There is no doubt that Australia’s retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade with the continued rise of e-commerce. Now, we have large retailers dominating the online retail market, shipping instantly and worldwide, which has in turn triggered some cause for concern among smaller sellers who are trying to shift their focus to play catch-up in the online world.
Australian consumer stats are also backing this trend, in 2017 more than 79% of us said we preferred online shopping, which is no surprise given that 87% of Australians access the internet daily and spend an average of 10 hours on an internet-connected device. And in many ways, the shift makes sense. After all, online retail platforms give customers what they want — variety, low prices and fast delivery.
While our retail industry is rapidly changing, it is not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve seen it before when shopping malls emerged to challenge retail strips, then when large coffee chains scaled up to compete with small cafes. Although there is an immediate impact to the market and a great deal of consolidation, smaller businesses can not only survive — they can thrive.
Australia has more than two million small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)s, and it is unfeasible that they should all be able to compete with the online retail giants on price or speed of delivery, but they don’t need to. The retail landscape shift is a big opportunity for smaller retailers to set themselves apart in 2018. Instead of focussing on one channel, retailers should be focussing on an omni-channel approach to selling.
Multiple sales channels used to be the domain of larger corporate businesses with big budgets but the rise in do-it-yourself technologies and affordable business platforms means that now everyone, big and small, has the opportunity to meet their customers everywhere they want to shop.
New income streams
Omni-channel retailing allows you to create new revenue streams by providing your customers more flexibility in where and how they can shop. Small retailers can easily save time and make more money by adopting digital business tools to help them accept payments in person, online or even over the phone.
Using one integrated payments system, like Square, for a physical and an online store has many benefits. It allows you to ensure all business and customer data is stored securely in one place. It also provides you with a full overview on how your business is reporting in every location, allowing you to track sales, employees and other data easily.
Selling from a desktop computer, a mobile device, a telephone or in person also creates multiple channels of communication for your business. These channels all offer different avenues of information that you can use to gain better insights into your customers’ purchasing habits. This can help you better manage your inventory, refine how you communicate with them and improve your overall customer experience.
While having multiple sales channels may seem like a no brainer for lifting revenue, it’s important to ensure your brand remains cohesive across platforms. Your bricks-and-mortar store, website and social media platforms should integrate and have a consistent overall brand identity to help your customers better identify you online and in the physical world.
Customisation is king
Remember face-to-face interaction and relationship building with customers is a major advantage that smaller retailers have over their larger counterparts. Buyers still value unique, handmade, high-quality and highly personalised products so don’t disregard the tried and true methods that have been working among bricks-and-mortar traders for decades.
We have come a long way since the start of the internet revolution but you don’t have to choose to be online at the expense of all else. Technology has advanced in your favour. There are now more business platforms than ever to help you run social media, build a website and manage income through cloud-based payments software. This means that your business can be in multiple places at once, so take advantage of that, and the best part is you can now manage it all from one device.
Ben Pfisterer is Square’s Country Manager for Australia. Square creates tools that help sellers of all sizes start, run and grow their businesses. Square’s free point of sale service offers tools for every part of running a business, from accepting card payments with Square Reader to online invoicing, inventory management, real-time analytics, employee management and powerful reporting. Learn more at square.com.au.