Is There Any Upside to the Amazon Effect?

TIPS FOR SMALL RETAILERS

The Amazon Effect—the way the online megaseller has disrupted retail and changed shoppers’ behavior and expectations—is usually seen as a bad thing for small retailers. But BigCommerce’s 2018 Omnichannel Buying Report reveals a more nuanced picture and pinpoints factors that savvy brick-and-mortar retailers can play to their advantage.

Convenience, rather than price is now the primary reason people purchase on Amazon, according to the survey. “Amazon has become so good at creating a simple, frictionless purchase experience that it no longer has to compete in a race to the bottom on price,” states the report.

Consumers “flock to Amazon as a destination to discover new products,” the survey found. For instance, 30 percent of consumers saw a brand on Amazon and then ultimately purchased it on a brand’s website. But consumers still spend 69 percent of their discretionary income each month in a physical store. And 87 percent of all retail sales are still made offline.

Online shopping has its negatives. Eighteen percent of consumers surveyed cited shipping costs as their least favorite aspect of online shopping, second only to an inability to touch or try on an item before buying it (27 percent). Another 15 percent said waiting for the shipment to arrive was the worst part of online shopping. “As Amazon Prime has grown in popularity, consumers have become accustomed to its accompanying benefits: namely free and fast shipping,” says the report, “indicating consumers increasingly expect all retailers—not just those selling through Amazon’s marketplace—to offer similar benefits or risk losing sales.”

So how can a small retailer tap into some of these new shopping behaviors, likes and dislikes?

Omnichannel is here to stay. Make sure your store is a stand-out presence at as many points along the “consumer purchase journey” as possible. The heart of it is the touch-and-feel attractions and stellar shopping experience in your store, of course, but the ease and convenience of buying from you online, an easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly website and engagement on social media channels are part of that journey, too. Perhaps someday that might even include an Amazon storefront for yourself—after all, half of the products sold on Amazon are from small and medium-sized businesses. If consumers go there looking for brands, why not find yours? A destination for discovery for millions, Amazon in turn drives traffic to brands’ own websites and brick-and-mortar locations.

Offer the convenience of online sales to your customers via your website or another channel. Include an option to pick up in-store to eliminate shipping charges (and give the customer near-instant gratification). And allow in-store returns to online customers. Remember, as this and other studies have shown, the moment they’re in the store, they’re likely to browse and make additional purchases.

The Social-Media Channel Where You’ll Find Gen Z

If you want to reach dancers 18 to 24, head straight for YouTube. It’s the most popular social-media channel for Gen Z (those born after 1990), according to a survey on the preferred channels for different generations, by portfolio website Visual Objects. “While video content is increasingly popular across all age groups, younger viewers are especially drawn to [its] video-centric approach,” according to the survey. “Raised on digital media, Generation Z seeks an immersive web experience that revolves around open exploration, visual creativity and rewarding interactions.” For this age group, YouTube is TV player, music player and influencer channel in one. As digital natives, they love its intuitive interface and mobile-friendly content. And they like that they can personalize what they see: The world’s second largest search engine (after Google, its parent), YouTube lets them quickly and easily find the content they want. YouTube is not just for entertainment, either. It is also this generation’s preferred way to connect with others—and to learn. Google reports that 80 percent of GenZ YouTubers say it has helped them become more knowledgeable. What better place for your store to help young dancers learn how to get just the right fit for their pointe shoes, see what leotard styles are trending this season, or find out how the technique tools you stock can help them stay strong?

If You Use a Car or Van for Business

These are the deductions allowed for 2019.

The standard mileage rate for calculating the deductible costs of operating a car (or van, pickup or panel truck) for business in 2019 increased to 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from 2018. (The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.)

You also have the option of calculating the actual costs of using your vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates. Note: You cannot use the standard mileage rate for a vehicle after claiming a Section 179 deduction for it, or after using any depreciation method for the vehicle under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). For more information, go to: irs.gov/taxtopics/tc510.

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