Equipped with mobile technology, consumers are increasingly perusing items in-store but buying the same products cheaper online.
Consumers today have unlimited access to retailers. Thanks to smartphones, they can walk into a store, experience the product or service, but then actually make the transaction online–where products might be 10% to 15% cheaper–with the added bonus of having it delivered to their doorstep. This is called “showrooming”–and it’s causing a lot of businesses to scramble.
With Amazon prices sitting 9% to 14% lower than most retailers, the online-only retailer jumped from 19th to 13th largest retailer between 2010 and 2011, during which time Best Buy’s company stock lost 40% of its value. Target is struggling, too, but a New York Times article recently outlined how that retailer is fighting back by pulling Amazon Kindles off its shelves while talking to vendors about developing new pricing strategies and brick-and-mortar exclusive products. And, as the Wall Street Journal reported, stores like Target and Walmart are adding digital incentives like revamped websites and mobile coupon offerings.
But simply adding enhanced digital options or haggling over price will not solve the showrooming problem, since it means a company is looking at the problem through the wrong lens. It’s not about making a website better or the products cheaper–it’s an omni problem, one that stretches across all of a business’s channels.
We often approach the showrooming problem by first thinking of the business as an ecosystem that exists holistically, rather than a system of channels. In order to boost the value of a brick-and-mortar shopping experience, a business needs to step back and look at its offerings together on the whole, in order to become a true service provider. Instead of creating a multichannel strategy, what companies really need is a customer-centered strategy. We think the answer is service innovation.
The WSJ piece maintained that: “If brick-and-mortar stores can’t compete on price, it is unclear how successful they can be with tweaks to merchandising and customer service.” And it’s true: Tweaks will never be enough. What’s required is a bottom-up approach to better understand the context of the consumer. Through a customer-centered strategy, a company can create a service innovation that affects the business as well as have an impact on the consumer.
Here’s how some businesses are innovating their services and winning back customer loyalty in-store.
CATER TO YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS.
At the yoga-gear brand Lululemon, local stores hand-select brand ambassadors who represent the Lululemon lifestyle, creating a community of consumer partners who are constantly spreading the word. Retailers that laser in on a targeted demographic benefit from the greatest “social media tool” in existence: word of mouth. A customer who feels catered to can be a retailer’s most powerful sales tool.
TURN THE STORE INTO AN EXPERIENCE.
This year, Disney unveiled its new Disney Store, completely redesigning its brick-and-mortar retail space into a full-fledged Disney experience that mimics its parks with “pixie dust trails,” a custom-designed theater for watching Disney movies and shows, and an interactive “magic mirror” for princesses-in-training. Designed to be “the best 30 minutes of a child’s day,” the stores have become both a seamless extension of the Disney brand as well as a place for families to linger, experience, and shop.
MAKE SHOPPING “SMALLER.”
Shoppers of the big-box retailer Walmart are forced to navigate cavernous stores–108,000 square feet on average. This frustrating in-store experience can drive customers online to make purchases, finding exactly what they need much faster than roaming through store aisles. To combat this, Walmart added an in-store mode to its smartphone app, which helps customers locate aisles for the items on their shopping list. They’ve also debuted Walmart Express stores which are significantly smaller, at just 12,000 to 15,000 square feet.
CONSIDER EMPLOYEES YOUR BIGGEST ASSET.
Employees and the help they offer are the backbone of brick-and-mortar stores: Their knowledge and the way it’s delivered shape the shopper’s experience. Wegmans, a supermarket chain with a loyal, cult-like following, invests heavily in its employees, even sending hundreds of staffers on trips around the world to become experts in their products. The Canadian bicycle manufacturer Cervelo sends its staff out to meet with the bike designers. Those real education experiences drive the staff to communicate their firsthand accounts, giving shoppers a more authentic and educated retail service.
LIVE IN BETA: TEST, BE NIMBLE.
