The UK retail economy has struggled this year, evidenced by the drop in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As we approach Christmas, economic uncertainty persists so small and medium-sized retail businesses must continue paying extra attention to their operations to ensure survival in this tough market.
To help SMEs and mark Small Business Saturday, Shopify, DocuSign and other leading organisations have shared their tips for navigating the business landscape, ensuring the best chances for success in 2024 and beyond.
Know your data, nurture your leads, and focus on growth
Sean Evers, VP of Sales & Partner at Pipedrive
As Small Business Saturday comes around, firms should pull out all the stops to focus on predictable sales. If leaders can forecast and consistently make their revenue targets, they remove risk and stress. Success relies on strategic vision, processes, and technology that make it all simple.
Fix on lead generation. The right systems for securing leads are the start of growth. Whether that’s finding clients through lead gen apps, across social media, or successfully marketing to the person on the high street – stocking that pipeline is critical.
Save your business metrics to track, tweak, and improve the process. You must know the number of sales messages sent; leads generated; and inbounds received – each week. The wins, deal size, and length of the sales cycle all also give you indications of what’s working and what’s not across sales and marketing.
The right CRM platform and integrations to the technology that’s right for your business are a force multiplier for small businesses.
Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA at Shopify
To thrive this Small Business Saturday, retailers need to lean into consumer demand for convenience and personalisation – both of which can be made possible by prioritising technology-driven shopping experiences. Technology is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is vital to a business’ bottom-line. In fact, our recent Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) 2023 report found 40% of UK shoppers are more likely to buy from and/or spend more money with brands that actively embed technology into the shopping experience, with two of the most popular being self-service checkout (53%) and mobile apps (44%).
The good news is UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are responding, with two thirds (67%) investing more in technology to help them capitalise on upcoming seasonal spending windows. Furthermore, SMBs must meet customers where they are and take advantage of every channel, especially as browsing in a shop to make new product discoveries remains a close second behind browsing online (33% vs 39%) for British consumers. Despite uncertain economic times, consumers are willing to spend with independent businesses that meet them where they are, as evidenced by recent figures from the 2023 BFCM weekend where we saw the number of consumers in the UK purchasing from Shopify merchants grow by 22% since last year.
Go digital, increase sales, power growth
Violeta Martin, Vice President Commercial Sales at DocuSign
Retailers are expert project managers, but small retailers don’t have the security of the major software offerings used by large chains. That means more stress and often sticky notes, reminders, and paperwork. A digital boost will help them better compete with larger firms, improve their profit margin, and put more people front-of-house.
A radical transformation for small businesses is to go paperless, improving the customer, vendor, and employee experience, increasing satisfaction, reducing risk, and lowering costs. For example, using eSignatures means completing agreements rapidly, with intuitive, mobile journeys, or managing contracts from negotiation through renewal and storage with solutions that minimise waiting and hunting through clauses.
So, whether making it easy for prospects to sign on the dotted line, managing contract negotiation, or recalling the last time customers received a special offer – go digital. Retailers must make the customer, and the whole business experience, simple and seamless to reduce barriers to profitability.
Jim Rudall, Head of EMEA at Intuit Mailchimp
In 2024, small businesses must prioritise customer engagement through personalisation for success. Understanding the audience is the crucial first step, as businesses risk missing opportunities without a deep grasp of their customer base. Personalisation will play a key role in how successful small businesses will be, with 73% of British and American consumers appreciating personalised emails, and 87% more likely to engage with tailored content.
Discounts are a major part of many small businesses’ holiday selling strategies and can be even more successful with a personalised approach. Crafting nuanced promotions enhances loyalty and deepens understanding of preferences. Instead of generic discounts, offer exclusive deals for loyal customers, incorporating limited-time availability or minimum spend requirements. This systematic approach maximises revenue and refines understanding of customer behaviour.
Seamless technology integration is also imperative to get a better understanding of their audiences by linking marketing, e-commerce, and payment systems for a holistic sales process. This allows businesses to execute their marketing strategies in a fully informed way because all of their customer data is collated into a single source of truth and relieves them of having to juggle many tech platforms at once. In the intricate landscape of 2024, the synergy of message timing, personalised promotions, technology integration, and adaptive strategies is critical and will influence the success of small businesses’ in the coming year.
Retailers must stop the technical incident snowball
Hadijah Creary, Senior Product Marketing Manager at PagerDuty
In a recent survey from PagerDuty, insights from 3,000 consumers underscored the critical importance of a seamless holiday shopping digital experience. A staggering 70 percent abandoned online purchases due to slow page loading times or broken pages.
Looking ahead to the 2023 ‘golden quarter,’ 45 percent indicated plans to maintain a similar level of holiday shopping as the previous year. Notably, 78 percent expressed intentions to conduct half or more of their holiday shopping online. For retailers, especially smaller ones offering significant discounts, ensuring exceptional customer experiences is paramount.
Concerns about website capacity during peak times like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday led over 25 percent to avoid shopping with smaller retailers. As the holiday season approaches, retailers must heed operational lessons, particularly in maintaining positive customer experiences. This involves vigilance across customer service, customer experience, and technical aspects. Proactively addressing issues before they escalate emerges as a key differentiator in ensuring a successful shopping season.