Being a small retailer is hard enough. Figuring out what your customers want to buy even before they know it can be overwhelming. Guess wrong and you need to mark down your product, giving up profit you need to pay expenses and pay yourself. Guess right and you are on top of the hottest trend and making top margins. In our over 15 years of consulting with retailers, we are well aware of the impact that marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, have had on our small brick and mortar retailers. However, with the right strategies, you can make sure you stand out in the crowded marketplace.
#1: Go Deep
What we mean by that is to master the category you are in. We have a pet retailer who successfully competes by having greater product knowledge in the area of healthy foods for dogs and cats than Amazon can ever hope to gain with their buying suggestions. I am amazed at the number of pets who are starting to have food allergies. Our client has you covered. If your dog is allergic to wheat, the sales associates know exactly what foods to recommend. They use their point of sale system to track the customer’s purchase and can quickly answer the question, “What did I buy last time?” That, in addition to a liberal return policy, has earned their customer’s loyalty. In conjunction with our tip to go deep, they have a large selection of raw foods and specialty supplements, and the knowledge to make sure they meet their customer needs. So, by going deep, they are able to compete successfully with the big box pet retailers, as well as Amazon.
#2: Create an Experience
The Amazon experience is convenience. However, humans are social and in general like gathering together with others. This is especially true for the younger generations, who typically crave experiences even more than acquiring things. We have a women’s boutique that excels in this. They hold designer trunk shows several times a year, inviting customers who have purchased similar products in the past. They serve beverages and lite snacks, creating a day/night for their customer. In addition, they curate outfits for their better customers based on past purchases. Once they get new product in, they use the knowledge of the customer to create a collection and market that collection to the customer. Lastly, they will have a wardrobe stylist work with any customer looking for help including working with items the customer brings in.
#3: Technology Must Support Sales
If you can’t beat them, join them. Technology has made it feasible for the small retailer to be on a number of the marketplaces. My tip here relates to making sure your technology supports your sales. There is nothing worse than selling something on Amazon and not being able to fulfill the order. In fact, Amazon will remove you as a seller if you fail to fulfill orders properly.