Competing With Giants: How Small Businesses Can Optimize Their eCommerce Efforts

retail eCommerce

This National Small Business Week, merchants are increasingly moving beyond Main Street — and into eCommerce.

And with the news that the post-pandemic growth for most Main Street small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is surpassing analysts’ expectations, just how these vital components of the American economy are doing so is top of mind.

The answer, it turns out, is in many cases by expanding into eCommerce and embracing an online presence. Online commerce, after all, eliminates geographical barriers, allowing small businesses to reach customers beyond their local area. This expands the potential customer base and increases sales opportunities.

Unlike physical stores with limited operating hours, an online store is open 24/7, providing customers with the convenience of shopping whenever they want. This flexibility can lead to increased sales and customer satisfaction.

Against a dynamic macroeconomic backdrop, today’s SMBs are finding themselves operating in a new reality that requires them to be not just be responsive when it comes to new innovations, but to be proactive about separating the signal from the noise and identifying new opportunities — especially across the digital landscape.

But just establishing an eCommerce presence isn’t enough for small businesses to stand out these days, and “just” establishing a presence online isn’t as easy as it sounds at first glance — there are a whole host of considerations and go-to-market strategies for small businesses to weigh when building an omnichannel model.

Particularly if they want to compete with, or at least not get squashed by, the 800-pound Big Tech juggernauts dominating the space.

Read more: Consumers Dissatisfied by Small Merchants’ Digital Presences

Providing a Quick, Easy and Reliable Online Experience

Moving a business online can be as challenging as it is rewarding.

No matter the business, several pillars support a successful online strategy, Alex Burgin, vice president of, told PYMNTS, stressing that any business needs a simple, clean and easily navigable website. The shopping cart should be simple, too, leading directly to a wealth of payment options.

At a high level, Burgin said, “whether it’s a lemonade stand on the side of the road, or a complex PC computer company, every business needs to accept payments. And at the core, every business needs to think about what their digital presence looks like and how they interact with their clients.”

“Apps and connected devices make [shopping] experiences seamless, secure and efficient. And unobtrusive,” PYMNTS’ Karen Webster observed in a feature last fall. “It takes three minutes between meetings to place an order on Instacart — it takes 60 minutes or more to drive to and from the store and shop.”

The PYMNTS Intelligence study “Main Street Health Survey Q4 2023: eCommerce Protects Main Street SMBs’ Bottom Line in a Cooling Market,” created in collaboration with Enigma, revealed that, Shopify and Squarespace are the most popular platforms among Main Street SMBs. Seven out of 10 firms surveyed cite one of them as their most used platform. The combination of versatility, ease of use and the possibility to customize the shopping site at affordable prices are the rationale behind their popularity.

The research also reveals that ecommerce platform preferences vary across industries and sizes. For instance, high-revenue Main Street SMBs demand more features of ecommerce platforms, while ease of use and low cost are enough for the average firm.

Read more: Payment Innovations Help Small Businesses Navigate the Main Street Maze

Leveraging Digital Growth Opportunities

PYMNTS Intelligence has found nearly 8 in 10 Main Street SMBs use online channels, while an additional 16% are interested in implementing them. Moreover, the average Main Street SMB generates half its sales via online channels. Main Street retail SMBs lead the way, generating 54% of their sales from these channels.

And according to separate PYMNTS Intelligence in the report, “Main Street Small Business Growth Exceeds GDP for First Time in Two Years,” Main Street SMBs with increasing revenues are more likely to sell their products online than those businesses with decreasing revenues.

Businesses with growing revenues are more likely to reach their customers via social media (68%), mobile apps (27%) and websites (60%) than businesses with stagnating or decreasing revenues.

In the digital age, of course, fraud remains an evergreen concern. Ensuring secure payment processing is essential for building trust with customers and safeguarding sensitive financial information.

By demonstrating a commitment to security and protecting customers from fraudulent activities, eCommerce firms build trust and credibility with their customer base. Customers are more likely to return to a platform where they feel safe and valued, leading to increased loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

Beyond fraud prevention, efficient logistics and order fulfillment are critical for delivering a positive customer experience. Small businesses need to establish reliable shipping partnerships, optimize inventory management and provide transparent tracking and delivery options.

By understanding these considerations and leveraging the opportunities provided by eCommerce, small businesses can effectively fuel their growth and compete in today’s digital landscape.

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