Tag Archive for 'e-commerce'

Are you ready for mobile primetime?

Somewhere in America a small business owner just experienced an anxiety attack that included breaking out in a cold sweat, because he had just discovered two things:

  • Half of the prospects and customers in his market cannot find his business.
  • Half of the calls his prospects and customers want to make to his business never get through.

Pretty scary, huh?! Glad that’s not your nightmare, right?! Well, hold on to that thought as you digest the following information.

Currently, about 100 million Americans own smartphones and that number is growing exponentially. That’s about half of the U.S. population who are likely to own a smartphone sometime in the near future. Here’s the math: 300 million Americans, minus children and others not likely to own a smartphone equals about 200 million, of which half already own smartphones.

So what are 100 million Americans doing on the tiny screens of these magic wands? Besides making calls, texting and sending emails, they are:

  1. Shopping online – making decisions about what they want and who to buy it from.
  2. Navigating to businesses – the one they chose while shopping, or the one previously unknown to them that pops up in their local search.
  3. Buying stuff – using PayPal, credit card, or internal charge in the case of an established account.

But in order to do all three of these things in such a way that makes it easy-peasy for the smartphone owner, the business has to be mobile-ready. That means having all of your business information and resources compatible with the smartphone form factor and technology in at least two ways:

  1. Online information is optimized for mobile search, especially local search.
  2. A mobile website option is available to smartphone users.

By now you get the picture that the anxiety attack of the small business owner mentioned earlier is because his business isn’t ready for mobile primetime. So how dry is your forehead right now?

In The Age of the Customer™, where being relevant to customers is trumping being competitive, a big part of relevance is being fully accessible and high-functioning regardless of how a prospect or customer wants to connect with you. And every day, that connection is increasingly being requested from the palm of the hand.

This will be on the test: Not all small businesses need a mobile app, but all need a mobile website.

Is your business ready for mobile primetime?

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This morning on The Small Business Advocate® Show I talked with Kevin O’Brien, Director of the AppConnect program at our friends, Constant Contact, about including mobile apps in your growth strategy and how to know if your business needs an app or a mobile site. Take a few minutes to click on one of the links below and listen to our conversation — the future of your business could depend on it!

Why mobile apps should be part of your growth strategy with Kevin O’Brien

Does your business need a mobile app or a mobile site? with Kevin O’Brien

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

A prediction becomes reality

Last week I compared the evolution of websites to that of social media adoption. I proposed that two things were likely in the future for small businesses: 1) They may be more likely to have a social media strategy than have a website; 2) More and more would employ both a website and social media to cross-collateralize content and e-commerce capability.

This line of thinking got me wondering how you’re using these two customer-connecting tools right now. So in our poll question last week we made this request: “Please choose one of these four options for how you connect with customers online.” Frankly, the answers surprised me.

Almost one-in-five respondents said, “We have a website for our business.” Of course, this would be way too low for this answer, except that we also offered this choice, “We do both - website and social media.” Those who chose this one represented more than 70%.

A very small percentage of our sample said they used social media as the sole method of connecting with customers online. In time, I believe this will change. And thankfully, those who admitted that they didn’t connect with customers online at all were also a small number of our respondents.

The good news I’m taking away from our responses this week is that my #2 prediction in the first paragraph is coming to pass sooner than I thought. Small businesses increasingly understand that in order to be relevant in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, you have to be prepared to use all methods of connecting with customers, the traditional and the new.

Recently on my radio show, The Small Business Advocate, I talked more about the connections between social media and websites, now and in the future. Take a few minutes to listen and tell us how you use social media in your efforts to connect with customers.

Comparing the evolution of websites and social media

What is the relationship between social media and websites?

Websites and social media will work together in the future

Serving customers online is not an option, it’s an imperative

Continuing the series on small business responses to poll questions on our e-newsletter and website, recently we asked this question about e-commerce (aka online sales, aka Internet sales): How much of your small business’ annual revenue comes from online sales? Here is what our respondents said:

·  Five percent said all revenue came from e-commerce.

·  Fourteen percent said more than half of their sales came from the Internet.

·  A little more than half said e-commerce represented less than 50% of total sales.

·  One fourth said they had no online sales at all.

E-commerce has been around for a big chunk of the commercial Internet age, which began in 1995 when unencumbered access to the Internet was fully allowed. But in terms of historical marketplace practices, e-commerce is just a baby.  So I’m actually quite pleased with the mix of responses we received, indicating that 75% of small businesses are generating some e-commerce revenue.  But over the next five years, there will be significant increased pressure to generate online sales.

