Going up against mega online retailers can be a daunting prospect for brick-and-mortar shops that can’t easily slash prices or eat the cost of free shipping, but being a little fish in the giant sea of online shopping can actually be a competitive advantage. Here’s how:

Protect Your Most Valuable Assets

Small business owners are passionate about two things: their customers and their products. While bigger retailers play the game of large numbers – bringing in new customers and product SKUs and writing off others – small business owners are more committed to winning and keeping every customer they can get.

Half of all US e-commerce customers have had a poor delivery experience from an online order, and 70% percent of those say they’ll consider taking their business elsewhere the next time they shop, according to Sealed Air's national survey.

For billion dollar corporations, that might be considered the “cost of doing business” and they feel they can afford to lose a few unsatisfied customers in favor of volume or speed. But for small businesses, that trade off is unacceptable.

Meeting delivery expectations, ensuring that every item shipped is protected against theft and damage, and making it easy for customers to open, recycle, reuse, or dispose of the packaging in which the order is delivered – these might seem like common sense practices, but packaging is the last moment of truth for a retailer’s brand, and these small changes can mean the difference between retaining customers or losing them forever.

Personalize the Delivery Experience

Big retailers struggle to make every e-commerce order feel personal. Little in-the-box touches such as gift wrapping, personalized messages, or samples entice return customers.

These touches are known in the fulfillment business as “non-standards,” which means they require more laborious (aka more expensive and less efficient) processes, and many large-volume e-commerce operations opt not to do them (or don’t do them well).

But increasingly, this kind of customized attention is exactly what consumers expect. Bringing this philosophy into the world of e-commerce fulfillment is a way to instantly stand out from the crowd, and keep consumers coming back to shop online with you again – even if they have to pay a little bit more to do it.

Maximize the Efficiency of Every Inch and Every Hour

Small businesses are called that for a reason – they tend to be small-footprint operations that don’t employ many people. That means that every square foot and every minute of paid labor are very valuable resources, and smart small business owners have learned to maximize these resources with exceptional attention and ingenuity.

Big e-commerce operations are dealing with these issues on a mega scale – labor availability and warehouse space are hitting record lows at a time when e-commerce shopping is on the rise.

Finding faster, smaller ways to get the same job done by less people has become a major challenge for large-scale businesses, but there are tricks they can learn from small businesses.

  • Invest in semi-automated e-commerce solutions, such as inflatable air pillows, that take up less space and free up room to add new products that will grow the business.
  • Redeploy workers to activities that will drive more value and make the low-value activities (such as assembling boxes or gift wrapping items by hand) faster and simpler.
  • Use one-step packaging material, such as shipping mailers, that can reduce shipping costs and eliminate packing peanuts, paper, and other bulky, time-consuming materials.

Ken Chrisman is President, Sealed Air Product Care. For more on how the at-home delivery expectations of e-commerce customers are changing the game for retailers of all sizes, visit Sealed Air's Expand Your Brand resource hub.



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