SMBs are trying to compete with the big guys online, and in many cases are doing so quite successfully. But it’s taken a while for many cash- and time-strapped SMBs to get to the point where they can even have a consistent online presence, let alone one that is optimized to help them compete against high-profile competitors. Now that the tide is turning for SMBs, there are four key trends emerging that need to be embraced to move to the next level.
1. This is the year for mobile commerce. Every year, experts claim "this is the year" for one technology trend or another. According to a recent report from InMobi, 2014 is the year for mobile commerce. The report states that 83 percent of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year. Worldwide, 48 percent of respondents listed mobile as a key media that impacts purchasing decisions. Reliance on mobile is even higher in some consumer markets, such as India, where it was cited by 60 percent of those surveyed.
Prepping your website to meet this mobile commerce wave means more than simply optimizing your existing website for iOS, Android and other devices. Small business owners need to make their buy-from-anywhere shopping more appealing to potential customers by building out great mobile experiences, with responsive websites that work on every device and resize in a way that makes sense to the increasingly savvy mobile shopper. Seamless browsing and shopping across platforms will be crucial for SMBs in 2014. Ask your hosting provider for tips on getting started.
2. It’s time to get social. Social media and content marketing are no longer online marketing “trends” – they’re an inherent part of many customers’ commerce experience. SMBs are realizing the importance of interacting with their followers on Facebook and solving customer service queries via Twitter. Social referrals and conversions from sites such as Facebook and Pinterest are becoming a critical part of the e-commerce experience for SMBs, with the objective of having customers not just interact with your business, but also with each other.
3. Align your small business with Big Data. Calculators and cash registers don’t allow businesses to do anything more than crunch numbers. But new point-of-sale (POS) technologies will let SMBs evaluate their sales data to spot trends and buying habits with a whole new depth. Its customer relationship management (CRM) meets POS, and the information gathered will not only help with sales, but with the other elements that SMBs need to manage their businesses, such as staffing and inventory. According to a recent customer survey commissioned by ShopKeep, up to 42 percent of the 640 small businesses surveyed are already using real-time data to adjust business decisions, in some cases in under 24 hours.
4. Get familiar with personalization. Using the information gleaned from Big Data above, SMBs have the opportunity to go beyond simply suggesting similar products – which is a must-do strategy in and of itself – to actually tailoring a user’s shopping experience based on previous data. Allowing customers to move through different channels based on what they’ve done on your website in the past is essential to e-commerce in 2014.
What one thing do all of these trends have in common? They are enabled by advances in technology that make adopting methods once beyond reach now easy and cost-effective for businesses of all sizes. In many ways, SMBs are ahead of the game, because they’ve limited their investment in "enterprise-grade" technologies that gave large businesses an initial leg up. Now that advanced e-commerce capabilities are available to the little guys at a price point they can afford – and in a "form factor" they can understand – the playing field is starting to become a little more even.