Before building a complex system, you first need to build a prototype. At Continuum, we call this “failing fast.” When building digital apps, you can mock up smartphones with foam core and build the apps out of sticky notes. If you design a 10,000-square-foot mock-up of a hotel lobby, you make the intangible tangible, saving time and money before you build the real thing. We do this regularly with our Sprint client, dropping life-size prototypes into a test store, so consumers can “kick the tires” of an idea.
EXECUTE AS AN ORGANIZATION.
It takes an entire organization to truly innovate a service, from the folks on the frontlines to those sitting in the C-suite. Most organizations are segmented into silos, with the only shared connection at the top of the chain, but in order to create a seamless experience, those silos need to connect at every level. That’s why when starting any of our projects we involve representatives from every group, particularly those who interact directly with customers. With the international bank BBVA, we created an experiential model that showcased the interactive touch points that would be used in a new retail model, which we took on the road to share with other members of the global organization. Ultimately, BBVA’s entire global management team embraced the vision and new direction. Working with Holiday Inn to develop a new hotel lobby experience, we had every silo represented on our project team from the beginning, from operations to marketing, giving everyone a sense of ownership of the project.
For retailers to provide an engaging and unmatched shopping experience–and avoid becoming a showroom for online competitors–they need to consider human-centered service innovation that not only enhances the brick-and-mortar experience but offers a seamless experience across all channels.
Author: CRAIG LAROSA
With today’s cutthroat competition from big business, trying to compete on price can be a quick road to ruin for a start-up company. But here’s a little secret you should know: contrary to common perception, customers will not go almost anywhere just to save a buck.
So if you want to avoid getting beat up on price, stop trying to compete on price alone. What your business needs to stand out is better customer service and satisfied customers . But don’t make it the simple “please and thank you” variety. Aim higher. Strive for fabulous, standout, outrageously great service to set your start-up business apart from the crowd.
Will superior service trump price? Absolutely, says a dramatic new survey of over 100,000 small business and retail customers nationwide. According to a four-year study conducted by the Ohio-based market intelligence firm BIGresearch, most customers will put service ahead of price – if you give them the chance.
Entrenched “wisdom” may be wrong
BIGresearch asked tens of thousands of shoppers how they like to shop, what they look for in customer service and what it takes for them to buy. And according to T. Scott Gross, who turned the results into a new book called “When Customers Talk,” some of the most deeply entrenched “wisdom” about what customers want may simply be wrong.
For example, when researchers asked customers how far they’d be willing to drive for excellent service , 80 percent said they’d travel four or more miles, and nearly half said they would drive 10 miles or more for the right combination of price, quality and customer service.
“American shoppers are not the finicky, price-conscious bargain hunters they have been made out to be,” says Gross. “Consumers will pay for good service with both their cash and their time.”
Your job as start-up entrepreneur is to deliver superior service that attracts and keeps customers day in and day out. Satisfied customers say they are willing to drive a little further for great service, but you’d better make it worth their effort.
Just how many service slip-ups does it take to send a customer packing? According to the BIGresearch survey, 17 percent will bolt after a single service faux pas. Another 40 percent will jump ship after two instances of poor service, and 28 percent more are out the door after three. So for 85 percent of your customers, it’s three strikes and you’re out.
Fair enough. But what do buyers really want from you?
What keeps customers satisfied
- Knowledgeable and available staff : While a customer is making the buying decision, they want knowledgeable assistance, available when they want it . Customers place a high value on accurate information and want to be served by employees who know the product inside and out.
- Friendly people: Customers not only want product-savvy sales people, they want them to be friendly and courteous. Your staff should value each customer more than any individual sale.
- Good value: This is where price factors in. But customers surveyed see price as only one component of the bigger picture of “value” that includes the service, information and follow-up they also receive.
- Convenience: The service rule here is simple: make it easy! Says Gross, “Customers want merchandise that is well organized, attractively displayed and easy to find. That’s how today’s customers define convenience, and the easier you can make the shopping, the more money you will be lugging to the bank.”