According to the research firm, Forrester, online sales will reach $248.7 billion in the next five years, accounting for 8 percent of total U.S. retail sales by 2014. But the next statistic may be more important (read: ominous) for small businesses.

Forrester also predicts that by 2014, over half of all retail sales will be influenced by online product and company research before customers make a purchase.  The reason this stat is so significant is because of another piece of research that produced this astonishing number: Half of small businesses DO NOT have a website.

Regardless of size or industry, no business can expect to be successful in the future without a web presence. Even if you don’t sell online, you MUST be available online so prospects can find you the way people are looking today. Here are two words that make having a website even more of an
imperative: local search.

Local search is increasingly replacing the phone book or dialing 411. Even when customers don’t expect a business to have e-commerce capability, like a restaurant or dry cleaners, they do expect to be able to find you online, with product offerings, directions and a clickable phone number.

If you don’t have a website, get one; today you can actually get a simple one for free. And unless you sell nuclear products or Stinger missiles, please, find a way to offer e-commerce to your customers; It’s not free, but it’s no longer cost-prohibitive.

Serving customers online is not an option, it’s an imperative

Brick and Mortar Move Over

Our most recent poll question in the Newsletter and on our website was about e-commerce. We asked this question: How much of your small business’ annual sales revenue comes from online sales? Here’s what our respondents said:

  • Five percent of respondents said online sales represented 100% of their revenue.
  • Fourteen percent said more than half of their sales came from the Internet.
  • A little more than 50% of respondents said online sales counted for less than half of total   revenue.
  • And about one fourth said they had no online sales.

In terms of the Internet age, e-commerce has been around for a big chunk of that period. But compared to the traditional marketplace, the practice of selling online is still in its infancy. So I’m actually quite pleased with the response mix we got, especially that 75% of our participants are producing some sales through e-commerce.  I’ll have more to say, including some research on this subject, next week.

To participate in next week’s poll question, visit www.smallbusinessadvocate.com and vote.

Small business retailers competing in the 21st century

Every day, small business retailers feel they’re fighting a war on two fronts: 1) being bludgeoned by the Big Box anchored around the corner, while 2) simultaneously being mugged by an online competitor floating around untethered in the clouds of cyberspace.  So how do small traditional establishments go to war with these two formidable opponents?  The answer is short and sweet: They don’t.

Here are a couple of quick points about defending your traditional retail small business:

1.  Prospects of your small retail business are the least likely prospects for a Big Box. The feeling that makes customers prefer the comfort of customization and connection to being overwhelmed by size is so compelling that they will choose you and pay the price you have to charge to fulfill this strong emotion. But you have to deliver on this emotion with the offense of value instead of acting defensively - like being seduced into a price war. Remember, the price war is over, and you lost.

2.  These same prospects are increasingly demanding that the companies they do business with provide them with online capability.  Small brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have to conquer the e-commerce world, but they do have to have a presence there.

In summary, you can beat the Big Boxes primarily by just not trying to be them. But the only way to stay competitive with the online assault is by incorporating an online strategy with your traditional model, which means a website at a minimum - at least e-shopping, if not an e-commerce component - plus the methodical collection of customer contact information, serving a periodic connection strategy to stay top-of-mind.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the future of small business retail with Darlene Quinn. Darlene is a journalist, the author of Webs of Power and a member of my Brain Trust.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and be sure to leave your own thoughts about small business retail in the 21st century. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Small business, online customers and local search

One of the most troubling statistics I’ve seen lately revealed that approximately half of small businesses STILL don’t have a website.  If you’re one of those companies that have chosen to disregard the billions of prospects who are online around the world, I have two words to say to you that should get you motivated:  Local search.

Every second, zillions of people are typing, tapping, thumbing or, in the case of smart phones, saying into their computing devices (computers, cellphones, etc.) search words that are the objects of their immediate desire, plus one more thing: Where is the closest place I can find this?  Local search.

Pepperoni pizza in Peoria.  Model trains in Monroe. Wedding planners in Wausau. Local search.

Are the doors of your business open to the world of online customers? Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about finding success online with Stephen Pierce. Stephen is an Internet multi-millionaire who runs an empire of online businesses and three different coaching clubs. Take a few minutes to listen to what Stephen has to say, and be sure to leave your comments. Listen Live! Download, Too!




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