It is easy to take for granted how the Internet completely changed how we all live, work and play. The Internet and low-cost, easy-to-use digital tools from America’s leading technology companies helped make my commercial lighting business a global business.
But now Congressman Buck and his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee wrongly believe that the digital ecosystem is broken and that large tech companies need to change how they operate. That scares me and should scare the millions of small businesses that use digital tools and services to run and grow their business.
I work in the commercial lighting industry, designing, building and selling custom lighting fixtures. When I started in this business two decades ago, it was strictly regional. Companies served a metropolitan area, maybe a state. But then, a company I worked for became the first commercial lighting business in the world to embrace e-commerce, selling online and expanding beyond a regional market.
When the owner sold that company, I decided to strike out and start my own business. Most businesses in this industry are incredibly arcane. There is no price transparency, projects are bundled together and customers have no clue how much items cost. I knew that to succeed, I needed to deliver better services and more transparency to customers and make it easier for customers to find what they need online at the prices they want.
I invested heavily in e-commerce. I was confident that an Internet-sales-based approach would mean the sky was the limit. And with the help of digital tools, it was so easy to get an online business up and running.
Google Shopping and Google Ads are our most important marketing tools. Google Shopping makes it simple for customers globally to find us. We are confident that anyone in the world searching for a clear, six-inch single-bulb light fixture will find us on Google Shopping.
Google Ads allows us to advertise our high-value items to potential customers like developers and electricians. The data and analytics we have access to, as free services, are a roadmap for finding customers. We can see how many people click on which ads and which clicks convert to a sale, and we can see which keywords improved an ad’s performance. This helps us spend our advertising dollars strategically, spending less for better results than TV ads or billboards.
Now, we sell custom light fixtures both as a retailer and as a wholesaler, and we are doing it worldwide, from Boulder to Bulgaria.
But Congress is looking to pass laws that could result in Google breaking apart. I understand that some lawmakers are worried that “big tech” companies are hurting competition. But Google’s size has helped me compete with commercial lighting companies globally. If regulations mean the quantity and quality of the data Google uses to power its ads becomes compromised, digital advertising could be more expensive. For a company like our's operating on a tight budget, that’s a bad scenario.
Before Congress does anything hasty and forces tech companies to change how they operate, they should consider if Google advertising will be as powerful and affordable if they forcibly break up Google. They must ask how valuable free tools like Google My Business will be if Google cannot display my page at the top of search results. If Congress doesn’t consider these things, the futures of many Colorado businesses like mine that have embraced a digital strategy may needlessly be put in danger.
Chris Lewis is the CEO of Evergreen Applied Technologies in Evergreen, and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.