Opinion

Five hacks for small businesses to emerge resilient from the pandemic

Jim Magats | Updated on July 20, 2021

While many digital small businesses saw dramatic growth, physical-first retailers saw their sales decline as consumers are moving to digital these days

A lot of things have changed for small businesses over the past year, as the pandemic shifted the retail and commerce landscape. Many digital small businesses saw dramatic growth during the pandemic as consumers moved to digital channels. On the other hand, many physical-first small businesses saw their sales decline, some so drastically that they were forced to wind up. As we emerge from the pandemic, small businesses need to quickly adapt to new consumer behaviours and expectations. Here are five things small businesses can do to prepare themselves for success as the world rapidly moves to digital.

Create a smooth (front and back end) omnichannel experience

According to an industry report by IBEF, ecommerce has transformed the way business is done in India. The market is expected to grow $ 200 billion by 2026 from $ 38.5 billion as of 2017. Much of the growth for the industry is expected to be triggered by an increase in internet and smartphone penetration. Moreover, under the ‘Digital India’ programme, the number of internet connections in India has significantly increased to 776.45 million, as of September 2020. Despite this, many small businesses still lack an online presence. Even among those businesses that do have an online presence, many lack seamless, omnichannel experiences that connect their various selling channels. By enabling seamless omnichannel experiences, small businesses can meet the changing consumer expectations better. This does not indicate the need for different systems for online, mobile and in-store commerce, as it can come with a lot of issues ranging from inventory, order management or a disconnected payment and checkout experience. An omnichannel experience means having a connected experience, both on the front and back end.

For example, consumers want to be able to add an item to their online shopping cart and then have it waiting to be tried on when they arrive at the physical store. Or conversely, they want to be able to try something on in the physical store and, if the right size or color is not available, have it waiting in their online shopping cart for purchase..

To facilitate this, small businesses should make sure their backend integrates things like reporting, payments, inventory and order management, and seamless integration with third-party partners.

Foolproof your business and customers’ information with robust fraud protection measures

As businesses and customers have moved online, the scope for fraud and scams are also increasing. Cards and digital wallets are replacing cash as the dominant ecommerce payment methods. This has given rise to multiple types of fraud, from online shopping fraud to identity theft to tax scams and the cases have started going up as the number of internet users are increasing.

According to a recent report from the Ponemon Institute and PayPal, organizations recognize the need for digital transformation to stay competitive in this digital era, but 81 per cent say it has caused them to be more vulnerable to online fraud.

Therefore, at a fundamental level, SMBs should monitor their transactions and customer accounts to identify any red flags. If the company comes across any inconsistent shipping or billing information that doesn’t match with their records, it is indicating some unusual activity in their account that should be looked into.

Businesses can also help prevent fraud by requiring their customers to create a strong and secure password with a minimum number of characters, including a special character.

Provide customers with alternate and flexible payment options

It is very important to always keep the customer first. SMBs should enable choice and flexible payment options for their consumers to make their purchases in the manner they prefer. Businesses should allow their customers to pay with alternative funding sources that can help extend consumer spending power.

Collaborate with trusted partners to stay focused on the business

Small businesses must ensure that a lot of things are taken care of. This might include managing their website, marketing to prospects and customers, managing their back office, hiring, managing their staff, customer service and so on. This is when the role of trusted partners come in. Partners can facilitate a lot of backend work like setting up the company’s ecommerce site, managing accounting, marketing, and more, which can further enable small business owners to focus on what they do best.

Make data-driven decisions

Finally, it is very important to leverage your data efficiently to make informed decisions. Your data can provide you with an understanding of your customers and their preferences, and thereby drive better customer experiences. Data can also be used to target offers, drive pricing strategies and get more customers to make purchases. Further, an efficient use of data can also prevent fraudulent activities and increase trust and security for customers. Ultimately, by using data effectively, you can also drive good marketing campaigns which will thereby help drive sales.

The pandemic may not be here to stay, but many of the new trends that have emerged are. Through these five tips above, you can help your business come out of the pandemic from a position of strength.

The writer is SVP, Omni Payments, PayPal.

Published on July 20, 2021

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