The last two years have been nothing short of tumultuous for small business owners. Lockdowns because of COVID-19, remote work, supply chain issues, and many employees not returning to the workplace were only some of the challenges that small business owners have faced. However, these challenges have enabled small business owners to expand their businesses in new ways by innovating and effectively dealing with these obstacles. While the new year looks more positive for small business owners than the last two years, small businesses will need to focus on several issues in order to be successful.
Customer Experience is Key
A great customer experience is the key to surviving and thriving. Forrester predicts that the customer experience will be an important differentiator for businesses in 2022. Their survey found that many businesses that had improved their customer experience when the pandemic hit also saw an increase in brand loyalty and likeliness that customers would purchase from them again.
Supply chain shortages will no doubt be a factor in 2022. However, when a company does not have an item customers are looking for, it is important for a business to stand out in other ways. Customers are likely to remember a business that has excellent customer service, even if an item is not in stock. This is an area where smaller businesses can outperform larger ones that are not able to provide personalized follow up. Make it easy for businesses to contact you for information and be responsive so they will be inclined to come back to you in the future and recommend your business to others.
Digital Interactions Are Here to Stay
When the pandemic shut down in-person operations, those businesses that had digital options for purchases, services, and deliveries were better positioned to keep customers engaged. Customers will continue to expect digital options so make sure that your business has an online presence that includes everything your company is about.
A website is often the primary way that customers engage with sales and service for that business. The website should have hours of operation, online ordering or delivery, promotions and should be optimized for SEO. All information should be up-to-date and user-friendly.
If your business has an online store, consider a ‘buy now, pay later’ app for e-commerce, which is becoming a popular way to pay. There was a 400% increase in the use of a ‘buy now, pay later’ payment option on Black Friday in 2021. This type of payment option is sometimes the deciding factor for customers who are budgeting. It also makes higher-cost products and services more accessible to a wider range of customers.
Mobile Device Purchases Increase
It’s not enough that your website is formatted for desktop or laptop use. Americans are becoming increasingly dependent on their cellphones, and many now use their devices to make purchases as well. In fact, mobile commerce is expected to grow by 68% in 2022. A business website should be easy for mobile customers to view and use as well. Templated website builders have an option to view the screen with a mobile or tablet view.
Since more consumers are using mobile devices, payment apps are an easy way for a small business to collect payments without making a large investment. Google Pay and Apple Pay are being used by small businesses to collect payment.
Get Reviews from Customers
With the growth in e-commerce, online reviews are more important than ever. One of the best ways to build trust and show customers your reputation is through reviews. Sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp are now go-to websites for consumers to get trusted information about a business. Customers trust these reviews when evaluating whether to order from a business; the more online reviews your business has, the better for your sales.
How does your business get reviews? Create a review prompt to send to customers after their purchases. Social proof is the best way to create an online reputation. The most response will happen when review requests are sent via text or email, which makes it easy for the customers. A link to the social media platform in the text or email will provide them with access.
It is also important to respond to the reviews to help build loyalty with customers. A Harvard Business School study indicated that businesses that respond to reviews receive a higher overall star rating. A simple message that says, “Glad to hear you are enjoying the product” encourages customers to purchase again. Responding to reviews shows customers that you take their opinions seriously. For SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes, reviews can rank your business higher on search engines so include them on your website as well.
Every small business benefits from using authentic reviews in marketing materials and generating positive recommendations. Testimonials on a website lets any visitors know what people think of your business. This helps to differentiate your business from the competition by showcasing your best customers.
Use Local Profiles and Listings to Get Business
More customers are doing their shopping online, which means that businesses need an online presence that is helpful and functional to customers. A website is critical so customers can learn about your business.
An uptick in “Near Me” searches every year means that customers are using the internet more often to find local businesses. With the increasing use of voice search, local profiles and listings will be even more important as many voice searches are location-based. If a customer searches for your business, they can find information that you have added such as the location and hours of operation but also might get information that you have not added such as customer photos. The combination of information from your business and other sources allow customers to make informed decisions about your company.
If your business does not have a listing on Google, now is the time to create one. This will show up every time a customer searches for your business, and should include all relevant information. Customers are 50% more likely to buy from a business with a complete Google profile. Google displays local listings, including businesses on Google Search and Google Maps, as well as third-party websites. Google also uses local listing information to generate leads for enterprise customers. Website searchers may also get personalized recommendations based on the information you provide and their preferences.
Email is still relevant, and text is upcoming.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2B marketers say that email newsletters are the most used form of content marketing. Email is not only a way to keep in touch with customers, but also a way to generate revenue. For every $1 spent on email marketing, $42 in revenue is generated.
Technology makes it easy to be able to handle regular emails to your customers. A service like AWeber sends out regular communication from a single platform. This automation builds your audience and keeps in contact with customers.
People’s preferences on how they want to be communicated to is evolving as texting is another way to grab a customer’s attention and allows for personal messaging, so it is important to gather customers’ phone numbers as well. The open rate for text messages can be as high as 98%. Text messaging can be used to advertise a sale, get a review, or promote a new product. A simple CTA such as “Leave us a review on Google!” will encourage customers to act. Texting is also a great way for businesses to answer customers’ questions quickly and provide better customer service.
Social Media Grows Businesses
Social media platforms have become a lucrative outlet for growth. Many businesses have a Facebook profile page, but it is not enough to create one and neglect it. Customers expect to see businesses active on social media platforms. The website is not the only place to share reviews. Posting positive reviews on Facebook provides helpful and relevant information to potential customers and can help grow the business.
Social media is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach customers and make long-lasting connections with customers. Social media is a manner to show off your brand’s goals and personality. A well-thought-out message can appeal to a large customer base. It can also be a way to connect with local customers. And a curated marketing strategy increases visibility, generates leads, and promotes your business.
There are many ways for small businesses to succeed in 2022. Centinal can help use your best customer to generate new ones.