Mom And Pop Merchants Eye Digital Pivots Built To Last

How Micromerchants Are Making Digital Pivots

Normal is not coming back, or at least not in the form we all knew it in January 2020.

There are many reasons for that, but perhaps the biggest, Ecwid CEO Ruslan Fazlyev told Karen Webster, is consumers who once inhabited that world pre-coronavirus no longer exist. They’ve changed, pushed by the necessity of social distancing to try new things and experiment with new patterns. The inertia that keeps most everyone from trying and sticking with new things has been shattered out of necessity. Consumers now live in a digital world.

“The businesses that are just trying to survive right now and then to go back to normal later, what they will discover is that as the change of patterns is happening on their consumer side, they won’t really attract the customer that they thought they would normally attract later because that customer is gone, and there is no normal to come back to,” he said.

For merchants and especially micromerchants, he noted, it’s like being doubly hit by the same crisis twice — first by the lockdown, and then by the changes in consumer patterns. But while the blow has landed hard, it has also sparked inspiration and innovation among those looking not just to survive — but to thrive to a world that will be irreversibly digital going forward.

And Ecwid, an eCommerce platform that helps small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) set up online stores, is committed to helping them get there by creating the digital on-ramps they need.

What SMBs Really Want When They Go Digital? Everything

As a global player, Ecwid has had an interesting vantage point as the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded worldwide, and shutdowns and lockdowns have sent main street merchants — those locally beloved restaurants and mom-and-pop shops that had heretofore been entirely offline —scrambling to pivot into digital services. Fazlyev said Ecwid would see sign-ups spike 240 percent nearly overnight in markets like Italy, and the company could actually see how and where the disease was spreading globally.

Merchants have been receptive to innovation and change. Crisis, he noted, for all the pain it creates, also creates focus, which begets creativity and real change. Ecwid has seen spikes because it is uniquely situated to help its merchants act on those innovative impulses fast. They can be up and running with their digital services menu within a few minutes, and in this environment, speed and nimbleness count.

As for what services merchants are looking for, Fazlyev said it varies. Restaurants have been focused on online ordering, delivery functions and curbside pick-up. More generally, the needs of the business are fairly esoteric to their niche, their customer set and their exact vision.

The types of offerings that appeal most to Ecwid’s merchants and potential merchants is hard to tell, he said, because the feedback the company hears most often is that it is not about the individual features themselves, so much as it is about the interplay between them, and how much they can be custom controlled by the merchant.

“It’s not support for Google shopping or Amazon integration, or Facebook or Instagram, or anything like that,” he said. “It’s not features we have built, like automated abandoned cart discovery that shows them how much revenue they saved. What we see over and over is that it’s really an aggregate of all of that.”

He noted Ecwid focuses particularly on SMBs that want a tool that provides them robust services in a way they don’t have to think about or ask about often.

Capturing The Opportunity

As strange as the notion can sound, Fazlyev said, a crisis can be a wonderful opportunity for changing the world of the better, even though there will be a fair amount of pain along the way. It’s because of that pain that many entrepreneurial ideas are born. And those ideas attract others and provide them jobs. It is through that process more than anything else that the economy in the U.S. and around the world will really be able to renew itself.

In good times, he said, no one wants to change their old patterns — not consumers, not businesses — because they don’t want to risk rocking the boat. But when things are bad, a certain openness to new ideas abounds.

“If you are the one being an entrepreneur and in this moment saying, ‘No, I will not give up. I will actually be productive and try to build something, even if there is no job for me. I will create on.’ Those are the people who change the world,” he said. “And we want to grow by helping them do it.”