For the second year in a row, I chose to spend my summer interning at 6 River Systems (6RS), a robotics company based in Waltham, MA. Because this summer’s internship would be longer than my first, I was included in the formal onboarding process for new hires.
Being somewhat new to the supply chain industry, I tried to soak up as much information as I could. I was able to attend many meetings in my first week where I learned about each team at 6RS and their role in helping the company succeed.
With access to the company wiki, I spent hours reading everything from information about the market and competing companies to articles written about The Phoenix Project. While I worked, Fergal Glynn, VP of Marketing at 6RS, pointed out an interesting triangle of interaction between myself, 6RS, and the companies I was researching.
The triangle works like this: I work for 6RS, a company that sells their solution to ecommerce (ecomm) retailers, whose target audience is me, a young person who has some money. The more I investigated my role, I discovered that the interaction is less of a triangle and more a venn diagram:
While I attempted to wrap my mind around this interaction, a specific piece caught my eye. The relationship between consumers and retailers directly involves me, and I could contribute my first-hand experience.
As a kid with disposable income, I am aware of consumer values. As an intern at 6RS, I have learned more about how consumers put pressure on companies to meet constantly growing expectations.
As the most recent report from top Business Roundtable CEOs reflects, pressure from consumers is powerful enough to change the priorities of major companies. I believe that consumers can have a positive impact on the ecomm industry if they support “green”, socially conscious business models.
First, let me provide some background on ecomm retailers. Much of my learning about this multi-trillion dollar industry has been centered around the Amazon Effect, the impact of the quickly growing ecomm retail industry on the more traditional retail industry. As large companies (like Amazon) become more successful, they drive prices and delivery times down, which pushes consumer expectations up.
This has placed a huge amount of pressure on traditional retailers to improve shipping capabilities and provide for a market flooded with high consumer expectations. With all of these factors forcing traditional retailers into a corner, the ecomm industry has thrived, driving innovative warehouse and supply chain solutions.
“Should consumers choose to support a business, no matter how cheap or convenient its services are?”
As my generation is growing up and entering the consumer market, it is becoming relevant for many companies to take an introspective look and modify their business to appeal to shifting consumer values. My generation is very socially active.
Hearkening back to the students in the late 60’s and early 70’s who led protests against the Vietnam War, students my age and younger speak at anti-gun violence rallies and advocate for gender equality.
Furthermore, growing up in the impending crisis of global warming has pushed many of my peers to highly value “green” practices. It is my strong belief that companies who can start becoming environmentally friendly and socially conscious now can get a leg up in a competitive market.
Smaller and newer business models that have the flexibility and resources to sculpt a “green”, philanthropic company will have a huge advantage in the near future.
However, it is not just up to the companies to create change. As consumers, the onus is placed on us to support companies that are planning for the future. Where we spend our money is a choice every individual has, and should value. I believe that consumers have control over which companies prosper and which ones die out.
What should be done about a company that mistreats its employees, or the environment? Should consumers choose to support such a business, no matter how cheap or convenient its services are? As consumers, we have placed pressure on companies to provide us with a cheap, convenient ecomm model.
What if consumers used their power to demand green practices from the companies they support? Without consumer pressure, companies can maintain a minimal attention to environmental impact while still satisfying customers.
If consumer demand forced large companies to apply “green” solutions instead of focusing only on customer service, the survival of small businesses would pivot from streamlining customer service to seeking “green” solutions.
Although I have plenty of thoughts about the ecomm industry and “ideal” business practices, I still have lots to learn, and I hope that my experiences continue to shape my opinions.
I cannot thank the team at 6RS enough for providing me with another real-world learning experience, and I wish the company the best going forward. I have only started to understand the intricate pieces that come together to create a successful business, and I am excited to learn more.
About the Author
Marc Courtemanche is a rising senior at Lexington High School. From an early age, he has aspired to one day own a business. He plans to study business/ economics in college.