Some days it seems as though everyone buys everything online from the huge B2C ecommerce businesses. Prices are low and ordering is easy. Can small businesses compete with them?
The answer is a resounding yes! Small businesses offer benefits that huge ecommerce sites can’t. Small business owners need to recognize and communicate them so they can capitalize on their differential advantages.
WHY ARE SMALL BUSINESSES DESIRABLE?
- Customer service: Studies show customers prefer the personal customer service they get with small businesses. The only stipulation they make is if it is convenient. That means your website, ecommerce software and physical store must be user friendly and accessible.
- Unique product and service offerings: Small businesses can offer unique products because they don’t have to stock huge inventories. They offer products suited for their geographic location or target market. Small, local service companies know local codes, local preferences and have a personal stake in their area.
- Community focused: Small businesses generate local taxes that keep their communities thriving. They know the niche markets in their area and can market to them.
- Value for price: While some purchases are all about price, many are about overall value. For example, is support readily available after the purchase if needed? Can you get help deciding which product is best fit for you?
- Flexibility: Large businesses depend on selling enormous quantities of mass produced product offerings and service policies. Small businesses can offer more custom designs that are not mass produced. Delivery options and exchange policies can be flexible, with personalized service.
- Personal touch and response: Many consumers want to talk to a real person and ask for assistance. Small business owners are experts in their field and offer knowledgeable advice. This personal touch builds close relationships and promotes repeat business.
Ability to pivot, as in 2020. Very quickly, many small businesses started offering delivery and online ordering capability. They updated their websites and daily practices changed overnight. Businesses offered curbside pickup, and many restaurants offered outdoor seating in all but the coldest weather. Social media took on a more significant role than before. These changes allowed small businesses to stay working while building a loyal customer base.
HOW CAN THESE BENEFITS WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Effective and consistent communication is key. Your website, social media and customer interaction are the most common ways you communicate. Some ideas include:
- Make your website user friendly; pages load quickly, mobile app is easy to read, content is brief but descriptive.
- Your website design will either keep or lose customers within seconds of visiting your site. Keep content simple, clear, and written for your target market. Stay informed about changing trends.
- Make sure your ecommerce software is customer friendly, easy to use and quick to load. Include security notices to make customers feel safe.
- Encourage customer feedback, and respond! Post customer testimonials on social media. Train employees in customer service to assure that all customer interactions are productive.
- Highlight the unique properties of your products and services on your website and social media.
- Demonstrate commitment to your community by referencing and taking part in local events.
- Establish your value by showing how a product or service works and highlighting how your products stand out from others.
- Offer local promotions and contests on both the website and social media. Be sure to respond quickly to questions and keep the interest going.
- Consider cooperative marketing ideas – mention another small business or offer a promotional idea involving you and other businesses.
EFFECT OF COVID 19 ON SMALL BUSINESSES
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, “One of the “pivotal” shifts in spending habits since COVID-19 is a drift toward local shopping and a move away from malls, with 75% of consumers planning to shop more locally over the next year.”
“Today, 56% of consumers are patronizing neighborhood stores or buying locally sourced products, according to Accenture’s findings on post-COVID purchasing behaviors that are poised to stick. Reasons for this vary from actively supporting local stores or national products, or as quest for authentic and artisan products.”
Indications are that the shift to local businesses will continue. Consumers saw the benefits of small businesses during the pandemic, and will continue to frequent them in the future. With that in mind, now is a good time to consider how your small business offers value and convenience the big guys can’t, and get the word out to your customer base.
For help with your small business website, give us a call. We design and update websites that run flawlessly.