This guest blog is written by Chris Thomas, Managing Director at APEX Ecommerce. Based in the Jewellery Quarter, the company is a specialist E-commerce Consultancy, helping businesses of all sizes navigate the rapidly changing e-commerce landscape.
Having an online presence is becoming increasingly important in today’s retail environment and in this blog Chris Thomas outlines how smaller businesses are better positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities compared with larger retail companies.
Is your website working as hard as you do?
Recent research suggests that smaller businesses are not maximising the potential opportunity of an internet presence. Certainly, this seems to be true for many of the independent retailers located here in the Jewellery Quarter.
But why, when online purchases are predicted to hit £43bn by 2020, do so many SMEs fail to embrace digital? For many the greatest inhibitors appear to be a lack of technical knowledge and perceived costs. The good news is that barriers to entry are far less significant than they used to be. There are fantastic, off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions for less than the price of your monthly mobile phone bill. Take Shopify, which emerged in 2008 and now has over 500,000 merchants globally and growing. It has enabled a whole generation to get their ideas and products online quickly and effectively for less than £25 per month.
Whilst it might seem daunting, independent businesses have in fact got more scope than chains or franchises. Without the hoops and restrictions of larger companies, SMEs have more freedom to be creative with their online platforms, allowing them to showcase the personality of the company. They can react quickly to changes in the market and learn from what the ‘big players’ are doing without spending a fortune on research.
Many SMEs perceive online shopping to be impersonal but in fact the digital relationship is often the first impression you have with a potential customer and first impressions do count. Time-poor customers will do their research before heading out shopping, often whittling down several potential venues to just a select few based on their online research as they look for social-proof of where to spend their time and money. Aspects such as product range, social activity and online reviews being the most powerful ways to gain their attention.
Furthermore, the ability to track customer behaviour and tailor content to individuals, and even suggest complementary products or services, can enhance a customer’s experience of the brand. Services such as ‘click & collect’ are growing increasingly popular, showing SMEs can benefit from adopting a multi-channel approach. A recent study suggests that nearly two-thirds of online-shoppers would be encouraged to purchase more by a ‘click & collect’ option at the checkout. Further proof that digital shouldn’t fight with its older bricks and mortar retail brother, but instead can open the door to new customers and opportunities.
If you’re interested in getting your business online but unsure where to start give me a call at APEX. Based on Frederick Street, we’re a creative team and always happy to help!