Rarely do I tease you but this time I will. I’ll save this big reveal for my Part 2 to give you time to introspect.
It’s all about the big picture…the future
Stop looking only till the end of your nose. All things being the same, do you think all things are going to be the same in five years? E-Commerce in Trinidad & Tobago is zero in 2013, do you really think it will still be zero in 2018? All I can say is THINK AGAIN.
You have to listen to me
Believe me when I say that there are few web designers in T&T up to the challenge of establishing even a fraction of the size of an Amazon store. To be truthful I don’t know of any but in their defense, clients willing to give them the chance to shine haven’t been forthcoming.
There are absolutely no Amazon-like online stores in the country (who think they are, aren’t; who you think they are, aren’t either) so the standard has yet to be set, which I’m perfectly willing to do for my clients, once they listen to me and do exactly what I say.
Am I as good as I say?
You better believe it. I’m sure I don’t give the impression that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Look around my site and see if I’m ‘playing dollycook’. Starting an E-commerce site is scary enough as it is. You don’t just need a web designer to design, you need a web designer to partner with for the long haul. Why you don’t have to be afraid: I’ll be there for you every step of the way..