Today’s small businesses are under more pressure than ever to keep up with major online retailers. As “the Amazon effect” continues to raise customer expectations for affordable shipping, speedy delivery and constant updates, many smaller brands are looking for ways to compete with these e-comm giants, but without the same outsized resources at their disposal, this can quickly backfire.
Making unrealistic delivery promises can end up costing you—in profits, loyalty and overall brand reputation. Instead, finding more nuanced, strategic ways to adapt can help ensure long-term success.
1. Provide Multiple Delivery Options
Many consumers want choices—and they don’t necessarily expect them to be in line with those offered by major online retailers. Consider what’s most important to your customers: Flexibility? Speed? Consistent updates or multiple channels on which to receive them?
Fulfillment options such as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)—which allows customers to order items online and then pick them up curbside or at the register—are becoming more popular. They offer customers more flexibility and can help bring in more orders during last-minute seasonal surges.
In the final days leading up to Christmas 2022, U.S. retailers that offered BOPIS grew their online sales nearly seven times faster than those that didn’t.
2. Use the Right Technology
Working with the right technology can create smoother shipping and logistics processes, freeing up time for other tasks while allowing for better, faster growth.
For example, working with carriers’ application programming interfaces (APIs)—which allow two software components to communicate with each other—enables small brands to get near-real-time carrier transit information. And this, in turn, makes it easier to keep customers up to date—a major boon in the age of near-real-time updates and shipping transparency.
3. Offer Exceptional Customer Service
Creating a standout customer experience can help set your brand apart and gain customer loyalty. Today’s customers are looking for “human” brands offering personalized experiences and assistance—something major retailers may not be able to do.
Studying customer data is key to better understanding what your audience is looking for. Are lots of people opting to text customer service rather than call? Are there many of complaints about a particular aspect of the delivery process? All of this can help inform customer service changes and improvements.
As the “Amazon effect” continues to shift customer expectations, today’s small businesses have been forced to adapt. Rather than trying to compete, however, small brands will likely find better success implementing more strategic changes tailored to their unique goals and the needs of their customers.
By offering customers multiple delivery options; leveraging technology to create faster, more efficient operations; and offering standout customer service, small businesses can set their brands apart in an increasingly competitive market.
- Calia Schwartz, “Shoppers Call the Shots in Retail Now, Our Holiday Results Show,” Salesforce, Jan. 12, 2023.
- “Becoming A Small-Business Technology Superhero,” The Information, 2022.
- “More Than Half Of Consumers Feel Service Is An Afterthought,” Zendesk, Jan. 18, 2022.