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EDITORIAL Marketplaces and social selling become the centre for SME retail growth

Running a small business currently is depressing. Literally. A survey of small business owners finds that a fifth of them are battling some form of depression, dragged down by rising costs, falling sales and the challenge of trying to keep up with ever changing consumer shopping habits.

It is easy to see why. Hangovers from the pandemic such as remote working, endless zoom meetings and lack of face-to-face time with bosses is seriously impacting many companies’ ability to evolve. It is causing flagging staff morale and, perhaps more importantly, is making many retailers and other ‘deskless’ businesses less efficient.

And efficiency is everything right now. Costs are soaring, so cutting them back – while delivering the right experience – is now more vital than ever. Shoppers are increasingly turning to online to shop, however the old ways of simply offering a D2C website is no longer enough. A study out this weekindicates that online is globally is dropping, with daily time spent on traditional websites down 5% year on year.

Instead, shoppers are looking at social media and influencers for a more engaging and human experience. This extends all the way into how they now search out products and retailers and brands, and is reshaping how any business needs to interact with consumers online.

Shoppers are also turning more to marketplaces as they are more efficient ways to find what they are looking for and, given the cost-of-living crisis, at the best price. But this doesn’t just mean the Amazons of this world, this also ties up with the growing love of social media. Social commerce is poised for a resurgence, riding this wave of marketplace love.

This change in shopping habits is going to have a massive impact on smaller retailers. Do they create their own marketplaces? Do they look at how to on-board with some of the big marketplace sites? Or do they look at how they can find the smaller, retailer-run marketplaces that are springing up and team up with them?

This last tactic is one that is going to be interesting to watch over the coming year. More larger retailers are looking to create marketplaces to extend their reach while managing their capital. Similarly, smaller retailers and brands need to get on to the marketplace bandwagon. Teaming the two is where happiness in modern SME retail lies and where growth is most likely to come from in 2023.

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