Spring-cleaning isn’t just for closet cleanouts and basement overhauls. It’s also an important time for businesses to check in on performance and strategy. A spring review can help critically evaluate sales tactics and competitive positioning before another year flies by.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), in particular, can really benefit from a periodic review of operations and strategy, because they can pivot more easily than larger enterprises. And for the increasing number of entrepreneurial firms with an online presence, a spring digital tune-up could be the difference between a challenging year and record results.
For SMBs with a digital presence, here are four tips to help grow sales and stay competitive:
1. Freshen up your online business strategy
Devote some time to taking a long look at how you’re tracking against your goals. How are you doing compared to competition, and how have your rivals evolved? What new obstacles need to be addressed to ensure you protect your competitive advantage? Review your first quarter performance thoroughly—if you need to course-correct or make small adjustments, now is the time to do it.
Ask yourself whether you’re focusing on the right digital activities and whether you can offload some of the heavy lifting to third-party platforms or services. Michel Robidoux, a Home Hardware owner in Ste-Julie, Quebec, started a website shortly after opening a bricksand-mortar store. But driving traffic to it proved difficult, and online sales failed to materialize. Listing on a third-party marketplace gave him exposure to users already browsing there, allowing him to redeploy his resources to key areas like product sourcing. Robidaux recently opened a second location, and his online sales have been increasing steadily.
2. Be mobile friendly and accessible
In today’s consumer landscape, it’s not enough to have an online presence. With nearly 70% of Canadians owning a smartphone, having a mobile-ready website is crucial no matter the size of your business.
A mobile-optimized website not only looks good on a small screen, it also right-sizes the content based on the way consumers interact with their phones. It lets buyers efficiently navigate and engage with your offerings, ensuring they find what they want rather than giving up and going elsewhere.
Having a bricks-and-mortar presence doesn’t mean you can ignore mobile. The online and offline worlds of consumerism have blended—four out of five customers research a product on their phones before heading to a store to buy.
3. Organize your inventory both on and offline
Inventory segmentation sounds like a chore, but ensuring the right products are being offered in the right channels—both offline and online—can have a huge impact on profitability.
For example, where are you selling last-season’s inventory? Should it be positioned side-by-side with your new, in-season offering? Or should it be siloed in a separate channel? How can you maintain strong regular-priced sales while maximizing the return on your distressed inventory?
Adding a dedicated channel for distressed inventory via a marketplace or discount chain allows for improved price realization while reducing the risk of cannibalizing regular-price sales.
4. Tap into new markets
Technology has levelled the playing field for businesses of any size to reach foreign markets. Exports have become as easy as clicking a mouse. Given the low Canadian dollar, businesses who aren’t exporting are missing out. Foreign exchange aside, tapping into new markets also allows SMBs to scale and diversify their sales, making them less vulnerable to domestic issues like seasonality and local downturns.
If you’re already exporting, look for ways to expand your inventory breadth or add additional markets. Christine Deslauriers, founder of Boutique Step Up, had a thriving store near Sudbury, Ontario, as well as e-commerce business. Listing on a global marketplace allowed her to increase her inventory offerings both in store and online to include gymnastics, dance and sports swimwear. Today she regularly ships to countries including the U.S., Russia, Italy and Australia, while running a successful local business with a reputation for unbeatable inventory selection.
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All of these tips can have a material impact on SMBs. But if there’s too much on this list for you to tackle all at once, so start with the one change that will make the biggest difference. And if you don’t get it all done before summer hits, no problem—just keep going.
Andrea Stairs is the Managing Director of eBay Canada.
MORE TASKS FOR YOUR CHECKLIST:
- How to Declutter Your Business »
- What Being Disorganized is Costing You »
- How to Tidy Your Desk (and Keep It That Way) »
- The Unlikely Guru of Lean »
- How to Do Way More With Less »
What’s on your company’s spring cleaning checklist? Let us know by commenting below.