FedEx adds training for small retailers in new competition with Amazon

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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FedEx is rolling out the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab, an educational resource for small retailers not unlike existing offerings from Amazon.

Developed in collaboration with small business nonprofit Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF), the program is designed to help diverse small business owners who are looking to develop or expand their e-commerce operations, with a focus on women and entrepreneurs of color.

Scheduled to run over the course of five months beginning in September 2021, the program will provide intensive hands-on learning to a cohort of 150 small business owners across the U.S. through a series of workshops and one-on-one coaching by e-commerce experts. Participants will receive free technical support in setting up and maintaining their virtual stores, as well as support with marketing, managing promotions, customer service, managing orders and fulfillments, and product photography. 

This is the latest move by FedEx to bolster its e-commerce capabilities as it competes with Amazon’s growing proprietary delivery capacity. In December 2020, FedEx purchased e-commerce platform ShopRunner, and then integrated ShopRunner with Adobe Commerce in April 2021. The shipping giant has also taken steps such as partnering with e-commerce platform BigCommerce to give its small business users access to FedEx services. 

Meanwhile, Amazon has been offering small retailers that sell on its platform access to over 150 business resources and tools, including a robust educational portal called Seller University, since 2019.

FedEx E-commerce Learning Lab participants will receive a $2,000 business grant to launch and grow their e-commerce business. In addition, AOF and FedEx will develop a series of virtual seminars on more advanced e-commerce topics, as well as an online learning hub featuring on-demand virtual learning courses, open to any small business owner seeking to expand their e-commerce expertise.

Technical support, order fulfillment and initial hosting of participants’ online stores will be delivered in collaboration with Chicago-based social enterprise 37Oaks, which helps small businesses owned by women and people of color prepare for distribution through diverse growth channels. 

Cohort participants must not have an existing active e-commerce presence, currently produce and sell a packaged product (either shelf-stable, pre-packaged food or non-food general merchandise such as fashion, beauty or home décor), earn less than $500,000 in annual revenue and be willing to commit to full program participation. More details about the application process will be available in June.

“It is no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on small business owners, especially women and people of color. Through our new collaboration with AOF, we are helping to level the playing field and get these small businesses back on their feet, which is especially important as record growth in e-commerce volumes continue,” said Brie Carere, executive VP, chief marketing and communications officer, FedEx. “With the launch of the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab, we’ll not only help individuals meet customer needs in new ways, but also provide comprehensive programming that will equip them with the tools to navigate through these uncertain times.”