Last December, the first Small Business Saturday event was held in the UK. The campaign was designed to encourage shoppers to head to British high streets and family-run businesses and to show support by purchasing goods locally.
Small Business Saturday was a great success but there are many more opportunities for small businesses to reach and engage with new and loyal customers using mobile commerce.
Online retailing grew by 16% during 2013, according to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index for December. The index noted that this success has mainly been driven by the growing influence of mobile in retail in 2013, with sales via mobile devices increasing 138% from 2012.
Furthermore, a recent survey by Latitude found that more than 75% of shoppers are interested in having digital content, including product recommendations, demo videos and virtual “try on” simulations delivered to their mobile phones while shopping.
Small businesses can use mobile couponing and offers to bring customer in-store. In fact, the same survey found that 60% of UK smartphone owners are spurred to shop or to make a purchase at least once a week because they’ve received a mobile alert, an email, notification or text message, from a brand or retailer. So the interest and appetite is clear.
The role of mobile in helping small businesses should not be underestimated. Mobile devices have created a huge opportunity for small businesses to engage with their customers through relevant offers, loyalty schemes, store events/updates and ease of payment in-store and online.
More and more small businesses are starting to use loyalty and couponing redemption schemes to attract and retain customers and there is a real opportunity for them to learn more about who their customers are, what their preferences are and eventually what will encourage them to visit the store, all through the use of mobile.
Furthermore, small businesses can use Near Field Communications (NFC) to help them in day-to-day scenarios. For instance, a small business could use NFC tags to grant employees access to buildings just by tapping their phone on the tag. This also enables small business owners to restrict access to high-value stock rooms and back offices to certain individuals. NFC tags are readily available on Amazon.com and are a good way for small businesses to experiment with mobile technology.
Pierre Combelles is mobile commerce business lead at the GSMA.
Twitter has become an increasingly powerful device for small firms, allowing them to engage with clients, reach a wider audience and spread brand awareness
However, although Twitter is useful on its own, there are a number of tools available to help you get the most from the social networking site. They range from tools allowing you to schedule and track tweets and analyse competitor profiles to apps that can help you increase your followers and manage several accounts.
Here are 15 of the best Twitter tools:
Using one or more of these tools could prove extremely beneficial to your small business by giving you a greter insight into followers and competitors and making your Twitter use more efficient and effective.
Matt Russell is writing on behalf of WebHostingBuzz.co.uk.
If you know what you’re doing, social media can be an easy and cost-effective way to improve your customer service, especially for small firms. As your company grows, you need to make sure that you are also developing a loyal customer base. The great thing about social media is that a satisfied customer will recommend your products and services to their family and friends.
If you are unsure how to approach social media, take a look at your competitors to get an idea of how other businesses do it. Then aim to do it better. Here are five tips to help you improve your social media customer service:
The best way to ensure your customer service remains consistent throughout your company and social media platforms is by developing clear company values and social media policies. Ensure your employees are properly trained and that they have the ability to deal with issues as they arise. This way you can guarantee your online presence is consistent.
By maintaining active social media profiles, you will have a platform on which to connect and interact with your customers. Be a person, not a faceless brand. Your customers want to talk to real people — and this is often where small businesses have the edge over bigger competitors. By really engaging with your customers you can get a better understanding of the people who use your products. Use this to provide a personalised service that will exceed your customers' expectations.
If you receive a complaint, make sure that it is dealt with quickly and professionally. When dealing with the customer, be polite. It is important that you genuinely and openly apologise for the error. After this is done, move the conversation to a private message or email. The best way to exceed expectations is to reach a mutual resolution, but provide more than what the customer was expecting. This is your opportunity to turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one.
Complaints are not only a chance to showcase your customer service skills; they are also an opportunity to learn and develop your products and services. You should encourage your customers to give feedback and take on board any suggestions that they have to offer. You can use this feedback to provide your customers with a product or service that is tailored to their requirements.
Give advice and share your expertise and experience. Produce interesting and useful content that you can use for your company’s blog. If you do start a blog, make sure that you update it consistently and frequently. Your posts can then be promoted on your social media channels and used to kick-start meaningful conversations.
Sara Parker runs the social media for Face for Business.
Major consumer rights changes became law at the end of 2013 and they are likely to affect most UK consumer-facing businesses. Yet according to a survey by Eversheds, two-thirds of UK business leaders are unaware of the changes and over a third are unsure how the changes will impact on their business.
The EU Consumer Rights Directive was brought into statute on 13th December 2013. It aims to simplify consumer rights so that consumers are clearer about their rights when purchasing goods and services.
The change in rules will obviously impact upon UK businesses — but how? Here’s a simple guide explaining how businesses will have to adapt over the next few months so that by June 2014 (when the rules are enforced) businesses are in line with the law:
Businesses will now be expected to explicitly disclose the total cost of the product or service as well as any extra fees. Consumers shopping online will not be liable for any charges or other costs if they were not properly informed before they placed their order.
Businesses must give customers 14 days to change their minds and withdraw from a sales contract, so customers can return goods for any reason if they change their minds. If the business doesn’t state this clearly, the return period must be extended to a year. The period will begin from the moment the customer receives the goods instead of from the conclusion of the contract, which is how it currently stands.
Businesses must refund consumers for the product, including the cost of delivery, if the customer returns the product within the statutory period.
If businesses want the consumer to cover the cost of returning the goods, they must state this clearly beforehand, otherwise the business must pay.
Businesses will now be banned from charging customers more for paying by credit card than what it actually costs for them to provide this means of payment.
Under the new rules, businesses will no longer be able to use premium rate 09 numbers or higher rate 084 or 087 numbers for their customer services or complaints lines. Switching to national rate numbers will lower the call costs for mobile users.
For those companies that still want to provide a non-geographic number, they can simply switch to an 03 number. This will provide them with the benefits of an 08 number, but it will allow consumers to call from mobiles at low rates, as the minutes are included in monthly bundles.
The same set-up can be used with 03 numbers and any virtual geographic (01 or 02) numbers. What’s more, those using an 084 number will be able to switch to the equivalent 034 number, so they only need to change one digit to comply with the guidelines.
Katherine Evans is PR and marketing executive at 03NumberShop.
Follow these ten commandments on customer service and you won't go far wrong — our thanks to Moneypenny for sharing this brilliant infographic with us.
Driving awareness is a key challenge for any small business. As a budget-efficient channel, PR is often called upon to help achieve this objective and there are plenty of PR experts out there that can help. But I do think business owners can do much themselves, particularly in B2B or service sector. Many business owners shy away from PR — here is a step-by-step guide to getting some coverage for your business:
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist, mentor and founder of The Nurture Network. She is also co-founder of the Brand Gathering community, helping young businesses to grow by working together.