Today, people are increasingly shunning traditional forms of employment to pursue freedom, flexibility and autonomy. Few working practices provide this better than running a small business.
The life of a small-business owner isn’t easy though, especially while bigger organisations with greater resources and deeper pockets set their sights on monopolising their markets.
Levelling the playing field with global companies will always be difficult, yet SMEs can benefit greatly by utilising a resource that was previously unaffordable and inaccessible: technology. There are 2.1 million small businesses in Australia; all of whom can benefit from it to varying degrees. Almost half a million SMEs are in the retail sector, and here are a few ways tech can help them.
Recognising changing consumer habits
One of the reasons that small businesses might struggle is failing to recognise changing consumer habits. Many Australian’s now shop and do business online. There is, however, an appetite for shopping local in Australia, with 90 per cent of consumers preferring to buy locally. The easiest way to cater to that demand is building an online E-commerce store for your small business.
Taking your commerce business online is just the first step, and there are numerous ways technology can help you innovate thereafter.
Befriending artificial intelligence
Many small businesses are still not sure about the potential use cases of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and can be sceptical when it comes to embracing it. AI simplifies each business operation and you can utilise it to easily gather and analyse data, and improve your services as a result. Many software providers are integrating AI into their solutions because it offers a fast and efficient way to understand your customers’ browsing and shopping habits and change your site to more efficiently convert leads into sales.
Take cart abandonment, for example. The average e-commerce store loses over 75 per cent of its sales to cart abandonment, and AI can help you understand why, and put in place measures to rectify the problem. It can tell you if your checkout process has too many steps, lacks flexibility or has limited shipping and payment options. Similarly, if you notice a lot of your products are returned, AI can look for patterns in returns and the issues that drive them, like size issues or damages in transit.
Innovative customer experience
Being innovative isn’t just the domain of big business or the tech industry. Technology now allows you to provide an innovative, personal and user-friendly experience from the time a customer discovers your business, right through to the checkout. For example, a point of sale system enables businesses to build customised journeys based on a customer’s habits, or an order history that allows for comparisons and convenient reordering. Once you’ve got them to the checkout, you can offer multiple methods of payment, such as debit and credit cards or PayPal. And by integrating with multiple shipping vendors, you can offer your customers multiple choices, from free shipping to express delivery. This allows you to cater to those who value cost as well as those who want their purchases quicker.
No matter your previous level of technological understanding, knowing how to make it work for you can do wonders for your business. You don’t have to be in retail either, you could be a construction business digitising your invoicing and accounting, or an estate agent adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The barriers that once ensured that small businesses remained small are falling. And, with technology greatly enhancing what you can offer your customers, it’s never been easier to work smarter and reap the rewards.
Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho