Bricks and mortar retailers are doing it tough in the fight for sales with online businesses. You are often sought out for face to face advice but lose the sale to an online operation when it comes to price comparison.
We have put together advice for small business retailers, independent retailers, to offer guidance on the future direction and management opportunities where competing with online businesses is a challenge. We offer this advice here for free to any retailer to consider, regardless of the POS software they use.
Given the different cost bases for an online business serving a country or the world compared to a retail shop serving a local community, you can’t win on price, not in the long term.
In working with thousands of small business independent retailers in Australia, New Zealand and other countries over many years we have seen some excellent successes and some epic failures.
Success in competing with online competitors begins and ends with making good decisions based on sound facts and structuring the business for success at every possible point.
This is business
For many retail shop owners, the retail shop is part lifestyle, part sport and part business. This can complicate the decisions that need to be made to make the business successful.
Running your retail shop as a business has to come first. Get this right and you can enjoy the sport and have the lifestyle you want. If business does not come first, the other two will usually not follow.
So, competing with online begins with your headspace, it begins with committing to getting the business right and relentlessly pursuing its success.
In practical terms, this means that every business decision is based on careful consideration of sound data. If the data does not support a business decision, you don’t do it. Simple.
Five ways you can compete with online
Here are five ways you can differentiate your business from online, ways that leverage personal, human, contact.
- Track every contact. Treat every contact as a customer. Know who they are. Explain that it’s part of your service – to offer advice and keep in touch. This will qualify them as a customer from their very first question. While it may scare some off, better that you do it early before you give away your expert advice.
- Give them a gift for listening to you. Every customer who spends time taking in your advice should be given a voucher for them to spend in-store in a purchase above a certain value. This shows that you value their attention. Presented well it can better connect them with you for the longer term.
- Subtly share stories about the risks of online shopping. There are documented stories you can find about people being ripped off – what they ordered is not what they received, credit card fraud and the like. Arm your team with these stories … maybe a story about a customer who bought from you following an expensive rip off online.
- Reward loyalty with a front-end approach. Ensure that every purchase over, say, $10, comes with a voucher offering a discount off the next purchase. Factor this into your mark-up model. Cash rewards showing on a receipt can be a powerful lure to bringing a shopper back.
- Personalise your service. Arm all sales staff with personal business cards. Place follow up calls or emails to shoppers spending over, say, $100. Host networking events in-store. Connect with and support local clubs. Add value through personal contact at every possible opportunity. Structure regular, value-adding, contact with your customer base.
The difference between a bricks and mortar retail shop and a website selling the same products online is that your business, the bricks and mortar business, is real, it can be visited, it’s personal. Everything you say and do needs to reinforce this and build trust based on this.
Be open about price
Don’t be afraid to say that online businesses can sell for less. That’s because they do less and care less. You could do this too but that’s probably not the business you want to run.
Competing on price really comes down to changing the game. This is where a properly structured and consistently run loyalty program offering an amount of cash off the next purchase based on the current purchase can make a difference for you.
Online businesses through the software behind their websites are consistent if nothing else. This is where good retail shop software can help a retail shop compete. It can drive consistency in the bricks and mortar business on pricing, loyalty rewards, customer marketing, buying, pricing and employee performance tracking and motivation.
Good retail shop software is designed specifically for retail shops to leverage the difference retail shops offer over online retailers. When used to the fullest, it can drive sales and bring customers back more often. It can play a key role on competing with online.