SMB Survey: It’s All About The Customer

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Small businesses are optimistic and resilient but not communicating their value as well as they could. That’s the hot take from a qualitative and quantitative retail survey from a company that specializes in moving SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) and even VSBs (very small businesses) into the digital-first economy.

Bluehost SVP and GM Suhaib Zaheer tells PYMNTS that the name of the game for SMBs comes down to customers and how to communicate with them, especially now that the pandemic has acerated the move for all retailers toward the digital shift.

“One of the biggest things a small business can do is think about the problem they’re trying to solve and who they’re trying to target,” he said. “A lot of times people step into the world of eCommerce or step into the world of getting online, they think that they have to cast this huge net in a really wide funnel. And that’s actually a mistake because again, there’s a lot of competition online. And if you’re spending money and you’re trying to just blast out messages, the likelihood of your converting traffic that comes to your site is going to diminish. So specify your content. Then you can home in on who you’re actually trying to target and the more successful you’re going to tend to be over time.”

Bluehost is one of the 20 largest web hosts, collectively hosting over 2 million domains. Consistent with PYMNTS research into SMBs, its project found that 72 percent of respondents are optimistic about the future. It also found that the top concern headed into 2021 is securing new customers (44 percent). Zaheer said he has seen some very effective pivots among his clients even though they do report some “bumps and bruises” along the way.

“We’re starting to get a better understanding of what the future footprint might look like,” he said. “You’re seeing a lot of optimism and a lot of creativity. For example we have a wedding photographer. She knows that her business is taking a hit and will continue to take a hit due to the pandemic,  so she pivoted to doing you know content and stock photography for people. And so you’ll see people get really creative around taking this skill set, and then sort of modifying it to stay relevant and stay successful, regardless of what happens in the environment. That’s one thing I will say, you know, entrepreneurs are eternal optimists, and I think they really have to be, and we are seeing a lot of that positive sentiment from our own customer base.”

Zaheer said he’s not surprised that the survey showed a stepped up reliance on eCommerce among the 500 businesses who participated. He was surprised about the attitude and planning around physical stores. Forty-eight percent said they see no need for a physical store in their retail business and only 20 percent said they planned on reopening a physical location.

“And so I think you’ll see the explosive growth of, SMBs in the digital economy,” he said. “Shopify and Amazon have been showing this trend for years now, and all this pandemic has done is it’s fast forwarded where we’re already going. I think you will see more and more people start to realize that you have to specialize your message and your content to be relevant and to be different.”

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