Top 5 SME Retail Trends to Watch for in 2018

SMEs are always riding that fine line between profitability and failure. The wolf’s always at the door, and the pipers are impatiently waiting to get paid at the end of each month.

Running a retail SME is also one of the most rewarding ways to make a living, as you and your team can bring a level of service to your customers no big corporation ever could. And as you already knew, customer experience from the entrance to the POS is THE game in small retailers. You can’t have a stellar products but lousy experience; you have to master both!

Meanwhile, the world of retailing keeps on turning; as you might have guessed, technology plays a crucial part in it – for better or worse. Small retailers need to evolve – or die.

Making a payment using smart watch

Fortunately, our friends at Pivotal Payments, a Payment Processing company that helps numerous retail SMEs in setting up their payment terminals, merchant accounts, and other supporting set-ups, share with you the key trends that would help small retailers in surviving the competition and retail sector shake-up.

That said, here are five retail SME trends you need to stay ahead of throughout 2018:

1. Survival of the fittest: Brick-and-mortar stores will continue to close at an alarming rate

It’s an unpleasant reality, but consumers have never had so many opportunities to shop online, and have their purchases conveniently delivered to their home or work. If this makes you feel hopeless, you might just be the next in line to shut down.

If you’re inspired to succeed, to find a way to draw those smartphone-toting customers back into your store, perfect! Ninety-percent of retail is still done the old-fashioned way. It’s not that brick-and-mortar is dead; brick-and-mortar needs to evolve to click-and-mortar. You need to be the best at both online and off line world and you need to offer a variety of quick, convenient, and modern ways for customers to pay wherever they are, be it in store, online or on the go.

The problem is that most business owners haven’t adapted their offering — Ie., the 90s are over!

2. SMEs will downscale the size of their physical storefront and offer more online options

Selling offline isn’t going to generate enough profits to keep the doors open. And, physical square-footage isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination. This is why smart SMEs will downsize their physical storefront, get more storage space, and adopt the hybrid online-offline business model, or even take their entire business online.

Consider how many larger popular retailers like Walmart, Staples and Best Buy offer exclusive products that can only be bought online and not in stores (Ie., only the best-sellers are sold in their physical stores). It takes nothing to set up an Ebay store or Shopify store, and offer your products on Amazon for sale. Amazon also offers Fulfillment by Amazon, meaning you ship your products to their warehouse, and they handle the rest — including returns!

In the grander scheme of things, having two or three much smaller physical storefronts, in key locations, will offer more market penetration than one larger location.

Online shopping

3. “Digital first” approach to marketing is essential to retail success

Considering that most consumers now make the majority of their buying decisions online, it should come as no surprise that all SMEs, online or off, need to reach those prospects where they hang out. Brands need to be creative in order to help solidify themselves as a top choice for consumers, providing content, advice, and making themselves prominent on relevant social media channels where their customers hang out.

Check out what small business owner, David Hoeksema has been doing on YouTube to attract potential customers to his Florida-based mobile tint and audio install business.

His videos get millions of views, putting his masterful mobile tint install skills in the forefront of each video. He also makes it obvious, simply by showcasing his craft, that an unskilled person wouldn’t be able to accomplish this feat on their own and thus need his services.

4. Scarcity will take over what’s considered “cool” or “practical”

SMEs can no longer survive off of selling the same old stuff that all the big retailers are. Amazon has all the junk a consumer needs to fill their drawers and cupboards. Walk into a Walmart and you can buy any beauty care, grocery, clothing, or electronics items you’ll ever need. The gaggle of dollar-store-type chains out there pretty much cover everything else and have a huge corner of the market due to their low prices.

If there’s no feeling of exclusivity surrounding your products, you have to charge the same old price as everyone else. Most SME brick-and-mortars around the world are surrounded by big retail brands selling the same things for less, because they have more buying power. Online SME brands don’t have near the advertising power to compete with the big boys.

Oakley sunglasses grew from a small shop to massive global empire by offering exclusive, branded products. Lululemon is another success story. They don’t sell anything that wasn’t made by their company. Their “Why We Made This” description of each product they sell makes this very clear, thus making their products very scarce in the market.

Shop owner providing customer service

5. Those who don’t offer exceptional service will die the quick death in 2018

Service levels are the one true constant that needs to improve indefinitely in order for a retail SME to keep their doors open, literally or figuratively. Exceptional service involves so many factors including good communication, attention to detail, good manners, pricing and brand transparency, keeping your word, and going above and beyond.

As mentioned above, customer experience is paramount, and more often than not, customers’ experience at the till matters more than ever – you need to position your best staff at point-of-sale spots.

Your online store is just in the same situation: Make a customer wait to take their order for 30 seconds or more without any acknowledgment and their not going to be inclined to return. Same with cutting corners with poor quality products. A sloppy checkout process, or unfair shipping or processing fees and your ecommerce store is doomed to failure.

With so many trusted review platforms like Google Reviews, Yelp, and various industry-specific offerings, no SME can afford to leave a customer feeling like they should have gotten more out of you than they did.

Share your own SME retail trends to keep an eye on this year.

Leave a comment and let us know what you feel are the biggest trends to look out for — including tips and tricks SME retail businesses can use to stay ahead of the curve in the coming year.