E-commerce software and creators are starting to collide. To understand the impact ahead, let’s define a few terms.
The economy of creators
The first is the “creator economy”. Observers sometimes apply the term to apps alone. For example, journalist Kyle Chayka wrote in a 2021 New Yorker article that the creator economy was “the web of new platforms and tools to serve creators”.
While this is true in one sense, it is also limiting. Instead, technology forecaster Paul Saffo describes the creator economy as akin to industrial and consumer economies.
“It is important to keep in mind that economies are organized around a challenge. They often arise to overcome scarcity,” safi said. “And it turns out that in economies, each new abundance creates an adjacent scarcity.”
The industrial economy sought to manufacture low-cost products to satisfy an emerging middle class. In the production economy, the worker was the central actor of growth. Efficiency was the worker’s motto.
The consumer economy has replaced the production economy. According to Saffo, the consumer economy launched the credit card industry and drove advertising to generate demand for the products that companies produced.
In the next economy, which Saffo says began in 2008, products are generally available, the desire to buy is abundant, but commitment is scarce. The new central actor is the creator. In a sea of information and noise, creators drive engagement.
Therefore, the creator economy is not a lattice of software tools but a key financial driver of this era.
We could thus define “creator” as the central economic actor of the next phase of entrepreneurship and growth.
Convergence of tools
Several recent business movements highlight the importance of the creator in our current economic reality.
For example, consider Shopify’s business over the past two years.
- In 2019, Shopify launched its own email marketing and newsletter platform.
- In September 2020, Shopify hired a Vice President of Creator and Influencer Programs.
- In 2021, Shopify began marketing to creators, publishing articles such as “Creators, It’s Time to Protect Your Independence” and “The Creator Economy Tech Stack: 160+ Apps, Tools, and Platforms Powering Creator Businesses “.
- In March 2022, Shopify launched Linkpop, an in-bio link tool for creators.
- April 2022, Shopify acquires Dovetale, an influencer platform.
Other companies are making similar changes. For example, Epic Games recently purchased Bandcamp, which offers an e-commerce marketplace for creators.
Over time, don’t be surprised if marketing platform and software companies start changing their services to appeal to creators. Each company will seek to become the hub for the production of creative engagement (again, engagement is rare in this economy).
Tools for creators will likely fall into categories including:
- Content creation. Video capture and editing, podcast production and writing tools.
- Reformatting of content. Convert YouTube video for TikTok; mash-up blog posts for an ebook.
- Attraction of the public. Social media platforms, websites, landing pages, PR and guest posting.
- Audience participation. Content, email, text messaging, social media messaging and events.
- E-commerce. Most creators will start out selling digital products, but physical products will follow.
- Sponsorship management. Management of affiliations and advertising.
Certainly, some software tools already meet these needs, but e-commerce and marketing platforms could fill many roles as well.
Using the tools it already has, Shopify could help creators with e-commerce, audience attraction, email newsletters, and sponsorship management.
Email marketing software companies are also well positioned. Many already have audience attraction and engagement tools, e-commerce for digital products, and landing page and website functionality.
Consider MailChimp. In 2022, it’s more than just email, offering:
- Email advertising,
- landing pages,
- E-commerce in software-as-a-service and open source,
- Posting on social networks,
- Content creation tools.
And the company started marketing to creators. MailChimp’s online publication, Courier, has featured many creator-focused articles.
This trend may accelerate as more software companies aim to make their business a creator hub.