Is Your Business Losing Consumers in a Changing Commerce Landscape?
The holiday shopping season has begun, and every retail business is gearing up for a busy fourth quarter. However, looking back to the last holiday season, we learned quite a bit about the increasing challenges that businesses of all sizes face in the changing commerce climate. More people are turning to the convenience and selection of e-commerce, which is causing even major, historic brands to downsize and reevaluate their operations. Other brands are still reeling from numerous hacking and data breaches, which reduces consumer confidence and costs our economy dearly. While these signs can give business owners more of a doom and gloom mentality, savvy and determined entrepreneurs know that the best way to make the most of a holiday season is to have creative and proactive strategies to meet these challenges. As we move closer to the holidays, small businesses need to get on top of their game, and try to adapt to the needs and desires of an evolving consumer base.
The E-Commerce Challenge
If your business does not have an operational, continuously updated website where customers can purchase your products, you are missing out and losing sales. Why? During the busy holiday season, customers love the ability to shop anywhere, anytime, without ever needing to leave the comfort of their homes, or if we are being honest, their offices as well. Rather than fight traffic, stand in lines, contend with crowds, and get stressed out, they can point and click their way to holiday list completion, then find their purchases conveniently on their doorsteps. Your website will be an investment, but if you really want to survive in the evolving economy, you have to realize that part of your business model needs to transition to e-commerce. What makes a good website for your traditional brick and mortar business?
- A professionally designed and hosted site. Your site needs to be attractive, have easy, intuitive operation, and remains online and functional through knowledgeable IT support.
- A consistently updated website. Nothing will turnoff your customers faster than a site that still has outdated or out-of-stock merchandise, or where they can’t find that hot new item they heard about from a friend.
- A strong secure e-commerce merchant account. You want to accept credit cards and PayPal, but you need to feel confident that you are maintaining industry standards for online payment processing. Your merchant account provider can help you navigate this process, and ensure you understand how to best maintain transaction security in online payment processing.
- A proactive digital marketing effort. A strong website is not productive if you are not getting the traffic to it. Consider reaching out to a digital marketing consultant to discover ways you can drive engaged customers to your site.
- A consistent social media presence. Social media is often the gold mine for spreading the buzz about your business or a specific product. Every “like” and “share” is free advertising at its finest. Also, your continued social media engagement projects that you are a dynamic business that is always on the front lines of its customers’ interests.
- A progressive attitude. If your business has been hesitant to include an e-commerce channel, you need to accept the reality of the retail marketplace, and it will probably continue to be so. Small businesses already struggle to build and maintain brand recognition, so it’s understandable that they worry about investing in the cost of website development and management. However, the perils facing most of the country’s well-known mega brands showcase just how influential the convenience of e-commerce has on customers’ shopping habits and preferences.
If you already have a website for your business, how is it performing? If last season left your sales feeling flat, you may want to solicit opinions on what people do or do not like about it. For example, is it your products that they are passing up, or is something about the appearance and navigation of your site that are turning your clients off? Do you need better pictures, more extensive product descriptions, or a more intuitive layout? All of these questions can help improve your site to capture more sales.
As you approach this holiday season, you know how vital e-commerce is to your sales and marketing efforts, but with this new portal comes another challenge for business owners: secure payment processing. The busy holiday season is also a time when fraud and theft reach their highest levels. Credit card transaction security requires you to know the warning signs for e-commerce fraud, such as unusually large orders, orders in rapid succession, different shipping and billing addresses, and more. Rather than lose both inventory and consumer trust, you need to work with your IT professional and merchant account provider to ensure your site is safe and secure.
Meanwhile, Back at Your Brick and Mortar Location
While e-commerce often dominates holiday sales, you still will experience the increased foot traffic to your location, and you want to have the staff and technology to streamline the customer experience. You can instantly add payment terminals through mobile credit card processing solutions. Imagine your sales associates being able to check out customers anywhere, or being able to open additional check-out lines without having to add new and bulky equipment. With very little investment, you can bring mobile processing to your location, and effortlessly adapt to the increased traffic at your location. The beauty of these simple tools is that you leverage the latest payment processing technologies that not only promote efficiency but also give you more control and flexibility in your operations.
While the holiday seasons will continue to give us insight into how consumer shopping habits evolve, you now have the power to adapt your current strategies to meet challenges head-on. Every season is an opportunity to learn, adapt, grow, and envision what you want for the future of your brand. Don’t get bogged down in the rush, but rather use this season as a way to gain invaluable information and feedback so that you continue to reach new customers and retain your current following. As a trusted provider of competitive merchant accounts and credit card processing risk management solutions, AVPS is here to help. If you need to learn more about an e-commerce merchant account, secure payment processing, or mobile processing solutions, we are here for you. To learn more, and to get started on your holiday sales strategy, contact AVPS today at (800) 719-9198!