Ed Jay is the president of Newfold Digitala leading web and commerce technology company serving nearly 7 million customers worldwide.
If the story of small-to-medium businesses competing against big companies is like David and Goliath, then it’s clear that small business owners need better slingshots. Despite their prevalence in our economy, there are about 31 million small businesses in the US alone, large companies continue to dominate. They have the resources; they have the technology; and, most importantly, they’ve had them for a long time. On the other hand, SMBs have historically lacked access to powerful digital solutions.
That is changing. Better catapults are out there, and the business giants, while still impressive, no longer have access to the technologies and innovations that drive online success alone. From my perspective as the president of a company that helps brands build their online commerce presence, ecommerce and SEO are among the best tools available to small businesses.
The pandemic and the shift to remote working have accelerated online behavior and e-commerce. In fact, e-commerce will soon account for more than $6 trillion in worldwide sales, according to eMarketer forecasts. To grow in today’s market, small businesses need a larger, more dynamic customer base, and an online presence and store are essential.
But beyond having a digital storefront, small business owners need to get the most out of their ecommerce presence. Here are three ways you can do just that.
Prioritize the customer and anticipate their wishes.
In the past two years, consumer interest shifted to digital and omnichannel shopping. Customer retention remains important in the ecommerce space; For years we have known that returning customers tend to: spend more than new ones, meaning maintaining them and building brand loyalty is a major revenue booster.
Launching a trading site and promoting it online is a quick way for an SME to get its name in the market. But to stay ahead, it’s critical to continuously test the effectiveness of each brand channel to find out what your customers want. Don’t be afraid to change quickly and fail quickly; this allows your business to run faster if something isn’t working.
Channel capability monitoring should be your daily checklist to ensure your SEO and social marketing strategies are working successfully. Customizing your website to take into account customer feedback and promote product promotions based on sales should be your top priority. By leveraging the tools already available when developing an e-commerce site, SMBs can quickly adapt to new data, both internally and externally.
Create a strong social media presence to increase brand awareness.
The world moves fast these days and people are always on the move. Time once wasted waiting in line or taking public transport is now spent on a smartphone. For many small business owners, that time is spent running their businesses, and for their customers, it can be spent shopping on mobile websites, checking social media, or reading online reviews.
Small and medium-sized businesses need to meet their customers where they are by establishing a strong online presence on all these fronts. Social media presence is now a commitment for every SMB. Therefore, conduct social audits to determine which of your channels provide the most value, and optimize accordingly. You also need to engage customers in online conversations and respond to both negative and positive reviews.
The number of US social buyers is expected to increase in the coming years, with eMarketer forecasting that the number will exceed 101 million by 2023† In addition, many shoppers are influenced by social posts or reviews from friends, which means that engaging in social conversations is critical for any SMB. The more consumers use social with the intent to buy, the more it becomes mixed with commerce.
Be everywhere your customers shop.
Shoppers want options. Whether it’s a business website, social channels, or third-party marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon, SMBs should consider adopting an omnichannel commerce strategy to meet the needs of their customers. In 2020, McKinsey found that the pandemic gave rise to 75% of consumers to try an alternative shopping behavior. I think that trend will certainly continue.
Having an omnichannel strategy ensures that no customer touchpoint is left behind. Likewise, using multiple sales pillars optimizes an SMB’s ability to determine where and how to focus their energies, based on how their customers prefer to shop.
To get started, there are several tools you can use that don’t require any technical expertise. For example, ecommerce platforms can help you manage the day-to-day tasks of running an online business. Each platform offers its own benefits. In general, consistency is the most important thing to consider, as third-party platforms should be a tool to attract long-term customers who buy directly from the company.
In addition, keep in mind that every seller’s ecommerce needs are different, and taking a one-size-fits-all approach by default ignores the fact that each individual business comes with its own nuances. It is important for SMEs to have a clearly defined plan, knowing where they want to sell their goods, what platform fees they are willing to pay and how much competition there might be for customer attention.
A better catapult awaits.
Small businesses may not have the scale and resources of large companies, but what they do have is flexibility, agility and resilience. They also now have access to powerful online tools and resources to enhance their entrepreneurial spirit. By anticipating customer needs, building a strong online presence wherever their customers are, and leveraging omnichannel sales strategies, small businesses are poised to compete regardless of size.