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How Small Sellers Will Boost Sales if Economy Slows

If the economy slows down, small and medium-sized merchants will use free shipping as their top strategy to maximize sales during the holiday shopping season, according to a recent survey. However, the majority of respondents believe online sales will improve during the upcoming holidays.

Those are the findings of Stitch Labs’ survey of over 100 merchants between April 25 and May 6, 2016. The 139 sellers were current or former Stitch Labs users.

Interestingly none of the respondents said they believed online sales would decline during the holiday shopping season – 83% believe it will improve, and 17% believe it will stay flat.

But if the economy slows, merchants are prepared to use a number of strategies to try to appeal to price-conscious shoppers during the holidays: 36% would offer free shipping; 18% would offer more compelling loyalty rewards; 13% would offer price-matching; another 13% would offer free returns; 11% would offer BOGO (Buy one, get one), 3% would offer same-day delivery; and 7% said “other.”

Stitch Labs is an online inventory-management solution designed to simplify multichannel business for mid-market retailers. It released the survey results in conjunction with the release of its new API designed to help their merchants create custom modifications to the Stitch platform so that it can connect to other solutions merchants use to run their ecommerce business.

The survey revealed that 78% of respondents use between 1 – 10 business applications, while over 20% use over 10 applications.

When asked what factor put the largest constraint on their growth this year, capital came in first at 34%, while “inefficient, disparate systems” came in second at 27%.

Stitch Labs also asked, “What is your biggest fear when it comes to adopting new technology?” The responses were: Time to implement – 30%; Interoperability of existing systems – 28%; Costs – 34% (Hidden costs – 17%); Employee adoption and buy-in – 8%; Other – 1%.

“To succeed in commerce, retailers must be able to embrace and implement new technologies as quickly as the space is evolving,” according to Stitch Labs co-founder Jake Gasaway. One client is using the new API to connect customer order history, rewards program information and third-party logistics details to implement a customer loyalty program that it says has contributed to a 98% customer satisfaction rating.

Stitch Labs CTO Owen Wendland explained the company’s approach to offering the API: “As we grow and as larger and larger businesses use Stitch, we have a ton of requests for unique features or functionalities, and workflows become more specific to each company. We had to choose between building features we think are best-suited for our customers, which might get more and more fine-grained, or opening up the platform to allow customers to build their own customizations. We feel confident that the latter option provides more flexibility for our customers.”

So what solutions are respondents planning on investing in this year? The survey found:

  • Inventory management – 27%
  • Order fulfillment – 16%
  • Supplier management – 12%
  • PoS technology – 11%
  • Payments & returns – 11%
  • None of the above – 23%

The new Stitch Labs API is included in its Enterprise and Enterprise Plus packages. For customers who do not have a developer on staff but still want a customized solution, the company has partnered with a select group of developer partners to assist customers with their more complex workflows.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.