Running a small business is no small feat — but it’s made a little easier when you invest in the technology that equips you to run as seamlessly as possible — even when your resources may be limited. Here’s a look at some helpful technologies that make selling less difficult:
Direct selling through social media. Social media is an inexpensive way to connect with prospects and deepen relationships with existing customers — and small-business owners have taken note. In a recent National Small Business Association Survey, just 27% of small-business owners say they don’t use social media as part of their marketing efforts.
However, thanks to advancements in social media technology, many channels now include additional functionality that supports direct selling. Instead of requiring that consumers visit a website to learn more about your product or make a purchase, there are many affordable apps that transform products you promote on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram into a direct sale. For about $30 a month, for example, the app Shopseen allows you to post an Instagram image of your product with a price. Social media users who want to buy it can click on the image and check out — without being required to create an account. Merchants then receive an email from the app with notification of the sale details.
Point-of-sale software. Point-of-sale systems offer real-time insights about in-stock inventory. Armed with the tool, you can empower staff to save what might otherwise become a lost sale if an item a customer wants is out of stock, by making it easy to recommend a similar in-stock product. The tool can also provide sales staff with insights about what customers buy most often, acting as a consultative selling tool. Real-time data about purchase demand during certain seasons, days of the week, and even times of the day can also help you optimise merchandising and inventory strategies to ensure products you know customers want are in stock and easy to find.
Mobile payments. Though customers who wait in a checkout line may be more likely to add to their purchase, Duke University researchers found that checkout lines can also present the most unintended of consequences: purchase abandonment. Mobile payments are an affordable technology allowing any small business to create the perception of “on-demand” service. Though you can maintain a traditional checkout line for consumers who want it, adding mobile payment technology allows you to give consumers the choice to skip the wait, and check out with a sales person from a mobile device — anywhere in your business or off site.
Tools that indicate real-time shipping and inventory data. Shopping cart abandonment is an inherent component of online sales: The Baymard Institute estimates that the average abandonment rate is about 68%. While not all shoppers are ready to commit to making a purchase, you can use technology to boost the odds that those who have the intent and means to buy become paying customers. For example, Shopify’s data indicates that more than half of customers fail to complete an online purchase abandon because they’re presented with extra costs. There are many low-cost technology options that you can install into your e-commerce platform to display real-time shipping and tax rates, along with point-of-sale systems that equip you to display real-time inventory levels. As customers add and remove items from their shopping cart, this technology keeps them aware of the implications of their choice, in real time.
The ability to check out without creating an account. Forcing customers to create an account in order to purchase is a roadblock to completing sales. According to a 2014 study by Janrain, more than 50% of online users take advantage of social login when they are given the option. Take advantage of affordable plug-ins that are simple to install into your website, and ease the purchase process for customers with full integration into your existing payment gateway system. The technology both expedites the checkout process for customers, while ensuring your payment provider receives the information needed to verify the purchase.
Convincing customers to buy still requires that you invest in the right merchandising, promotion and pricing strategies that will attract them — but there are plenty of affordable tech tools now available to small businesses that ease the burden. When you invest in the same mobile and personalisation technologies that were once available only to larger retailers, you can offer customers a real reason to buy — while making the process easier for all.
By Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.