Our last post was on ecommerce trends and changes that online retailers should expect to see in 2016. But one topic we didn't get to address in that post was exactly how SMBs can compete in the coming year.
So if you're an SMB owner, pay attention. We've gathered some of the best tips to help your position your store for maximum growth in 2016.
Streamline your inventory management
Nearly every SMB will struggle with this at some point - how can you streamline your inventory management so that you're showing accurate counts for numbers of a given product across however many channels that you sell in?
A few options exist to achieve this goal. You can use third-party software (like the tool mentioned in this Inc.com article), build your own process (provided you have the knowledge and time for such a project) or use Doba to help you have the most streamlined inventory management available.
Regardless of which solution you choose, you do need to make sure that your inventory management is as streamlined as possible. This will help you compete with the bigger retailers and separate your store from the other SMBs who can't get their inventory streamlined.
Protect your data
Data breaches seem to be a common in the news headlines these days. Consumers are becoming more focused on protecting their data, and you'll need to make a commitment to data protection if you want to compete with the bigger retailers in 2016.
The good news is that there are numerous services available for SMBs to help keep your data secure. And If you're using a marketplace like BigCommerce to host your online store, data-protection is already built into their platform. If you built your ecommerce site from scratch, you'll want to employ some kind of third-party software to better secure your customers' data.
Improve your shipping process
One of the major separating factors between SMBs and larger retailers is the larger retailers' ability to offer low, or even free, shipping costs to their customers.
But how can an SMB offer competitive shipping rates when they're not making near the profits of large online retailers?
- Eat the shipping costs on your high-margin items: If you're selling a lot of products with thin margins and don't feel safe about offering free shipping on those items, offer free shipping for your high-margin items. This will drive more sales for those high-margin items, and you won't be eating up too much of your profits by offering this service.
- Subscription-based shipping rates: Amazon has made this incredibly popular with their Prime service. It's a proven model that works - so why not use it for your store? You'll have to do some research (average orders against average shipping costs for the average customer on your site) to come up with an appropriate price, but this is an option worth exploring.
- Flat-rate shipping: Flat-rate shipping is a popular way to make your shipping costs seem more reasonable in the eyes of customers, and it also reduces friction and/or price shock for buyers once they reach the payment stage, since they already know what your shipping cost is.
Improving your shipping process can do wonders to help set your store apart from others in your niche.
According to an article from Business News Daily, SMBs can expect higher customer scrutiny and an increasing need for human interaction in 2016. While larger online retailers have the resources, and manpower, available to provide round-the-clock customer support, SMBs usually don't. So you have to compromise by providing as much transparency as possible. This quote from Mark Deuitch, CEO of PeopleClaim, sums this idea up succinctly:
"Consumers have higher expectations of real fairness responsiveness to complaints. It's less and less easy to get rid of people with legitimate complaints by ignoring them or handing out a coupon. In a nutshell: Business owners will have to run their businesses as if their mother were looking over their shoulder, because she likely will be."
Competing as an SMB in 2016 will be challenging, but it's not impossible. By using the above tips, you'll be able to better position your store for success in the coming year.