Small businesses have dominated the e-commerce space since the pandemic’s shop small movement, which has continued to thrive well after. With the rise of social media shopping features, making purchases has never been so accessible. At the click of a button, impulse shopping has become the norm, and captivating first-time buyers has become crucial to businesses competing in the very saturated e-commerce world.
Many factors can make a business stand out, even in this highly competitive environment. With the right tools and mentality, your small business can hold customers’ attention in the e-commerce market and make those impulse shoppers return for more!
While scrolling through social media or browsing the internet, you’ll quickly realize there’s a business for anything and everything. The harsh reality is that your small business doesn’t stand alone, even in niche markets. In 2021, NASDAQ estimated that 17 million new small businesses would enter the market by the end of 2022. The number of small businesses will continue to grow as entrepreneurship is skyrocketing in the business world.
The rapid growth of the small business phenomenon should be a driving factor when analyzing your competition. To come out on top, you’ll want to evaluate where your business currently stands against competitors. One of the best ways to do this is to look at what’s performing well in your industry.
Ask yourself these questions:
Looking over the results of your research will help you determine where you should focus on improvements and invest your resources. Afterward, you can gain up-to-date insights from your website by assessing your demographics, profits, and the effectiveness of your outreach. Identify the gaps between your competitor’s successes and where you could be lagging behind.
Content marketing is a small business’ secret weapon. By identifying the resources buyers use in their shopping or decision-making process, content marketing can be an effective way to grab the attention of any impulse shoppers that come across your online store.
To implement a media strategy for your content marketing needs, analyze which of your platforms has proven to be the most impactful at driving sales and develop a plan of action for the underperforming platforms to increase your traffic there.
Part of your strategy should include joining communities to support other small businesses. Perhaps you’re thinking, “but aren’t those my competitors?” Competitor or not, strength is in numbers, and support for other small businesses can help your business grow. As a small business owner, you know that running a business isn’t always easy, so being able to collaborate with other small business owners by showing online support can open the door to networking and audience-building opportunities.
Marketing your business in ways that demonstrate social awareness will leave a lasting impact on your consumers. Embracing and implementing customer values will set you apart from big box retailers. As a small business owner, you’re able to make deeper connections with your consumers. Customizing and personalizing their buying experience is something big retailers aren’t able to provide anymore. Keep this in mind when trying to market and network, as you don’t want to lose sight of why you started your business. Making a profit can be your target goal, but maintaining a customer-first mentality will not go unnoticed!
Once you understand the role your small business can play in the e-commerce space, you can take steps to implement practices that keep the flow of returning customers consistent. The experience you provide to customers should be your number one priority.
Here is where all the analyses you’ve gathered should come into play. The customer behavior you observe on your website will provide you with insight into what your consumers are gravitating towards. If you notice one or more products aren’t selling as well as projected, dig deeper and look at your customer reviews. Your e-commerce site should have a designated place for customer feedback. This is your customers’ space to tell you what you’re doing right or where you need to have a second look. As the saying goes, “the customer knows best,” and of course, you’d like to think your product is the greatest, but to grow your business, you’ll need to embrace constructive feedback.
Social media has a significant impact on the consumer buying process. A good practice you should put in place is staying as active as possible on your business’s social media accounts. Consumers love when companies acknowledge their photos, comments, or reposts. Any interactions you make with your followers will keep them engaged in what you’re offering and keep your business active on their feed.
Incentives don’t always have to be a social media interaction. A promo code or a gift-with-purchase can be another incentive technique to explore. A first-time shopper coupon code when a customer signs up for promotional emails or text messages is a call to action many e-commerce companies utilize to inform customers of future sales or product launches. It’s a little ‘thank you’ that customers appreciate and can convert those on the fence about making a purchase. Gifts of complementary stickers or handwritten notes in your packaging can show customers that you take pride in your small business and make their purchase feel like it was personally acknowledged.
A website with user-friendly features can be the driving factor in customer retention. Shoppers look for websites that have clean layouts with easy-to-use navigation. Cluttered product photos can be misleading, and no one likes a website with pages that don’t load. Review your site analytics to determine how your domain can handle the audience you’re bringing in during your busy season. Take your time building your e-commerce site and plan a design that’ll encourage customers to browse your entire website and grab the attention of interested impulse shoppers. It’s a space for your product portfolio to shine, so don’t skimp on optimizations and personalizations.
At this stage in your e-commerce journey, using tools to monitor your orders and keep track of inventory will be your best friend; but sadly, most of the tools you’ll need come with a cost. You can try to manage this aspect of your business without them, but as your business grows, it’ll become harder to keep up with the demand. Opening a small business line of credit can help you offset the costs of fees, software subscriptions, and domain purchases that your e-commerce site will require.
The organization you put in place is the key to a happy customer and a stress-free small business owner. You can manage your inventory by making a spreadsheet that links to your e-commerce site to easily update your stats in real-time and keep track of what’s in stock and what’s selling out. An updated inventory sheet will alert you when changes happen and help you communicate with customers on low-stock announcements or when you need to introduce a new product.
Buyers expect fast shipping times and easy access to track their orders. There are several tools you can use as a small business owner to stay on top of your packages transit and arrival times:
It can be hard to satisfy customer demands when the product is no longer in your control, but providing them with updates can ease any frustration they may have.
Being proactive in the e-commerce world through maintaining customer relationships and facing your competition head-on will give your small business room to thrive. You have the tools you need to leave your mark in the small business industry, so good luck and happy selling!
Small to medium sized businesses are really the life blood of the economy in our country. All of us combined make up much more business activity than the big dogs you see all around us. It is always interesting to see just how SMB’s plan on spending their money especially from last year to this year. Recently Bredin Business conducted some very important market research that I feel is important to take a look at. They have broken down how small to medium sized businesses and marketers plan on marketing their products and services from 2010 to 2011. The data was broken up into a few different perspectives that I believe is interesting to take a look at.
The question asked:
On a scale of 1 (significantly decrease) to 5 (significantly increase), how do you plan to change your online marketing tactics this year versus last year?
The question asked:
On the same scale, how do you feel about each of these online tactics as a source of information about products or services for your business?
The question asked:
Which of these online marketing tactics have you used to find new customers for your business?
I like this data.
This is amazing to see because this just shows you how much importance SMB’s are placing on the digital landscape to acquire new customers. There is a mass acceptance of the digital frontier (like the Tron reference?) and it is a trend that is significantly growing. The numbers in the above chart from 2010 to 2011 are intense leaps that are important to acknowledge.
To read the whole study please click Marketing to SMBs in 2011.