The Top 5 Challenges:
- Consumers prefer multichannel buying options
- Customers expect a high level of experience
- Attracting customer loyalty, a retailer needs to be above average
- Consistent Marketing messages and branding is needed over multiple channels
- Technology is helpful but sometimes not integrated
Post-pandemic is not going to be much easier for retailers. Covid has dealt many issues to business of all kinds however, retailers may have faced the most difficult challenges with shut-downs, restrictions, supply chain challenges and most recently, debt and staffing issues.
As we transition to a post-pandemic society and enter the endemic side of the equation, challenges facing retailers will evolve and will continue to be daunting. Small business owners are the most vulnerable of the retail community.
Higher levels of debt, lack of cash reserves and a more complex business climate will headline the challenges faced by locally owned businesses. These business owners have some long work-days ahead to overcome these challenges. Here are five of the biggest issues these businesses must solve to compete against the MegaMartAzon’s and survive this challenging time.
Consumers Prefer Multichannel Buying Options
When the pandemic hit and businesses were shut down, any business that did not have an ecommerce tool, raced to obtain one. These solutions included e-commerce shopping on the business website and third-party delivery options. Restaurants, in particular were quick to rely on third-party delivery options like Uber Eats and Door Dash. These offered a critical channel however, this specific business model is not sustainable for the restaurants from a cost-perspective.
In the years ahead, we predict that there will be a second wave of ecommerce and delivery solutions that are better attuned to the needs of businesses. It is safe to say that businesses jumped at the first option provided during Covid as a matter of survival.
WE can expect a further examination by businesses that have learned some lessons of what they want and want they need to source solutions that better meet those wants and needs.
Consumers will continue to shop online even after the shut-downs have ended. They will shop online at higher levels than pre-pandemic. The sophistication of these ecommerce solutions needs to meet the expectations of the consumer. Otherwise, the consumer will move onto the next ecommerce provider.
When shopping at a brick and mortar store, the consumer has driven there, paid for parking and walked into the store. For them to then redirect and go to one of your competitors, is an additional investment of time and money.
In the world of online shopping, for a consumer to change their mind and leave your ecommerce store and go to one of your competitors, is much, much easier. A couple of taps of their fingers and they are in your competitors’ ecommerce store within seconds.
This new consumer buying process needs to be perfect or risk losing that customer. The entire buying process needs to be analyzed, ripped apart and looked at from the consumers perspective, tested and reanalyzed. This is now a critical business process. It is critical to the success of your business and the success of each, and every consumer.
Consumers Expect a High Level of Experience
Consumers now have many, many choices of where to spend their money. As a business, we are not competing only with the 3 direct competitors in your neighborhood. We are now competing with the THOUSANDS of competing businesses around the world!
Because of these choices and how easy it is to shop at another business, each business must be excellent at every step of the consumers buying process or risk losing that customer and that transaction.
The entire Buying Process is critical to analyze and understand. Rest assured, the International MegaMartAzon’s have full-time staff and outside contractors dedicated each and everyday to analyze, adjust and ensure an impeccable Customer Buying Process.
Consumers have a lot of excellent options on where and how to spend their money. The businesses that do the best job will win the consumer. Locally owned businesses need to understand this dynamic and make decisions accordingly.
The entire Consumer Buying Process is in question including:
- being able to find the business online,
- ability to find the right product online,
- check inventory and availability,
- confirm sale prices, promotions,
- available coupons, loyalty points earned and
- warranty information.
If at anytime in the Consumer Buying Process, there is any friction, you will lose the customer.
Attracting Customer Loyalty, a Retailer Needs to be Above Average
The cost to obtain a new customer aside, we will focus here on retaining a customer for multiple purchases, and the ultimate goal of them becoming advocates of the business. As a business, we all agree that the goal is to keep customers happy, for multiple purchases over many years, at the very least.
Your consumers’ loyalty is being contested in the marketplace by many businesses around the globe. Specifically addressing the large MegaMartAzon’s that have dedicated marketing departments and BIG marketing budgets, have become very good at competing for your customer. These companies understand very well that keeping a customer is a lot more efficient than obtaining a new customer. In focusing in on Customer Loyalty, these businesses use the following tools and techniques to gain new customers and keep those customers.
- Mass media advertising; radio, tv, youtube, etc
- Social Media; facebook, Instagram, youtube, tiktok, etc
- Coupons and Sale Flyers; printed and electronic
- Personalized Push Marketing: email and text messaging
- Loyalty Programs: individual brand or multi brand like Air Miles
The importance of customer loyalty is the secret to the survival of any business. If we look at what happened when the world shut down during the pandemic, all existing and repeat customers disappeared for most retail businesses. These businesses were forced to:
- Contact these consumers to inform them of their new ecommerce options
- Hope these customers returned
- Continue to look for new customers
The large MegaMartAzon’s had a leg up during this time. They had already invested and been executing on successful loyalty platforms. They already had:
- Marketing relationship with their consumers
- Sophisticated marketing strategies
- Detailed, opted-in customer data collected from the loyalty platforms
These businesses turned on a dime, sending out emails, text messages, target social media campaigns effectively transitioning to ecommerce workflows with their customers.
Smaller businesses were as far along in those processes and were caught off guard. Since then, most have added an ecommerce solution however are still lacking with the key differentiators including:
- Data driven loyalty platforms
- Sophisticated Social media strategies
- Strong strategic marketing initiatives
To create customer loyalty in the new economy, is different than it was 30 years ago.
Consistent Marketing Messaging and Branding is Needed over Multiple Channels
Large MegaMartAzon’s have dedicated marketing teams and advertising agencies to manage their messaging and multiple marketing channels. Local business owners that are forced to compete with them do not have the same luxuries.
There are tools you can buy to manage multiple marketing channels, some of these are expensive and some relatively inexpensive. When it comes to creating content and managing those channels, local SMB’s are left to their own devices. Fitting these high-priority tasks in with the 63 other hats a small business owner must wear through out the day is, well, difficult at best.
Typically what happens is during a down time of say, the pandemic shut down, business owners scramble to create content and be present on social media daily and weekly. Then, as they get busier when things open up again, the frequency of branding and messaging slows to the point, where 6 months or a year passes between messages.
This is a problem from a variety of perspectives including:
- Google wants to see consistency when ranking your content
- Consumers have short attention spans
- Adding new customers will slow
- Getting additional visits from existing customers will be reduced
At the end of the day, this directly affects the bottom line of your business. All the while the MegaMartAzon’s are pumping out fresh content, each and every day on a wide variety of channels.
Technology is helpful but sometimes not integrated
Large MegaMartAzon’s have the deep pockets to integrate all of their technologies. They reap the rewards of these investments.
Having your coupons and loyalty linked to your in-store POS and ecommerce site is not a luxury most small SMB’s can afford. Or connecting your Guest wifi to your text, email and social media channels so you can communicate with your customers based on their last time in our store, is not something local business owners typically do.
Guess, who does?
Technology is evolving and there are more and more solutions that are built towards the unique needs of local SMB owners. These are all build so that you can survive and thrive against the large MegaMartAzon’s that you compete with, each and every day.
The battle is being waged on the computers and cellular phones of consumers. You don’t need to lose the war because you didn’t have a strong strategy or lack of money and time. There are solutions out there that will allow you to be thrive against the MegaMartAzon’s out there. You provide something they don’t, service, compassion, dedication, rapport and a better customer experience, once in the store. Don’t lose the battle before the customer can get in the store.