Growing a business is about continually achieving a level of sustainability. If a business does not reach sustainability, it will fail. This is a common concern and ongoing struggle for many business owners who are witnessing the world change around them.
Keeping on top of the most important trends in consumer behaviour will ensure that your business is always prioritising the sustainability of its practices. Maintaining outdated practices simply because that’s the way you’ve always done it serves no one.
Consumer behaviour and economic trends come and go but in 2021 there were three specific trends that all small businesses should be taking note of. The COVID pandemic has rattled the business world but has also been a catalyst for business growth, driven by the collective consumers’ need to go about their lives in a way that minimises risk for themselves, their families and communities.
Of the many trends that COVID has kickstarted, there are three key developments that are relevant to small businesses as they progress into 2022: improvements to online shopping and payment processing, increased use of video at all stages of the customer journey and improvements in the customer experience.
Australia’s desire for online shopping has kicked into overdrive since the start of the pandemic. Australia Post reported that as of August 2021, online purchases had grown 23.4% over the previous 12 months. The need and desire to have fast and easy online shopping, payment and delivery became a priority for many who were unable or unwilling to leave home to shop for essentials.
Buying groceries and clothing online has become the norm for many who had never done it before. A good portion of the growth in online purchases can be attributed to the Silver Tech generation, aged 50 to 75 years old, who previously had been reluctant to purchase online. However, during COVID they found it to be the answer to their lockdown problems as it provided them with physical safety whilst they acquired essential items using contactless digital payments both online and offline. PayPal reported a 65% increase in Silver Tech sign-ups during COVID restrictions in Australia compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The lesson for small businesses is to understand that the time to start selling online is yesterday. In a mid/post-pandemic market, everyone is an online shopper. In 2022, a priority for business owners should be to make their e-commerce process as seamless as possible and consider a broader demographic.
The second lesson to emerge from 2021 and the pandemic more broadly is that video should no longer be considered purely a marketing tool to promote your products. In 2021, we saw that many businesses creatively used video throughout the customer journey from start to finish. Video allows businesses to invite their customers closer to the brand by offering them education and entertainment.
Once a customer has engaged with a business, video can serve as a great tool for providing assistance from afar. Using QR codes to connect customers to a video tutorial or more information about a product is a great way to encourage engagement after your product has been purchased.
Expectations in terms of the professional quality of videos have also been relaxed. With the rise of Tiktok and Instagram Reels, businesses have been given the opportunity to show off their creative and playful sides by recreating trending videos. Imperfections in videos like these humanise businesses and provide a new opportunity to show off their brand’s personality.
Small business owners should be using video to engage with their audiences before, during and after the consumer purchase cycle to encourage more engagement with their customers. They can also worry less about having high production value in video content as audiences are connecting more with the earnest character of your business.
Big and small businesses alike had to become more empathetic with their customers in 2021. Companies that have been successful during the pandemic have not taken a cost savings approach, they have gone for growth! Two of the hallmarks of those growth strategies have been to first, invest in technology to improve their customer’s experience; and secondly, increase customer service staff to provide human connection, with those staff working from home. They have enabled their customers and they have enabled their staff.
Modern consumers need reliability, flexibility and personalisation. Personalised service has become a basic expectation of the consumer experience. In practice, this means remembering personal information, such as location, preferences and shopping history, and providing tailored recommendations based on that information.
Live chat is no longer a “nice-to-have” feature. It’s best practice for any modern business website. For customers, having immediate access to a customer service assistant is a big plus because it allows them to have questions answered on the spot without needing to pick up the phone or wait for a response via email.
Small business owners should be tapping into their existing e-commerce data to provide personalised recommendations for repeat customers and using online reviews to identify opportunities to improve customer service. Empowering staff to provide excellent service and using live chat to be there for customers when they need you is imperative in 2022.
What wisdom from the past two years can we bring with us into 2022? Businesses should be looking for opportunities at the different stages of their customer’s purchase cycle to provide them with a personalised, enjoyable, efficient service on their terms. Look at pre-sale, purchase and after-sale periods to find ways that you can better meet their needs.
Putting the necessary effort into creating a website tailored to your customer’s needs, using live chat, video, access to real humans and easy and safe purchasing online will allow you to grow and sustain your business.
About Fabienne Wintle, co-founder and CIO, Navii:
Fabienne Wintle is the co-founder and CIO of Navii, where she designs systems to sustainably and cost effectively fight the digital education crusade. Fabienne is a globally-recognised digital strategist in tourism and is a leading Australian female entrepreneur, having pioneered industry capability training in digital marketing and technology.
Fabienne has a Masters in IT and International Tourism Management and regularly consults on digital strategy and online learning tools to all levels of government, private enterprise and destination marketing organisations. She is also the vice president of Discovery Coast Tourism and Commerce, a role she’s held since 2015.
Women Love Tech would like to thank Fabienne Wintle for this story.
Navii helps small and medium-sized businesses thrive in the digital economy by providing best practice tools and systems to operate more efficiently, improve viability and grow. Founders Liz Ward and Fabienne (Fabie) Wintle and their team provide thousands of small business leaders in Australia and around the world with unbiased digital advice, courses, one on one consultations and industry training.