What can retailers do to keep customers coming through their doors in this age of online shopping?

March 15th, 2019 Posted by resources No Comment yet

In an earlier post, we looked at the impact that online shopping is having on local retailers and the wider local community. Local retailers are struggling as they have to compete not only with big-box stores that can offer lower prices, but also with online giants such as Amazon. The impact of the “Amazon effect” is very real, and businesses are having to think outside the box and be more creative when it comes to keeping existing customers, and encouraging more to start shopping locally.

There are a few things that retailers can do:

  1. Use brick-and-mortar locations to support online stores.

Are you able to move with the trend and offer online shopping, with your physical store there to support online sales? There are undeniable benefits like being able to accept orders 24/7 and increasing your overall sales volume. However, this might not be feasible for small, local stores. You’d need to be able to catalogue your entire inventory and get it online. This would work if your inventory is largely consistent, but for lots of small retailers, products change regularly.  Are you able to handle orders and ship products? Do you have inventory tracking capabilities.

Starting an online store is a big step, but it’s not impossible, and retail survival requires transformation to new paradigms. There are other options, however:

  • Start small with a click-and-collect service that lets shopper buy online and pick-up in-store—it’s convenient for customers, and it also drives traffic and sales in your physical stores.
  • Another option is to use sites like Etsy to sell your unique, hand-crafted, quality products. It is more important to be where your customers are, than to be on sites or in stores with the most traffic.

  1. Understand what your core customers want and build a strategy around it

If your retail store is just the same as anyone else’s, or you can buy the exact same products online at half the price, then it will be tough to stay in business. What makes your business different is your Unique Selling Proposition—your differentiator from your competition, online and offline. And you must have one.

To survive, you need to do something that the giants of Walmart, Amazon, Wayfair, etc. are not doing, or are not doing well. What can you offer your customers that they can’t? You probably can’t offer the lowest prices, but you might have more unique, one-of-a-kind products. Quality. Locally-made. What can you say about your products that the online stores can’t say about theirs? This becomes your USP, and you build your marketing strategy around this.

  1. Create an in-store experience that drives traffic and sales

Think of Costco and IKEA—huge stores with just about everything you could ever need for your home! But what else do they have? Quick, convenient, and cheap food! We all know people who go to Costco just for the cheap hot dogs, or to IKEA for the restaurant. Although never the core of the retailer’s business, this part of the shopping experience has become so popular that people visit (and therefore shop) just to have that experience.

Smaller businesses can use these brands as as inspiration for creating their own customer experience that keeps customers coming back. For example, The Workroom is a craft and sewing store in Toronto that regularly holds sewing classes and workshops which not only help to bring a sense of community to local people, but also provides an experience they can’t get online. It keeps them coming back.

  1.  Offer customers a technology-driven experience

Mobile-technology has widespread potential among offline retailers. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and invest thousands and thousands of dollars into building a mobile app. It simply means you, as a retailer, need to recognize the enormous role that mobile plays in consumers lives, and work it into your marketing strategy.

Customer behaviour is changing, and to remain competitive, retailers must change too. Read more about how retailers can take advantage of the mobile experience to drive more customers in store.

While many retailers are falling victim to the likes of Amazon, Wayfair, and Walmart, it’s not a fate that is set in stone. Retailers must step up their game, and compete in areas that the big names in online retail can’t. Many customers are embracing the “shop local” movement, and are willing to pay a little more for the retail experience, and the sense of community that comes from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

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