The headlines are hard to ignore; “Retail Apocalypse: 24 Big retailers closing stores” or “Traditional Retail Is Struggling.” It is true that retail is in the midst of rapid transformation and retailers are having to reinvent who they are and how they do business to stay relevant in this dynamic environment. However for all the talk of the struggling retail segment, there are clear winners; big and small.
Amazon, Walmart and other large format stores have leveraged price transparency and shopping ease for necessities and familiar items and come out ahead. Their win comes at the cost of businesses that were anchored to malls with their inherent problems; vast parking lots, aisles of sameness and disengaged associates. These Omni-channel juggernauts are answering the call for consumers looking for the lowest price and convenience of shopping for brands they know and items they need from the convenience of their couch. Shopping with the big guys, while convenient and time saving, rarely brings joy to a consumer. This is why small retail done right is a beautiful thing.
The rapid change that retail is seeing is forcing all retailers to answer the question “What am I best at?” Instead of trying to take on online convenience and “Always low prices – always,” small retailers who dedicate themselves to playing to their strengths are seeing growth. These stores know that shopping is an experience, one that should bring joy and connection to people and their communities.
The web does a great job of capturing shopping habits of online shoppers and making recommendations based on past purchases. While this is much more difficult in a brick and mortar environment, it is imperative that you capture customer information and build their file. Ideally you would link their online shopping history (if applicable), in store purchase history and details like contact information, gender, and age. Consider arming sales associates with mobile devices, so they can look up user accounts on the store floor to create a more personalized experience and easily suggest additional items based on recent purchases. The little things like remembering customers names and their personal preferences can be done without technology in a small store but staff does change and with them goes all of that customer goodwill.
Given that all things are equal, people want to support businesses that support their communities. There are several ways to have your store and employees become anchored to your town. It might be as simple as donating your space to a non-profit so they can host an event. You might consider sponsoring a educational speaker or film series. Perhaps you can pay your employees for volunteering for a local non profit. Not only does this benefit the non profit but creates a bond with the associate and the store. While none of these may directly generate sales, they are often much cheaper than other marketing and advertising and has the added benefit of doing good for the community in which you live and work.
Stock brands and items that are unique and not widely distributed. By being a destination for your customers to discover new and interesting items you will fulfill the promise of shopping as recreation/entertainment. Go out of your way to find smaller niche brands with products that speak to your customers. Develop your vendor relationships and look for ways to create a real partnership based on more than transactions.
Additional Revenue Streams
That feeling of “I belong here.” can be lubricated with food and drink. Add snacks, pastries, coffee, kombucha or beer and wine bar to the store may take up valuable real estate but it give customers a reason to come in, browse and connect with your staff.
Times have changed and your customers are looking for reasons to shop with you beyond low price and convenience. Give them reasons to engage with your store and staff and they will tell their friends and come back regularly with a smile on their face.
For help creating strategy, bringing your stores vision to life, training staff to focus on the customer or bringing a new product or service to market contact Jim Miller at Retail Revision. A unique consumer-centric retail perspective and a passion for delivering results to their clients’ bottom line set them apart.