The REAL Digital Divide Part I: The problems small business must solve to profit online

We've heard for years how sad and unfair it is that some people had access to technology and others didn't. Granted, the more people that have ready access to information and tools (ie the internet) the better… especially for porn (uhhh hemm "adult oriented") sites which make up about 60% of all internet traffic.

Reflecting on the progress we've made on this "issue" over the last 5-6 years it seems clear that this so-called digital divide is just another speed bump on the information superhighway (lame pun, I know).

The Real Digital Divide has Emerged.

This is a pretty big issue to cover in a single post so I'll come back to it in the coming weeks. But let me set the stage a little…

Fantastic, personalized, attentive service is hard to find these days offline and pretty much non-existent online (I understand I'm making a general assumption. Just stick with me here and I'll build the case for why this is true).

"So what?", some would say. "Consumers are spending buckets of money offline and online So what does it matter? Do consumers really care about fantastic, personalized, and attentive service?"

It'll take a HUGE paradigm shift for Americans to stop consuming. At the moment of consumption it does seem like the solution to dukkha doesn't it?. The misguided consumption of Americans aside, I think consumers do care but their expectations have changed. When you think of the virtues of a good "transactional experience" offline what do you think of?

  • Low Prices (I hate to put it first, but have you been to walmart? I hate that place. I'll share my top ten reasons never to go to walmart with you in another post. It just might save your life)
  • Selection (Personally, I'll only use one particular type of toilet paper and I'll go out of my way to get it)
  • Wide aisles & pleasant lighting (for our ever widening bodies)
  • Store Location
  • Payment options
  • Quality shopping process (easy to get into the store find what you want, make a purchase decision and then buy.)
  • Customer Service (efficient, friendly, knowledgeable)

These are virtues of stores many of the big chain stores I go to and buy/eat way too much. But, I do spend a lot of time going to way less 'convenient' places with many fewer options and choosing to spend my hard earned buck there. The reason is simple, they care. I mean they really give a shit if you like Mamma's Phad Thai. They're generally small businesses. I frequently know or have the opportunity to interact with the owner (or their family). There's big potential for developing a satisfying relationship with them. They bust their butt. They want to make you happy. At they end of the day they know their success or failure is dependent on delivering a great product to you, their customer.

Other offline "transactional experience" virtues consumers often seek out:

  • Relationships & Higher level human interaction
  • Hustle (how many people hustle anymore? Some do and I love 'em for it)
  • Familiarity
  • Personalized service ("the usual?" Yep! JWB on the rocks…thanks)
  • Going the extra mile
  • Problem solving rather then just saying, "we don't do it that way, you'll have to…"

This is where the little guy can (and does) still whoop on the big boys. This is going to sound retarded, but in every "transactional experience" there's items exchanged. Some companies/people are really good at making sure when you give them money they provide you with the promised product/service and a little something extra that makes all the difference… a little love. (aka "giving a shit"/hard work/hustle/personalization/trying harder)

If we assume that the above is all generally true and that small businesses' big advantage is the little bit of "love" they sell along with their products and services how does this translate to the online medium?

In part 2 I'll answer this question and also discuss:

  • Why the LOW expectation of consumers can be a huge win for business that can recognize the opportunity.
  • How the big boys are are already treading all over small business' turf and will win for good, if small businesses don't act soon.
  • Plus, I'll finally define what exactly the NEW Digital Divide is and how it will either kill you or make you stronger.

One thought on “The REAL Digital Divide Part I: The problems small business must solve to profit online

  1. Hmmmm. Kinda of reminds me of the anatomically correct dolls that were made when you were a little boy. Only with a more pornographic slant.
    The theory, when you were young, was that if you gave a little boy a “correct doll”, they would learn to be better more nurturing fathers. (I think you hung yours by is anatomically correct body parts.) Makes me wonder what the intended outcome is for this item.

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