Many small retail business owners are slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) watching their profits being whittled away by large online retailers. Although small businesses make up the majority of companies in the U.S., they still struggle to compete with these mega-brand businesses. With the growing popularity and power of online purchasing stores like Amazon, many smaller scale brick and mortar businesses are fighting to retain customers — even the ones that were once the most loyal.
Regardless of your particular industry, you need to be well-equipped if you plan on competing with major online retailers. Here are a few tips to help you take full advantage of your business size and all the resources available to you, so you can remain relevant and popular with your target audience!
Are You Online?
Large scale retailers are so powerful because they’re online. They have fully functional websites that are easy to access and navigate for their customers. If you’re going to compete and continue to grow as a small business, you need to be available to your target audience. And where your audience is, is online!
The majority of American shoppers do some form of either research or purchasing online, and many times both. It’s OK if you’re not an online retailer, but you at least need to have an updated website with your contact info, company story, content pages, online reviews, and so on. If your website doesn’t pop up in a search result, your target audience won’t know you exist, regardless of how amazing your products and services may be. However, with that said, you will want to ideally provide a way for your customers to purchase your product online.
Even if your target audience is primarily local and you rely heavily on word of mouth, you still need to have a website for the convenience of your customers. For example, it’s much easier for your prospects and customers to search online to see your store hours, rather than to guess and end up being wrong when they arrive at your location. A professional website shows searchers that you are worth their business, you care about your success and theirs, and you plan on remaining competitive over the long term.
WordPress (WP) is a great platform to help you get started building your website. Whether you choose to design and manage your website yourself, or hire an internet marketing company to assist you, make sure it’s optimized, regularly updated, and navigation-friendly.
Own Your Niche
Having a niche, in addition to a compelling online story, will be the best thing you can do to keep stores like Amazon from swallowing up your small retail business. The reason is, that although Amazon has almost every product, they don’t have the expertise in a particular field to recommend and support products. If you’re going to be a successful small retail business, you need to have a defined, niche market that you operate in. Your products and services need to be specialized, otherwise why would someone choose your business over a well-known brand? Find your niche and dominate it!
Being a small retail business allows you to offer specialty products and services that big businesses can’t. That fact right there is the incentive which will help to drive customers to your small business. Give them the opportunity to get specialized service or one of a kind products they can’t find anywhere else. Find out what your ideal customers want, and then tailor your small retail business around those ideas, products or services, and principles. You should also be open to working with a prospect and any specific requests they may have. While it’s impossible to meet every demand from every customer, be open to negotiations and deals in an effort to accommodate the prospect’s requests.
Big businesses and brands work to attract the majority with more generalized products and services. That’s where your small business can step in and serve the more specialized, niche needs of those who have been overlooked.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down what your niche is or who your target audience is, spend some time developing a Customer Composite Index (CCI) and buyer personas. Analyze your existing customers and in what areas you make the most sales. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions. The more exact your questions are, the better you’ll be able to define your ideal audience and design your business for them. You can also do some general research into your industry to see what gaps exist in product or service demand that your small business could fill. Knowing who your target customers are will help you create better and more affecting marketing campaigns.
Be Competitive and Flexible With Your Pricing/ Payments
One of the ways you can best accommodate your customers is to accept several forms of payment: cash, credit card, check, apple pay, pay pal and the list goes on! Depending on the size and amount of repeat customers you have, you may also want to consider having a “club card” that offers some sort of deal or promotion after a certain amount of purchases, referrals, or such. You can also offer exclusive promotions to existing customers through their email if they use a special discount code.
If you sell more expensive items, you may want to consider having a payment plan where your customers can make payments on a monthly basis, split payments with others, or place them on layaway. You can work with each client or customer individually to work out a pricing and payment plan that will work best for them. Again, this is a service that bigger businesses just can’t extend to their customers. Don’t let customers walk all over your business, but try to work with customers who are struggling to meet payments as much as possible. Being flexible with your payment schedule will go a long way to ensure customer loyalty and satisfaction with your small retail business.
It may seem like you’re at a disadvantage if you’re a small retail business, but you actually have many advantages when it comes to customer relationships. True, you may have fewer resources to work with, but you can offer your customers what they really want, personalized and dedicated service! That’s worth going to a small business for!