For small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it can be difficult to compete in the ecommerce space against e-tail giants like Amazon or Walmart. Yet, SMBs can delight customers in unique ways that even the largest online retailers can’t—and it all comes down to understanding the customer base.
Catering to Multi-Generational Audiences
A recent study found 41% of Millennials shop online at least once a week, while only 16% of Baby Boomers do the same. Although Baby Boomers shop online less frequently, they possess more disposable wealth and spend more per online transaction than any other generation. And as the largest segment of consumers—about 40% of the market share—SMB businesses should not discredit the potential spending power of this sizable generation.
For an SMB to win in this market segment, they would be wise to consider the factors that deter older audiences from making online purchases. For example, research shows older shoppers (74% of those over 60) prefer to shop in-store, one of the main reasons being they think it is important to see, touch, or verify the appearance or features of a product before making a purchase.
SMB ecommerce retailers can help eliminate uncertainty for customers by highlighting all of the product and service details customers need in order to make an informed decision, like a complete list of specifications (color options, measurements, size charts, material list, etc.), high-resolution images with 360-degree or zoom capabilities, and clear shipping and return policies.
Companies that do this well: Rent the Runway, an online subscription-based service that allows members to rent or purchase designer apparel and accessories. Rent the Runway’s website provides thorough sizing and fit descriptions, like noting if an item runs small or what body types work best for each product. The company also encourages members to share feedback on products they’ve worn and to upload photos of themselves wearing these items—which helps to further eliminate uncertainty for customers.
Thinking Beyond Typical Buying Concerns
Understanding an SMB’s target audience includes knowing what might be keeping customers from completing a purchase. Why are they abandoning their cart? Shipping costs, slow delivery, security, or complicated checkout processes are the obvious reasons. Sucessful SMBs think beyond these common blockers.
Consider the post-sale customer experience, such as setup or installation. It may only take minutes to purchase a dresser online, but if the assembly seems daunting, customers may be reluctant to buy it. With this in mind, SMBs can consider providing setup, installation or assembly services. If on-site assistance isn’t possible, at the very least, they can provide phone or chat support.
Companies that do this well: Online mattress retailer Casper. Buying a new mattress also means having to get rid of your old mattress. This isn’t a simple feat for anyone, especially if you live in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in New York City. Casper recognized this and began offering setup and removal services in many cities, which includes unboxing new mattresses, furniture assembly, and removal of all packaging on their way out.
Cutting Out the Competition with Incentives
The digital revolution means consumers have immediate access to an infinite amount of retailers, right in their pocket. Obviously pricing is important—nearly 60% of consumers said low prices are the most important consideration when deciding where to buy. But if prices are in line with the competition, how can an SMB encourage customers to shop with them versus elsewhere?
Today, online retailers offer a variety of incentives or rewards to entice customers, like free shipping when a cart exceeds a certain dollar amount. For large items that can cost hundreds of dollars to ship, like a sofa or refrigerator, free shipping can be a major selling point. However, even an easy return policy can win over customers. In fact, 40% of consumers said this is a major factor when deciding where to buy.
Risk-free trials are another way to encourage customers to seal the deal. Smart SMBs acknowledge that customers may want to try a product before committing to it forever and can offer a post-purchase, risk-free trial. This feature moves consumers past the point of sale by helping to mitigate their buying concerns—and its a win-win for everyone; the business makes the sale and customers have peace of mind that if they don’t love the product, they’re not stuck with it forever.
Companies that do this well: Away, a direct-to-consumer luggage company. Away offers 100-day trials for its products. If customers decide the luggage is not for them, at any point in the first 100 days, they can return it for a full refund. The best part? Away covers the cost of shipping, so consumers don’t have to foot the bill to return the product.