Five things small businesses can do to be competitive in 2019

The future is bright for Australian small businesses who can keep up with the needs of the modern shopper. And there have never been more ways for independent stores to compete with the bigger guys, without incurring major costs.

Here are five things we predict small businesses need to focus on in 2019, to keep attracting new customers and growing their profits.

1. Offer compelling in-store experiences

In many ways, it’s no longer about location, location, location but experience, experience, experience. Modern consumers will make the effort to visit your location because of the experience you offer. Some may crave for the social component of shopping or  the love for the excitement of treasure hunts and product discovery, or just want to touch and feel items for themselves. The right experience strategy will depend on your products and your target customers. It’s essential that you understand these, so you can come up with the best offerings possible.

2. Focus on small formats and pop-ups

Small format stores that carry little to no inventory will continue to emerge in 2019. Why the move towards smaller shops? One big factor is consumer behaviour. The internet doesn’t just enable shoppers to browse and buy using their phones or computers, but advancements in the supply chain make it possible for small businesses to also efficiently fulfil orders quickly and efficiently. Because of this, it no longer makes sense to bear the cost of large store footprints with countless merchandise and products. These days, it can be more productive and agile for small businesses to pop-up in key locations offering curated, unique products and services.

3. Offer choice and flexibility, especially in the last mile

Customers are much more likely to purchase from a business if they offer multiple delivery options. Things like free 2-day shipping, same day delivery, and in-store pickup are becoming the norm and small businesses need to keep up. To do this, look at your existing fulfilment practices, and determine if they’re fulfilling the needs or rather, wants of your customers.

By combining your point-of-sale, e-commerce and delivery apps you can stay on top of sales and inventory. To make things easier, if you’re going to connect different platforms select solutions with existing integrations, then you won’t have to develop them yourself.

4. Make sure you treat your employees well

The employment landscape is shifting, and the role of customer service has evolved – it’s no longer just about ringing up a sale and doing admin tasks. These days, customer service staff are consultants and product experts. It’s good to invest in new technology and other bells and whistles, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your front-line employees are the biggest and most important creators of your customer service experience. Make sure you regularly check award rates and be aware of how job descriptions and responsibilities may evolve over time.

5. Think about your back-office solutions and innovate

The backend of your business operations may not be as sexy as customer-facing initiatives, but in 2019, you will need to invest in your back office to thrive. From warehouse operations to logistics, consumers are demanding a more efficient and more personalised service. Small businesses need to focus on embracing technology to help streamline and improve operations.

In 2019, it’s going to be all about putting the customer first and creating a more personal in-store experience, while finding smart ways to create efficiencies in your business. But the changes don’t have to be major, you may find that small and simple steps over a few months make a big difference to a more prosperous year ahead.

Francesca Nicasio, retail expert, Vend

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