Last week I was at the Stationery Show in Manchester presenting on the benefits of being a small business and how to compete with larger retailers.
There is no doubt that large retail players in all channels dominate the market – using their buying power to get better cost prices which allows them to make more profit and then offer lower retail prices, more promotions and have mega sales. This buying power allows them to grab customers’ attention and buy market share.
By definition discounters always offer cheap prices and many consumers use them as their main outlets. Online sellers (Amazon and the like) have broad product ranges, cheap prices, are accessible anytime, usually offer quick delivery, and often make it cheap and easy to return.
When you think about their way of doing business and what they can offer it is easy to feel downhearted and that there is nothing you can do to counter this - but this is absolutely not the case!
A lot of the purchasing done with these businesses is functional: customers buying things they know they need a lot of so they want it to be at the best price.
What you can offer in addition is the fun and personal side of shopping the nice bits, the treats! So your challenge is to make them feel really special and encourage them back the next time they want a treat, and to spread the word in the meantime.
Here’s why Independents are in the best position to make customers feel special:
- You are local – make sure your shop is the 1st place a customer thinks of when they want to buy and that they can enjoy coming into your shop. There has been an increasing focus on ‘local’ produce and this does not just have to relate to food – so if it is relevant to your product sector and would be relevant to your customers, use your local knowledge to find some products.
- You know your customers – always think about what they want to buy and ensure you are offering the best products for them at the right price; keep updating your range and change your windows and displays to highlight the NEW products you have for them. To help with this, arrange for the deliveries of your new stock to arrive several weeks apart so each new range gets a chance to be seen and your customers are keen to see what has just arrived.
- You know your competitors – keep watching what they are doing but don’t copy them… think how can you do better on product/service/price etc.
- You can offer products and services your customers cannot get online – it is very difficult to better an online offer but what can you do they can’t? Great service, personal recommendations and advice, personal products/services, events, loyalty schemes? Remember you can’t touch, feel or try-on products being sold online.
- You can be agile, flexible, react quickly – review regularly and replan as you need to, change your windows and displays to reflect the changes eg if a product isn’t selling reduce it to get the money and space for something new.
When you get back to your shop, put a date in your diary to consider how you can relate these 5 points to your business to prepare for 2018.