Reports have shown that the Australian GDP has had its largest quarterly expansion (3.3 per cent) since the mid-1970s as consumers kickstart their spending and dive into the gift-buying season headfirst, writes Libby Roy, Managing Director of SMB, Optus.
In further good news for small business retailers, there also appears to be a positive sentiment towards supporting small business owners (SMBs). Additionally, technology has never been so powerful than it is today, meaning that SMBs can now expand their customer offering in regards to how they sell products online, manage stock, take payments and market their business.
What are the tech challenges facing small business?
I believe that technology and embracing digitisation is what will drive SMBs looking to challenge the big players, particularly in the retail space. This Christmas and beyond, SMBs need to think about how their technology can operate end-to-end to deliver the best customer experiences, from behind the scenes supporting logistics and operations, to their social media and how often they communicate.
Based on this, I have listed five common challenges that SMBs may face this festive season and how technologies can help them navigate these. It is worth noting that if you’re already far into your Christmas sales journey, these tools will also set you in good stead for 2021 so they are worth exploring.
1. Challenge: You’re not sure where to find your customers online
Restrictions mean that online shopping will be huge this year. Search engine optimisation is always going to be a huge player as is social media, but where do you start? Tools to help support you in this journey include Metigy, which can provide marketing insights to help you target the right customers and build strategies for growth. Social media management platform Hootsuite is also fantastic from a social perspective. If you’re starting out online, think about how you can grow throughout 2021 to become an all-round integrated omni-channel for your customers.
2. Challenge: Your anticipated ratio of online to in-store sales is off, meaning stock management is an issue
This year, having an online offering that is integrated into stock management and logistics will be critical as so much will be happening online. Many organised Australians who have been disconnected from loved ones because of COVID-19 will have created an early flurry of sales. Keep in mind that there is also likely to be those shoppers who leave things to the last minute. Payment tools such as Square, Sage and Xero help with automated stock management, predicting future peaks and overall making life easier. Each tool offers tailored payment packages to suit your needs, for example Square has upfront hardware costs from around $59, no set up fees and free software packages.
3. Challenge: You struggle to offer mass discounts like global retailers
This is a continuous challenge for SMBs in the retail space, particularly for those boutique stores, selling bespoke items. Adding a ‘buy now, pay later’ application to your site can allow you to break your price down into weekly or monthly payments. This can seem more attractive to buyers who may have initially gulped at the price even though they understand that quality of your offering. Applications like Afterpay, zip and humm also provide you with back end data that will help you with future marketing.
4. Challenge: You’re so busy that you’re missing calls, which could mean missing sales
Anyone calling your business is doing so as they want information from the latest details on your products and services, to your opening hours and special officers. They may even be looking to place a payment over the phone. This means that every call should be considered a potential sale. If your business has just one contact number listed, then you could be missing out. Optus offers a PBX system, Optus Loop, that means that you can now set up a fixed line number that rings on every nominated mobile device meaning that if you can’t answer, a colleague in another location can. You’ll also have a personalised reception automation.
5. Challenge: You’re experiencing peak online purchases and worry about security
Our research this year found that two in five SMBs think that they are too small to be a cybersecurity target and many basic security measures are taken up by less than half of staff. As the world has escalated rapidly online over the past few months, now is the time to engage a third party to support your data securely. Products from key security players in the SMB space are Trustwave, Cisco and Fortinet, which have a selection of options that you can choose from using their online surveys.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts: National Income, Product and Expenditure
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