When I’ve spoken at conference events in various locations around the world, I often receive a question about a topic which concerns the industry as a whole, but where the questioner is asking me to comment on the “uniquely X perspective” on a macro-level problem, where X is whatever city, state or country we’re in at that moment.
In many cases, there is a unique twist at a local level to what’s going on, and I’m happy to comment about the unique challenges a broader issue presents for a specific area.
But in other cases, macro-level issues of the world boil down to pretty much the same issues for local participants. For example, to the extent that the nation is dealing with inflation, and my home state of Massachusetts is dealing with inflation, then the dynamics for northeast Massachusetts vs. southeast Massachusetts, when it comes to inflation, aren’t necessarily all that unique. The issues are real, but the “unique” label is spurious.
This applies to different industries, too. At some fundamental level, lessons learned in one industry can be expressed in generic terms which apply directly to other industries. But at other levels, what works for one industry can’t be guaranteed to work in another. The trick is to detect when the “unique” label is valid and when it is spurious.
Today, let’s focus on e-commerce platforms. E-commerce serves a wide range of different industries. A number of really strong e-commerce platforms which are wildly successful across these different industries, for both retail and business-to-business transactions. Take a look at how Alibaba and Amazon Business are doing, for example.
But do these platforms address the unique needs of the seafood industry? As we speak with processors and wholesalers in the seafood industry who have tried platforms such as Alibaba, it’s clear the answer is no. Industry-agnostic platforms leave both buyers and sellers of seafood down in a few ways:
1. They spread information more widely than needed
When buying or selling in bulk, it’s important not to get “gamed” by sharing too much information with too many parties. This is one reason direct messaging technologies such as Skype, email and WhatsApp are so prevalent in the seafood industry. In a world where there are actors who do not intend to transact, but stalk e-commerce platforms to gather information, sharing too much puts you at a disadvantage and can lead you to get less than the best price for your transaction.
2. They compound issues associated with trust and relationships
We’ve written previously about the importance of knowing your counterparty, of building trust, and of maintaining relationships. On many e-commerce platforms, what you post is available to any buyer – whether you know them or not. It won’t help you manage and incentivize those with whom you have the closest trusted relationships, and to the extent you don’t know your buyer, you also don’t know your risk.
We’ve heard horror stories about both issues. So – while there’s a need for e-commerce in the seafood industry, it has enough uniqueness to demand an e-commerce platform which has been specifically tailored to the industry’s needs.
Check back after the holidays for a different take on this subject.