Retail SMEs confident that they can compete with larger online rivals, survey

A new survey suggests that many retail SMEs feel optimistic about trading conditions in the U.K. and quite bullish about competing against larger online retailers.

Shutl, a delivery firm, commissioned the survey of 500 U.K. retail SMEs from Censuswide.

retail SMEs night time delivery roadway pixabay 216090Many retail SMEs feel that the delivery and distribution networks of large online retailers give them a big advantage. Image: pixabay-216090.

Company boss Jason Tavaria says that today’s SMEs are increasingly able to use “technology and smarter selling options to compete with larger firms with bigger budgets.”

The London-based company, which is owned by eBay, specializes in linking online retailers with same-day couriers to offer rapid delivery services.

“Carriers have become increasingly savvy about the SME group as a compelling audience,” says Tavaria, “and in turn costs have reduced and technology is supporting an infrastructure that is dynamic and cost effective.”

Personalized service and unique brand experience

The survey of retail SME business owners found that:

– Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of retail SMEs surveyed said that the biggest threat to their success in the coming year was going to come from larger online retailers who have more marketing clout and strong online brands.

– Six out of ten (59 percent) respondents also said that the spread of delivery and distribution networks available to larger online retailers was their biggest competitive advantage.

– However, over a third (34 percent) of retail SMEs said that they could compete effectively by arming themselves with smarter ecommerce technology and offering better delivery options.

Another theme that emerges from the survey results is that SMEs could compete successfully against bigger retailers by giving customers better value in the form of a more personalized service (mentioned by 70 percent of SMEs surveyed) and a unique brand experience (mentioned by 62 percent).

With the technology available today, it is becoming more possible for businesses, no matter what their size, to offer a personalized service and delivery to match.

Online shoppers demanding more control over delivery

In a supply chain analysis that they conducted with Retail Week in 2015, Shutl identified that control over delivery is becoming a top priority for online shoppers.

Because of their busy lifestyles, online shoppers are demanding more convenient delivery options, they concluded.

Of the 2,000 shoppers that responded to the survey, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) said that they would shop online more often if they had more control over delivery.

This point was particularly important for younger shoppers. Nine out of ten 24-year-olds said that this was a high priority, compared with just 6 out of ten (60 percent) of older shoppers aged 55 and over.

To be successful in today’s technology-driven online market, retail SMEs need to be aware of such stark contrasts in their customer base and reflect them in their service offering.

For example, a technology-savvy customer with a busy life might welcome the opportunity to download an app to their smartphone where they can track their items in real time, receive updates on the estimated delivery time, and even talk to the courier.

Others might be more relaxed and not feel the need for such detailed control. They might prefer to just know the date and a 4-hour time window in which they can expect their parcel.

The point is that retail SMEs need to be flexible. The technology gives them the range, but they still need to understand their customers in order to match what is possible to what they want.