Online SMEs must replicate that exceptional consumer experience

Online SMEs must replicate that exceptional consumer experience

By Mike Antwoon, Sales Director at Hermes

Over recent years there has been a common movement to support local businesses, especially across the retail sector. Despite the convenience of having everything you need under one roof when visiting a more established retailer, many people simply prefer to spend their hard earned money at an independent butchers, greengrocers or hardware store. With a focus on customer service, in-depth product knowledge and an overwhelming sense of preserving that all important community spirit, many small and independent shops are able to provide a superior experience for the consumer.

The growth of the internet has acted as a catalyst for the creation of more SMEs, with the total number exceeding 5.4 million as of last year. However, whilst online businesses are afforded the capability of reaching new audiences quickly, it is a challenge to replicate that special customer experience delivered by smaller bricks and mortar retailers. Therefore, we wanted to share a few tips that could help smaller online retailers and sole traders compete with their larger rivals.

Social media

Social media provides a fantastic opportunity for SMEs to reach their target audience for free, whilst marketing their products and services in new and exciting ways. However, it does also provide young business owners with the chance to interact and provide a personalised service.

As an e-tailer, you may not be able to offer the human interaction that many people enjoy when visiting their local butchers, however you can experiment with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to engage with your customers. Utilise the different platforms to answer people’s questions, provide additional product information and make recommendations. Use social media as a mouthpiece for your business and develop your own unique tone of voice that makes you stand out from the crowd.

Knowledge breeds confidence

Knowledge can play a key role when it comes to delivering an exceptional brand experience, especially if you are selling high value or premium products. The consumer may agonise over ordering a particular product for a prolonged period of time, and extensive research may play a key role in the decision making process. Whilst online businesses cannot share their knowledge face-to-face, they can optimise their websites to ensure it is brimming with the information that consumers will want to hear. Knowledge breeds confidence and a confident consumer is far more likely to reach the checkout.

Picking the right suppliers

SMEs often fail to compete with their larger competitors when it comes to resources, which can have a detrimental effect on areas such as innovation. Therefore, it is important for business owners to explore different ways in which they can imbed innovation into the customer’s journey. One such way is to select suppliers that can add value in addition to providing a fundamental service. This was a key consideration when we recently launched our Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for myHermes customers, which includes many sole traders, SME retailers and online marketplace sellers. As part of the service, we provide the recipient of a parcel with a four-hour time window on the retailer’s behalf on the morning of delivery. This increased confidence and convenience leads to an improved customer experience, helping to secure repeat sales in the future.

Of course it can be daunting to go head-to-head with an established retailer, but smaller businesses can creatively take advantage of different technologies, techniques, tools and suppliers to deliver a superior and more personalised customer experience. This approach will only help to further grow their customer base moving forwards.

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