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How Mom and Pop Can Balance Gone Fishin’ with Gone Digital

Who isn’t nostalgic for the good old days when everyone knew each other down at the corner store? If there was a “Be back at 2:00” sign on the door, you simply came back later that day for whatever you needed. /wp-content/uploads/2016/03/gamechangers2_919537.jpg

But obviously times have changed – and the new reality is that consumers today demand instant gratification. If mom and pop have gone fishin’ then chances are that customer is quickly on their way to a big box, or increasingly, to their smart phone to make the purchase. Today 42% of shoppers search for information on their mobile device while looking at a product in a store. Furthermore, we spend 2 more hours per day on a mobile device than we did just 3 years ago.

Clearly mom and pop stores are facing serious technical challenges and the small business landscape is being reshaped by new technology. The pizza business is a perfect example of how for today’s small businesses the struggle is real. According to Global Restaurant Consultant Aaron D. Allen, technology killed off over 2,500 independent pizzerias in the United States in 2015 alone. Conversely, big box chain Domino’s placed a strategic bet on technology in 2009 and has correspondingly seen its stock price rocket from $3.86 to well north of $100 in just 7 years.

Additionally, digital economy upstarts like UberEats, Caviar and DoorDash have witnessed astonishing growth in the last two years. In a tumultuous shift, digital ordering is growing 300% faster than dine-in ordering.

Mom and Pop face additional trouble in the Google search world as well. While 51% of all mobile searches on Google are for restaurants, as few as 5% of restaurants have mobile-compliant websites. Succinctly put, Google punishes businesses that don’t have a mobile-friendly website and according to their Mobile Optimization Guidelines, those businesses are sure to see a drop in their search engine rankings.

Small business owners created their businesses organically – with personal sweat equity, and employees who know customer’s names. Learning how to restructure their very personal business into the digital realm can be pretty confusing.

In a recent Coffee Break with Game Changers episode entitled: “Becoming Digital, Staying Human: Be True to You and Your Business,” Host Bonnie D. Graham asked why small businesses must stay on the sidelines and watch as the big enterprises that she refers to as, “the big behemoths” take all the action.

This engaging episode also featured expert insight from special guests like Lil Mohan, a faculty member at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and former GM for Amazon’s Mobile Platform BU where he and his team brought to market the world’s first retail M-Commerce application.

Joining Mr. Mohan on the program was Max Dower, renowned artist, founder of “Unfortunate Portrait” and frequent contributor to NPR’s Marketplace.

Rounding out the group was Susan Reynolds, Global Vice-President of Partner Ecosystem at SAP. Ms. Reynolds focuses on digital selling and has been named a CRN “Woman of the Channel” for each of the last 6 years.

The esteemed panel joining host, Bonnie D. Graham, addressed important questions around becoming better at digital that small business owners are seeking answers to today:

  1. How much technology does a customer expect from their “corner store”?
  2. How can business owners who pride themselves on personal touch avoid losing their way?
  3. Is digital selling offense or defense for small businesses?
  4. Does a small business need an IT expert to go digital?

A challenge facing small business owners is finding that precarious balance between the use of digital and old-fashioned human interaction. Perhaps the answer is using an intuitive sense for gauging where digital interaction and the customer data that comes with it and the organic compilation of true “data” that results from authentic human interaction should meet.

After all, no matter how much society has gone digital, people are still people. Fortunately, most customers would still much rather hear something like, “Hey how’s your sister doing?” as opposed to “I’ll need your membership ID number.”

Still the digital revolution is here to stay, and this episode of Coffee Break with Game Changers fortunately provides insight to small business owners to help them take on the behemoths – while at the same time never comprising the core values that helped get them to the trusted business they are today.


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