2018 was a positive year for SMEs in the ecommerce space, with many businesses seeing exceptional returns.

Compared to their larger counterparts, SMEs truly have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and incorporate the latest consumer trends into their strategy, giving them every chance to grow quickly and capture their target audiences’ attention.

Our latest commerce report outlines trends that are relevant for brands of any size, but offers some especially actionable insights for SMEs. Here are some low-cost strategies consumers want to see in 2019.

1. Make SEO a priority.

Key insight: Search engines are the most popular channel for both brand discovery (37%) and product research (52%).

It’s no secret that having good SEO practices is key for companies of any size, and a study by 1st Choice Marketing shows SEO is the top priority for 35% of UK SMEs in 2019, but our research shows it’s even more important than you might think.

It’s no longer TV ads, social networks or consumer reviews that capture the most attention from consumers at the start of the purchase journey.

Appearing on appropriate search results pages and in top positions is what will most likely ensure consumers find your brand, product or service above others.

This is great news for any company on a tight budget as it means getting your brand in front of the right eyes no longer needs to cost a fortune. Any business looking to incorporate or develop their SEO strategy can start with organic efforts before allocating any spend.

2. Re-think your social media objectives.

Key insight: Over one in three internet users follow their favorite brands on social media, and 25% follow brands they’re thinking of buying from.

We all know social media is playing a more crucial role in the purchase journey – and with 39% of UK SMEs focusing on their social media strategy in 2019 it’s a clear priority.

But with 52% of internet users now using social networks to research products before purchasing, is it being prioritized enough?

Social platforms have become an important brand-consumer touchpoint, with social behaviors now being less focused on sharing personal information and more purpose-driven. This goes hand-in-hand with 15% of internet users saying they want their favorite brands to make them feel cool or trendy.

So how can SMEs tap into the social media behaviors of consumers?

As brands continue to wait for the social commerce revolution to happen, social media is primarily a place to connect with, educate and engage consumers – encouraging them on from the research phase.

But the same strategy doesn’t work for every consumer. In fact, younger consumers look to social media before search engines for information on products, proving the importance of including this information on social channels.

This shows to streamline their strategy and get the most ROI, SMEs need to consult granular data from the consumers themselves to get a clear view of where they should focus their efforts and what their target audience expects from them on what platforms.

3. Look to big purchase drivers.

Key insight: Free delivery is the primary purchase driver across all generations and markets.

Our research shows consumers value free delivery beyond incentives like discounts, easy returns, customer reviews and next-day delivery.

But this doesn’t negate the importance of these purchase drivers.

For example, over half of the online population interact with reviews in some way during the purchase journey, proving it’s crucial for brands of any size to ensure their online presence is a positive one.

This kind of insight can also allow SMEs to allocate their budget where it actually counts.

Since consumers would rather have something delivered for free within a longer delivery window than pay for next-day delivery, businesses can confidently focus on offering free delivery rather than work to improve delivery times.

4. Make mobile payments happen.

Key insight: More than 1 in 3 internet users have made a payment using their mobile phones.

Usage of mobile payments is growing rapidly, from a quarter of the online population in 2016 to more than a third at the end of 2018.

And this phenomenon is happening on a global scale, with the likes of Denmark, South Korea and Kenya all appearing in the list of top countries for mobile payments.

However, the mobile payments services consumers use are most often domestic companies, such as MobilePay in Denmark and M-Pesa in Kenya, rather than one giant brand dominating mobile payments worldwide.

With this trend only set to grow in 2019, SMEs may want to look at their mobile payments strategy and how it will be implemented in the future if it isn’t already.

5. Make your journey multi-device.

Key insight: 41% of consumers use a PC or laptop to purchase products.

At a global level, for all stages of the purchase journey – from researching to buying through
to reviewing – the mobile is now the device of choice, over the PC or laptop.

But despite the rise of mobile commerce, the PC is still popular with some audiences. Internet users over the age of 45 still prefer larger screen devices, which is a major reason why PCs and laptops are still widely used for commerce in Europe and North America.

The PC isn’t going away any time soon. And internet users aren’t exclusively committed to any one device type. If they’re buying on mobile, they’re likely to buy on PC as well, and vice versa.

The large overlap demonstrates how a multi-device approach is crucial for any brand, including SMEs, throughout the entire purchase journey, as consumers can checkout with either device regardless of where their path began.

Becoming multi-device may seem daunting for any small business that isn’t already, but it could be a well-worthy investment. Deeper analysis into the brand’s target audience preferences should give insight into what kind of ROI to expect.

Ecommerce for SMEs in 2019

While many SMEs may feel restrained by smaller budgets and less manpower than larger rivals, insight like this lends them an edge.

Their ability to incorporate new strategies quickly and flexibly is a key strength that will set them apart, but these strategies need to have a solid foundation in fact.

Consumer insights based on granular, behavioral and attitudinal data provides this foundation, and any SME looking for guidance can use them with confidence to ace their ecommerce efforts in 2019.

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.