On the one hand, being a small business has never been harder than it is today, as it has to deal not only with mega chains but also a consumer base that is getting more and more comfortable buying online.
The early days of the Internet created new competitive challenges for small businesses.
By the same toke, technology has also ushered in a new era in which web-enabled platforms will actively try to solve the problems that real offline businesses face.
Zachary Hyman, Co-founder of SpotOn thinks it’s already happening.
He cites the ability of technology to make a significant dent is helping small businesses attract customers during off peak hours.
As any small business owner knows, there are certain times that, for whatever set of reasons, are simply when customers tend to walk through the door, and other times where there is nothing but a trickle. Those trickle times can be costly - requiring staff and other resources that aren't being put to good use.
Off-peak hours can be an incredible time to wow with service and build more personal relationships with individual customers than busy times affords. What's more, it can be a time to experiment with and get feedback on new products or services business owners may want to introduce. The question is simply: how to get more customers in during off peak hours?
How Technology Can Help
For business owners, digital loyalty programs offer more than just digital punch cards for consumers. In fact, many of these tools are now sophisticated data and marketing platforms that can help business owners learn what’s happening at their business and act on it quickly.
For example, Bagel Café, a technology savvy restaurant located near the University of California- Santa Barbara, noticed very distinct times – around morning and lunch – that the cafe was busy, and thought, temporarily, about simply closing after lunch. Instead, the cafe decided that if it could simply increase that traffic in the evening, it would justify the cost of staying open. Using SpotOn’s digital loyalty platform, Bagel Café began experimenting with sending emails and mobile notifications to customers, touting its free Wi-Fi and late-night food specials. It didn’t take long to start seeing results.
Off-peak hours are simply one example of the types of problems that a new generation of technology products can help small business owners solve. For all the new challenges the Internet has created, the resilience of small business has made many tech entrepreneurs take notice. Whether the industry is headed to a golden era is yet to be seen, but the early evidence is promising.