Over the past 4 years, we’ve seen a revolution in how we shop, from the high street to online but it now seems that shopping is facing a new revolution. In fact everything about our daily business is changing faster than we can really comprehend, as innovative companies are striving compete in what has become an open playing field for new businesses.
Take at look at your recent Internet use – how often did you use Google compared to your app store? Internet users are far more likely to search for facts than businesses these days, and rely heavily on social media and recommendations rather than Google searches. Small and Local business simple don’t feature in search results any more. It’s notable that Google search results have totally changed; it’s now much harder to find your local pizza restaurants website, if they even have one, than to stumble across results from Just-eat or Hungry house.
It’s actually very difficult for the new and established small and local business to rank high on Google against the grain of big brand business dominating everything in the top 100 spots. Try a search for “grocery” or “pizza delivery”, the results will indisputably be national and internal businesses. These websites do though give the end user a route to market. Ebay, for example holds the key to many entrepreneurs competing in an open market.
This leaves a huge question. As a business, is it really worth creating your own website any more? Or, do you just simply join a national provider as the search results are dominated by major, well funded, and well resourced websites. If you have a business that requires national or international coverage, and don’t have huge budgets, this is surely a no brainer. The real cost of setting up small business can be seen in a recent episode of Dragon’s Den. Duncan Bannatyne said to out-of-date food website Approvedfood.co.uk: “Setting up your food brand will cost well over 1 million pounds”. The consequence being that you’ve got a great idea but have totally misvalued your business.
As small businesses strive in a highly volatile market place – the food industry – governed by supermarket price wars, cut cost deliveries and massive advertising budgets, it has become much harder for the Internet entrepreneur to get a foothold, and to turn a profit without big budget advertisements. Are the days over when success could be gained with a well designed and search-optimised website? Website creation through Shopify for example promises high returns from relatively simple website creation, but unless you have a very unique first to market offering, and the skills to develop your social media following it’s not going to be an easy path without a huge budget.
The Government claims that 1,000s of new business have been created in the last year, smashing unemployment figures, but how many are finding success through online presence? It’s yet to be seen how long or how successful these business will be. The New Enterprise grant of £1,000 is very little to start up a business, although perhaps does drive our out-of-work entrepreneurs to think hard about what is possible. I spoke with a local entrepreneur Darren recently over a pint in our local, who basically used the funding to start up selling used cars – buying an old banger and fixing it up for sale, a simple business model that he had the skills and the space to set up; buy fix sell repeat. He is now doing very well.
However for an innovative entrepreneur, app creation could be the answer. It’s by no means easy, having an idea, and let alone creating an app that makes money. However new advances is app creation is making this market accessible. There are now a number of platforms for app creation that can run across a wide variety of platforms. App creation has never been easier and is becoming more popular with users and business alike. In fact, in the last 2 years we’ve seen businesses boom that don’t even bother with a proper website; just a landing page. Instacart in the USA is a great example of this.
The real revolution is apps that are creating freelance jobs – in particular in the driving and delivering sector. You will have no doubt seen Uber, the taxi booking app in the press constantly this year. The innovative approach really is increasing business for drivers across the UK and internationally. Instacart provides possibility for the user to become a personal shopper and earn money. As does UK counterpart, We Deliver Local – the UK local grocery market that is creating work for freelance drivers and boosting the self employment industry.
It is now better to be part of national website that can send you work than to strike out on your own. We are seeing the creation of driving businesses and networks run entirely through these systems, which is entirely on a self employment basis. Customers can identity with national branding. These apps improve their day to day lives, providing shopping experience, booking taxis and much more and as a result, the delivery industry is a growing and thriving area.
Andy Hughes Business Development Manager from We Deliver Local says: “Although we saw the collapse of City Link over the new year, new technologies via apps will see that these drivers can still find work”. He continues: “We Deliver Local has over 3000 drivers already across the UK although only launched their app at the start of February 2015”.
So what does this mean for the end user: the customer and the shops? A good app ensures customer retention rate, they return to the app every time, rather than researching google and possibly trying a new service. This means that social media has an even greater part to play. This is reinforced by the fact is that for many of us, 90% of our online use is YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. It’s a medium that everyone has access to and self employed entrepreneurs will be able to share and develop their own orders and customers simply by posting the relevant app to their friends.
So does this mean that Google local and Amazon miss out? On a local and small business level, a company can relatively cheaply and easily launch a simple app, promote it locally, much more easily that it can a website. It can tell shoppers in store, and it can flyer locally to really generate business. At that core level, it can skip round the need for website.
Herein lies perhaps an opportunity, maybe shopify app creation, or something similar will be brought to market in the next 12 months. A business being able to offer a direct link to its local app and not a national website has a huge advantage, bringing the resurgence of word of mouth and direct advertising via social platforms is also inevitable. Apps are not a new function of our phone, but we are now seeing apps that are more effectively tapping in to that hardware. It’s only a matter of time before small business must follow.