In the not-so-distant past, a small retailer may have been able to survive solely on sales from foot traffic. But today’s customers want more than convenient shopping opportunities. They expect a quality high-touch anytime, anywhere mobile experience — regardless of the size of the operation.
Increasingly, small retailers are under pressure to provide digital offerings comparable to those of major brands. That means offering just-in-time service, human interaction and completing business with the customer in a single seamless mobile experience.
An app can help you better serve your customers and grow your business, while still maintaining the personal experience your customers expect. However building an app from scratch is time-consuming and expensive. But now there’s a way for small businesses to easily create applications that rival large competitors — and it doesn’t require technical expertise or a massive financial investment.
When Adapting to Digital, Preserve Your Personalized Touch
The Small Business Digital Resilience report published by Moxtra found that two-thirds of small business customers say that COVID-19 has motivated them to consciously shop more from small businesses moving forward.
Since small businesses offer customers a more individualized and attentive experience, than larger retailers, they need to ensure the personalization their clients love them for isn’t lost in digital translation.
Even the most digitally savvy customers still tend to prefer human interaction at certain stages of the buyer journey, especially in the case of luxury retail that requires multiple customer touch points. For example, getting married is an exciting and stressful experience. Clients want high-touch service, which requires constant communication coming from the businesses they’re working with. In the case of commissioning a personally designed wedding gown, the bride-to-be wants updates on the design, the fit and when it will be ready. In the past, this would require phone calls, emails and in-person meetings that potentially stretch out the process longer than what’s necessary and could result in an overall less-than-convenient experience.
Fortunately, the human interactivity and personal connection of SMB services doesn’t have to be lost over digital channels. In fact, it can streamline communication to make the client management process easier than if conducted solely in person. In the wedding dress example, by providing digital capabilities for persistent relationships like instant messaging, video consultations, virtual fittings, and collaborative annotated notes, clients can get the bespoke experience of a boutique while the local dressfitter can expand their client base indefinitely. By deploying a digital strategy that humanizes the customer experience, small brands can reach customers where they’re at and grow their business beyond what would have been possible in the age of brick-and-mortar foot traffic.
Disparate Digital Tools Make Business More Complicated
Establishing a digital offering is easier said than done. With limited resources, many SMBs struggle to identify (let alone manage) the necessary technology needed to serve their customers and enable digital operations.
One common problem small businesses encounter when trying to digitally transform is the adoption of a patchwork of disparate technologies. These free or low-cost solutions may seem like a way to stretch your dollar, but because they’re not in synch with each other they often create inefficiencies for your staff. Worse, they frustrate customers and create an uncontrolled and unmanaged environment.
A digital client engagement and management offering should make it easier to do business, not more difficult. To avoid overcomplicating operations and disappointing customers, SMBs should keep their technology toolkits simple with a one-stop mobile solution that contains the entire digital experience for a given brand in one place.
Rather than small businesses developing their own app, which is time consuming, cost prohibitive and requires expensive evolution maintenance, a no-code development platform (NCDP) offers a viable pathway for small retailers to build their own apps. A one-stop app or platform consolidates all business interactions — such as voice, text, and video messaging, document sharing and collaboration, scheduling, digital signature, cloud storage and task management — into one virtual workspace hub. Best of all, certain NCDPs offer easy drag-and-drop interfaces that enable organizations to design, brand and continuously adapt their one-stop app.
Features You Need When Building an App
Digital channels will only become more important to customers and clients in our virtual era. Given the number of options shoppers have, it’s important to invest in a high-quality digital solution that can support your business as it evolves.
In order for an app to function as a fluid extension of your business, it needs the following capabilities:
- Custom Branding: Your small brand’s unique identity is an important signifier to your clients. To help cultivate customer loyalty, SMBs need to digitally translate their services without losing the personal touch that customers expect. That means designing seamless digital experiences that also reflect the look and feel of your brick-and-mortar brand.
The most basic NCDPs ask you to simply plug in your information — the resulting output is a barebones app that looks like it could belong to anyone. Instead, insist on an NCDP that will help you maintain your brand identity through customizable design, text, colors and graphics. Your returning customers should know it’s your brand, and new customers should get the same brand-immersive experience as they would in-store.
- Collaboration Capabilities: Today’s customers want ongoing communication with brands without having to revisit old email threads or text messages. To best serve your customers, you’ll want your app to provide a variety of communication options (voice, text and video call) located in a single, continuous thread.
Consider the Canadian menswear brand, Just White Shirts. Their app’s centralized communication hub enables the premium tailor to service clients who aren’t able to visit in person. Designers and customers share their vision with one another by swapping images and even conduct video fittings. The app allows Just White Shirts to continue providing its signature high-touch, white-glove service to clients even from afar.
- All-in-One and Secure: With data breaches regularly making headlines, customers are understandably cautious about who they trust with their personal data. If you want customers to complete transactions on the app — which you do — it’s important they feel safe sharing their payment information.
To promote an enhanced sense of security, you’ll want a solution with the highest security encryption that contains everything in-app without third-party intermediaries or redirects. By integrating features like a payment system and electronic signing, customers can be confident their information is secure.
- Usable and Innovative: One of the biggest benefits of an NCDP is you don’t need a technical background to build your own app. If you choose to go this route, look for a solution that is easy to use and offers robust support, like tutorials and customer support.
The provider should also work to innovate on your behalf in response to new technology and best practices. This ensures your app will stay up-to-date as customer expectations change and technology evolves.
While digital channels were once exclusive to large businesses, they have become a must-have for retailers of all sizes. Customers and clients increasingly expect digital offerings from the brands they do business with, and the small businesses that can meet their expectations will win their loyalty. By deploying a branded one-stop client app using a no-code development platform, stores can digitally extend their businesses, reach more clients and customers and provide high-touch experiences that grow their brands.