You may have noticed something different at your local grocery store recently. You've probably also seen it in the restaurants in your city or even the local liquor store. It's something downright radical: Local Alternatives.
Customers are ditching familiar chain restaurants in favor of local neighborhood eateries. The rise of small craft beers has put established brands like Budweiser on the defensive. Mobile apps like Yelp, Seamless, and Pokémon Go are helping send customers into small businesses. Everywhere you go, phrases like "small-batch", "locally-sourced", and "artisanal", are being used more and more.
This definitely cuts against the conventional wisdom. It used to be that puffing oneself up and even exaggerating about the size and scale of the business was the way to earn Customers' trust. These days, Customers are more trusting of smaller operations than larger ones... and they're willing to pay a premium for it!
Phrases like "family-owned and operated", "independent", "local", and yes even "small" are giving Customers a reason to pay up and feel downright good about doing so. With that in mind, consider riding the wave rather than trying to beat back the tide.
Turning "small" into a selling point:
1. Use your Creative Freedom.
Embrace the quirk. Use your space and take risks. Attract the customers you want with something that grabs their attention
Imagine walking down the street, then seeing this:
It's funny and it's disarming. A hungry person with disposable income will likely read it and start thinking about sandwiches. It also gives a bit of relaxation to the atmosphere and gives the customer something to comment on, maybe even snap a picture of the sign (with your business' logo on it) and share it on social media.
Humor is the domain of the little guy. The larger a business becomes, the more people they have to worry about offending. This doesn't mean you should go for downright explicit material, but cracking a mild joke (especially one with a local flavor to it) gets people to notice you and smile as they do.
2. Wear "smallness" on your sleeve.
Embrace your surroundings, find ways to "wink" at the locals, and make "small" your sales pitch.
When customers do look your way, announce yourself and embrace the locality. Maybe a "support small business" sticker. American Express' "Shop Small" campaign offers stickers and other supplies to Amex merchants. You can also take advantage of the hundreds of different stickers, slogans, and local business organizations out there to let Customers know this is a home-grown operation.
It also doesn't hurt to show support for the local sports team. Not that you have to be a fan, but sports teams offer a familiar set of symbols. When the Shopventory corporate team walks around Denver (or anywhere in Colorado, for that matter), there is one thing that just about everyone seems to agree on: "Go Broncos!". Yes, our local American football team's colors are ubiquitous in homes and businesses alike. Don't be afraid of a little team spirit; even if you know nothing about the team.
3. Engage locally.
You know what will drive business to an ice cream shop? The pizza place around the corner. You know who buys shoes? People who buy pet supplies.
Mustering the strength of the local businesses around you not only drives referrals your way, but it creates connections to the community that people notice and appreciate. Getting together for lunch with your business' next door neighbors will give you ideas and help you brainstorm ways to drive business and create that most corporate of words: "Synergy".
Mind the gap.
There's a big difference in Customer expectations between a multi-national giant and a plucky local player. Don't let your customers be disappointed. The old adage that has driven successful entrepreneurs for centuries still applies: "Under-promise. Over-deliver."
A Customer should not expect your small bookstore to have the same selection as Amazon.com sitting on your shelves. But that doesn't excuse being out of stock on a title you do carry.
Gone are the days when you could simply "back-order" items for your customers. Customers can order items for themselves now— and they can place that order before they even walk out your door. These days, brick-and-mortar retailers get one shot. The words "out of stock" are practically an obscenity to a customer who's made the journey, walked in the door, made a selection, and gotten their wallet out.
Using an inventory management system like Shopventory can alert you before it ever gets to that point. Setting a minimum threshold will keep your shelves stocked and Shopventory's advanced features let you easily communicate with your vendors and create your Shopventory Purchase Orders with confidence.
Keep your finger on the pulse.
Times change. Trends change. So do your neighbors. Customers' tastes and preferences shift quickly. It takes time and consistency to maintain and build up your business' reputation as a local landmark. Keep meeting with your neighbors. Update your offerings. Chat with your customers (at least those who aren't in a hurry). Poll your employees.
Most importantly, keep an eye on your numbers. Tracking the results will help your small business stay nimble. This is where reports play a valuable role. Mobile apps like Thrive help you find patterns and trends in your business. Things like weather and seasonality factor in as well. A hearty bowl of creamy soup probably sounds better in the winter. An ice-cold tropical smoothie will probably sound far more appealing on a hot summer day. Know your surroundings and cater to them.
When it comes to inventory, know when it's time to move on. Use tools like Shopventory's Dead Inventory Report to know when items haven't sold for a while. This way, you're not taking up valuable shelf space on items that just aren't moving.
Never back down.
If there's one thing people like, it's an underdog. Don't let that opportunity pass you by. Enjoy the scrappy days and let your customers enjoy them too. Own your role as the little guy and show your customers that bigger isn't always better.
Shopventory is here to help you be the biggest "little guy" you can be. We are accountable to thousands of merchants worldwide and are so confident, we even offer new customers a full-feature 30-day trial of Shopventory absolutely free with no credit card required. Not only that, we back it with another 30-day money back guarantee for a total of 60 days risk-free.
The average merchant saves 6 hours per week using Shopventory. So stop wasting time on spreadsheets and reconciliations and get back to building your business, identifying losses, and delighting your customers.