Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The busiest consumer spending period of the year — the holiday shopping season — is almost upon us. For the little guys, all eyes are on Small Business Saturday, the nationwide movement encouraging consumers to shop at small businesses rather than at big box retailers. The day is crucial for small business success, with 78% of small business owners saying 2021’s holiday sales would impact their ability to keep their doors open this year.
Many of these small CPG businesses scale from the ground up — often selling and sharing products through grassroots avenues like farmers markets, Etsy, festivals and fairs. Eventually, it becomes clear that a standalone online presence is necessary to scale and grow your customer base.
In the current consumer climate, it’s more important than ever for you to digitize in order to compete. Deloitte’s holiday forecasts predict that holiday sales will total $1.45 trillion to $1.47 trillion from November 2022 to January 2023, with $5.14 billion being spent on Small Business Saturday alone. So how can your small business stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace? Instantly expanding your customer base with an online presence is a good place to start.
Here’s everything you need to know to digitally engage with consumers while earning new business, creating efficiencies and growing brand loyalty during the busiest time of year.
Creating an app (mobile or web) is easier than it seems
The idea of taking your small business from a farmers market side gig to a robust online offering can be daunting. Not only does it mean you’ll be more publicly visible than ever before, but there are new moving pieces to manage across inventory, order management, billing, sales and more — not to mention the work it takes to get online and decide what presence (web, mobile or desktop app) makes the most sense for your business.
The good news is that you have hundreds of valuable resources at your disposal to make creating an app or website not only obtainable, but quicker and even easier than you might have thought. Historically, building any kind of web platform like an app would require the expertise of a skilled developer.
But today’s technology means you can create a custom app tailored to your business needs, without the need for a highly technical background. What was once an extremely technical task can now be done by anyone — opening the doors to new customers, enhanced customer experience and more.
For small businesses, efficiency is key
You’re working with fewer resources than the big guys, so it’s imperative for you to stay organized in order to remain competitive. Having an online and omnichannel digital presence gives you the ability to effectively manage your entire operation — including everything from accounting to staff management and hosting all your retail systems in one place.
By creating your own app, you can integrate the digital systems you already use, such as accounting software or payroll tools, into one online platform or application to streamline operations. Track the exact location of items and monitor inventory levels via one central application interface, instead of manually updating multiple spreadsheets and paper documents. You can manage orders from multiple channels like social media or physical stores, all in one central location, which includes adding capabilities for integrated shipping tools and refund management. Connecting your app directly to your payroll lets you monitor your staffing needs and schedule appropriately.
On the more technical side of things, custom apps give small business owners new access to large amounts of data and analytics in one centralized place. All this new info puts you directly into the minds of your customers, allowing you to better understand their buying habits. Having a digitized presence also provides suggestions on upsell opportunities and predictions for what customers will want to see from your store down the road.
Get to know your customers on a personal level
It’s no secret that consumers tend to show more loyalty to brands that “get” them. This loyalty can lead them to spend more money while encouraging their friends and family to do the same. By having an app specific to your business, you can become more data-driven and strategic about business strategy. An app gives you a direct line to your customers and their shopping preferences, opening the door to new opportunities for personalization and custom recommendations.
Having an app allows you to analyze customer behavior, such as which items they’re buying, from which location and much more. This helps you make better-informed decisions about targeted promotions to increase your customer retention and loyalty.
From birthday coupons to loyalty programs and special rewards for long-time customers, you can introduce incentives and encourage repeat purchases through push notifications, flash sales, app-based coupons, loyalty programs, product recommendations and more. It’s all about getting your customer to continue buying your product.
The optimal time of year to scale a small business is right now, and being set up for success is more crucial than ever. Having an online presence with apps and digital storefronts offers you new opportunities to streamline your operation and get to know your customers on a whole new level. Catering to digital customers’ needs will ensure that new doors are permanently opened to your small business, and having all business operations centralized in one system simplifies your day-to-day processes — a win for everyone this Small Business Saturday and beyond.