A sales haul of $5.7 billion isn’t a big deal for big boxes.
Yet when I mention that this was done in one day last year – specifically, a day sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and by retailers that weren’t big brands – it might give one pause to consider “How do I get customers to notice and purchase my products?”
Fundamentally, the idea of small business has changed. The advent of e-commerce has necessitated that most, if not all, small businesses that sell CE provide an online storefront in order to provide a complimentary channel for customer purchases. For those small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that haven’t taken their online sales too seriously, now’s the time.
Small Business Saturday is an unofficial shopping holiday that American Express created back in 2010, empowering thousands of independent and small-to-mid-sized retailers to promote themselves to consumers during what’s considered the busiest shopping period in the U.S., when major retailers like Best Buy and Amazon.com hold sway over consumer spending.
Below are some tips and perspectives around challenger brand e-commerce that I’ve gained over my years at Amazon and currently at DHgate, a Chinese cross-border e-commerce platform that sells a large swath of consumer electronics directly from manufacturers, which are easily adapted for SMBs.
Selling on marketplaces gets you traffic
Let’s say you’re a one-location retailer and you do your own promotional and advertising programs. That costs a lot of money and time, and if you don’t have the educational prowess for marketing and advertising, it becomes dollars swirling down the drain. Specialty electronics retailers can relate. How can you compete when you’re there to sell product?
Marketplaces, especially online ones, democratize foot traffic and click-throughs, allowing a more equal footing with bigger, more established brands. If you don’t have a strong online presence, it might be worth the investment to cross-sell on a marketplace. Every major brand does it now, and it’s an accepted form of “co-opetition.”
Expose your customers to new brands at lower entry point prices
What’s the real reason retailers participate in massive promotions like Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It’s usually one of two – to push massive amounts of products off the shelf (and get rid of stock) or to introduce new products that wouldn’t normally have the chance to get so many eyes on them.
Single’s Day, a one-day Chinese shopping holiday where e-commerce behemoth Alibiba alone did $9.3 billion in sales, isn’t just a shopping day. It’s a concerted effort by Chinese manufacturers and retailers alike to expose consumers to products they haven’t seen before, at prices they’d typically pay for entry products.
Create a niche and source it
I’ve found it incredibly beneficial to find a product category that you have an advantage in and then be the best place to shop for that category. That would include selection, pricing, community, and buyer experience. Try to find sources for uncommon SKUs in your niche. This is where international distribution sites can be handy as they do not carry the same products as your local domestic distributor, nor your competition.
Your challenge isn’t with the big boxes, it’s with your discounts
Seven out of ten U.S. consumers now know to shop across a variety of retailers after Black Friday for assorted products and promotions. Therefore, do you really need to cut your profit margins as drastically as 50- to 75 percent?
If you’re Walmart or Newegg and can do large-scale volume, then sure. If not, a smaller discount could also be beneficial, something like a discount code or coupon that prospective customers can use on their next visit (versus there in store). The idea is not to be a once-a-year shop but become a trusted source of product any time a customer is in need.
Also, don’t be afraid to take a stand on why products are good or bad within a particular category. There is no credibility if everything is being touted as awesome, so find products that are not and say why.
Creating a passionate community about your product type is also very powerful. The Internet allows people to join together around common interests irrespective of geography, so be the go-to place for your particular niche.
Own that customer
Finally, the customer is almost always right. Some key metrics I try to live by: 97 percent of customers are honest, so build your policies around the honest customer rather than the dishonest one.
Also, a customer with one good experience will tell four friends, but the one customer with a bad experience will tell twenty. Now multiply that by the millions with Facebook, Twitter and so forth. It is almost never worth the negative postings to fight with a customer – always go above and beyond to satisfy every one of them, even if you don’t always agree with where they are coming from.
Now get out there and sell!
Noah Herschman is COO of DHgate.com and a 30-year retail veteran, having also served at Tweeter, Amazon.com, Staples China, eBay and Groupon Goods Asia.