All small, local businesses face a large number of different obstacles, and one of the biggest—and most crucial to long-term success—is struggling with growth. It can feel almost impossible for small antique bookstores trying to compete with the supermarket-sized Barnes&Noble across the street, or the local coffee shop trying to stand up against Starbucks.
There are a number of specific, very impactful challenges that could keep your business stagnant. In this post, we’ll take a look at the biggest growth challenges small businesses face and the best solutions to overcome them.
1. Overwhelming Competition from Online Merchants
It’s not just the mega corporations that local businesses are facing off against—it’s the endless competition from ecommerce merchants, too. A boutique doesn’t just have to compete with all the big names; they also have Etsy, other boutiques online, and even dropshipping businesses with sellers all over the world.
Online shopping is immensely convenient for customers, so it only makes sense that it’s becoming an increasingly preferred method of shopping. This threat is significant enough that it’s even affecting large, nationally-known brands; major retailers in the U.S. are expected to close around 3,000 stores in 2017 because they just can’t hold up against online shopping.
Online shopping can also be impulsive. People are bored, browsing on Pinterest, and five minutes later they have two new pairs of shoes coming their way. This is difficult to compete with in-person, no matter how great your salespeople are.
MergeIn was created with the intention of solving this problem for local businesses, allowing these businesses to offer the convenience of online shopping while still maintaining that personal connection that you’d offer customers in-store—no chatbots or expensive site maintenance needed.
2. The Difficulty of Maintaining Online Inventories
It’s relatively easy for large corporations with cookie-cutter products to maintain inventories, but this is much more difficult for local businesses who have limited time, funds, and store inventory.
Maintaining online inventories takes up a lot of time and money. Every time you want to upload a new product online, you need to create a new page, categorize the product, and upload an image, description, and price point at a minimum.
This is exhausting enough to think about doing just once a year, but if you consider that many local businesses may have a constantly rotating stock with just a few of each product coming through their doors ever, it makes you want to melt down and cry. Because of this, many small businesses completely abandon their online inventories, and their sales suffer as a result.
When you’re using MergeIn, you’ll be selling through video and SMS messaging, allowing an actual salesperson to show even unique, one-of-a-kind products to customers live. You’ll never have to worry about maintaining an exhausting online inventory again.
3. Struggle to Increase Customer Acquisition & Brand Awareness
This is easily one of the largest hurdles local businesses have to jump. Household names have reputations for products and customer service that are second to none. Or, at the very least, most people have heard of them. If you don’t have this, how do you even start to build a name?
Finding the right channels to build brand awareness and drive lead and customer acquisition is key. You want your customers to be able to find you, after all.
MergeIn can help new customers find you, as your business will be in the data base. When they’re searching for “vegan sneakers,” your fair-trade shoe store company can pop up. They’ll be introduced to you on a platform that they trust. This increases the chance that they’ll convert during the sales exchange.
In addition to using MergeIn, you can also run Facebook Ad campaigns to introduce customers to your brand and drive sales. Facebook Ads allow you to show your product to your ideal target audience, creating demand for your product in those who didn’t know it existed instead of trying to capture them as they’re searching for it. Between Facebook Ads and MergeIn, you’ll have both demand generation and demand harvesting covered.
4. Growth Tools that Are Too Expensive
It’s not uncommon for local businesses to grow to the point where they’ll stagnate, because they start needing access to professional tools to move to the next level. The catch: many of those growth tools are too expensive for small businesses to afford.
Online chatbots designed to help sell online can be expensive if you want them to be fully developed, and automated (and even non-automated) customer management solutions can get pricey fast with price tags hovering around a minimum of several hundred a month. Trying to find new ways and avenues to sell without losing any profit in the expense of the tools typically stumps businesses, keeping them exactly where they are.
It was important to us that MergeIn would be affordable and accessible for all businesses. Now, you can offer customer service that’s far superior to even the best trained chatbot; you’ll be able to connect personally with each client, regardless of whether or not you’re actually face-to-face.
5. Inability to Connect with Customers Outside the Immediate Geographical Region
Many successful local businesses have devoted followings in their immediate area—think of that one restaurant you’ll find everyone at for breakfast Sunday morning, or the local jeweler who can create gorgeous custom pieces that Jared’s could never even dream of. But what about customers outside of that small town? Most of these businesses lack the ability to connect with customers outside their immediate geographical location, keeping them from growing.
Using tools like MergeIn can introduce customers to your brand, no matter where they are in the world, and give them a way to purchase directly from you. Even more importantly, you’ll be able to offer that personal attention and brand personality that’s allows your business to thrive in your community to every customer; this is something that often lacks in text or online interactions, no matter how great the site is.
The ability to boost brand awareness, improve customer acquisition, and drive more sales is essential for the success and growth of your business. While growth can be more difficult for local businesses, it’s a lot easier if you have the right tool. The key to overcoming these challenges of growing a business is to think outside the box. With MergeIn, you won’t be constrained to the customers walking by your shop that day; you can connect with customers from all over the world, without significant cost or time sacrifices.
Are you ready to speed up your business’s growth? Sign up for exclusive access to MergeIn today!