Like so many small towns, Stratton Mountain, VT, has its own Thanksgiving traditions. One crowd-pleaser is the annual Gobble Gobble Wobble 5K run. It’s a family-friendly “Turkey Trot” event that brings the community together to get their “tailfeathers moving.”
As you would expect, there were a bunch of retail booths selling food, local produce, homemade goods, and arts & crafts. This year, a few things were different. To a booth, each local artisan had an easy way for you to purchase with a credit card as well as an easily accessible eCommerce site. Three years ago, this was an all-cash shopping zone. This year (if you knew where to look), customer experience, customer service, customer relationship management (CRM), and relatively sophisticated data-gathering were on full display. Which made me wonder about the impact Web 3 and decentralized finance might have on future Gobble Wobblers.
Web 2 – Customer Experience (CX)
Let’s break down the Web 2 tools being used by the local artisans. First and foremost, payment processing. Stripe, Square, Intuit, PayPal, and other services make it super-easy (albeit expensive) to accept all major credit cards for payment. Many of the services seamlessly integrate into Quickbooks or other accounting software, making light work of sales tax liability calculations and inventory management.
Then there’s Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, Shopify, and a zillion other no-code websites and eCommerce tools that allow anyone to present their goods and services in a very respectable way. The no-code website services are commoditized and remarkably inexpensive. The eCommerce engines come at a higher cost, but if you need the capabilities, the eCommerce tools quickly pay for themselves.
Finally, all of the above empowers a small business owner to gather data like a pro. Whether it’s list-building or other customer relationship reasons, these payment processing, website creation, and eCommerce tools make it relatively easy to create actionable customer profiles.
The New New Thing
None of the aforementioned tools are new. What is new is the ubiquity of the deployment. Today, everyone who interfaces with a customer can run a data-driven business. This was on full display at the Gobble Gobble Wobble.
Thinking back on the humble beginnings of Square, Quickbooks, and Shopify, the target audience was clearly small retail businesses. The pitch was that these tools gave mom-and-pop businesses the ability to “compete” with bigger businesses that had more sophisticated tech. (I put “compete” in quotes because technical capabilities are only a small part of the tools required to compete with bigger businesses.) In practice, these tools do help level the playing field for small retailers, but this isn’t the interesting part of the story.
Today, the bifurcation is between tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy business people. The tech-savvy crowd uses these tools to empower their side hustles because the barrier to entry is small and the benefits are huge.
At the Gobble Gobble Wobble there was a couple, expats from the big city, with a booth filled with homemade goods, soaps, jams, jellies, wreaths, and other odds and ends all beautifully labeled (thanks, Etsy), with a great logo (thanks, Upwork), with an eCommerce-enabled website (thanks, Shopify), and they took credit cards (thanks, Square). Their booth and side hustle were a living infographic for the evolution of Web 2 business tools.
The ubiquity of the Web 2 small business tools deployed among all the Gobble Wobblers’ booths made me wonder about how Web 3 tools might also evolve.
Right now, we’re in a huge bubble. Crypto prices are being manipulated by large crypto wallet owners, NFTs are finding their way (the hype is almost drowning out the value of the underlying technology), Smart Contracts are in their infancy, environmentally friendly, cross-chain and poly-chain schemas are emerging, and governments and regulators are struggling to understand how to deal with the concepts surrounding the as-yet-undefined idea of “programmable money.” All of this (and this list is far from comprehensive) makes future trends harder than usual to predict.
Where Might This Lead Us?
Can we imagine a world where we control our own data? A world where we “let” others see only the data we want them to see? Is it possible to run a business that is highly tuned for trustless transactions? Do we really need banks to lend us money? What kind of inflation or deflation or stagflation or something yet undefined might occur in a world with an unlimited supply of fungible value exchange? How will intellectual property laws apply in a world where all digital assets are copyable digital files – but some files are “the real, original file” and others are just copies? Will governments be relevant in a world where governments don’t control the money or the money supply? What does a local “social contract” look like with my town if my taxable income shifts to other jurisdictions or overseas? What if the government mandates that it has rights to my “digital identity?” What kind of Hyper-Orwellian state would we live in if the government decided to “take” our taxes directly from our crypto wallets? There are hundreds more questions – I’m sure you have hundreds of your own.
I know that this is not the kind of thing most people think about during the average Turkey Trot, but a Thanksgiving 5K gives you just enough time to yourself to wonder how the future may unfold. I’m interested to hear what you think. Please post your thoughts and comments to PGX, our private social network.