Being a retailer is hard. You don’t need us to tell you that.
It’s the mix of high costs, fickle customers, and stiff competition – from local companies and ecommerce giants alike. Amazon and big-box retailers are always a threat, waiting in the wings to swoop in and steal your business.
It’s stressful – and sometimes in quiet periods it can feel impossible.
And that’s before you consider the retail apocalypse that shuttered branches of companies like Sears and Macy’s.
1,100 retail store closures were announced in a single day in March. It’s easy to read that stat and to consider shutting up shop entirely – but smart tools and strategies are giving retailers everything they need to fight back. Here’s how.
1. Know why your customers choose you – and be really good at it
Traditionally, customers choose local stores for any combination of seven reasons: value and price; convenience; their products and availability; ease; customer service/consultation; and the experience.
Maybe your customers appreciate the knowledge your employees have. Maybe they appreciate your product catalogue. It could even be that they like being able to physically touch/see a product before they make a purchase.
Whatever it is, optimize it. For example, Lowe’s and Home Depot are known for offering invaluable advice to customers. Likewise, Nordstrom offers services in style advice and personal shopping that keeps customers coming back.
It could be a case that you diversify your product range or that you provide specialized training for your staff. Whatever it is, identify your strength and play to it. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your customers in person or create a survey to send out to your email list or customers.
2. Use the internet to your advantage
It isn’t enough to presume that customers know who you are – no matter how decorated or long-standing your store is. More and more, consumers are making online searches before ever setting foot in a store – and if they can’t find you or your products, they’re going to go somewhere else, even if you’re only a block away and you have exactly what they’re looking for.
Digital marketing is when you use the internet to promote your store. Depending on your budget, it can take any number of forms: for example, investing in a website, using social media to share your products, optimizing to get found online as a local retailer, or sending emails to your customers about promotions.
The unfortunate truth is that if your local retail store isn’t showing up online, you’re going to be losing out on customers – which can feel like a nightmare when many digital marketing tactics can seem over-priced to smaller stores.
3. Be prepared to adapt
If you’re a retailer with a long history, it can be easy to fall into the trap of doing what’s always worked. If it seems to be going well, why change it, right?
Well, you could be missing out on a slew of opportunities as the retail industry continues to change and evolve. Instead, emphasize identifying changes in your industry and how consumers work. Then use those insights to make necessary changes to your store.
Ultimately, you need to think about how you’re going to grow your store – which means looking at ways to improve your business. Be prepared to test new strategies, products, tools, or marketing – or face being left behind.
4. Consider forming smart partnerships with other local retailers
Other businesses or communities could be a useful tool for your store. Local retail can feel solitary – especially in a saturated market, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone.
Referral programs or loyalty schemes could be a useful asset to your business. It could be as simple as partnering with local companies and referring customers for certain items or taking a cut of sales that you refer.
Effective partnerships are a two-way street so be clear about how both parties will benefit.
5. Create a welcoming environment
What will bring a customer into your store? That’s the big question every retailer needs to answer. Is it an appealing storefront? Online advertising? Welcoming staff with unmatched knowledge of your industry and products?
The responsibility is on you to create an environment that pulls customers in – and brings them back. Customers need to feel relaxed in an open space. Products should be laid out in a manner that makes sense for your customers, while all signage should be up-to-date.
Let in plenty of natural light; greet customers when they come in-store; utilize any curb space with useful amenities like bike racks or signage; emphasize customer loyalty; even consider hosting relevant events, classes or workshops.
Customers have more choice than ever for making a purchase so you need to make sure that they feel valued.
6. Invest in smart tools and strategies
The right analytic tools, marketing packages, or smart devices could make all the difference to your store, absolutely, but make sure it’ll be worth it.
Do your research, look for case studies and testimonials, and talk to other retailers using particular services or products to determine the differentiator for your store.
7. Increase foot traffic
Everything you do as a retailer – especially in local retail – needs to increase foot traffic for the right people to your store. Ultimately, more foot traffic should mean more sales, presuming you’ve done everything else on this list.
Sometimes, it really is as simple as finding and solving a problem.
Imagine your customer is trying to buy something specific, but they don’t know where it’s sold. If they type the product name into Google, they’ll probably find a dozen ecommerce websites selling it.
It seems crazy that you could search the entire internet, but you still might now know if what you wanted was in the store around the corner.
This is the problem that Pointy solves: to help local stores pick up footfall, by putting your products online and helping people to find them.
The solution to being found online that’s changing local retail
Pointy co-founder, Mark Cummins, left Google to co-found Pointy with the intention of making local retail work better with the internet, as so many local stores are losing out to ecommerce and big-box retailers.
His background as a Google engineer was particularly useful in designing a device called the Pointy box that plugs into a store’s barcode scanner. The box picks up product UPC codes and uses that to populate a website of the products sold in the store.
Here’s an example of what it looks like.
Once you connect the Pointy box to your POS, it finds all the product names and images, and automatically lists all your store inventory online.
These pages are optimized for search engines, so that when people nearby search for products you stock, they can now see that it’s available in your local retail store, not just on some big ecommerce site like Amazon.
At Pointy, we’ve helped stores appear in Google search results millions of times already for our 10,000+ local retailers, and we’re only getting started.
Pointy’s mission is to help every local store pick up more footfall. We know local stores don’t have big budgets, so we’ve ensured that Pointy can do a lot, without breaking the budget.
Do you want to increase your footfall and sales?
If you’re a retailer and you’d like to find out more about Pointy, you can click here. If you’d like to sign-up to get a Pointy box of your own, click the image below.