5 Keys to Small Business Success in 2016

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Local merchants reached a tipping point in their adoption of hyperlocal marketing technologies in 2015, with 53 percent of small businesses now actively using social media and 65 percent saying a mobile presence is required to stay competitive. Now that merchants have shown their willingness to use hyperlocal channels, the next step in the SMB marketing evolution will be mastery.

In the coming year, small businesses will succeed by mastering hyperlocal tech and becoming experts in the platforms they choose to use. It’s no longer enough to just have a Facebook page or a website that’s optimized for mobile. To stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace in 2016, local merchants will need to dig in and start using hyperlocal technology to its full potential.

In speaking with local merchants over the past year, I noticed a distinct trend: The merchants who saw the greatest ROI from their marketing initiatives were those who had the clearest understanding of the platforms they were using. They understood the full capabilities and they knew what metrics they needed to meet in order to satisfy their business goals. Based on what I’ve learned from these merchants, here are five keys to small business success in the coming year.

1. Leveraging dayparting to boost revenue during slow periods. 
As the mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) marketplace matures in 2016, businesses will begin digging deeper into some of the more advanced features and marketing capabilities. One merchant who’s already done this is Mike Doherty, of Sunshine Coffee Roasters in Sonoma County, California. The espresso bar owner has been analyzing hourly sales reports from his cloud-based POS system to find the slowest times of the day and offering special discounts to lure in customers during those periods. Merchants like Doherty will continue to find new and innovative ways to utilize the data from their mPOS systems as they get more comfortable with the technology.

2. Focusing more on cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
There’s no denying that daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial delivered on the promise of bringing new customers to local merchants’ doorsteps. But these companies failed when they weren’t able to cultivate the types of loyal customers that small businesses really need to survive. Many of the vertical markets that were most likely to try daily deals in previous years — like gyms, spas, and restaurants — now are adding their own loyalty programs. Businesses are finding new upsell and cross-sell opportunities through these loyalty programs. For example, Gold’s Gym of Jersey City incentivizes its members to join its loyalty program with freebies, then sends push notifications to encourage add-on purchases, like personal training services and drinks at its juice bar.

3. Bringing online shoppers to local stores.
Online product research is now the first step in the purchasing process for 50 percent of millennial shoppers. Forward-thinking retailers are beginning to use digital campaigns to capture these local customers during the pre-purchase research process. At America’s Mattress of Onalaska, in Wisconsin, owner Dave Weinberger is shifting his budget toward digital advertising and working with digital agency Netsertive on SEO to ensure his store comes up first when people conduct geo-targeted searches for mattresses around his store. The importance of these local search tactics will grow in 2016, as the percentage of pre-shopping research that’s done online continues to rise.

4. Capturing data for more customized marketing campaigns.
Over three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers connect to Wi-Fi outside their homes on a regular basis. Rather than offering online access for free, savvy local merchants are using Wi-Fi as a carrot to get consumers to share information about themselves. Businesses that provide free Wi-Fi access to customers who agree to receive social media marketing or share their browsing histories are able to capture valuable data. They can then funnel this data into external marketing channels to generate more hyper-targeted messaging or evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns they already have in place.

5. Satisfying customer demand for mobile ordering.
Nobody wants to talk on the telephone anymore, which is one of the reasons why on-demand delivery platforms like Postmates, DoorDash, and GrubHub have taken off over the past 12 months. In the coming year, more small businesses will need to add mobile ordering options to their websites in order to keep up with customer demand. Restaurants like The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen say 5 to 15 percent of orders are already coming in through mobile, and that figure is only expected to increase in the coming year. By not jumping on the bandwagon and adopting mobile ordering tools, businesses could end up missing out on significant sales in 2016.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.