Small and medium stores have been struggling to catch up with the changes in retail. The spread of the big-box chains and the chipping away of market share by online retailers have changed the retail landscape. In recent years, the technology changes have been working against the smaller stores. Big-box retailers were able to develop technology and infrastructure with dedicated teams.
Employing an army of engineers and data scientists is beyond the reach of most retailers except for a few big ones. But the ongoing changes and the emergence of many new companies in the area make connected commerce and omnichannel retail withing the reach for every retail store. Taking advantage of these new technologies will be critical to the success of every store. The good news is that everyone is in the game now, not just the big boys.
Let us check a few ways you can harness the power of omnichannel and connected commerce to insure the success of your store.
1. Get your inventory online
A major factor working against smaller stores is consumers being concerned about inventory availability. Whilst consumers know that the item they are looking for is possibly available in a nearby store, they may avoid taking chances and drive further to a bigger store where they are sure that the item will be there. This uncertainty factor offsets the proximity advantage stores have over the customers in the neighborhood.
Having the inventory online and searchable via mobile and desktop removes this uncertainty. An informed customer will be willing to drive to the smaller store nearby rather than to the supermarket many miles away. Now the store may get online visibility through paid results in Google shopping or by subscribing to Mantele. Making your inventory visible might be the best marketing step for your store.
2. Focus on Online visibility than on physical location
Traditionally, it is important to have a physical store which attracts eye-balls. Recently, the importance of the store’s physical location has been replaced by its online presence. Even if you are in a location without a lot of foot traffic, customers will find you online.
Search engine ranking and social media presence will be way cheaper than leasing prime space for your store. You may be able to reduce rental costs significantly and get more consumers by diverting a fraction of your rent to online marketing.
3. Provide a seamless shopping experience
Selling online remains hard and time-consuming for smaller stores. Consumers who buy online mostly will stick to larger retailers like Amazon due to habits and trust. Attracting local consumers online and providing them a seamless experience for buying in-store is the key to leveraging your physical proximity. Not only should the customers be able to find your items online, they should also be able to locate the item in your store, and buy it in an effortless manner.
Home Depot and Target showing in-store maps to the item are good examples of such experiences. Increasingly, these technologies are available to smaller stores. Many start-ups like Curbside, Mantele and Google shopping avail the same technology to smaller stores which is only available for big-box retailers now.
4. Use discounts judiciously
A marketing channel for easy local visibility for stores now are daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. Retailers can reach out to local customers through these daily deal sites with no marketing effort.
But these coupons are often expensive to business, with stores losing a major part of their revenue. With the advent of local search, customer visibility can be achieved by being present in inventory searches described above. More importantly, these marketing channels are more persistent unlike the short term discounted promotions.
The advent of retail technology has provided options for local stores to succeed more than any other time in the recent past. If you are ready to adapt and embrace this change you will see increasing customer numbers and revenues.
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