- A fast finish: This final item is where too many businesses fall flat, right at the finish line. While customers are in the process of deciding to buy or not, they are proceeding on your time. They want thoughtful help making the right decisions. But once the buying decision is made, get out of their way because now you are working on their time, and they want to complete the transaction and be on their way as quickly as possible. At the cash register, there is no time for making additional suggestions.
Our Bottom Line
In the end, it may be your service – not your price – that dictates whether or not you secure customers for the long term. If you give people what they want, the way they want it and follow through with a fast finish when it comes time to pay up, you are much more likely to turn them into satisfied customers.
It is incredible that three mere words from a total stranger will often create fear, frustration and feebleness in some of the most experienced sales people.
The extremely common response of “I’M JUST LOOKING,” from a prospective customer, actually causes some retail sales reps to walk away and WAIT for the prospect to convert him or herself into a buyer.
Is it an Objection?
However, if you think about it, the term, “I’m just looking,” is not an objection. It is also not a stall. Actually…
“I’m just looking,” is a literal and logical fact that is a clear and decisive step in the sales process.
This step in the sales process also is a good thing for the sales person.
The fact is that people do not LOOK at things they do not like or want. When was the last time you got up and went out to a new car dealership just to look at some cars when you had absolutely no intention of ever buying a new car? If you have went out and looked at some new cars, it is only because you had some desire to eventually purchase a new car.
Even the preverbal window-shopper still has a purchase in the back of their mind, even if that purchase, at the time, is not much more than a dream or a wish. When a prospect says that he or she is just looking, they are telling you that they are looking for something that they desire; something that they want or need.
The LOOKER is a BUYER
Instead of assuming that the “I’m just looking,” prospect is not a buyer; assume the opposite.
When a prospect says, “I’m just looking…” understand that
1. The prospect has the purchase of something in mind
2. The prospect may not yet have a set budget for the item or even believe they can afford it
3. The prospect may not yet have a time frame in mind or believe the purchase is even possible.
If you just look at those three points, you will note that they consist of the things you are supposed to do as a professional sales person; and that is to HELP the prospect.
Help the Prospect
Look at the above three points.
#1 – The prospect has the purchase of something in mind
Is it not your job to HELP people get what they want and need?
#2 – The prospect may not have yet a set budget for the item or even believe they can afford it
Is it not your job to HELP the prospect understand the VALUE of the item or service, and how they can afford it?
#3 – The prospect may not yet have a time frame in mind or believe the purchase is even possible
Is it not your job to HELP the buyer understand the urgency, and how and why they need to act quickly?
DO YOUR JOB — HELP
Sales Person: “Hello, Mrs Looker, how may I help you today?”
Prospect: “No, thank you. I’m just looking.”
Sales Person: “Hello, Mrs Looker and welcome to Heavenly Jewelers. Is there something specific you would like to LOOK at, or you or would you rather just LOOK around?”
(This instantly prevents a DEFENSIVE response from the prospect in regards to just looking.)
Prospect: “Ah, yeah, I’d like to just look around for a while.”
Sales Person: “Excellent! Thank you for choosing Heavenly Jewelers to look around. We encourage people to look as we have the finest collection of jewelry in the area to look at. Please look all you wish.”
(You have avoided defenses and stayed on the same side as the prospect. A little later…)
Sales Person: Is there any particular occasion you are looking around for? I mean, we have special collections with designs specific for certain occasions. Perhaps I can point you to one of those collections where you will have a lot more suitable items and you can take your time and look around there…”
Prospect: “Well…I was thinking of looking at something that I might use for a gift for my granddaughter’s graduation…just thinking about it though.”
Sales Person: “I understand. Take a look in this area…we have many gift items and you won’t waste your time looking at wedding rings and things for which you have no interest…”
Help the looker and remember that most lookers are buyers until a sales person insist that they are not.
There are so many ways to get customers into a retail store. However, most small retailers do the same as their competition. Following these tips will help make your store unique and increase traffic flow and profitability.
