1. Shopper & Customer

How SMBs Can Cater to Every Generation of Shoppers

For small businesses, resonating with as many potential customers as possible is a unique but critical task. With limited resources and more targeted product offerings, SMBs need the right plan and tools in place to effectively reach different demographics and drive sales year-round. Shopping journeys and preferences look different across generations, and retailers looking to win out must be ready to cater to a variety of demands and behaviors.

Oftentimes, one age group of consumers will gravitate toward specific products, technologies or selling channels. For example, data shows that the volume of Gen Z users on social networks is nearly double that of baby boomers, a gap that only figures to widen over time.

With the right strategies — such as creating flexible product offerings, using e-commerce capabilities, and integrating emerging tech into the selling experience — SMBs can meet the needs of all consumers, from Gen Z to boomers.

Offering the Right Product Options

The foundation of a strong e-commerce approach is offering and promoting products that consumers are eager to purchase. Regardless of how professional a website looks or how many marketplaces a product appears in, shoppers simply won’t buy something that they don’t see as meaningful or useful. That perception may vary across age groups as well.

For example, a business selling clothing may want to prioritize offering different style options to accommodate varying tastes. It’s always helpful for these decisions to be backed by data as well. Native site measurement tools that allow for segmentation can illuminate demographic trends and preferences.

However, that’s not to say that a product offering can’t have uniform appeal across different generations. It’s simply important for business owners to consider the wants and needs of their target demographics, adjusting their offerings as needed to maximize their selling potential.

Retailers also need to realize that they cannot always serve every demographic. Certain products and services will hold more appeal for some age groups than others, and that’s perfectly normal. Consumer interest won’t exclusively lie in certain buckets, but gearing offerings towards the largest audience segment is a sound strategy.

Using Digital Channels to Your Advantage

While selling online breeds more competition and introduces more complexity, it also carries a number of advantages from a marketing perspective. Not only do digital storefronts, online marketplaces, and social channels help sellers tap new audiences, but they also open up a world of data collection and analysis possibilities.

Setting up a website or “home base” should always be a top priority for small business owners, as they capture the most usable data on shopper behavior, from the consumer click journey to checkout tendencies. Sales through marketplaces or social channels — most often used by Gen Z — glean valuable third-party insights as well, but online sellers would be wise to funnel sales through their owned sites to maintain the highest possible degree of insight.

If consumers are comfortable buying through a site consistently, it’s easier to convince (or even incentivize) them to create an account and track ongoing behaviors from there. If store owners are able to spot trends in how sales are linked and what demographic commonalities may inform those behaviors, they can adjust their selling strategies to feed into those consumer preferences.

Implementing AI to Address Opportunity Areas

Artificial intelligence has been all the rage in recent months, and while it’s still in its relative infancy, it can be a powerful tool for SMBs to address the above areas and illuminate unseen potential. While many business owners are likely capable of analyzing owned data independently, native AI tools make the process more efficient and scientific, with insights and next steps backed by empiricism.

It’s always important to have an outside perspective as well, and AI can provide that in a relatively cost-effective way. Business owners are the most likely to overlook gaps in their own strategies. Using AI in a de facto consultant role can help leverage demographic data to produce a more nuanced strategy that maximizes appeal across age groups.

AI makes the user experience more customizable, equipping SMBs with the ability to create unique site content or campaigns, offer more personalized product recommendations, and make efficient site updates on both the front end and back end that enhance the user experience. In many ways, it’s an accelerator for normal site maintenance that gives time and resources back to the business behind the scenes.

Tools like ChatGPT can also bring in useful external data when used responsibly and fact-checked. Users need to be aware of the fallibility of these platforms, but with the ability to crawl the internet and quickly pull facts and suggest strategies, business owners can readily troubleshoot any difficulties in reaching certain groups without guessing or sinking resources into things like focus groups.

Ultimately, leveraging the right tech is the most impactful way for SMBs to level the playing field. E-commerce has long held advantages in broadening selling horizons and sharpening strategies. Now, with the advent of AI, small businesses have a chance to capitalize on even more opportunities with the right approach.

Kim Little is senior vice president, commercial lead of Web.com and product management at Newfold Digital, a web presence solutions provider serving millions of small-to-medium businesses globally.

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