New Commerce Experiences Give an Edge to Women-Owned Businesses
As we turn the page to an ever-important Women’s History Month, there's a heightened focus on better understanding why women-owned businesses continue to be hit harder by the pandemic. According to new data revealed in Facebook’s State of Small Business Report, women-owned small businesses are closing at a higher rate (28 percent) than those run by men (22 percent) — and this gap has only increased since the start of the pandemic.
Female business leaders also faced a greater challenge in balancing their work and domestic responsibilities, with the disparity increasing since April. Household-related reasons were cited by 16 percent of female business leaders as a reason why they closed, compared to only 8 percent of male business leaders.
These numbers are a stark reminder that women-led businesses are still disproportionately hurt by the stifling effects of shutdowns.
Yet where we once saw crippling revenues and closed shops overwhelming Main Street, we now see optimism. Why? A modern combination of personalized and social commerce experiences coupled with an influx of new ways to shop, like live shopping, has enabled women-owned businesses and small retailers to meet customers where they are: online.
And in the process, there has been a steady rise in their ability to attract new customers both locally and around the globe, while customizing their brand to provide a differentiating, personal touch. In fact, personalized and social commerce is transforming not only how retailers operate or consumers make choices, it's also contributing to the creation of new markets and marketplaces in our digitally native society.
As a result of this shift to digital, Facebook Live Shopping has proven to be one of the most effective ways to sell items, build community with viewers, and gain new customers — all in real time. When brands sell their products through Live Shopping on Facebook, they're able to give their unique brand a voice and platform to differentiate as they feature products through a live stream.
“Live Shopping completely changed our business, and has literally been a lifeline,” said Kelley Cawley, who runs a boutique shop in Illinois and had to bring her storefront online when the pandemic hit. “I was very focused on brick-and-mortar prior to COVID because I really believe in building relationships with customers and giving them an experience in-store. Things obviously changed when COVID hit, so we shifted to Live Shopping and the results have been great. While we were once reaching 2,500 people through posts, we're now hitting between 70,000-100,000 on average.”
Subsequently, this feature allows small retailers and brands to share more information, demonstrate products, answer questions from viewers and respond to their reactions — in a real-time, highly interactive format. In a digital age defined by “I need it now” culture, when viewers are compelled to make a purchase, they can do it directly through the live stream. And as one small, women-owned boutique learned, social commerce and personalization can take a rural business to major city audiences while still keeping Cawley's unique approach to service and styling intact.
Beyond the use of Live Shopping is its partner in crime: Facebook Shops, which is another lifeline of sorts for modern retailers dealing with the move to online-first, social commerce. Essentially mimicking the concept of personalizing your physical retail store, Shops are an easy way to create a customized digital storefront, giving you the ability to inspire consumers, help them find the products that are right for them, and make the transaction more closely aligned to the moment of discovery.
“We completely reinvented our shop by using Shops and haven’t looked back — nor will we even after the pandemic is over,” said Cawley. “It’s as close to an in-person experience as there is while keeping your unique brand intact.”
Technological advancements continue to play a major role in the rise of personalized and social commerce. For women-owned small businesses or retailers, utilizing these types of tools can be the difference in helping them survive and even thrive. While we all long for the in-person interactions at small shops around the country, the pandemic has proven that digital is here to stay and that women-owned businesses are innovating new experiences that will become the norms of tomorrow.
Yulie Kwon Kim is director, product management at Facebook.
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