4 ways a small business owner can digitise their business
UK retail sales are set to grow 2.5% to reach an impressive £42.2 billion this December. But with as many as one in five planning to shop online this festive period, there’s a danger that independent retailers get left behind.
UK consumers are increasingly demanding slick digital experiences, both online and in-store. And Worldpay research has found they’re more likely to favour larger retailers this Christmas as a result.
With billions up for grabs at the busiest time of the year, SMEs need to embrace digital technologies to improve the customer experience, maximise profits, and help them plan for the year ahead.
Worldpay research reveals that over a quarter (28%) of consumers choose large retailers over smaller and local shops at Christmas, because the latter make it hard for them to research and buy online. Over a third (36%) told us that lack of delivery options, concerns over in-store availability, and inflexible returns policies persuade them to stay away from smaller stores.
As more and more consumers demand omni-channel experiences where they try in-store and buy online or research and click-and-collect in-store, retailers of all sizes must respond. We found that nearly 90% of purchases will be influenced at Christmas by online or mobile channels.
Time to digitise
It’s all about providing the customer with as much choice as possible, while offering the kind of highly personalised experience shoppers love. That means having an online presence, of course. But it also extends to digital technologies in-store. Offering contactless payments, or smartphone-based Apple Pay and Android Pay, for example, can offer several benefits for SMEs.
They help to show you have the customers’ interests at heart, by allowing them to pay via their preferred method. And it can cut queues at the till, reducing the number of potential drop-outs – especially important during busy periods in December. It’s a win-win for small business owners – maximising profits and creating the type of customer experience that consumers will want to come back for.
For those with slightly larger stores, there are also tablet-based mPOS (mobile point of sale) options which allow staff to take payments and help the customer browse stock wherever they are in the store. Once again, it’s all about maximising sales and making the whole shopping experience as seamless as possible.
The good news is that the majority of consumers support smaller retailers, because they believe they offer a better selection of unique products. Even more good news: setting up an e-commerce function, or switching on additional payment options doesn’t have to break the bank. A simple site with product descriptions and payments pages hosted by a trusted third party can be enough to generate a healthy extra revenue stream. Worldpay research of SME owners found they spend around £2,000 on average to get their site up and running.
Another top tip for SMEs this time of year is to use the quiet time after the Christmas rush to plan ahead for the coming 12 months. What worked and what didn’t in 2016? What might need tweaking from an operational point of view? Having all of your transactional information in one handy place is an important prerequisite to effective planning. So, do away with time-consuming paperwork once and for all and invest in automated online business planning tools. They’ll help you say goodbye to human error and free up your time for growing the business. By looking at patterns in card transactions over the year, for example, you could develop more effective promotions and offers for 2017. It’s all about providing the visibility into your finances you need to take control of the business.
Remember, digital doesn’t mean turning your business into something it’s not. It’s more about enhancing the experience to appeal to an increasingly demanding and tech-savvy bunch of shoppers. That’s something all SMEs should celebrate this Christmas.