Remaining Agile in a New Age of Retail: Three Things that Enterprise Brands can Learn from Smaller Players 

From leisure and sportswear to gifts and jewelry, the chances are you’ve bought a product from a small business over the last couple of years — whether it be a digitally native startup, a one-person band working from their kitchen table or a small independent store selling online around the world. Thanks to a range of SaaS solutions and marketplaces taking the pain and cost away from building a digital sales platform, microbrands and their success are growing rapidly. In fact, as the pandemic set in, 770,000 new businesses were created in the UK in 2020, a 30% growth compared to 2019.  

Underpinning the success of the microbrand has been the ability to offer a flexible, personalized and seamless purchasing experience — something that enterprise brands strive to achieve but aren’t always successful at, due to their naturally larger, more complex operations. Now, however, with disposable incomes squeezed and purchases becoming more considered than ever before, it’s important for larger brands to learn from the agility and mindset of microbrands to improve customer retention and success in an increasingly competitive retail landscape.  

By no means an exhaustive list, here are three areas that microbrands are ramping up to win and retain customers, which many larger brands can leverage to bring back the ‘human touch’ within their own organizations.   

The Unboxing Experience 

With global ecommerce sales forecast to grow by 50% over the next four years, the pressure is on for big brands to recreate the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when buying products in-store when opening a cardboard box. This is something microbrands are already leading the way 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 is 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 microbrands know well and are investing effort into nailing. A plain box with bubble wrap will no longer cut it for customers seeking a personalized experience.  

One idea that enterprise brands can adopt is a QR (quick response) code included with an online order delivery  — the first hands-on interaction 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 incentivization 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. 

The ‘One Point of Contact’ With Someone Who Really Cares 

When dealing with a microbrand 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 though, customers have received a more personalized approach through microbrands, 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 personalized 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. 

Personalization and Customization 

The third area of learning for enterprise brands should be around personalization and customization. The agile nature of microbrands means they are well equipped to personalize your product and brand experience exclusively to you and your desires. 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 the personalization puzzle is ownership of the packaging process for the consumer. Reflecting the growing trend around sustainability, given the option, consumers today are more likely to choose scaled-back packaging choices in an effort to be more environmentally conscious. 

In an era when authenticity is increasingly valued, placing ‘the human touch’ at the heart of the ecommerce experience will help brands to adjust to ever-increasing demands from consumers, as each pound or dollar they spend becomes more and more considered. With a range of outsourcing solutions available to retailers, it needn’t be prohibitive, costly or time-consuming to implement. Taking these learnings on board, larger brands can keep up with growing customer expectations that microbrands are meeting, and even setting, in the new age of retail.  

Kamran Iqbal is an expert in all things commerce, pre- and post-click. As Commerce Strategist at PFS , he shares his extensive industry knowledge with brands and retailers to help drive Digital Transformation and Omnichannel Excellence. Iqbal has spent over 15 years as an end-to-end ecommerce solutions expert, working closely with brands across verticals to execute and grow their DTC and B2B ecommerce channels.

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