Brick-and-Mortar is changing faster than most stores can handle. Competition from giants like Amazon and Ebay have been humbling even the most iconic brands. And yet, small and medium local businesses are still competing more vigorously than ever before!
It can seem daunting to the small business, but there’s no need for despair! Here are four strategies that will put you on a playing field with even the biggest behemoth.
1. Your website should be better than your direct competitors’ sites.
The importance of web design can be lost on many people, but it’s best to think of it the same way you would your physical space. A messy, outdated space is likely to make customers think twice rather than entice them to buy. Same goes for your website.
The best option is to invest a few hundred dollars in a professional web designer who can give you a polished site, but if you don’t have that kind of money to invest, there are tools out there from hosting providers like Squarespace and Wordpress that will help you create a professional-looking website.
Just err on the side of simplicity. One book we at Shopventory draw a lot of inspiration from is Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. The key takeaways are to use few words and create obvious choices. Make it simple and beautiful. Be sure to get outside perspectives as well. Friends and family can come in handy to know whether or not you’ve actually got a good-looking, usable website.
2. Reviews and Social Media are where customers make decisions.
Your web presence is like going to the gym. It’s a lot of effort, and progress isn’t always evident. But if you stick to it, you’ll see results.
This means taking charge on review sites like Yelp and Google Maps and responding to any reviews your customers leave behind, as well as potentially hiring a social media firm to post on your behalf. It may seem silly to have someone posting seemingly random content on your feed, but the point is that it gets your brand in front of a lot of eyeballs.
Many businesses have also had success with rewarding social media followers with special discounts or off-menu items that would only be known by people who follow their feed. It could be something as simple as “Wacky Wednesday today: tell us your best knock-knock joke and get 10% off your purchase”. Get creative, just don’t forget to put a time limit.
The point here is people see your logo next to a cute and cuddly cat video and build positive feelings toward your business. When it comes to social media, the important thing is to stick with it. One thing you don’t want is a page that hasn’t posted any updates in months. Nothing brings up doubts like a customer who goes to your page in December and sees the last update was about your 4th of July sale.
3. Don’t just rely on followers. Invest in ads.
It also pays to target people in your area with advertising via Google and Facebook. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just find a good-looking stock image that draws the eye and say a few words about your brand. Our friends at Shopify actually put together a great master list of where to find free stock images. (Their blog is definitely worth following, by the way.)
A common misconception is that this is difficult or very expensive. The tools are actually quite easy to use, and you can always find tutorials. This is how Facebook and Google make money after all, so they want to make it easy and they’re willing to help if it’s not. You can get your ads in front of thousands of nearby potential customers with as little as $10. Be sure to track your progress and experiment with different customer profiles.
Try and think up an imaginary person who is your ideal customer and tailor your ads to that one “person”. Many ads fail trying to be all things to all people. A much more compelling ad will find a specific problem and present a simple solution.
Remember, you can go big by going small. Chances are you’ll never reach “Amazon” status, but that doesn’t mean you just have to go away. It means you get to be small and thus be nimble and creative where the giants have to be slow and methodical.
4. Upgrade your tools.
Intelligent insights come from intelligent reporting. You will never be able to know what to re-order if you don’t know what’s actually selling and (more importantly) what isn’t. Tracking basic profits and losses is one thing, but using predictive analytics to know how much time is left before running out of stock is another. This is where tools like Shopventory come into play.
It’s not just a matter of having the data. A spreadsheet could do that. It’s important to use software that’s going to give you the data you need, calculated and presented to help you make informed decisions without breaking the bank.
Shopventory is built for small business because that’s where we started; a small fashion boutique that’s still managing inventory and serving their customers. Now with intelligent stock remaining reports, they can plan ahead and know what to put on the shelf ahead of time. This means every Item has its own sales reports and Shopventory’s algorithms will give users an estimate of how many days are left before the item is sold out.
Shopventory plans start as low as 79¢ per day. Right now, you can sign up for a 30-day full-featured free trial of Shopventory with no credit card required. We also back Shopventory with a 30-day money back guarantee. That means a total of 60 days risk-free!
You can start a trial today and join the thousands of merchants all over the world who use Shopventory to swim with the big boys!
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