6 Tips to Help SMBs Grow Online Sales
Small to midsize brands (SMBs) need to find new ways to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon.com. These six tips will help smaller online stores gain an edge in 2016:
1. Sell the right products. Small online retailers often have trouble when trying to emulate e-commerce mega-stores, but their perceived weakness may be their greatest attribute. The e-retail giants of the world are now looking to break further into local markets, rather than only going for global reach. What this means for small e-tailers is more competition, which can be a good thing even if it doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Competition in the marketplace forces focus and differentiation. Smaller e-tailers have the ability to concentrate on the specific goods and services desired by their customers, whereas larger companies often focus on a diverse range of products, which can leave shoppers lost in a sea of goods.
2. Differentiate your brand. The e-retail giants may be able to provide rock-bottom prices, but they may not be delivering a personal customer experience. Smaller online shops don’t always have the power to provide their products at the lowest price, but they can give customers a more tailored user experience. By differentiating their online stores through things like extraordinary service and offering the products that consumers want, small e-tailers will be valued higher in consumers’ eyes.
3. Leverage partners to offer what the large retailers do. The customer is always right. This is a cliché that runs in customer service departments across the world, but is that motto enough to satisfy the consumer? Larger companies have customer service divisions, and this can often leave a positive impression on the customer. A key trend in 2016 will be for smaller e-tailers to leverage partners so they can match this level of customer service and product support – without additional staff. And for those who think that customer service doesn’t matter, consider this: Three in five Americans would buy from a new brand for a better service experience.
4. Build loyalty. Customer loyalty is another major factor influencing how well a brand does in its online endeavors. Business.com states that returning customers spend 67 percent more than first-time customers. Returning customers are more likely to buy more because they have trust in the brand and know they can rely on the customer service from their preferred retailers. A mere 5 percent increase in customer loyalty would increase the average profit per customer by 25 percent to 100 percent, according to the Loyalty Effect.
5. Focus on an easy-to-use site for higher conversion rates. Twenty-first century consumer obsession with technology comes directly from shoppers need for instant gratification. That being said, consumers don’t want to spend hours online shopping for products, they want the shopping process to be as simple as possible. Gone are the days when an e-tailer could be successful solely because its site was attractive. Now online shops must be conscious of the consumer’s user experience. For top-grossing e-tailers, the average time it takes for a customer to check out is 134 seconds. Streamlining your website so that it's easy to navigate will allow shoppers to find and buy what they need quickly. The convenience of your website will encourage consumers to spend more money with you over other sites.
6. Take advantage of the big benefits of value-add options. As retailers look for ways to differentiate their websites and build loyalty, many are turning to unique, value-add products and services. These may take the form of installation services, creating communities among customers or adding extended product protection plans. These expanded services show consumers that the e-tailer cares about them and their complete experience with the brand. As noted above, loyal customers buy more. Investing in value-add components can really pay off.
As e-commerce continues to grow in the U.S. and around the world, small e-tailers can modify the way they do business to maximize their revenue and customer experience. By focusing on their greatest strengths and making the shopping experience simple, personal and enjoyable, small online businesses can realize success.
Matthew Pufall is director of product for Assurant Solutions, with a focus on developing and marketing Assurant Product Protection, a technology solution that integrates into online retail platforms to help SMBs offer revenue-generating protection plans to their customers.