It’s a fact that small businesses can’t compete with big businesses (such as Coles, KMART or Harvey Norman) on equal terms. SMEs simply do not have the resources or means to compete head-to-head. However, they can leverage small business advantages that big business may not be able to provide or even think of providing.
There is a great deal of reluctance from large business in Australia to engage with customers online even though customers absolutely want this. Big business have continued to drag their feet with the expectation that their progress online will remain at a slow pace. This provides a significant opportunity for SMEs to take up the gap and with its small business advantages combine to provide a real differentiator online.
So what are these advantages that can be applied online?
1. Increased customer service and online responsiveness by providing relevant content and quick response to enquiries. Providing a great user experience online is critical to gaining user attention and trust to do business online. We have seen with online experiences like www.vistaprint.com.au that targeting selling, cross selling and up selling can be achieved without being pushy.
2. Building online brand and exposure is much cheaper than traditional marketing options. Digital marketing campaigns can provide extensive reach with one such example where a $35K digital marketing campaign generated $1 million worth of media coverage across TV, radio and newspaper.
3. Using existing online models and sites to channel online traffic to your brand and website. The use of YouTube is a great way to gain a high level of traffic while using their infrastructure at the same time. ‘Will it blend’ is a fantastic example of the promotion of a product at a very low cost. ‘Will it blend’ sells industrial strength blenders and tests it capabilities blending a whole range of things (boots, golf balls, mobile phones). It currently has 42 videos with some of the videos attracting over three million views each
4. Accessing the wealth of conversations online through social media networks can provide SMEs with the ability to research new products or services, seek feedback for existing products and services and see commentary about their competitors at minimal cost. One example is where negative feedback online about the mobile services of a large telco business was communicated. That telco did nothing, however a smaller provider entered the conversation and provided alternatives.
5. Using your website as a relationship and customer service resource where content and products can be delivered to customers in real time. This is where the customer navigates or accesses information content/products relevant to the user’s behavior. The Amazon model is a great example of this in that when you purchase an item the site will then offer up similar products. A website never sleeps, is never sick or goes on holidays.
6. Shifting older stock online or offering discounts for bulk orders online (eg. free postage). eBay is a great online model for SMEs to buy and sell products online using the brand and customer base of eBay with world-wide reach.
The key for SMEs is that the digital environment provides so many options and avenues to take advantage of in a way that big business just can’t or doesn’t see value in. Whether this opportunity lasts for long is unknown, but what is known is that those businesses that change to meet the ongoing needs of customers will succeed.