By Angela Fernandez, Vice President, Community Engagement, GS1 US
Even though entrepreneurs wear many hats and juggle a number of activities, finding time to focus on the big-picture strategy for your company is one of the most important ways a small business can grow in today’s digitally-focused and competitive retail world.
Even if your product is only available in select stores, your online footprint is increasingly critical to reaching consumers who want to be able to research your product before buying it. In fact, a recent study from Salesforce and Publicis Sapient revealed that 87% of consumers begin their product searches online.
Also, online marketplaces with built-in fulfillment platforms and automated inventory management services have made it easier for sole proprietors to reach wider audiences. But to play ball
with these retail powerhouses, their requirements for product identification numbers and detailed product listings must be taken seriously.
Follow these three steps to determine if you have what it takes to grow.
Think like a business
There’s a significant difference between launching a product and growing a company. According a study conducted by GS1 US, in collaboration with Longitude, 51% of those who start a small brand do so to pursue their passion, ambition, or skill.
Starting with passion is just that–a good start. Focusing on customers and their needs is an important foundation for growth, which needs to be gradually layered with a real sales channel strategy. For example, your unique line of tote bags is selling well at the local gift shop. Research suggests that expanding from local stores into e-commerce with a partner like Amazon, ebay or Etsy can lead to steady revenue growth.
In the GS1 US study, the small businesses classified as “leaders” (those who grew their sales more than 25% in the past year) use as many as three sales channels. This is compared with “laggards,” (those whose sales declined in the past year), who only typically only sold through one channel.
Multichannel shoppers usually prove to be worth the investment, too. Typically, those who shop in store and online spend $93 more on average than those who only use one channel, according to the National Retail Federation.
Focus on the information
Congratulations! Your product has been accepted by a major retailer. Now is the time to prove your product deserves to be featured alongside the world’s largest brands. Catch the attention of discerning consumers and build brand loyalty from the outset by providing rich product content.
This means going beyond the basic specs of the product and painting a picture for the customer in words, images and video. A recent survey by Salsify found that digital shoppers expect an average of about six images and three videos when looking at a product on Amazon or another retailer.
Additionally, hedge your bets by making sure your target audience finds the product in the first place. Not only is the use of properly constructed UPC barcodes a key requirement for working with all the largest retailers, it effectively links your brand to your physical product and its representation online. In fact, the GS1 US study found that 57% of growth leaders say UPCs make their products more discoverable online.
To manage multiple channels effectively, it often takes a village. Supplement limited expertise, time, and resources with that of external partners who can help you keep up with retailer demands and grow the business. Many small businesses may be unaware of the many services available to support up-and-coming small brands. There are solution providers who specialize in tasks like barcode printing and labelling, for example, and can demystify these unfamiliar processes. With the ever-changing nature of e-commerce, there is a wide array of online content providers who can assist with website optimization and product listings, too.
So, where will your company be in five years? Will you be a leader or a laggard? Prepare for growth and success now by adopting a more strategic mindset to manage your growing business.