SMBs sometimes find it tough to compete with big-box stores and e-tailers when it comes to garnering consumers’ holiday dollars. However, the good news is that technology has evolved to such an extent that SMBs actually have some distinct advantages. On the heels of Small Business Saturday, here are five tips, identified by Russell Harty, SVP of key accounts and partner channels at Merchant Warehouse, that SMBs can employ to ensure they capture as much money already being spent during the holidays as possible.
Click through for five tech tips to help SMBs boost sales this holiday season, as identified by Russell Harty, SVP of key accounts and partner channels, Merchant Warehouse.
Big companies have the disadvantage of being slow. There are generally lots of “cooks in the kitchen,” and bureaucratic red-tape to cut through before solutions can be implemented. Not so with SMBs. If you are one of the more than 28 million small businesses in the U.S., take advantage of this unique agility and try out solutions that will give you a competitive edge and raise your profile in the eyes of tech-savvy – and convenience-hungry – customers. Some apps to check out include LevelUp, Belly and Leaf.
As you start exploring technology solutions to implement for your SMB, it’s important to take a peek at what the “big guys” are doing. Many of them are trying out tablet-based point of sale systems, mobile loyalty and reward programs, and mobile wallets like ISIS and Google Wallet. Each of these technologies offer unique opportunities to connect with and engage customers in new and meaningful ways. Upgrading your systems will give you the opportunity to take advantage of these new marketing and technology benefits in time for the holiday shopping season.
It’s important to be realistic about what makes your business unique and competitive, especially when it comes to competing with big companies for holiday spend. For SMBs, recognizing that your service and the products you sell are likely to be different — and often of higher quality — than big-box stores can be a great place to start in terms of crafting offers and discounts that appeal to your customer base. For example, a boutique denim store generally carries a very different selection from the local discount retailer.
Understanding that your customers come to you for high quality and good service, and that they prefer to shop in-store rather than to guess at their sizes online, is vital insight. Armed with this knowledge, a retailer should realize that there’s no need to compete with Amazon on price. Instead, they should focus on providing top-notch customer service, solid brand recommendations and local-friendly loyalty benefits that keep customers coming back.
SMBs often have more wiggle-room in their margins to offer discounts than big-box retailers do. While big stores often rely on manufacturers’ coupons through much of the year (albeit less so at the holidays), SMBs can afford to offer greater discounts to help build loyalty with customers by providing great prices in addition to above-average service. Look for ways you can help your customers without damaging your bottom line, and you’ll create long-term win-win relationships.
Finally, it’s important to be realistic about how customers do their shopping today. Many people who prefer to buy in-store as opposed to online will still do their preliminary product searches online before going out to shop. If your inventory doesn’t turn up in a search, then you will lose out on local foot traffic. Do some basic SEO and connect your inventory with consumers who are already looking for your products online. It’s one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to get more people in the door, after which you can dazzle them with fantastic service, cool new technologies and great prices. That’s a recipe for a very happy holiday season.