For independent retailers, there is always the question of how to make your mark. How do you separate yourself from the larger competition and, ultimately, create a lasting impression?
The decision to open an independent business is not an easy one and can seem to only have two outcomes, success or failure. Aspiring business owners can be put off by the statistic that 50% of all small businesses fail in the first few years of trading. But failure and roaring success are two ends of the road that includes highs, lows, plateaus and good and bad surprises. As well as keeping optimistic, having a proper understanding of the business side of retail along with fearless marketing initiatives makes a difference for years to come.
Here are some top tips to apply to your retail plan:
Anything you can do, I can do better.
So you have a plan of what your business will trade in, you believe in your idea and feel it can be profitable. One key thing to research is your competition. Find out what your direct competitors are doing and aim to do it better - in the long run this will be your USP. If you think you don’t have competition you’re mistaken. Anyone who’s getting your potential clients’ business instead of you is your competition and you should be watching them.
Don’t be creatively challenged.
With millions of retailers to compete with, you need to stand out from the crowd. Identify who your potential customers are and what extras you can offer to keep them coming back? Customers are increasingly demanding unique experiences and bespoke products/services so it’s important that your idea satisfies that demand. Try using your own store data the best way you can – understand who your customers are, what they are buying and create offers that appeal to them. Retailers should collect data in order to create a more personalised user experience. Collecting email addresses is a good thing but if your customers are unsubscribing after a few emails it can be pointless. Use data to send customers relevant information and you will be keep the conversation going online.
Beat large retailers by carrying products they can’t.
Buying from vendors that don’t usually produce in large quantities is your window to offering something larger stores can’t. Again, customers want something that isn’t mass produced to set them apart from their friends and colleagues. Large retailers buy and sell in bulk and independent businesses have the advantage of finding smaller vendors that don’t mass produce, therefore ensuring they are offering their customers something unique.
Consider the experience.
At times retailers underestimate what consumers want. Customers want an experience – as soon as a customer walks through the door give them the shopping experience that larger retailers cannot offer. Small details combine to create the ultimate shopping experience – from the way the product is displayed on the walls to the in-store feel. Bigger stores stick to a tried and tested formula and are consistent with the layout, music etc. – this is your opportunity to offer customers something different.
Accurate information is key.
Customers are more informed than ever and expect a well-informed sales person in-store. These days’ shoppers are increasingly ‘webrooming’- researching products online and then going in-store to make a purchase. It is vital that your staff are well informed and have access to information to serve customers better. You risk losing customers to the next retailer on their checklist.
Consistency is key.
Branding is an important factor and one that some people don’t put enough effort into. When customer’s log on to your website it should give them the same feeling they had in store. The website’s colours, branding, layout should be instantly associated with your store. Keep things consistent and customers will then begin to recognise your store as a brand. Make sure users leave your website understanding the connection between the in-store and online experience. When creating your store’s website – get feedback. You may feel it is user-friendly but have people test it and take their opinions to heart. You would be surprised by the amount of people who log on to a website, can’t navigate it and give up.
Having an online presence is like having a store open 24 hours. If you can’t offer shoppers immediate service (i.e. ordering and browsing online), they will look elsewhere. We’re in the age of convenience and a great amount of people would rather log on to a website to browse and purchase.
The full digital retail experience.
Technology has ultimately changed the face of retail, with some retailers including digital kiosks which allow them to showcase items that may not be on the shop floor. Digital kiosks are pricey, however you can implement a similar feature by utilising iPads.
Be right on the money.
What you offer online should be linked with your stock in-store. Make sure your online inventory is synced with your in-store products. If a customer is tracking down a specific product, an inventory error could mean they never use your site again.
Like, share, tweet and repeat.
Having a strong social media presence keeps your shoppers engaged and well-informed. People are more likely to find out about discounts, sales and new products via social media these days. Being active on social media also allows your customers to brag about what they are up to – whether it’s checking in on Facebook, tweeting about your business on Twitter or posting delicious foodie pictures to Instagram.
By Jerome Laredo, Vice President EMEA and Asia at Lightspeed POS.
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