According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $861.12 billion on US online merchants in 2020, resulting in an increased year-over-year of 44%. No wonder why virtual credit cards were popular among consumers during the pandemic, coupled with a significant increase in the number of home delivery options. Now that we are in the post-lockdown phase, with many buyers going back to brick-and-mortar shopping, eCommerce retail is still attracting consumer spend. As a result, small businesses have to decide whether to switch to eCommerce channels or to go back to their brick-and-mortar store. In any case, small businesses should be concerned with how they can keep up with eCommerce competition in order to benefit from the increased consumer spend online & offline.
In this article, we will talk about omnichannel strategies that can help businesses regardless of size, to beat the competition.
Give Your Buyers Multiple Paths To Purchase
In the past, eCommerce businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses were far apart in terms of operations, and to some extent, the kind of buyers both channels attract. But the story has changed now because consumer shopping behavior has changed. As a result, it is better to create a hybrid of online and offline ecosystems to avoid losing potential sales during disruptions. For example, during the lockdown, many small businesses had to stop operations because only essential consumer businesses were allowed to continue providing in-store shopping experiences.
In response to the lockdown disruption, several businesses transitioned into eCommerce by building on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. Additionally, some merchants responded by adopting retail-as-a-service options, and some formed partnerships with brands that understand and are part of the eCommerce space.
Even as we are currently in the post-lockdown phase, buyers still want convenient shopping experiences, and you can guarantee that by providing all possible purchase channels. Commerce and retail can no longer thrive using a limited stand-alone channel. What we have now is a hybrid of channels across numerous digital/online avenues including mobile shopping, and in-store shopping to create one gigantic integrated retail experience for consumers. It connects in-store point of sale (POS) and eCommerce to order management, inventory, financials, and customer care.
As a small business, you should take advantage of the new alternative channels available to take your business to new consumers and create flexible shopping experiences.
Automate And Adjust As You Grow
Besides increasing reach and providing customers with flexible shopping, small businesses should plan for expansion and adjust their eCommerce strategies as they grow. To put it simply, improve your technologies as you scale up your small business. Don’t wait for disruption before finding optimized alternatives to improve or/and automate your business operations.
Sure you can wait to see what new systems will develop from disruptions to avoid investing in strategies that will become irrelevant during disruptions, such as the case of the 2020 pandemic. For example, if an eCommerce business had planned to hold a pop-up event in April 2020, the lockdown would have made the time, money, and resources invested in preparation for the event go to waste. And that is no doubt discouraging. However, if you don’t take any chances or any adopt trending strategies and new technologies because of possible disruption, you will end up with a more negative effect on your business in the long run.
By scaling up your business with better technologies, and strategies even when there is no disruption, you get to fix pain points. It also helps to create systems where you can easily automate your business operations. So when you think about growth and expansion in the future, remember to improve your technologies and strategies in order to benefit from market opportunities as they come.
Streamline Inventory Management and Fulfillment
Disruptions or not, you need seamless inventory management and fulfillment structure in your supply chain ecosystem, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to eCommerce. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses where you can explain to customers one-on-one why you don’t have some products on display or in your inventory, eCommerce doesn’t make that easy. You have to make sure all the items in your product listings are available in your inventory and easily accessible for you and your customers (as necessary).
You need to have good coverage of all aspects of your supply chain so that you can make changes according to demands and purchase behavior. As a retailer or a manufacturer, you will often have to deal with challenging unpredictable outcomes but establishing an omnichannel to streamline the process will make your work easier. While setting up an omnichannel to monitor and streamline your supply chain, inventory, and fulfillment, you can also set up a forecasting system to predict scenarios. So, don’t depend solely on a stand-alone channel for your order fulfillment and inventory management because the future is gearing even more towards the use of multiple shopping channels.
Over To You
Although eCommerce promises an abundance of opportunities for businesses of all sizes, it requires you to pay attention to market trends, be proactive, and meet consumer needs in the best way possible. It’s true that consumers have geared more towards eCommerce shopping in the last year, but enough customers are spending their dollars offline as well. Sometimes, customers opt for in-store pick-up instead of home delivery; this shows that none of the channels is superior to the other, even during a pandemic.
The competition in the eCommerce space gets stronger every day but at the same new strategies come up to create more opportunities for merchants. Some of the alternatives you can choose from to adopt for your business instead of strictly using a stand-alone channel are; brand partnerships, pop-up shopping experience, retail-as-a-service, shared spaces, and showrooms. We ultimately advise that every merchant who wants to keep up with consumer spend sees eCommerce as an essential strategy to adopt even if they mainly operate offline.
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