To say that 2020 was a good year for e-commerce would be a huge understatement. In fact, it may have been its best year yet. According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an astounding 44% year-over-year. Ecommerce not only helped hundreds of thousands of small businesses survive the last year+, but it helped them thrive.
Quarantine reminded consumers of something we’ve known for years: that shopping online from home rocks.
The future of e-commerce is headed in one direction, and that’s straight up. So, what does this mean for small business owners? How can they navigate the marketplace and stay competitive in an era where anyone can have almost anything they want at the click of a mouse?
Have an e-commerce component as part of your small business venture
Prior to March of 2020, many brick-and-mortar small businesses had little-to-no online presence, mainly because they didn’t need it. They relied on pedestrian traffic and walk-ins. But that all changed. The mindset of the modern consumer continues to shift to a more online-based shopping experience. People now expect to be able to buy their favorite products without having to leave the comfort of their living rooms. You might be putting your business at a disadvantage if you’re not giving your customers a way to access your products and services from their internet browsers.
Small business e-commerce gives you a chance to reach new customers
When you open your doors for business each day, you’re really opening them for a limited group of customers… those who physically enter your store. But if you want to reach more customers—those who are sitting down and going online to buy products like the ones you offer—you can do that with an e-commerce platform. This is a software application that allows you to manage your business online, such as your business website, marketing, sales, and operations. The analytical capabilities are seemingly endless. You can learn valuable data about how your customers interact with your business online. This includes page views, product or offer clicks, average time spent shopping, specific information about your customers, and more.
There are a variety of e-commerce platforms available today, all designed for various types and sizes of businesses. Some of the top solutions today include Wix eCommerce, Volusion, Weebly eCommerce, BigCommerce, and many others.
But e-commerce success requires more than just setting up a website. You can’t simply click a mouse and enjoy instant profits. It’s a learning curve that requires you to rethink how you serve your customers both inside and outside your store.
The omnichannel approach to e-commerce
Today, shoppers expect options. As the name suggests, omnichannel retail is about transacting your business across multiple channels, including marketplaces, social channels, and in brick-and-mortar stores. It means giving people the products they want when they want them. You’re delivering a consistent brand experience, and you’re offering more solutions to help those customers get your products. Some basic online-offline omnichannel integrations that helped businesses thrive during lockdown (and are still very effective ways to provide options for your customers today) include remote ordering, online payments, curbside pick-up, buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), virtual personal shoppers, and contactless door-to-door delivery.
E-commerce: Know what your customers know
As e-commerce continues to experience unprecedented growth, you should try to stay on top of the trends that drive consumers to shop. In other words, know what your customers know. The following e-commerce trends are ones your small business can immediately take advantage of:
Not long ago, subscriptions were associated with magazines and newspapers. Today, they’re a major trend in the world of e-commerce and they’re changing the way people shop online. Subscription box services like The Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox, Stitch Fix and others give consumers a box full of goodies to look forward to in the mailbox. If you sell consumable products that customers purchase regularly, this red-hot trend might just be a way to reinvigorate your own consumer base.
Retail giants like Amazon and Walmart have made the words “free shipping” feel less like the perk or luxury it once was. Now, it’s more like an absolute necessity for online shopping. While free shipping isn’t always ideal for smaller businesses, it’s still something you can offer your customers without killing your profit margins. Be strategic about ways you can allow your customers to “earn” free shipping (“Free shipping for orders over $25!”). And you might just encourage them to do more online shopping with you.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing was a thing long before the pandemic changed the way we shop. YouTubers, influencers, and social media managers all over the internet have changed the game when it comes to online marketing. Instead of just learning about products in social media, consumers are buying on social media as well. Can your small business use its own social media presence as an arm of your e-commerce strategy? Think about selling on a Facebook store, or creating shoppable posts on Instagram. You might just attract new customers this way.
E-commerce helps you stay connected to your customer
The beauty of e-commerce is it gives a small business the opportunity to remain connected to their customers, no matter what happens in the marketplace. A streamlined shopping experience on your website, a social media store that allows customers to shop on their phones, curbside pickup… People expect these kinds of nonphysical shopping experiences more and more. To do that you’re going to need internet that’s built for your small business. If you’re ready to take your business into the new age of e-commerce, Quantum Fiber delivers unlimited potential and productivity with speeds up to 940 Mbps on a rock-solid 99.9% reliable network.* Check to see if this ground-breaking fiber internet solution is available near you.
* Based on network uptime or availability.
Although our fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location, in limited circumstances Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds.