Leigh O’Neill, Executive General Manager Business Direct and Small Business
With the New Year just around the corner, small businesses are asking us how they can best succeed in 2017 and what trends we are seeing in our conversations with our customers.
We are experiencing a new generation of consumers evolving here in Australia and overseas. This group, broadly summarised as – although not exclusive to – the rise of Generation Y (also known as the ‘millennials’) and Generation Z has a distinctly different mindset to other generations when it comes to how they make their purchasing decisions and what inspires brand loyalty.
Let’s now look at the five trends that we view as opportunities for our small business customers in 2017.
- The continued rise of e-commerce
So many consumers are making secure purchases on their smartphones and mobile devices are fast becoming the most used platform for reviewing and purchasing goods and services.
NAB’s most recent National Online Sales Retail Index (NORSI) report (period ending October 2016) showed Australians spent an estimated $21.08 billion on online retail, an increase of 13.5% over the last year so it’s definitely the place for small businesses to tap into both in terms of increasing their exposure and providing customers with valuable information.
And the statistics support this – according to a 2016 Sensis eBusiness report, 60% of small businesses with websites believe that having an online presence has improved their overall effectiveness.
Our small business customers are telling us that they are exploring ideas to shift their bricks and mortar businesses to the online realm, through social media or dedicated app creation. As businesses continue to be inspired and learn from each other, we see this space continuing to grow in 2017.
- Keep it personal
Customers want to feel special, they like you to know them. Personalisation is a global trend – in both big and small business – and fast moving to Australia. If you are a services based small business, it may be as simple as remembering what coffee your customer orders on a day-to-day basis. If you are a retailer, it might be embossing a name on a leather luggage tag or a bathrobe.
Personalisation has many different personas and can start off as high as industry or segment knowledge – it’s a way of engaging with your brand, and inspiring loyalty.
Individuals feeling known increases customer and brand loyalty and often leads to expanded relationships and improving the customer’s overall experience.
For example, loyalty programs where customers can set up profiles that save time at check-out. Rewarding customers for shopping regularly and ensuring keep the customer feels like a part of the brand will keep them coming back to you.
- Do it with purpose
Generation Y and Z actively seek businesses with shared ethics and ideals, and as a group are driven by understanding and aligning with purpose, over just financial reward. This group are well-read, conscious of social responsibility and want to support businesses that are genuinely ‘doing the right thing’.
We encourage small business owners to be conscious about their social footprint, consider their options to act responsibly and not be shy about telling this story to their customers.
One way for small businesses to compete against big business is to take an active role in local communities. Giving back to communities and participating in local activities helps a small business make an impact and build loyalty with its customers.
Similarly, small business has the opportunity to increase loyalty and contributions from its employees by having a clear purpose.
- Simple and convenient
The need to simplify has been on trend for a number of years for many established products and services. More than ever now, simplification must be supported by small business in consistent and convenient delivery as well.
Ask yourself, how simple is your customer experience? How seamless is your checkout process?
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and look at the end-to-end journey from their point of view. Is there anything that frustrates you, and can be fixed quite readily?
Simplification doesn’t have to be instant big change – small continuous improvements make an impact.
From a NAB perspective, it’s something we are really investing in – how do we make things easier and simpler for our small business customers?
Products like our QuickBiz loans for example – three easy steps online and access to quick and simple business loans up to $50,000 – because we know access to speedy funding is a real pain point for our customers.
- Be social
Have a clear plan about your digital marketing strategy – a small business cannot afford to ignore social media.
It doesn’t need to be a complicated strategy, but you should seek to have presence on some of the main social media platforms depending on your business proposition, including (amongst others) Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
These platforms have become such a part of our life, it’s hard to imagine a time before them (particularly for Generation Y and Z). As people come up with more innovative types of content and ways to distribute them, social media continues to play an integral role in the business/customer relationship.
Be creative – use clever photography on Instagram that markets your products in the best light, or use online referrals for a platform like Facebook. Twitter is a terrific way to talk to your customers in real time, and solve problems fast.
Having been led by Generation Y and Z, new technology is becoming readily adopted by all groups and with this comes the expectation of first time resolution. Twitter can offer that live chat platform when it’s too cost prohibitive for a small business to build live-chat on their existing website
Building Great Small Businesses
Want to hear more from Leigh O’Neill? In Leigh’s podcast series ‘Building Great Small Businesses’, she chats candidly to small business owners and entrepreneurs about tips and tricks to building sustainable businesses. Click here to listen.