1. Give a free gift to the first 20-50 customers. This needs to be advertised heavily. The item should cost you between $1 – $5 and list the value of what you would sell the item for. Most people feel guilty getting a free item and will make a purchase in your store. Your sales from this group will be much higher than the cost of the gift.
2. Have a sale offering a certain % of the sales to a charity, such as 10-20%. They will do the advertising for you. This also builds a great perception about your store in the community. This would be best for a day or two.
3. Have free pictures taken with Santa, Easter Bunny, any other character or even couples for Valentine’s Day. Give the customers a coupon for a future purchase.
4. Have a 20-60% off sale price, with customers selecting slips for the discount. Have 1 at 60% off, 2 at 50% off, 3 at 40% off and 9 at 30% off. And 85 at 20% off. Your expected markdown is about 23%. Of course, not knowing how much each customer spends will affect this greatly.
5. Have everything on the store on sale. If you are at keystone, the minimum discount should be 10% off. Here is a suggested breakdown of ad prices: 10% off – Should be about 10-15 % of the store 20% off – Should be about 70-80 % of the store 50% off – Should be about 10-15% of the store
6. Run a low-priced item at a loss. If you pick the right item, it will bring in much traffic. This extra traffic is likely to buy some of the regular price merchandise. For example an item that costs 25 Cents and normally sells for 50 Cents could be on sale for 9 Cents with a limit of 2. You would lose 32 cents, if the customer buys the limit. However, just a few customers buying much more which is highly likely would be a tremendous boost to the store’s revenues.
7. Hold a special 20 % off the entire store for a 2-3 hour period. This would be best on a Saturday morning.
8. Hold a product and or informational demo that last 15-30 minutes. Give a discount for anyone at the event and makes a purchase at that time.
In reality, customer desires are far less predictable. Customers are a fickle, contradictory, sometimes-hypocritical bunch who often find themselves victimized by a “be careful what you wish for” mindset. What they think they desire from a customer-facing organization often provides unexpected, undesirable consequences. What they think they hate about customer experience components is often necessary to deliver meaningful customer service.
This reality of the modern-day customer makes acting on the voice of the customer very difficult. Customer-facing organizations have to, all-at-once, consider (and appease) the unique, self-centered feedback of individuals and the more aggregate insight that would seem beneficial to the bulk of the target audience.
As difficult as that seems, these organizations often run into another hurdle—the feedback between the two parties can be conflicting. Ultimately, customers are going to base their loyalty on how well they feel they, specifically, are treated by the company—knowing the “holistic” customer experience is good might not be sufficient. So while it would seem that basing a customer strategy around the “greater good” is the right way to go, such a decision could have very negative consequences on the experience for many individual customers.
Below is an example of a situation that draw these mixed, conflicting emotions from customers. They are not all “new” and “unheard of,” and yet, the proper response eludes many very successful organizations. There are also many more common and less common examples of the phenomenon. What would you, the customer management leader, do to address some of these challenges?
The Fast Service Dilemma
Lunchtime deals rarely go under-the-radar for the New York power lunch crowd. Sure enough, when a nearby deli recently offered half-off on its per-pound-buffet, the small establishment exploded with business.
The massive flow of volume risked creating a major crunch at the registers. If the cashiers were not ultra-efficient in measuring the customer’s food order and quickly accepting payment, the lines would have been unbearable to the many customers who demand speedy service and oppose long queues.
Luckily, the cashiers were lightning-fast, allowing the line to move as smoothly as anyone could have expected. Or, at least it would seem “lucky.”
As it turns out, in order to keep the lines moving quickly, the cashiers had to table the idea of building relationships. Greetings like “hello” and “how are you” were absent from the cashiers’ vocabulary, and if a customer tried to initiate such a greeting, he would be ignored in favor of a curt, “$7.50” or “Do you need a receipt?”
