In today’s economy, consumers have more choices than ever before. You likely have a couple of competitors within a mile of your location, not to mention the online competition that may be creeping into your sphere. Amidst the competition, what is it that causes someone to come and purchase from you versus another retailer? You should be taking steps to set yourself apart. Companies that are afraid of innovation and change are likely to be the ones that will not be around in a decade.
You may have been doing things the same way for the past twenty or thirty years and see no reason to change. With the fast-paced tools and resources available in today’s economy that may not be wise. Here are three things that you can do to help ensure longevity in the modern marketplace.
1. Continue to offer Excellent Service
The highest value of having a physical presence is the service and education provided through in-person connections. Online companies have been trying to master this for years now without the same success that can be had in person. Even the excellent service provided by the likes of Zappos and Backcountry.com can not compare to what can be had by having eye contact and in-person conversation.
I have seen excellent service rendered by retailers that are passionate and driven. My uncle, for example, has owned a specialty running store for over 30 years now. He has always rendered excellent service for his customers, but even more importantly, he has been able to teach his staff over the years to do the same thing. This connection with the customer keeps them coming back. He even has customers that have moved hundreds of miles away but still wait to buy their running gear when they visit his town to purchase it from his store.
By providing expertise and outstanding service, you are giving your customers a reason to choose you over your competition. This adds value to your business, thus increasing your customers’ willingness to pay as well as going out of their way to come to your store.
2. Discover and Focus on Your USP
Stores may offer the same product or service as their nearest competitors. Prices may be a little higher than those that can be found on Amazon or other online retailers. With these similarities, how do you create something different? Brands need to have a unique selling proposition, or USP, to stand apart.
Your USP can be as simple as the customer service that you offer, as mentioned in the first object here. Sometimes, your USP must extend beyond that. Look at your business model and assess what benefits you are offering to your target customers. How does that benefit translate into value for them? By determining these benefits and making them something that no one else can provide, or at least not as well as you can, then you are able to give them a reason to choose your business over your competition time and time again. This retains loyal customers.
3. Utilize Content Marketing Strategies
One of the most significant challenges for offline business owners to overcome is utilizing online to drive customers to your store online. Thirty years ago a retail store would run a local newspaper ad, be sure to be listed in the yellow pages, send out mass mailers, put up a billboard, or purchase a local radio or television ad. This was primarily the list of options to market your business beyond your storefront. Then, the location was everything. That still has not changed today, whether offline or online, location continues to be everything.
The available tools to market your business have grown exponentially over the past 10-15 years. The yellow pages are basically dead and have been replaced by Google Local, Yelp!, the various maps apps, and more. Television and radio have been subsidized with YouTube, Spotify, Hulu, and the many other streaming on-demand platforms available. The list goes on to websites, social media, blogs, and more. Judging which of these platforms are the most valuable for your business can be a daunting task. We feel that it varies for every company, but at the heart of all of it is content.
No matter where your business is located—online or offline—your customers are going to use online tools to shop.
“In fact, 72% of millennial shoppers are going to research you via your online presence (website and social media profiles) before they even step foot in your store.” (Top Dog Social Media)
Your job is to give your business exposure to bring customers in and then why they should purchase from you instead of your online competition. To help achieve this, you need to be online. Such resources should include Google Local and the appropriate social media networks for your business.
Among using these outlets for listing your business, you should be using them to talk about your business, industry, products and services, and other beneficial content. Then use marketing tools like Cinch to automate emails, direct mail, SMS, and advertising audiences. These tools help to drive customers back to your storefront again and again.
4. Be Strategic and Personal in Marketing
Whether writing content, sending out a marketing piece, engaging at local events and fairs, or greeting customers, it is important to be personal. In today’s day and age of mass amounts of data, it is getting easier to know your customers. It is also getting more challenging to stand out as the only one that does because so many of your competitors know that information as well. Being strategic in your messaging and using the tools available to you can help you stand out among others and better understand your customer and their interests.
Be sure that you have a point of sale solution that allows you to connect your customer buying history to their account with an email and/or phone number. By gathering this data, you can learn better who your customer is, what their interests are, and what their buying habits have been. If your current point of sale system does not allow for this functionality, then we would recommend shopping around to find something new. Our team can help you get set up on some great solutions. We don’t provide point-of-sale services, but we have seen a lot and are well versed on what solutions would be best for your situation.
By gathering this customer information, you are better able to segment your customers for inviting them back into your store. You can send them emails, text messages, or postcards on their birthday or when their favorite product is back in stock. Because they are tied to their transaction data, we are able to predict when it is time to upgrade an existing product or purchase a new product in a different vertical. For example, if you have a customer that only comes in and purchases shoes, you could market to them some apparel or accessory.
Know your customer. Know who they are. Know what their interests are. This can be updated in your system by keeping notes, but we are able to predict interests and behaviors by using other online data in addition to their current buying habits. That is the power of what we are able to do at Cinch. Your customers want offerings specific to them. We can help you customize them to accomplish this.
Building a retail business need not be a dying breed, as many continue to proclaim. I believe that it is precisely the opposite. Over the past few years, we have seen some of the biggest online juggernauts work on getting into more brick and mortar spaces through acquisition or opening their own branded stores. Amazon, for example, has opened retail stores, acquired Whole Foods, and created a strategic partnership with Kohl’s. This is evidence that even the most significant online marketplace sees the importance of physical locations.
You can still have an advantage in this space, as discussed above. By combining good marketing with a great company story, you are able to become a viable business and brand for years, and even generations, to come. Telling a story can be a crucial aspect to your overall business success. Knowing what makes you different and using that in your marketing strategy will help to connect you to your core audience. Learn as much about your customers as you can and go out there to win. I believe that retail has a long and prosperous future. I hope that your business is one that is around to see this future.