By Jason Pelland, Market America | SHOP.COM
Busy lifestyles, higher fuel costs, and other changes in the world have made e-commerce more popular than ever. Experts predict it to top $2.774 trillion in 2018.
Small business owners continue to face the incredible task of competing against large retailers that have long since acquired customers through mass marketing, mass advertising, and giant networks of brick and mortar retail locations. As consumers shift to online channels for their purchases, it is heavily affecting large brick and mortar retailers. However, what is the impact on small to medium-sized businesses, or SMBs, and local retailers? Even though it is an obvious migration to e-commerce, with eight out of 10 Americans shopping online, less than one-third of small businesses are actually selling online in the U.S.
The Troubling Shift
With competition for online customer acquisition increasing, costs are increasing as well, making it even more difficult for small businesses with lower budgets to enter this space. Consumers are less brand-loyal and are more likely to purchase solely on price, further increasing the barrier of entry for small businesses. Buyers start with broad product searches, believing they will find lower prices online than in stores.
This shift provides an opportunity for a small business to participate in the same digital space. However, small businesses lack human, technological, and financial resources to compete effectively with the budgets and resources available in large retail chains. Even when they plan to buy in-store shoppers conduct online research, so it seems obvious SMBs should expand their internet presence and the content they have available on their websites.
Yet, the amount of technology required to have an effective e-commerce presence is quite an undertaking, such as having a responsive website with an e-commerce enabled shopping cart, product catalog and search capabilities, payment options and shipping methods, as well as merchant services. However, there is no mistake: Small businesses need a web presence to allow their existing customer base to purchase from them online, as well as create an additional channel for communication and engagement.
In addition, for SMBs that focus on local, loyal patrons, offering coupon codes, discounts, and other referral programs, it becomes another layer of management beyond their traditional scope when dealing with this digitally. If they are looking to gain market share, attracting new customers will require traffic through search engines, social media, and online advertising. While big retailers have tools for reporting and tracking data and the ability to manage their budgets and analyze ROI, the small business owner is left wondering if e-commerce is even a possibility, or if it is simply too expensive. Therefore, as margins shrink due to retailers competing on price, the shift may shut out the small, local retailer.
Customer Loyalty Still At Play
These retailers, however, have what the major brands and retailers spend millions on, the customer relationship. This is the unique selling proposition local retailers need to leverage in order to compete in this marketplace. Price and convenience may be hard to compete with, but the local storefront has a relationship with the consumer and their community that does not happen with the major retailer. Fortunately, where big box retailers may have difficulty with customer loyalty and strong relationships, SMB local businesses thrive. Therefore, promoting their unique selling points and their local ties to the consumer and their community creates a significant bond that allows SMBs to sell beyond price.
Affordable, Available Technology
More and more providers are now offering e-commerce plug-ins and tools that are attractive to SMBs. As they know, they have to enter the world of e-commerce if they plan to make it through this retail shift. Even so, they need more than an online branded storefront. They need a responsive website that is also e-commerce enabled. SMB owners need to identify comprehensive digital solutions that allow them to promote and communicate their local story as well as drive sales revenue and profits.
The issues related to online marketing and e-commerce such as funds, privacy, and fraud protection can be daunting to a business owner, but maWebCenters, a division of Market America | SHOP.COM, has been providing effective e-commerce solutions for years. SHOP.COM, ranked the 65th largest e-commerce site and featuring thousands of partner stores, has realized the SMB sector needs a platform to simplify digital marketing and e-commerce capabilities, and a way where they can also position their products in front of more visitors alongside major brands. The maWebCenters division provides tools and resources for SMBs to manage their internet presence effectively with high-end e-commerce capabilities. This enables businesses to grow their e-commerce revenue without the hassle of traditional e-commerce development that otherwise may be cost-prohibitive, as well as increase visibility through the SHOP.COM affiliate programs.
It’s Later Than You Think, But Not Too Late
Small and medium-sized retail businesses need to evaluate their digital marketing strategies to include e-commerce. While it may be a seemingly large task to transition to an online marketplace, there are tools available that allow business owners to cash in on the windfall that is e-commerce. As the world continues to move forward in the digital age, it is evident that e-commerce and m-commerce will continue to grow without an end in sight. SMBs can leverage their relationships with local communities, while also positioning themselves to leverage the shifting trends and still win their own game of retail.
About The Author
Jason Pelland serves as Director of maWebCenters at Market America | SHOP.COM which offers digital marketing solutions to the SMB market. Jason came to maWebCenters having years of experience working with Fortune 500 Media Companies in digital marketing. Additional projects he works on include Internet Sales and Marketing Training and Development for Market America | SHOP.COM.