Many of you have told us you are fearful of an Amazon take-over of your small business. There is even a new verb for it: “being Amazoned.” So how do independent retailers compete against an online giant with 200 million items for sale?
By eliminating the middlemen, Amazon keeps prices low. If you want to stay in business, competing on price alone cannot be your strategy. Here are 7 strategies independent retailers can use to not just stay in business but thrive!
1. You are a people business.
Pam Danziger, author of Shops That Pop! 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success, says that specialty retail is first and foremost a people business, not a product business. “So retailers need to focus on the people side of the shopping experience, with a product that supports the special shopping experience people have come to expect from your store. That is where success will be achieved.”
Catering to shoppers’ emotional needs through a special shopping experience is key, along with great service. Independent retailers can’t spend their entire focus on the merchandise, store displays, and advertising. Focus also on quality salespeople who will help sell your passion, vision, and brand, along with looking for the customers’ specific needs.
2. Exclusive & unique products, now.
You are a niche store with products you are passionate about – and they are available NOW! That is the strength you have over Amazon. Because of their vastness, they can’t possibly sell every product well. Your focus must remain on what you sell best.
Even though Amazon is now offering same-day delivery on many items, not everything is available. And while that might be convenient for grocery and toiletry items, there’s still a lot of merchandise you want to touch and feel before buying – like apparel, shoes, jewelry, and gifts.
“Mass marketed and merchandised products can’t fulfill a customer who craves something unique and customized to his or her special tastes,” explains Pam. “People buy the stuff they need at the mass-merchandisers and big boxes that are cheap; they buy the things they want, desire, even love, in small shops where they can share in their passion with the store owners and staff.”
3. First & lasting impressions.
Make sure everything, from your front door and window display to your dressing rooms and bathroom, along with everything in between, are not only clean and bright but communicate your brand. The Trendy Trunk (pictured above) in Hendersonville, Tennessee does a superior job at merchandise display and store branding of their casual, elegant Southern style.
Remember to greet customers promptly and genuinely. Michael Gerber, author of The E-myth says one of the best money-making greetings is, “Hi, have you been here before?” instead of “Can I help you?”. This greeting can increase sales by 16%. You could also use “Welcome to…!”
Offer a free gift wrapping service using papers from Nashville Wraps. Make sure they are carrying not only their purchase but also your brand when they leave your store! Learn how Nashville Wraps printed packaging can brand your business. As customers exit your store, look them in the eye and thank them for shopping, even if they don’t buy anything.
4. Brand yourself – make your personal story sell.
People love to see and hear the story of the face behind the brand. The success of Chip and Joanna Gaines proves that fact. Their successful HGTV show Fixer Upper has grown into a complete lifestyle brand and destination. Fans are flocking by the busload to Waco, Texas to visit Magnolia Market.
Nashville Wraps customer Arrington Vineyards is another beautiful example of taking an owner and turning it into a brand. Arrington is owned by country music artist Kix Brooks (formerly of Brooks & Dunn). In addition to award-winning wines, the vineyard has a tasting room and retail store. They host live music events along with private parties.
You don’t have to have a TV show or be a country music superstar to have a great story to tell. Just make it your personal story, and make it fun so your customers will gravitate to it. You might even become a local celebrity! Make sure to include your story on your website, and display it in poster form somewhere in your store as well.
5. Destination Shopping
Not everyone wants to look at a computer or iPhone screen 24/7. Most people want to get out of their home and do something fun. In today’s retail marketplace, you have to make it an experience. Even if you have a tiny shop, it can still be a destination. Your store must appeal to all your customers’ senses. Sensory marketing appeals to customers’ sense of taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing. There is no way Amazon can appeal to all of these! This is another way you have an advantage over online retailers.
One of our favorite customers is the Goo Goo Shop. They use sensory marketing to sell lots of candy and merchandise at their Nashville store. You can read our blog feature on Goo Goo here.
Pam says, “The secret of success in the emerging niche of specialty independent retail is the ability for retailers to know – really know – their customers and deliver to them the special, unique shopping experiences they crave, which includes products, but a whole lot more.”
Reinforce in your store the “Shop Local” theme with signs and include it on your website. Tell your customers how they are making a difference in their community by shopping local. It’s not a trend, it’s here to stay.
7. Relationship marketing is your game.
The best product you sell in your business is YOU and your team! Amazon doesn’t talk back – at least not yet. People crave connection. Invest in a great team with your vision. That will always be your biggest asset.
See it In Action!
Watch how Leon & Lulu North of Detroit, Michigan turned an old roller skating rink into an independent retail success story by using all 7 of these strategies!