The total share retail sales generated by ecommerce continues to grow, but experts are advising that five current marketing trends may challenge small ecommerce operations. They include:
Competition In Pricing And Shipping
Dozens and even hundreds of sellers list identical products on marketplaces. Nothing but price differentiates them. That may hurt smaller retailers that don’t have the buying power of the larger outlets. And when the larger competitors offer free shipping, the incentives for shoppers tilt again in their favor. The trend is expected to grow this year. The biggies such as Amazon and Walmart have shipping facilities dotted around the country that allow them to ship from the facility nearest to the customer. As many as 60 percent or orders can be handled in the metropolitan area where the customer lives. That may mean the buyer will pay less and receive the goods faster. Small retailers would do well to look for unique or private labels to sell, decreasing their competition with the larger retailers.
Competing With Manufacturers
The classic model in retail is for the store to buy products wholesale from manufacturers or distributors and then resell at a higher price. That may put the small online business in competition with its own suppliers. The easy entry for ecommerce into the market has encouraged many manufacturers to combine wholesale sales to ecommerce outlets with direct sales to customers. Again, the answer for the smaller competitors is to find private label products.
Increasingly a tool for marketers, it hasn’t lived up to the expectations. This year may see a change as social becomes more compelling as an alternative to searching. Facebook and Pinterest, in particular, are among the best sources for ecommerce traffic. There are indications that shoppers are more frequently using these platforms to look for wanted items. Small retailers find it a mixed blessing. More exposure vs. the need to manage another selling channel. The advice is to watch developments and if social emerges as a significant ecommerce channel, learn quickly how to compete in t he market and to manage it.
Hard to win and easy to lose, loyalty is worth the effort, but may also be a challenge for smaller retailers. With fewer resources to put into the game than do the big sellers, that makes it very important to cultivate a good relationship with every customer. It is easier to double the effort to win a loyal customer than to try to regain the relationship when a competitor offers something more.
Content marketing is becoming more important both to win new business and keep loyal customers engaged. Marketers are becoming expert at creating how-to videos, trendy articles and posts that keep the buyer interested. Again, the big retailers may have entire teams to handle this aspect of their business, but even the smallest online store can learn to produce attractive content to keep customers coming. You know your clientele best. Find ways to keep them interested.