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 CUSTOMERS
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
KNOW YOUR TRADE
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.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE
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.
CUSTOMER SERVICE EXCELLENCE
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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