Originally published by Michael DeSimone on Total Retail on August 23, 2017.

As the world grows more digital, the days of e-commerce capabilities being reserved only for big-name retailers are over. Today’s evolving point-of-sale (POS) technologies are equipping small, independent retailers with the tools necessary to create and manage their own online presence. The potential this is uncovering for SMBs is significant.

With POS providers playing matchmaker, there are a number of reasons e-commerce and SMBs are a perfect pair. These include the unique, niche nature of SMB offerings — a valuable trait at a time when consumers are in constant pursuit of one-of-a-kind authenticity in their products and services.

Taking the Small Business Dynamic Online

For consumers, it keeps getting easier and easier for them to go online and buy the things they’re looking for from large marketplaces such as Amazon.com. This trend will continue to build on its momentum, eventually reaching a point where consumers will need a compelling reason to take their business anywhere else. Many independent retailers have inherently offered consumers just that — unique, singular products that can’t quite be found elsewhere.

SMBs have already established differentiation from major retailers on the physical level; now they must simply accomplish the same digitally.

As purchase decisions increasingly shift online, it’s in the best interests of merchants to bring their unique SMB dynamic into the e-commerce playing field — and open themselves up to a vastly expanded universe of potential customers who otherwise could never have stumbled into their physical store.

The Smaller the Better

Since the beginning of 2017, we’ve all seen a string of big-box store closures, suffering revenues and other pain among major retailers. While there are a number of reasons behind the big brand pitfalls, an observed critical factor has been their inability to effectively implement omnichannel operations.

For SMBs, however, it’s much more manageable. On average, their inventory is of considerably lesser size, their operations aren’t as complex and, most importantly, there are fewer people involved in operating the business. POS solutions available today allow merchants to seamlessly build an e-commerce presence, equipping them with secure and robust omnichannel capabilities that help their brand easily transcend its physical storefronts. Unlike e-commerce giants, processing online orders is as simple as sending out an ordinary package as small retailers have no need for massive warehouses and fulfillment centers.

A Closer Connection

SMBs are often family owned, community oriented and well acquainted with customers. For major retailers, this is an area where they cannot compete. The local brand equity that SMBs establish with the communities they serve can make for significant online potential. The evidence for SMBs being able to build more genuine, meaningful online relationships with customers is already established, albeit in slightly different form. A 2014 study found that eight out of 10 SMBs use social media for their business to drive growth, with three in five saying they gained new customers via social media. In general, SMBs have been more likely than their bigger counterparts to benefit from word-of-mouth and establish loyal social media followings.

Overall, buying decisions and sales are moving further away from the conventional point of sale and closer to the consumer every day, regardless of whether the handoff of products begins or ends in-store. There’s a ripe opportunity for scrappy, hard-working independent retailers to use POS technology to get onboard the online marketplace train, go the distance that their larger competitors cannot, and carve out a permanent place in the digital, e-commerce-driven future. It’s simply meant to be.


Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue

Alissa McCue has over 10 years of marketing and public relations experience working for top brands in retail and technology. As Senior Manager of Public Relations at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Alissa is focused on highlighting ShopKeep's major achievements and thought leadership in the POS and technology space for independent businesses.