3 steps small businesses can take to survive in an omnichannel environment

A recent study by GFK found that 75% of Belgians still hold physical stores in high regard, and that only 25% of Belgians (compared to a European average of 40%) is convinced that they can satisfy all shopping needs online.

Despite these numbers, Belgium is set for another record year when it comes to online sales – the numbers are not in yet, but estimates predict the magical €10 billion mark has been surpassed last year. In the Belgian context, it then seems that an omni-channel approach, providing a consistent customer experience across all available offline and online channels at every customer touchpoint of the buying journey, seems an ideal fit.

Small businesses seem to have a hard time adapting to this new environment. They fear that these types of solutions are only reserved for the Delhaizes and IKEAs of this world with enough scale to keep up with the latest and greatest in retail solutions. However, there are a few easy strategies that they can follow to keep up with a rapidly changing environment.

Opening up payment acceptance via multiple channels is not as hard as it looks

A McKinsey and Harvard Business research conducted with over 46,000 consumers found that only 7% of the participants were shopping online only, 20% were store-only shoppers and 73% used multiple channels. On top of that, the more channels customers used, the more they tend to spend. To be there where your customers are: that is what it’s all about.

In the Netherlands, for example, nobody looks up anymore if you ask to pay by card at the local bar – compare that to the dead-eyed look you sometimes receive in Belgian bars (their loss), and you’ll realize there’s still a lot of room for improvement. The effort to expand your payment options is minimal – you can start with simple solutions like secure PayLinks and PayButtons on your website or even Facebook page – the potential return on investment, on the other hand is more than worth it.

Create a consistent, seamless experience across all your channels

To create a consistent customer experience at all touchpoints, small businesses should manage various sale channels collectively. All channels (in-store, online, mobile, social) play a key role in attracting customers and turning them into loyal fans of your brand.

As said above, identify the channels where your buyers are and meet them there. Create profiles on those social media networks your customers are most likely to frequent. Post appealing, on-brand content, engage with them and launch special promotions and personalized offers. Ensuring seamless switches between sales channels might sound fancy, but sometimes just sending an email to customers with coupons for your physical store or using in-store communication tactics to guide them to special offers on your blog or Facebook page might already do the trick.

Be creative and explore new revenue opportunities

This may sound like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Thinking outside the box and leaving the trodden path takes some effort – but it’s an effort that you’ll see paid back in no time. Take loyalty programs, for example personalized GiftCards with your business logo enable your products and services to reach even more customers, boosting your sales as you’re tapping tap into your customers’ network of contacts as well.

Or why not team up with other local businesses, creating a local network with one loyalty card that is valid at all participating businesses? You’ll create a tight-knit network of those local customers that small businesses thrive on. Across Belgium already, we’re seeing local stores in specific neighbourhoods team up, thus amplifying their businesses, and promoting these kinds of activities successfully across all their channels.

No matter how customers buy – from your brick-and-mortar store, on your website or over the phone – they should have a smooth, integrated payment experience. If they come across any obstacles disrupting the shopping journey or don’t find your brand on their preferred channel, they are likely to go to a competitor.

In today’s digital world, customers want to be able to buy when, where and how they want. They switch fluidly between different channels as if they are one and the same and expect the same experience everywhere. That might seem like a lot to take in at first – but I hope to have shown you that small steps in the right direction can already get you up to speed, allowing you to keep up in an ever changing omnichannel world.

Featured on: Gondola.be