Levelling the playing field for small businesses

In news that won’t be surprising to anyone, this past year has accelerated e-commerce sales unlike any other time in history. Even as the majority of brick-and-mortar stores have reopened in Australia, these new shopping behaviours have marked consumption habits for the long term.

While most larger retailers already had an established online presence prior to this period of social distancing, many small businesses still relied on the in-store experience and had to adjust rapidly In fact, according to a recent survey, nearly one in four Australian small businesses are still trying to ramp up their eCommerce offerings to adapt to this quickly changing consumer landscape.

As we look to the future of eCommerce, an online presence will be a non-negotiable for small businesses looking to maximise success in a highly competitive Australian market.

Over the last 12 months, 46 per cent of small businesses were financially stable or growing, which means more than half have struggled.

Recent data from IBISWorld also suggests online shopping has permanently increased as a result of the pandemic, with a 49 per cent increase in sales in the last 12 months through to February 2021. This demonstrates the increasing need to support SMEs to not just move online, but to strengthen their online presence.

However, moving a business online is only the first step. “Keeping pace” is no longer sufficient for success, or even survival. In a post-pandemic world, brands and retailers need to look to consumer behaviour from a digital perspective and embrace tools that anticipate what customers will want in the years ahead. Those who solely relied on in-store displays to sell must now quickly pivot and find new ways to let their customers sense, explore and size up their products, while creating escapism in inspiration.

Mobile-based AR is one of the elements driving the coming revolution in remote retail and allows retailers to leverage the best of both online and brick and mortar, while making it easier to go from inspiration to purchase. Smartphones will continue to transform shopping and will remain a crucial point of engagement. Ultimately, the real-life window-shopping experience needs to be brought online in inventive, compelling ways.

Driving growth for small businesses

Small businesses have proven to be resilient in the face of enormous challenges the pandemic presented. Many businesses pivoted in order to continue trading; one in particular, Sydney-based clothing brand Koogal, has seen Pinterest organic traffic is responsible for 70 per cent of the company’s revenue. This is just one example of an SME thriving – instead of just surviving – in the eCommerce space.

As many small businesses continue to find their footing in these uncertain times, Pinterest is one tool that seeks to essentially level the playing field, as businesses of any size have an equal chance of being discovered and to engage with new customers who are intentional, open and planning their future buying decisions. In fact, 97 per cent of the top searches on Pinterest are unbranded. This empowers small businesses, as it enables them to gain more visibility and attract new audiences. Pinterest also enables SMEs to provide an online shopping experience that’s similar to that of in-store, in terms of browsing aisles, seeing curated collections from retailers, and price comparisons.

Most recently, Pinterest and Shopify announced the expansion of their partnership to 27 additional countries, including Australia. Now, more than 1.7 million Shopify merchants around the world have an easy way to bring their products to Pinterest’s more than 470 million monthly active users globally and turn them into shoppable Product Pins that are discoverable across the platform. Merchants advertising on Pinterest through Shopify will also have access to Dynamic Retargeting for the first time, which will enable them to re-engage with Pinners who have already expressed interest in their products on the platform.

As small businesses adapt to new realities, it’s crucial they continue to identify technology that allows them to not only survive, but to thrive. As we continue to observe how the retail industry will evolve, we believe that there is one certainty: that it will involve a level playing field for businesses of all sizes.