Sunday, November 3, 2013

How Can a Brick and Mortar Business Compete With Online Retailers

People shop online for reasons other than to save money. They shop for convenience and because it is engaging, fun and entertaining. Some local retailers really need to lift their game in order to attract the customers back to their stores. 

Sadly there many brick and mortar retail stores that are simply dull. Inadequate product selection, tired looking displays,  poor customer service creates an ordinary shopping experience. Watch how long people stay and browse in your shop. If they are in and out quick, not buying anything, then you haven't engaged them.  If a business has little to offer in retail or they stock cheap and poor quality products, their customers take their business elsewhere.

Besides products, customer service is another area where brick and mortar businesses can further develop. Visiting stores, I have dealt with staff that simply do not have the skills to offer excellent customer service. Some are downright lazy and don't know how to answer basic questions about the products and services they sell. 

To stay in the game and cater to demanding customers, small businesses need to make the shopping experience a fun, engaging and a pleasurable experience. Deliver a shopping experience that will give the customer 'something to talk about' with their friends. An experience that they will look forward to, over and over again. 

How can this be achieved? 


Know your customer demographics, their needs and wants. If they are not buying from you, they are buying elsewhere. Find out where and why? Is there a need you have failed to meet? And if you get the answer, ' I bought it elsewhere because it was cheaper' don't give up. Ask them, ' what would compel you to buy the product from us at the RRP?' and keep asking questions until you get the ideas you need to make the necessary changes. 

Some ideas to think about are:
- how you can make it more convenient for them to buy from you
- how you can you deliver expert advice
- what you need to do to follow up and offer great support
- what incentives can you offer
- how can you engage them even more
- how do your customers get the chance to try before they buy
- and how can you make it more fun and exciting for your customers


Study the retail businesses, brick and mortar as well as online, see what makes your competition successful, and what makes others fail. 

Study your own business, look at it critically to assess where improvements can be made. Sometimes you may need outside help as you are in the business every day it will be hard for you to see areas for improvements. What training and courses can you do to help you manage your retail service better?


Are your staff attending regular training to keep abreast of industry trends? Do they keep updated with the latest product knowledge so that they can provide the best and latest service and advice? Many small businesses don't send staff to training because they see it as an expense. It's a well-known fact that not training your staff will cost the business a lot more in the long run. 


Do you offer a good selection of products and services to meet all your client's needs? Do you offer the best quality products, with a good reputation? Many businesses choose cheaper products thinking it will be easier to sell.  This is a mistake, especially in tough times, customers seek out quality, they want value for their money.


What makes your business unique? Why SHOULD customers buy from you? These are critical questions that most small business owners have no answer for.  Successful businesses know this well and communicate it effectively to the consumers.


Do you have a well thought out and documented business, financial and marketing plan, updated yearly? No one should be running a small business without these documents, these are critical to the business success and survival.


Is your business retail area designed for maximum impact? Is your retail and merchandising updated regularly and is current? Do you have a show-stopping display? Are customers encouraged to engage with the products before they buy? How?
What makes their shopping fun and exciting in your store? Why would customers choose to buy from you? Differentiate yourself from your competition and especially the online competition.


Are your staff immaculately presented, well spoken, approachable, friendly, informed and can close sales consistently? Do they actively work at building a long-term customer base for the business? What expertise can your staff offer your customers that customers cannot get elsewhere? In the small business, your staff ARE the business. 

Is there a future for brick and mortar businesses in Australia? 
In my opinion, absolutely! However, they cannot continue doing what they have always done and expect to survive. Times have changed, and local retailers are not only competing with their local and national competition but international via the online presence as well. And this will not go away. In fact, shopping online is fast becoming a fact of life. 

So my advice to small business is, shine above everyone else, make your business stand out. Make it really interesting to shop in your store, give your customers something to talk about with their friends. Your local customers do want to support you, and they don't mind spending a few extra dollars. 

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Jana x

Tips For Dealing With Difficult Customers

We all have to deal with difficult customers from time to time. Something I learned a long time ago, is that if we could successfully resolve issues for an angry or complaining customer, they would most often become our most loyal customer.
Customers make judgements on the service and judgements about the business based on how the staff and management respond to a difficult situation.

When dealing with a difficult customer, it is important to acknowledge their feelings, don't ignore, or worse, dismiss their feeling. Typically a complaining customer would have been psyching themselves up for the confrontation, often taking you by surprise. 

Imagine the customer blown up like a balloon full of hot air. If you confront your customer, question their judgement, deny or justify your actions, you’ll just be adding more hot air to that balloon. If you keep adding hot air to that balloon, it will eventually explode.

The best thing to do is to let the hot air out of that balloon bit by bit. Allow that customer time to express their feeling, and talk about the problem. Remember, they are ready for a fight, so take them by surprise and stay calm, stay quiet while they talk, listen attentively, and keep your emotions in check. This can be very difficult because we deal with emotions every day, so it is difficult to keep emotions out of the situation. But if you allow that balloon to expel all that hot air, if you allow your customer to talk uninterrupted, you will be surprised how quickly they will calm down.

As you go about resolving the issue, keep in mind your ultimate goal, put yourself in the frame of mind of what you want to achieve. The ultimate goal is to turn this difficult customer to your most loyal customer. This is a completely different mindset to being on the back foot, denying responsibility and finding yourself justifying your actions. It is very tempting as we can get caught up emotionally and our pride in our business can overshadow the issue at hand. So it is important to stay focused on how we can resolve the issue and keep our personal feelings to ourselves.

As you listen to their problem, it is important to put yourself in their shoes, and see things from their perspective. Solutions may present themselves more easily if you empathize with your customer and have an intimate understanding of their concerns and feelings. Apologize where necessary, and move on. Establish and build rapport with the client and tell them what you will do about their complaint. It may be that you need to take notes and advise them you will report this issue to the manager, assure them this will not happen again, or if you are able to, offer a solution that is acceptable, then go about exceeding your client’s expectations.

When dealing with difficult customers, how you deal with the situation is how the customer will remember you, and tell everyone of their experience. Think about your own experiences, if you had a bad experience, you will want to share your feeling about it with anyone you talk to. Alternatively, if you had an amazing experience, with the WOW factor, this can be the most powerful word of mouth advertising for any business.

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Jana x

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