Almost drawing parallels to Seinfeld’s famous “Soup Nazi” (who, by virtue of demanding perfection from his soup, could not tolerate any less from his customers), these cashiers demanded customers share their commitment to speedy, impersonal transactions. Any hesitation, such as stumbling to grab one’s wallet, deliberating over which credit card to use or asking the cashier to restate the price, was met with obvious frustration from the cashiers, who failed to hide their eye rolls, sighs and nagging hand gestures.
The result? Even though customers were getting what it would seem they most valued—a fast trip through the intimidating lines—the “rudeness” of the staff is often what resonated. So instead of leaving thinking, “this deli gave me the service I wanted,” the thought process was, “Those cashiers have no people-skills.”
By: Brian Cantor
- lack of selection – Amazon has the largest possible selection because it isn’t constrained by local inventory capacity
- higher prices – Amazon can bulk purchase items at such scale that it can get the lowest prices for many items
- physical location – Amazon doesn’t have the cost of maintaining storefronts
- lack of digital personalization – Amazon can tailor its welcome screen or product suggestions based on data it has built up
To do so, they need to rethink how they design their retail experience:
Focused Selection – Local retailers need to better curate product offerings. There’s nothing more paralyzing than the choice between 1,000 different brands or products which is basically what the Amazon shopping experience is like. You tend to cut down anyways based on average customer review or price while on Amazon. Local retailers can learn from Apple and stock a very limited selection of items so they only have “the best” solution for a particular problem.
- Differentiated Products – Local retailers need to stock non-commoditized items. Anything that can be traced to a ISBN or SKU number is mass produced, mass marketed, and mass discounted. Local retailers need to focus on stocking more locally produced items or uniquely distributed ones so they aren’t competing on price directly. Acting less consumer friendly, they could also do more to obfuscate direct price comparisons like what big box retailers sometimes do by having a slightly modified SKU # for electronics so consumers can’t simply check something out offline and buy online without worrying they aren’t getting the same item.
- Faster Delivery – Amazon.com can do 1-day shipping but it cannot do same-day delivery yet because its fulfillment centers are so far from most consumers. Local retailers can offer same day pick up which needs to be emphasized more, but going further, they could make use of couriers (independently or through Postmates and its competitors) to offer same-day delivery.
- Privacy – Although purchasing something in person may not seem very anonymous, compared to online shopping, you are practically unwatched. Amazon.com tracks every click, product viewed, and purchase made to better target offers and suggestions. Local retailers could be doing more to emphasize how they don’t sell your data or use it to track your habits.
- Human Customer Service – Amazon.com make it really easy to return things but doesn’t make it easy to get customer service or refunds. Local retailers need to provide better customer service (the ability to talk to a human instantly and address their problems).
Author: Victor Wong
How often have you entered a store. . .
- And observed two clerks continue to chat instead of turning to smile at you?
- To find that the order you called in the day before is not at the counter, ready for your quick pick-up and payment, because the clerk said she “got busy with other customers?”
- And asked the clerk a question about a product and get an “I don’t know” response, with no offer to find out?
These situations describe Americans’ top three in-store pet peeves according to a multi-client Gallup Poll taken in January.
In a stressful economic time, coddle customers to keep them. In fact, give them bragging rights about “my store” so they come back and tell others.
Next to value-priced quality products, a motivated staff is the most cost-effective way to stand out from the competition while avoiding costly price wars. So many no-cost and low-cost staff behaviors can make all the difference in how a customer feels about your store. The devil is in the specifics because even the most well-intentioned staffer may unwittingly slight someone.
As customer service expert, Holly Stuhl is fond of saying, “You never get bitten by an elephant. It’s the mosquitoes that eat you alive.”
Just as a cultural group has commonly recognized rules of etiquette, your store staff can agree on the specific behaviors that constitute “good store manners” – with each other and with customers.
If everyone in your store agrees to propose and abide by specific “Rules of Conduct,” (ROC) then each staffer knows what is expected and can feel it is appropriate to speak up when a co-worker, including the owner or manager, is not abiding by them or is demonstrating outstanding customer service, according to their “ROC.”
