Same-day delivery services are spreading like wildfire, with new vendors popping up — and then getting acquired — on what seems like a weekly basis. While partnerships with large retail chains can help a new delivery service gain notoriety, it’s the relationships that these vendors have with local merchants that matter most. Small businesses account for 54% of all sales in the U.S., and unlike their big box competitors, many SMBs don’t already have existing shipping networks or points of distribution.
Here are six strategies for how same-day delivery vendors can successfully encourage local merchants to become a part of their programs.
1. Take a personal approach. “We get local business owners to sign up by talking to them one by one at this stage. It takes a lot of effort and time, but for now this is the best way to describe the mechanisms and features we have developed, and to get immediate feedback on how Nearbors should perform. A direct contact helps to overcome the natural barrier against an unknown service. Explaining the benefits is easier, and they appreciate our personal approach.” (Ryan Vannin, Nearbors)
2. Don’t ask businesses to change their processes. “Thanks to my experience working in a store, I knew that changing store behavior would be the hardest sell. We decided to design a process that wouldn’t involve any new behavior from a store perspective. Our listings tool connected to other existing platforms they might use, like POS and eCommerce. We gave them access to product photographers as needed, and when an item was sold, they did not have to do anything new using SixDoors. Because we’re an end-to-end solution that requires almost no investment upfront, they want to try us out.” (Pascal Levy-Garboua, SixDoors)
3. Build a product that stands out. “Onboarding merchants has been pretty effortless in terms of retailers wanting to be apart of WunWun. [Our marketing is] almost completely inbound; all [of our retail clients] have been inbound from reading press on WunWun. The amount of foot traffic going into retail stores decreases every day, so if the traffic isn’t coming to the store, the store must come to the traffic. Part of the reason we’re able to do what we do is because we own every piece of the experience. Owning everything is that much harder, but it makes our experience that much better.” (Lee Hnetinka, WunWun)
4. Educate SMBs about what’s possible. “Our biggest hurdle is educating local business owners, who are not accustomed to online ordering, that they can grow their business through platforms like delivery.com. Laundry, wine and liquor, and grocery delivery are fairly new concepts to these types of small business owners, who are eager to get started when they see additive business to be acquired through online commerce channels. We make sure merchants get online quickly and that their information is presented accurately. (Mike Davis, Delivery.com)
5. Ask for referrals. “At the beginning, we asked the few store owners that wanted to work with us which other stores they would be proud of working alongside. It allowed us to create a feeling of club, and it allowed everybody to feel better about their decision to partner with us.” (Pascal Levy-Garboua, SixDoors)
6. Add a merchant portal once you’ve achieved growth. “We want to onboard at least 200 to 250 local venues before we finally deploy our merchant portal. We’ll let businesses manage their contents independently. We hope to enroll other merchants by leveraging the networking effect provided by those members who are already signed up.” (Ryan Vannin, Nearbors)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.