The Mid-Market Dilemma: eCommerce Solutions for the Rest of Us

The middle market’s essentially the middle child of the business community. You’re not a huge, billion dollar company that’s been established since capitalism first began, like Walmart, but you’re not your Grandma Janie selling crocheted doilies on Etsy. You’re just in the middle. You have similar concerns and audiences as some of the big market powerhouses selling similar products, but you probably don’t have the same chunk of cash and all of those resources. Everything seems to be polarized, with services and tips offered for smaller businesses and bigger business, but like the proverbial Internet Goldilocks, nothing fits you quite right. And, following every middle child stereotype to a tee, your business may start to feel pretty neglected. You start to feel like you’re on your own, like you’re the Jan Brady of the Internet marketplace.

Here are some common dilemmas for middle market businesses and some of our solutions for them. Hold tight, guys, we get you.

I Ain’t Saying She’s a Gold Digger: Cash and Organic Growth

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Trying to grow your business in the middle market is pretty frustrating. You’re definitely bigger than the teenybopper stores (said with the utmost respect—they’re in their niche, and they’re rocking it) who make under a million a year, but you’re not pocketing over a billion a year. In 2014, Khol’s invested $4 billion in a three year eCommerce plan that should help grow their already large online store and marketing. You probably don’t have $4 billion sitting around for a rainy eCommerce day. Organic growth—increased output, customer based expansion, or new product development—can be tough.

So how do you grow your business organically without as much cash as the Titans of eCommerce?

The answer is, in part, compensating through content creation and brand strategy, which we’ll cover a little more when we talk about how hard attracting a bigger customer audience can be. Forming and maintaining a strong brand, however, is one of the best strategies available for a mid-market company. Brand based marketing has proven to be incredibly successful, and online consumers have shown that the reputation, name, story, and ideals of a company are the highest influence on what they choose to buy online. Creating a strong company brand is something that any midmarket company can do, and it helps promote your company in a way that can better compete against big companies—branding can even use your midmarket status to its advantage!

The other part? The equally difficult solution of being as efficient as possible, which can be a problem in-and-of itself because—

On My Own: Finding Services Targeted to the Midmarket

An Etsy shop owner seems to have it made. Their store only exists on Etsy’s website. The design of their page and the presentation of their merchandise is largely handled for them. Etsy connects them to PayPal for their monetary transfers. Most shops don’t do any outside advertising other than Etsy search results, other than maybe some image advertising on Pinterest or Instagram. They don’t have employees to manage and pay. And big businesses have enough money to not only hire web developers, but to have their own set of programmers to handle all of their online features as well as their retail stores.

Middle market businesses, on the other hand, seem to be expected to handle all of their online development themselves while still maintaining the professional quality of a big business website—including all of the technical decisions that that entails, like shopping cart software, web design, usability, user experience, writing, security, and handling store payments.

Yikes.

Luckily, there are some platforms that offer hosted solutions with all of these aspects in mind (you might be reading a blog from one of those eCommerce solutions that targets the middle market, who knows?). A hosted solution is a great response to managing your online business because they make website creation and maintenance much easier, and they take a lot of the pressure off you as the owner of your business and make your company run much more smoothly and efficiently.  It’s also important for middle market companies to take advantage of the resources that are available to them; middle market resources like these provide invaluable advice that’s specifically given with the mid-market in mind, and they cover employment strategies to web development to company growth. All for one and one for all, guys.

Captain, They’re Coming Straight Toward Us: Being the Prime Target for Cyber Attack

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You don’t have the same immediate security defense squad protecting the online site of a company like Target (and let’s face it, even those giant companies face security hacks… still looking at you, Target). But you also make more money than the small companies, and you have a lot more customers. And a lot more customer credit card information that you’re responsible for.

Unfortunately this can lead to hackers targeting middle market businesses for cyber attacks. Not really fair is it? How do you keep your company from becoming a damsel in distress?

Updating your security measures for your shopping cart to keep up with hackers. Not an easy feat, but you have to hold certain legal standards to keep your shoppers safe. Multi-solution, hosted platforms for your website  can often take over this aspect of your business as well, putting the responsibility in their hands and allowing your security to be updated automatically—a silent guardian, a Dark Knight—that lets you rest a little easier when it comes to the seedier side of the web.

Are You Not Entertained?—Attracting Your Audience

Sometimes, searching for a wider audience when so many consumers have already found your larger competitors can seem like a snipe hunt. How are you supposed to compete for an audience who’s bombarded by the sheer amount of advertising big companies can afford?

The web is a wonderful outlet for the middle market because advertising is so much cheaper and more content focused rather than interruptive-ad based. However, not as much of the middle market is as digitized as it should be. The National Center for the Middle Market reports that “63% [of middle market companies] rank digitization as very or extremely important compared to their other business priorities,” but that 55% of the market considers their shift to digitization as “moderate” instead of quick, and that only a quarter of the middle market reports that digitization is actually happening. Digitization is incredibly important for middle market companies, however; the same report shows that there’s a strong correlation between digitization and the companies that achieve annual growth (10% or more annually!).

But once your company does take to the Internet, the playing field your company will find seems to be getting a lot more even. We’ve seen from multiple studies, including the recent Mary Meeker report, that online marketing now focuses more on original content creation than adapting traditional advertising to the web. Which is great news for the midmarket, because everyone can create great content and maximize their search engine optimization, regardless of size. And creative content leads to a bigger audience, which in turn leads to a bigger pool of potential customers.

Check out our article on why your company should create original content to get the full scoop.

And remember, being in the Midmarket’s not all bad! In fact, there are a lot of benefits in the middle market, and this area of the market is experiencing a lot of growth. Including midmarket companies both on and offline, this year’s Wall Street Midmarket Summit described middle-market companies as:

“… The lifeblood of the economy, drive growth and innovation, pumping a total of $10 trillion in annual revenue into the U.S. economy. With annual revenue of $10 million to $1 billion, the nearly 200,000 companies that comprise the sector generate 45 million jobs, and account for one third of total private employment.”

Those are numbers to be proud of! It may be tough being in the middle of the marketplace, even online, but knowing where to go for help lets mid-market companies overcome market obstacles and thrive.

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