All entrepreneurs are challenged with finding new customers, retaining existing customers, keeping up with technology, and meeting customer expectations. Having enough time to get everything done is a key entrepreneur complaint. Sound familiar? If the time-crunch isn’t enough, it seems the pace of business keeps accelerating. So what’s trending in the SMB world to address some of these challenges?
Here are four, key trends worth your attention:
- Identifying new channels for business
- Getting in the mobile game
- Creating unique customer experiences
- Leveraging partner innovations
Let’s take a look at each of these trends more closely and get a better idea of what you can put into play now.
1. Going Multi-Channel
So what does the term ‘multi-channel’ mean, anyway? Basically, your company can sell across multiple online marketplaces (such as eBay), you can host your own dedicated online store, and you can have an offline, brick-and-mortar retail store or pop-up. What combination will you choose?
Playn is an independent eyewear company that is an example of all three. They have a BoxPark store, are a featured BoxPark merchant online, and they have their own destination website.
What tips can you put into play to help you go multi-channel?
- Research point of sale cloud software to help you sell across channels.
- Make sure your inventory systems speak to each other.
- Get help from companies with extensions that bridge your presence on marketplaces and your own online store.
2. Mobile or mCommerce
Our future will be more mobile than our present.
Mobile accounts for $77 billion in revenue in 2015, up 32% from 2014 and 22% of total eCommerce in 2015. By 2019, mobile sales will reach $154 billion.
While desktop computers and tablets account for more sales than smartphones, smartphones are on the rise for both usage and growth. To see where mCommerce is going, think of the smartphone as a mobile hub for customers. Smart phones are a major influence in shopping. They aid in discovery, price checking, searching for an item, taking pictures in stores, and looking for promotions or coupons.
What tips can you put into play to address the rise of customers with smart phones?
According to eMarketer, among the group of SMBs that had or planned to create a website, just 33% had a mobile-optimized site in September 2015. To see how your online store appears on different devices, take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. A responsive designed site for mobile is a must—start making plans now.
3. Provide Stellar Customer Experience
According to Gartner, 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016. Although the companies surveyed by Gartner were primarily enterprise companies—creating an enjoyable customer experience is applicable to smaller companies or start-ups as well.
At a minimum:
- Create modern, well designed site
- Think of ways to improve the user experience
- Offer customer service and provide contact information
Small businesses must also think about how to connect with customers to create a better experience – on a deeper level. Think of all the ways you touch your customers and develop more ways to interact directly with them. For example at the socially-minded, quality goods company, Oaklandish, you can literally wear hometown pride on your heart. They are known for being innovative and have put a lot of energy into creating unique and fun product descriptions. This creates a more meaningful interaction and stronger emotional response.
A key part of capitalizing on this eCommerce trend is reducing shopping cart abandonment, which is still high at 76%. Consider investing in your shopping cart to improve your customers’ experience and boost sales.
Tips to think about:
- Consistency across channels
- Invest in product descriptions, quality images, and search engine optimization
- Build a better checkout
- Share your ‘point of view’ on your Home, About Us, Contact Us, and Product pages
- Post your shipping and return policy on all product pages, not just at checkout
Also, do not forget to think about post sales activities. You can add messages in shipping boxes, email a post-purchase customer a satisfaction survey, and provide a return label and very clear instructions for returns. If a customer has bought from you once, make sure they buy from you again.
4. Partner to Succeed
Even in the most creative businesses, owners can spend as little as 10% of their time on creating or innovating their products or services and end up spending the rest of their time running the business. They’re a combination of the CEO, CMO, CFO, and CIO, as well as oversee their staff and payroll.
Seems daunting, right?
So what can owners automate or delegate, and what digital or cloud technologies can entrepreneurs take more advantage of? Before you purchase, consider your cash flow, the stage of your business, and your other pressing tasks at hand.
Most services in the cloud, can be categorized as business, operations, or marketing software. Here are a few technology partners to check out: Brightpearl, Taxjar, Mailchimp, Springbot, Zendesk, and Yotpo. Each is worth keeping your eye on for the future – even if you are still in the stage of using exel spreadsheets in the current day.
eCommerce development is another category to outsource as you grow. Do you need a self-starter SaaS solution to build your own site? Or do you need a partner who will handle everything from design, development, hosting, and customization to training and ongoing maintenance? Magento Small Business can help you with this decision by connecting you with partner solutions.
What tips can you put into play?
Ask around and find out what other entrepreneurs are using—particularly owners who are in a similar industry or life stage of their business and who are comfortable with technology. Look at reviews and get references. Also, think about the types of activities that you aren’t necessarily as good at and get that task off your plate.
I hope I’ve given you some top eCommerce trends and tips to put into play. Remember that you can get the support you need by reaching out to a plethora of business communities online, including LinkedIn. We hope to hear from you in the Magento Community—which covers all things related to global eCommerce.
What tips do you have? I'd love to hear them.
Sources: Constant Contact Research, March 2015; Gartner Research 2014; MarketLive, Q1 2015: Performance Index, April 2015; and eMarketer 2015.