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How Small Businesses Can Survive and Thrive in an Omnichannel Environment

Business.com / Finances / Last Modified: February 26, 2018
Photo credit: Poptika/Shutterstock

Here are three actionable steps that small business owners can take toward expanding their payment channels and reaching customers across multiple channels in a cohesive way.

In just a few years, "omnichannel" has become retail's favorite buzzword, captivating the interest of both businesses and marketers.

But what does it mean? And why is it so important to retailers?

Omnichannel is a cross-channel business approach that companies apply to offer a consistent and unified customer experience. It derives from the Latin word "omnis," which means all or universal.

No matter how customers buy your products, whether it's from your brick-and-mortar store, your website, or over the phone, they should have a smooth, integrated payment experience. If they come across any obstacles that disrupt the shopping journey or don't find your brand on their preferred channel, they are likely to go to a competitor.

Now that you know how important omnichannel is, let's outline some actionable steps you can take to incorporate the omnichannel approach into your business strategy.

Accept payments through multiple channels

Many small businesses think they do not need an omnichannel strategy, because they accept payments one way (either all online or in person). However, an omnichannel approach can open doors to new revenue opportunities and tap into new clients' niches. For example, a local bed-and-breakfast can swipe cards at their reception desk, but they can also take payments over the phone or via payment buttons on their website.

In today's digital world, customers want to be able to buy when, where and how they want. They switch fluidly between different channels as if they are one and the same and expect the same experience.

Omnichannel shoppers could spend between 50 and 300 percent more according to the International Council of Shopping Centres.  

Let's consider a simple example of how to expand your payment channels. Imagine you're a boutique chocolate and pastry shop that takes cash and card payments in-store. Without an online presence, you are losing out on business. The percentage of people shopping online is growing day by day, and your business must keep up with this trend to stay relevant. But how to do that and avoid excessive costs at the same time?

Find a payments provider that lets you accept online payments in an affordable, easy and secure way. You can start with simple solutions like pay links and buttons on your website or even on your Facebook page. Once clicked on, consumers are directed to a secure gateway page where the transaction is done without storing customer data on your website.

Finally, if setting up an online store is a feasible option for you, go for a checkout solution and integrate with the most popular shopping carts like Woo Commerce, Magento, OpenCart, etc. You can set up an online store with any of these providers and then integrate a ready-made payment gateway with your payment provider of choice at no extra cost. 

Create a consistent and cohesive experience across all channels

Look at and manage the various sale channels collectively. All channels (in-store, online, mobile, social) play a key role in attracting customers and turning them into loyal fans of your brand.

Identify the channels where your ideal customers are and meet them there. Create profiles on the social media networks where your customers are most likely to spend time on. Create and share useful content, engage with them and launch special promotions and personalized offers. Or why not opt for email marketing by creating targeted email campaigns and offers?

Let customers easily switch between different channels – send them an email with coupons they can use in your physical store or place in-store communication for them to follow your Facebook page or blog for special offers. Google research shows that 98 percent of Americans switch between devices in the same day.

Whichever way consumers buy from your business, you won't miss a payment. 

Be open to explore new revenue opportunities

This may sound like a challenge, but it's not when you already have a client base in place. Why not offer your existing customers more convenience through additional services like topping up their mobile phone or TV subscription at your store? It is a commonly offered service in many countries and is also presented by some payment providers. This will give your customers one more reason to come to your store.

Find a gift card supplier and create a loyalty program to enable your products and services to reach even more customers. Personalized gift cards with your business logo can boost your sales by 10 percent as your tap into your customers' circles. And grow awareness for your brand without paying extra for advertising. 

The bottom line

Omnichannel isn't just a buzzword created for big businesses. It's an effective approach that any brand or business type can adopt to the extent of their financial and operational capabilities. Finding an efficient payment provider is key when it comes to planning your payments, and there are two approaches to take: You can work with several processors simultaneously or partner with an all-in-one payment processing solution.

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