There was a time in the not-so-distant-past when having a brick-and-mortar storefront and good word-of-mouth recommendations were all you needed to run a viable and successful small business. But unfortunately for the nostalgic among us, those days are quickly waning. Today’s most effective businesses leverage, to a great degree, technology that aids us in navigating the virtual world of the Internet; social media sites that help us create brand recognition and viral attention; and e-commerce tools and platforms that help us grow our bottom line.
Today, customers expect more than a simple storefront and a few Yelp reviews. They want to feel engaged with our products, they want to shop from anywhere and they want websites that are dynamic, intuitive and easy to use and navigate. So how should small business owners approach the constantly changing world of digitization? Here are a few tips to help with just that.
- Keep your website up-to-date and looking clean and engaging. It’s not enough any more to have a static site that simply displays your products or services; rather today’s savvy consumers expect to become a part of the shopping experience and to feel connected to your wares. And as always, it’s vital to remember that the bulk of online purchasing now occurs via a mobile device, so if you haven’t optimized your site so that it renders correctly across tablets, smartphones, watches and the like, do so immediately.
- Seek help for growing your business through other online vendors and partners. Cross-marketing plans can give you a huge advantage: consider teaming up with another small business with a complementary commodity and broker a deal to trade customer lists, social media links and so on. You can even offer incentive deals for clients who purchase from multiple partner sites, such as discounts, free merchandise and more.
- Although it may sound obvious, do an in-house audit of your current technology and see if it’s up to snuff. If you’re using an antiquated payment platform or haven’t upgraded those tired looking subscription forms, haven’t put in place an instant email confirmation system or an automatic tracking option, you’re behind the times and may be losing profits for not staying up to speed on current tech trends. And worse, you could be making a lot more work for yourself if your current hardware and software is inefficient.
- It’s more important than ever to look beyond the simple “click-and-buy” process to a more full and rich customer experience. So make sure that experience is unique, engaging, shareable and, of course, fun from beginning to end. What are some ways to accomplish this? It could be as easy as hover magnification over your product images to offering comparison shopping on similar products. And adding a video element to the experience—showing footage of someone using your product or first-person testimonials—can be invaluable.
- If the idea hasn’t already filtered down to you, social media is the new and indispensable marketing tool for businesses small and large. For example, Facebook now offers “click and buy” directly from your Newsfeed page. And Twitter offers no less than a dozen options for those businesses looking to promote their brand and drive traffic to their site. So if you haven’t already crafted a comprehensive marketing strategy consider building one soon. And if you need help, a short Google search will yield lots of individuals and companies that can help you navigate the social media maze.