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What Enterprise Brands Can Learn From Start – ups About Agility & Personalisation


By Kamran Iqbal, Commerce Strategist at PFS

From clothing and accessories to tech and homeware, you’ve probably purchased an item from a start-up over the past few years – whether it be a digitally native brand, or an individual selling to a global audience from their living room. Thanks to a variety of SaaS solutions and market platforms taking the stress and price away from building a bespoke digital sales platform, start-ups and their success have taken a huge leap forward. In fact, 770,000 new businesses were established in 2020 around the UK, a 30% jump compared to 2019. 

The success of start-ups have come from their ability to offer flexible, personalised, and seamless experiences for customers – something that enterprise brands strive for but can fall short on due to their larger, more complex operations. With disposable incomes stretched and consumers being more conscious of their spending than ever before, larger brands need to learn from the agility and mindset of these smaller players to keep customers coming back even with an increasingly competitive retail landscape.

Here are three learnings enterprise brands can take from start-ups to bring back the ‘human touch’ within their own organisations, whilst remaining flexible against future demands.  

‘Instagrammable’ packaging

With global eCommerce sales forecast to grow by 50% over the next four years, the pressure is on for big brands to recreate the rush of excitement you get when buying products in-store. This is something start-ups are already 10 steps ahead on. 

Unboxing videos, for example, have grown from an internet fad to a powerful eCommerce marketing tool. As a staple of YouTube and TikTok, this unboxing phenomenon makes it plain that people’s first moments with a new online purchase are a heightened experience. A positive customer unboxing experience can help your brand tell its story – the inclusion of inserts, proper product presentation and free samples are just a few ways brands can accomplish this. This is something that start-ups know well and are investing effort into nailing. A plain box with bubble wrap will no longer cut it for customers seeking a personalised experience. 

One idea that enterprise brands can adopt is a QR (quick response) code included with an online order delivery – the first hands-on experience with the item and brand the customer will experience. With the recent reliance on QR codes during the pandemic as a “touchless” way to exchange information, anyone with a smartphone knows how to engage with the code when they see it. Balancing boxes that include enough incentivisation without giving the whole story away and encouraging customers to want to discover more is the ideal ratio, with driving customers back to your main website being the primary goal.

First-class customer service

When dealing with a start-up you are often communicating with someone who has ‘skin in the game’ and is invested in the success of the business. They are motivated to give you great customer service and because of the size of their operation, they will likely have all the answers and information at their fingertips to deal with any queries you might have. 

Unfortunately, customers have received a more personalised approach through start-ups, and their standards are ever-increasing. Customer care should therefore be at the forefront of building any successful brand. A top priority for larger retailers and brands should be responding to customer feedback, queries and needs. Enterprise brands can ensure they are doing this effectively by making sure they put in place an effective customer service team, look to adopt the latest time-saving technologies including chatbots and SMS services, and make use of automated processes to provide more efficient and personalised care.

Social media management should also be considered, especially in the case of celebrity-owned and celebrity-endorsed brands. Unhappy customers will often go directly to a celebrity’s social media page to make a complaint. To ensure that issues are promptly resolved, brands must effectively track mentions across all platforms, be responsive to complaints and provide the appropriate aftercare to customers. These techniques should act as a seamless extension of the brand and will ensure that a company is catering to an individual’s needs.

The finer details

The third and final area of learning for enterprise brands should be around customisation and personalisation. The agility shown by start-ups means they are well equipped to personalise your product and brand experience to you and your needs. From engraving, embroidery, and monogramming to labelling, embossing and gift bundling, consumers are increasingly looking for these value-added services from brands of all sizes. 

Another layer of this is ownership of the packaging process for the consumer. As trends around sustainability continue to grow, given the option, most consumers would rather have simpler, recycled packaging in an effort to be more environmentally conscious, and reduce waste.

In an era where authenticity is of the highest value, placing ‘the human touch’ as the key component of the eCommerce experience, enables brands to adjust to the constant changes in demands from consumers. With a variety of different outsourcing solutions available to retailers, it needn’t be prohibitive, costly or time-consuming to implement. Larger brands have the opportunity to keep up with growing customer expectations that start-ups are meeting and exceeding, whilst taking strides ahead and setting their own.  

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