For a brainstorming session with your staff to agree on your outlet’s “Rules of Conduct” here’s some suggestions to jumpstart the discussion:
1. “Welcoming Smile”
Smile at each customer immediately as she enters the door. Their instinct will be to smile back. Safeway asked their clerks to smile at customers and some staff accused the company of trying to “enforce friendliness.” Some women on staff even said that smiling encouraged some male customers to flirt with them.
Hopefully your staff feels comfortable in their ability to smile as a gracious gesture of welcome.
2. “Agree on Your Greeting”
Rather than leave greeting to chance, consider various phrases you think are fitting for your kind of store and market area. Compare notes on what feels comfortable to say to demonstrate that you are willing to help if they need it.
There is a fine line between greeting and overwhelming customers. Avoid opening phrases that don’t recognize their purpose in visiting the store, such commenting on the weather.
3. “Sunshine Over the Phone”
The four most frequent complaints Americans have about talking clerks with whom they speak by phone are that they:
- Speak too fast
- Do not enunciate clearly
- Do not sound like they care
- Do not propose ways to solve a problem but simply answer the questions they are asked.
Agree on the exact greeting and tone of voice for answering your store phone. Some people on staff may resist spending time on a seemingly obvious and small detail, but, like the first face customers see upon entering a store, the “faceless” voice over the phone is the “stain” or “sparkle” of first impression.
For example, you may simply agree to say warmly and clearly, without speed talking,(“name of store”) (your name) speaking. How may I help you?” Ask each staff person to practice saying your agreed upon phone greetings and give candid feedback to each other about clarity, warm, loudness, tone and rate.
In a chain of Italian clothing stores, clerks are asked to listen to audiotapes of melodic, rich male and female voices, saying the greetings that the store owner believes most represents the signature style of the store.
Practice with each other until you are proud of what you hear.
4. “No Matter What”
No matter what else you are doing, from re-stocking a shelf to talking with another customer, pause to smile at the new customer entering the store to acknowledge their presence. It only takes a moment.
If you are with a customer when a new customer enters the store, still take a moment to smile and greet that new customer, perhaps saying “Hello. I’d be glad to help you right after we’re done here.”
Research shows that people are more willing to wait for service if they feel that the moment they can see the clerk, the clerk makes direct eye contact and acknowledges their presence by a smile, nod and some greeting.
5. “Serve the Line”
Serve people in the order that they have asked for service. If one customer interrupts you while you are serving another customer, be especially warm as you turn to the “interrupter” and say something like, “I look forward to helping you right after I’m finished assisting this customer. Thank you.”
6. “Advance Orders”
Actively encourage your customers to place advance orders by phone, fax or e-mail, indicating what is adequate time for you to prepare the order in advance of their coming in.
Even if people walk into the store as you are preparing that order, greet the newcomers and explain that you are completing a prior order.
Tell them how long it will take and ask for their patience, because you will be with them next.
7. “Their Go-to Expert on That Situation”
Become your customers’ top-of-mind subject matter expert. When people come into browse, ask if they would like some suggestions for their particular situation. If they would like such assistance, ask sufficient questions so that you know something about the budget, the customer’s feelings and needs for the situation and what kind of similar products they or their friends have used and liked in the past.
Understanding the big picture of how the customer sees their situation helps you advise them more specifically and thoughtfully.
8. “Specific Sampling Scripts”
Invite customers to participate, to offer advice and to learn.
Every action someone takes on behalf of a prospective sale moves him closer to buying. Set a standard of always having something to sample, ask about, offer suggestions for or otherwise take action on.
For example, a gourmet store might offer samplings. Set the food to be sampled on a counter near a staffer. That way the staff person can offer samples and engage in conversation, perhaps asking a question or making an offer. A sports equipment store might have a demo area.
