For small business owners whose focus was simply to survive in 2020, the beginning of a new year has not changed much – yet. The challenges are the same – keeping the doors open and remaining profitable by attracting new customers and retaining current ones. This is a good time to ask yourself if you are using all the tools you can to drive consumers to your business.
Set Your Business Up for Success This Year
- Establish and develop an e-commerce platform. Brick and mortar stores were hit hard in 2020 with customers staying at home and many switching to shopping via the internet. According to SalesForce, online sales increased 36% in the United States over the previous year. That trend is likely to continue as the CDC projects that it will not be until third quarter 2021 that we see some return to “regular life”. Small businesses can begin to offer their products and services via websites and apps in addition to in their brick and mortar store. An online store has the benefit of introducing your business to the national market rather than the local market that the business operates in. An e-commerce platform can help increase your average customer sale when you feature products that are frequently purchased together or showcase products that are related to the purchased item.
- Expand the options for customer payment. Offer a digital wallets like ApplePay, which is a mobile payment and digital wallet service that allows users to make payments in person, in iOS apps, and on the web using Safari. It is supported on the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac. Google Pay is a digital wallet platform and online payment system for users with Android phones, tablets or watches (as well as iOs 11.0 or later). With identity theft rampant today, these digital wallets offer a way for customers to pay without having to enter their credit card onto your website. They also provide a measure of convenience, as customers do not have to leave your website and sign onto another to pay for their purchase.
- Offer something extra to enhance the customer experience. Give away something for free. What could this look like for your business? Think in terms of knowledge. You could offer e-books, white papers, or how-to videos. What about an online consultation to help a customer make a buying decision? You can give customers a freebie like these mentioned in exchange for their email address, and/or give them one of these bonuses when they make a purchase. `
- If you don’t have a website, get one. A website will provide another avenue in which to sell your products and introduce your services. Customers expect companies to have a website. In fact, many customers will check out a store online before walking into its brick and mortar location. Or, they’ll do some comparison shopping online. If they find a product that they subsequently purchase online, something that you also sell, you’ve just lost a sale. A website adds a sense of legitimacy to your business. And if your website is not mobile friendly, change that. According to Pew Research Center, about 8 in 10 Americans are online shoppers, and of those shoppers, 51% have made a purchase using their cellphone. That’s significant.
- Mobile app – Having a mobile app for your business helps you reward customer loyalty, allows you to push out notifications in real time, and allows you to personalize the customer experience. Mobile apps are going to follow along in the footsteps of websites. In time, your customers are going to come to expect a mobile app. For now, though, mobile apps perform actions quicker than a website, typically about 1.5 times faster. And with consumer attention span dropping from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015 (Microsoft study), time is of the essence. According to a Flurry Analytics 2016 survey that measured time that mobile users spent surfing the internet, 90% of users preferred using applications to mobile websites.
- With safety still a big concern, mobile ordering and contactless delivery are not going to fade out anytime soon. If you haven’t already added this to your store, it’s time to do so. These vehicles let your customers know that you are just as concerned about their health and safety as they are. And once this pandemic is over, mobile ordering and contactless delivery are going to remain valuable for their convenience factors. Both save the customer the time. Instead of driving to your store, placing their order, waiting for the order, and driving back home, consumers can order from the convenience of their homes and go about their business, especially because now they don’t even have to be waiting by the door for you to drop off their purchase. Their item can be left on the doorstep.
- For those in a service business, an online scheduling system will allow customers to make their own reservations 24/7. This enhances the customer experience because you are allowing them to schedule an appointment when they are ready to, not simply when your office is open for business. How many times do people think about an appointment they need or want to make, but the business is not open when the thought comes to mind. By the time the business does open, the thought is forgotten. Or they’ve found another business with an online reservation system to accommodate them.
- To better help your customers, consider adding a chatbot to your website. A chatbot gives you an opportunity to collection potential customer information, answer frequently asked questions, offer sales support, asks as a zero-wait help desk, reduce cart abandonment, and convert visitors into customers. Chatbots are friendly and approachable, and provide 24-hour service.
- Grow your online community through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media platform best fits your industry and product or service offerings. There are a multitude of ways that social media can help your business. Plus they’re free! Yes, you can pay for targeted advertising, but that’s a subject for another post. Social media can help you build customer loyalty. You can provide your customers with a tribe of people who share a common interest. You can run contests and offer discounts to delight your customers. Social media can improve your search engine ranking. It can help drive traffic to your website. It provides you with an opportunity to build brand awareness, consumer trust, and social proof. You can establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
To quote another consumer behavior report, 59% of consumers surveyed by Salesforce reported that they would rather buy from a small business than a large corporation. That’s good news. You can help drive consumers to your business and increase the likelihood of customer conversion by implementing one or more of these nine tips.