3 Predictions for Small Merchants in 2013

During the last year, we’ve seen many changes in the retail landscape, including the proliferation of smartphones driving mobile commerce, and the emergence of small businesses as global players. As small retailers plan ahead for the New Year, they should be aware of three trends that will shake up the industry in 2013.

Small can be mighty
Small businesses are at the heart of the U.S. economy, and their influence will continue to grow in 2013. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 23 million small businesses in America account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales. As we move into 2013, we will see a dramatic change in the amount of influence that small businesses will have on industry trends. Little to no growth in hiring at large organizations is driving more experienced people to start new small businesses. At the same time, small business owners have become much more tech-savvy, and with the power of technology at their fingertips, they can now reach consumers on a global level. This will ultimately give small businesses greater insight and ownership of the market.

Smarter back-end businesses
Retailers and merchants have recently spent a significant amount of money and investment on building up their online store fronts, giving them multiple sales channels, greater market reach and increased growth.

Now, tools like multichannel order management systems and business intelligence reporting and dashboards have become a necessity to help the small or mid-sized business manage and maintain this growth. They enable business owners to be savvier when it comes to managing their back office. This increased focus on their back end fulfillment systems will enable retailers and merchants to see trends and address issues earlier than ever, and see a unified view of their business across all channels.

The trend toward the adoption of cloud-based solutions will provide small business owners with a wider variety of smart tools at an affordable price, offering anywhere, anytime access. Business owners will look for vendors with cloud-based solutions that will help them manage their entire back-end business – from real-time dashboards to dynamic reporting.

Continued growth of the “connected consumer”
Gartner Research recently predicted that mobile devices will soon surpass PCs as the top device for accessing the internet. As smartphone and tablet adoption continues to rise at a rapid rate, consumers expect the retailers they buy from to keep up with their mobile needs.

A recent IDC study found that showrooming, or comparison shopping on a mobile phone while shopping in a store, will increase by 134 percent this holiday season compared to last year. With 20 percent of consumers planning to showroom, IDC predicts this will influence between $700 million and $1.7 billion in retail purchases.

In order to remain competitive, retailers will have to re-examine their loyalty programs and special offers, and ensure that they are prepared to compete on price. In addition, business owners will need to have accurate insight into their current prices and inventory to manage change in real time.
As these trends continue into 2013, multichannel merchants will need to evolve with the times in order to remain competitive. If they take the time to understand today’s consumers and take advantage of the latest technology, they’ll have huge opportunities for growth in the coming year.

Fred Lizza is the CEO at Dydacomp.