Asking for advice starts a dialogue where the focus is on the product not on someone trying to get another person to buy. That gourmet store staffer might ask:
- (While holding a platter of sausage slices with toothpicks and three bowls of various flavored mustards): Would you mind telling me which mustard you think goes best with our new smoked chicken and apple sausages?”
- “Do you think this cheese is soft enough to serve on the kind of crackers you use?”
- (Holding a platter with three bowls of slices of different kinds of cookies, with stand up cards in front of each with the names of the cookies on them): Want to guess which one of these cookies is our best seller?”
9. “Would You like French Fries With That?”
Just as McDonalds instructs their staff to suggest additional food items, such as drinks or fries with each order, you can establish a low-key and helpful standard for making suggestions of products that would go with each other for a meal, a gift or other special situation.
If in-store displays involve a combination of products for a timely occasion, staff will find it easier to refer to product combinations to buy as a bundle.
10. “Cross-Sell to Stand Out and to Sell More”
Let customers literally see a situation in which they’d enjoy using several of your products, as a natural extension of their lifestyle – or the life to which they now want to become accustomed. Stage a scene on a table or shelves or in the window. Sometimes include products from a partner’s store to complete the picture of that situation.
In short, encourage more spending in your store by reducing the number of boring or irritating steps to do so and increasing the number of positive in-store moments and reasons to buy.
Author: Kare Anderson
One of the hardest things small business people need to do is create from a blank slate. If you’ve started your own business, then you’re probably pretty good at it. But, you’re also probably smart enough to know that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. And when it comes to standard business documents, starting from a template is typically a great shortcut, provided you do enough customization to turn the template into a document that meets your exact business needs.
There are many websites offering templates for everything from business letters to video themes, and the content is of varying quality so it can be hard to know where to go first. A good place to start is the Template Gallery for Google Docs. (Yes, it is Google’s way of getting you to use its Docs suite, but you don’t need to use Docs to use the templates, as after they open in Docs they can be downloaded in a form compatible with your desktop software.)
There are 15 template categories including Business, Presentations, Calculators and Legal. You can filter each by type of document – spreadsheet, document, presentation, form and drawing.
Independent retail business owners often worry when a large chain store comes to town. The threat of having to compete with large retailers keeps many would-be entrepreneurs from even opening a shop. Unfortunately, those fears are well-founded. Studies show people purchase a higher percentage of their merchandise from the mass merchandisers and consequently a lower percentage from local merchants.
It may be daunting but despite the emergence of these multimillion dollar businesses, many small retailers continue to thrive (and profit) in a highly competitive marketplace. The key to survival is to offer the products and services that your competition does not. Strategies must be implemented to overcome the lower prices and wider selection that large retailers provide. Here are some tips to better position your retail business for competing with the big box stores.
Occasionally, we can be our own worst enemy. Talk of a big competitor coming to your community is not a reason to immediately consider relocating or closing your business. First, recognize that you may need to make a positive change in the way you do business. Then, assess whether or not you have the desire to make those changes.
Do the Research
Seek advice from your trade association or consider hiring an industry consultant to conduct a formal study of what customers value most and what they value least about your business. Understand your store’s competitive edge. Don’t be afraid to shop your competition. One way to be educated about the way your competition does business is by experiencing their customer service first hand. If possible, talk to their customers. Find out what their shoppers like or dislike about the chain store.
Dare to Be Different
Mass merchandisers generally have a little of everything, whereas smaller specialty stores can focus on a narrow but lucrative niche. This can establish your store as the place to go when buying these items. If your market niche is very small, consider keeping a few products and services that appeal to a wider range of customers, but have exceptional product depth.
Focus on what makes your business unique. Emphasize the originality of your inventory as compared to the items offered by the chain store. Customers are intrigued by the unusual and are often attracted to the idea of getting something special from an independently owned business. Smaller retail businesses also have the luxury of creating a comfortable, cozy atmosphere within their store. This gives your store a personality which is often lacking at the big stores.