Small businesses are increasingly turning to sophisticated software and apps to connect with their customers; they often can’t compete with the big chains on prices, so they strive for better, more personalized service. Some of the technology is designed for smaller companies; some retailers find ways to turn a widely-used computer program or app to their advantage. And small businesses are also able to implement technology faster than the big stores because they’re not operating hundreds or thousands of stores. For example, an app called Dolly helps a retailer arrange for merchandise to be picked up from a store and quickly delivered to a customer (no big bags or packages to lug home). And there are sites similar to Etsy (an online marketplace that focuses on goods like jewelry and clothes made by artisans)), that specialize in one type of merchandise, like Cream City Music; they sell more than 1,800 items ranging from guitar picks to vintage instruments on www.Reverb.com.
“People on that website are specifically looking for musical products,” says company owner Brian Douglas. Cream City Music also has a brick-and-mortar store and a website, but wants to take advantage of any sales opportunity it can. It’s getting results, Douglas says (sales from Reverb.com have been growing by the double digits monthly). When online shoppers are on the websites for O’Neill Clothing and Metal Mulisha, the retailers’ software starts suggesting products to buy. And these recommendations aren’t random; the software ( the computer program Reflektion) finds out the shoppers’ location; a few clicks on a certain item like motorbike clothes gives the system enough info to start generating ideas for additional similar or related merchandise. The more clicks, the more info the system gathers and generates. And the more likely a sale will be made (sales for both websites have increased 25 percent because of the software).
If a shopper’s looking at active wear garments rather than regular fashion, the software takes note of that preference. Or if a Midwesterner visits the site, the software not only takes note of that, but will also suggest clothing suited to that region’s climate. Texting also has led to increased sales for small retailer Tara Mikolay and her company, Desires by Mikolay; hundreds of them are sent out to her jewelry store customers weekly. About half results in a purchase (the texts are personalized for each customer. While these particular texts are labor-intensive, they’re more effective than mass-texting would be, Mikolay says. Even if a customer doesn’t buy immediately, they’re definitely motivated to buy when the next big occasion comes up). Source: “”Higher tech, higher sales” by Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer-The (Sunday) Vindicator, November 15, 2015