Why ignoring digital could be the kiss of death for your hardware store

In any given month, somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million searches are made on Google for the phrase, “hardware store near me.”

You’re possibly standing in the very hardware store nearest to one of the people who made that search. You’re exactly what they’re looking for.

But only if they can find you.

While people are searching for hardware online, in-store shopping is seeing a boom too.

According to Census data, retail (and hardware retail in particular) is thriving. In the first half of 2018, hardware stores rose 12.5 percent – and on the back of the rise-and-rise of makeover shows and Marie Kondo’s decluttering empire, it’s only likely to see further growth into 2019.

But in the age of digital, is it enough to presume customers will come to you?

person using a laptop

Why digital matters

Much of home improvement is highly visual: shoppers want to see the paint color before committing to it. They want to feel a tool before adding it to their collection. They want answers to questions that larger chain store workers won’t necessarily have.

They trade in information – a toolbox of knowledge that helps independent retailers go toe-to-toe with megastores.

However, that’s not to say that good old-fashioned know-how is the single most important thing for independent retailers.

If a customer can’t easily find your store or its information, they’ll likely go somewhere else – and in a consumer-driven ecosystem, they have more choice than ever. Start with a search on Google for “hardware store near me” and they may skip right past you for a competitor or an online giant.

Do a simple test right now. Google one of your bestselling products and “near me”. Does your store come up? If not, you’re missing out on sales.

With that in mind, here are three more reasons for digital is so important to your hardware store.

1. The data DNA

The idea of collecting and using data can be tricky. How do you go about gathering it and what can do you do with it afterwards?

It can be as simple as an optimized website or a heat map to track where customers are most active or as complex as a geomap beacon that pings when a customer is in a given radius and sends them a coupon for a special offer.

It’s both a question of means and appetite and, ultimately, accessibility. Data is only useful if you use it – so start at a level that makes sense for your chain. Invest in an online presence; track sales and busy times; personalize content or messaging based on demographics or previous buyer behavior.

It isn’t about having lots of data – but about being smart with the data you have.

man shopping online

2. Understand that technology is the great equalizer

While words like “marketing” and “e-commerce” may call to mind escalating budgets and potentially killer overheads, the reality for independent retailers is that the internet has had a flattening effect on the industry with smaller retailers thriving in the digital age.

If the first step to being found online is a consumer making a search query, then the second step is being the first returned result – and thanks to affordable technology, it’s more possible than ever.

3. Connect offline and on

Most consumers carry a cell phone in their pocket. It can organize your entire life if you let it. But the truth is that it has made life harder for independent retailers.

Independent retailers need to be found online. The 1,000,000 monthly searches won’t mean anything to you if they lead a prospective customer to your competitor. It’s a null point if this competitor is Amazon or a traditional retailer two blocks over.

Shoppers have all the power thanks to the internet, and retailers need to provide an information-rich, customer-centric experience both online and off. A product catalogue, inventory checks, great local SEO, and relevant content are the skeleton of online success.

Without it, the body collapses. With it, it stands firm and thrives.

Do you want to effectively market your hardware store?

Get more customers through your door by getting your in-store products online instantly. It’s as simple as connecting the Pointy box and getting started. Your store will come up in Google’s results and more customers will find you.

Find out more about the Pointy box and how it can grow your sales by clicking here.

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