In today’s scary age of big chain retailers closing their doors, mom and pop shops are getting nervous. Is your business safe from digital powerhouses like Walmart and Amazon? With the right strategy, any business can stand the test of time. Here are things we’ve learned about consumer patterns from studying history and how your business can utilize that knowledge to keep your brick and mortar thriving.
Relationships Retain Business
Remember way back, when ‘big box retailers’ used to actually care about you as a customer? Their customer service is what made them successful. They had excellently trained sales staff that offered prompt help and would bend over backward to service your requests. This era has died, and so looms the closure of JCPennys and Macys stores across the United States, along with many other big-box retailers.
Interestingly enough, customers aren’t immune to this type of customer service. In fact, this is becoming a novelty of only high-end stores in upscale areas (which are thriving by the way)! Imagine a small business that knew what a customer’s personal tastes were, not because of the data they mined off of their website and Facebook page, but because they actually took the time to understand their customer as a person.
Once you have developed trust and understood their personality, you will be able to give them a call when you see a new product on the market they might be interested in trying. You’d be able to special order items that meet their specific lifestyle; as a business, you would have less low-performing merchandise on your shelves. On top of this, your customers would feel as though their needs were being cared for by a trusted friend.
This is the small business experience consumers today crave. In a world of being known on the web, but not on a personal level, having a familiar face greet you by name is an incredible experience. It can be just enough to turn a first time customer into a loyal, repeat customer.
Moxie, a Grand Rapids, MN shop is one of those small businesses getting it right. Their store offers clothing options for women with many American-made products. More than that, they offer the equivalent of a personal stylist who will understand what you like, and give you a call when a piece comes in that reflects something you would be interested in purchasing. They’ll even order it in your size for you to try on!
Retail isn’t the place this kind of service stops! I recently spoke with a mom that was so grateful when her doctor called her up and told her about a new penicillin product on the market that might be good to try for her diabetic son. She refuses to see any other physician to this day (18 years later). Service is about trust, helping your customers find what is best for them, regardless of which product or service puts more money in your pocket.
New Doesn’t Mean You Live With The Jetsons
Customers want to have access to the latest and greatest, but that doesn’t mean your store has to look like it’s from another world. You do have to allow them access by helping them find you online. Local business owners should have a website, a Facebook page, and an optimized Google Business Listing with some solid, recent reviews.
Being in the digital space doesn’t mean your website has to have flashy features right from the start, but you do have to be mobile friendly. Now, let’s be honest, mobile responsive website aren’t exactly new.
Many small business owners are still trying to make this transition. Doing it will help with the ranking of your business in Google. All of the recommendations we make to our clients are to help them grow their business at the pace that aligns with their specific goals. If you are hoping to grow your business by leaps and bounds, yes, we’ll tell you digital is going to help a lot. It doesn’t mean, however, that we want you to jump at every new and shiny object in the digital space.
Where Large Retailers Went Wrong
Data can be an excellent place to gain insights about your consumers in order to help serve them better. Placing your hopes and dreams in front of a screen, however, demands incredible delivery speeds, a phenomenal shopping experience, and inexpensive price tags.
For those who have deep pockets, investing in this type of platform was the Wild West challenge to be the best. In the process, they started to spend less time actually building relationships with customers on the sales floor in their brick and mortar stores and offering lower quality products at lower than ever prices.
So Should I Beat Them or Join Them?
Having an e-commerce part of your website is definitely something that is a viable option for many small businesses, but we’d like to throw this caveat at you: any web developer you use won’t be able to give you an Amazon experience. Why? Amazon spent $5.5 billion in research and development for Quarter 2 of 2017. Did they put out some new products with some crazy awesome capabilities? Yes. But a lot of that cost went into developing their website shopping experience further.
When entering the e-commerce market, patience is still a virtue. There’s no get rich quick scheme that will work in a sustainable way. Case in Point: The Fidget Spinner. It takes strategic digital planning, and a targeting marketing approach to build a sustainable growth pattern.
E-commerce aside, all businesses need to be found digitally in order to see long-term growth. You’ll have to work on gaining a rank through search engine optimization, hitting your niche market, and, once you’ve got a strong foundation, look at spending some money in pay-per-click marketing.
Will there be a return on investment? If you do it right, YES. The reality is, consumers are turning to the web to find information about the products and services they want. In 2017 alone, we’ve seen businesses triple their growth by investing a full year into digital marketing. If you want people to visit your store, you need to showcase who you are digitally. If you aren’t changing, someone else will.
But Isn’t Digital Expensive?
When compared with all your other business investments to further your growth, not really. The SBA recommends 7-8% of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing your business if you are smaller $5 million. If you aren’t working marketing costs into your budget, this is the first item you need to address.
In years gone by, accounting and marketing were always at each other’s throats because it was hard for traditional marketing to prove it was actually helping the business gain customers.
Not. Any. More.
With the use of digital marketing, you have the ability to track every conversion, web visit, button click, and advertising channel that drives customers to your website or even Google Business Listing! Marketing can prove its worth for bringing in customers and keeping you prosperous. The trick is, you have to understand how to read the data and know what to track. That’s where we help give you recommendations, and offer resources to increase your depth of knowledge. Check out our blog for incredible content to get you started.
Daring to Face the Web
Anyone can show up online. Even a fake restaurant! If you don’t believe people can get leads through the web, this article will completely go against this conviction, so avoid it at all costs. Read it here. Building an honest online presence does take actual boots on the ground to provide quality service; you can’t do one without the other and endure anymore.
We are not going to lie, maintaining a positive digital presence takes some effort. The ROI is worth the time, especially when we bring it all back to point #1: Relationships Retain Business. If you can maintain that relationship in store and on the web, you have the magic mojo to move your business to infinity and beyond!
Disclaimer: Technically Walmart made $482 Billion dollars in 2016, as the richest company in the world, so we haven’t reached infinity yet, but here’s to trying!
Looking for insight into where you should get started? Connect with Art Unlimited today for a free consultation. We are here to help and love doing it!