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Ed Jay is the President at Newfold Digital, a leading web and commerce technology company serving nearly 7 million customers globally.
If the story of small to mid-size businesses going up against big corporations is like David and Goliath, then it’s clear that small business owners need better sling shots. Despite their prevalence in our economy—there are roughly 31 million small businesses in the U.S. alone—major corporations continue to dominate. They have the resources; they have the technology; and, significantly, they’ve had them for a long time now. SMBs, on the other hand, have historically lacked access to powerful digital solutions.
That’s changing. Better slingshots are available, and the corporate giants, while still imposing, no longer have sole access to the technologies and innovations that drive online success. From my perspective as the president of a company that helps brands build their online commerce presence, among the best tools small businesses have at their disposal are e-commerce and SEO.
The pandemic and the shift toward remote work have accelerated online behaviors and e-commerce. In fact, e-commerce will soon account for more than $6 trillion in sales worldwide, according to projections by eMarketer. To grow in today’s market, small businesses need a larger, more dynamic customer base, and an online presence and store are key to that.
But beyond just having a digital store, small-business owners need to make the most of their e-commerce presence. Here are three ways you can do just that.
Prioritize the customer and anticipate their desires.
Over the past two-plus years, consumer interest has shifted to digital and omnichannel shopping. Customer retention remains important in the e-commerce space; for years, we’ve known that returning customers tend to spend more than new ones, which means retaining them and building brand loyalty is a key revenue booster.
Launching a commerce site and promoting it online is a quick way for an SMB to get its name out into the market. But to stay ahead, it is critical to continuously test the effectiveness of every branded channel to learn what your customers want. Don’t be afraid to change fast and fail fast; this will allow your business to pivot more quickly if something isn’t working.
When monitoring channel capabilities, your daily checklist should include making sure your SEO and social marketing strategies are successfully working. Adjusting your website to account for customer feedback and pushing product promotions based on sales should be top of mind. By using the tools already available in the development of an e-commerce site, SMBs can adapt quickly to new data, both internal and external.
Create a strong social media presence to drive brand awareness.
The world moves fast these days, and people are always on the go. Time once wasted waiting in line or taking public transportation is now spent on a smartphone. For many small-business owners, that time is spent running their business, and for their customers, it might be spent shopping on mobile websites, checking up on social media or reading online reviews.
SMBs need to meet their customers where they are by establishing a strong online presence across all of these fronts. A social media presence is now table stakes for any SMB. As such, perform social audits to determine which of your channels are providing the most value, and optimize accordingly. You should also engage customers in online conversations and respond to both negative and positive reviews.
The number of U.S. social buyers is expected to increase in the next few years, with eMarketer predicting that the number will exceed 101 million by 2023. Additionally, many shoppers are influenced by friends’ social posts or reviews, which means engaging in social conversations is critical for any SMB. As more consumers use social with the intent to purchase, the more blended it becomes with commerce.
Be everywhere your customers shop.
Shoppers want options. Whether it’s a business website, social channels or third-party marketplaces such as Etsy or Amazon, SMBs should consider adopting an omnichannel commerce strategy to meet their customers’ needs. In 2020, McKinsey found that the pandemic prompted 75% of consumers to try an alternative shopping behavior. I believe that trend is sure to continue.
Having an omnichannel strategy in place ensures that no customer touchpoint is left behind. Similarly, using multiple selling pillars optimizes an SMB’s ability to identify where and how to focus their energy, based on how their customers prefer to shop.
To get started, there are a variety of tools you can use that don’t require technical expertise. E-commerce platforms, for example, can help you manage the daily tasks of managing an online business. Each platform offers its own advantages. Overall, the most important thing to consider is consistency, as external platforms should be a tool to attract long-term customers who buy directly from the business.
Additionally, keep in mind that every seller’s e-commerce needs will be different, and defaulting to a one-size-fits-all approach ignores the fact that each individual business brings its own nuances. It’s important for SMBs to have a clearly defined plan, knowing where they plan to sell their goods, what platform fees they’re willing to stomach and how much competition there might be for customer attention.
A better slingshot awaits.
Small businesses might not have the scale and resources of large corporations, but what they do have is flexibility, agility and resilience. They also now have access to powerful online tools and resources to help their entrepreneurial spark burn even brighter. By anticipating customer desires, building a strong online presence wherever their customers are and leveraging omnichannel selling strategies, small businesses will be ready to take on the competition—no matter the size.
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