If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught business owners anything, it’s that adaptation is a journey, not a destination. Just as we settle into a ‘new normal’, the landscape shifts again and us along with it. While we may be done with the pivot cliché, it’s far from done with us.
Ever-changing regulations have been challenging for everyone, and small businesses owners have also had to respond to rapidly evolving consumer behaviours and expectations.
Thankfully much of this change has created lasting opportunities. The shift towards socially distanced online commerce has encouraged businesses to experiment with new ways to engage and serve customers, opening the door to new sales channels, diversified customer journeys, broader audiences and ultimately, more trade.
Many new consumer preferences will outlive lockdowns, with changes likely to continue as those new to online shopping become more confident and curious about what else can be achieved and procured without leaving home.
Post-pandemic, the way customers shop will continue to look different. For businesses, this makes it essential to have a streamlined digital strategy to continue supporting your customers’ shifting shopping styles. This includes testing your online experience, surveying customers or friends of the business, and working to remove friction from the customer journey. “It’s getting those platforms right,” says founder and CEO at me&u, Stevan Premutico. "It’s about thinking through those platforms as though you are a customer and really making sure customers can easily interact, engage and experience the same type of feelings they would in-venue, on your social media or website”
Indeed, this shift is reflected in this year’s PayPal eCommerce Index. “37 percent of PayPal customers have reported they plan on making fewer trips to the shop, and 57 percent expect to live in a cashless society in the near future," explains PayPal’s Head of Channel Partners, Small Business, Marketplaces and Payouts, Jonathan Han, confirming that many consumers do not plan to return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits.
Having a strong online presence is more important now than ever, as customers may be unable or less willing to visit your business in person. Social media, online marketplaces, and branded websites give businesses a chance to showcase content and transmit brand values to customers who discover your brand online.
Don’t be afraid to test multiple channels as you come to understand your customers’ preferences and how your audience operates. “The right channel should not only contribute to how people perceive and get to know you, it should open you up to a whole world of promoting your product even further, whether this is free or paid,” shares Senior Ecommerce Manager at Stylerunner, Kelly Aver. “It allows you to really learn about your consumer and have that one-to-one communication.”
On every channel, seek out ways to make the customer journey as seamless as possible. Simple changes like installing a Facebook Pixel on your site, using Instagram’s shopping feature, creating a listing on Google Business, and integrating your products on online marketplaces can make a huge difference in the way your customers interact with your business online. “Post your content, post beautiful imagery but then tag a product with a link that then takes the customer or consumer directly to that product. In terms of enhancing efficiency, it’s just a seamless way for you to be able to drive people to your website”, says Kelly Aver. The goal is to give each customer connected and consistent access to your business, no matter which platform they’re on. Not only will this increase sales, but it will also create a cohesive brand image.
Meeting customer needs sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Using tools such as Google Analytics can help you monitor and analyse user experience on your website. Data points such as what devices your customers use to shop, when they drop off your site, and your website loading speed can be very easily accessed and offer valuable insight when addressing your customers’ needs.
“Absolutely be obsessed around the customer experience and in particular the checkout experience”, says Stevan Premutico. “The world is increasingly time poor and convenience rich, so we have got to make it super easy, super convenient for customers to order and to check out.” PayPal’s Jonathan Han backs this up, explaining that, according to PayPal’s survey “Over half (57%) of Aussie consumers have, at some time, abandoned their purchase on a mobile device, with over a quarter (31%) citing their preferred payment methods are unavailable, or they were concerned about security (29%). Cart abandonments of these types can be prevented - offer secure, trusted payment methods that you know people trust and use.”
Knowing everything that you need to do as a business owner can be a daunting task and feel overwhelming when you are juggling so many roles. Our advice is to reach out to trusted partners you already work with and make the most of their services. Not only will this guarantee success, but it’s also efficient, and both time and cost-effective. “You don’t have to go it alone,” says Stevan Premutico. “Seek assistance from your partners where you can, because often they may have already invested in the solution you’re looking for.”
While today’s tech allows businesses to gather incredible amounts of data, the reality is much of it is collected, but not utilised. Using the data you collect from your customers such as age, geographical location or average spend per transaction can help you enhance the customer experience and see it reflected in your bottom line. “As an industry we’re obsessing around how we can get customers to spend more,” says Stevan Premutico. “And one of the things we did to do this was marry data and personalisation. There's real magic in bringing the two together.” Using the data collected to optimise your customers personalised suggestions for similar products or complimentary product add-ons at checkout, is a great way of utilising and monetising your data.
Any successful SMB has its focus set on improving its bottom line by increasing profit, and even more so when times are tough. However, this should never derail your core purpose as a business and why you started in the first place. “The only thing that's sacred and shouldn't change is your ‘why’ and your purpose," explains Stevan Premutico. "Who are you? What do you stand for? And what is it that the customers should absolutely love about you? And make sure to check in on a very regular basis to evolve, change, or tweak your ‘why'.”
While maintaining focus on their purpose and customer needs, businesses must not forget to safeguard their own interests. Tools such as PayPal Seller Protection can help with unexpected circumstances such as unauthorised payments or shipping errors. “The conversation tends to focus on how customers can protect themselves. But merchants, too, need to protect themselves when operating online,” explains Jonathan Han. “If something goes wrong with a sale, it shouldn’t impact your bottom line or profitability.”
The article provided is for general informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial and legal advice before making any business decisions
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