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  • 13 February 2014
  • Dr Billy M.

How your brick-and-mortar retail shop can compete in Amazon's world

When you operate a traditional retail shop and want to expand your sales and reach, competing with a merchandising giant like Amazon can seem like a difficult proposition. Amazon has established itself as a leader in e-commerce, offering efficient shipping coupled with discount prices on most products.

Amazon notwithstanding, your brick-and-mortar retail shop is still relevant when it comes to customer satisfaction, even in this digital age. Consumers tend to recognize value beyond pricing, which gives you the opportunity to showcase your uniqueness and quality as a brand. They value the few moments they can walk into their favorite retail store, check what new products are in the pipeline, and generally interact.

To compete with Amazon's mega-warehouse identity, changing your business tactics is not an option. You have to up your game by devising business strategies that leverage consumer values and enhance your online presence.

Individualized service

Something that Amazon cannot offer — individualized service — can be the ace up your sleeve when it comes to getting and retaining customers. Unlike Amazon, you won't have to present and sell all your products identically. You can draw attention to the unique product attributes that can augment the potential buyer's lifestyle.

  • Know what your customers want: As a first step to competing and even beating Amazon in customer loyalty, you should focus on your own customers, not Amazon's. This is distinctively important because when you gain insight into what your customers are trying to accomplish, it becomes easy to fulfill their needs and values.
  • Maintain devoted and passionate staff: Customers feel a sense of importance when they walk into a retail shop and speak to a sales representative who can passionately talk about the available brands and give them relevant advice. Ensure that your staff believes in the brands you stock so they don't just sell products but also convert customers.
  • Personally assisted selling: It is highly likely that you'll market your products online as well. Online shopping can be sophisticated, and consumers will often want someone to talk to when they need help or have a special request. Develop a level of customer service that leaves customers feeling as though they have been personally assisted. Unlike Amazon, which has a mass audience, you can afford to offer a proactive live chat to address niche-specific product questions from customers.
Online presence

Leverage the power of the Internet to reach far and wide, marketing your products in a subtle but highly effective fashion. Many customers begin their search for products online. Start with a strong business website, then maintain a dynamic presence on social media and run a pay-per-click campaign targeting consumers who are searching for your product keywords. Your choice of media platform will depend on the demographics you are targeting. Research to establish what your competition is so that you price your products appropriately (hey, nobody is going to shell out for your item if it is cheaper on another website).

  • Product pages: Your main website should have all the functionality of a retail store - ability to select items, place them in a cart, make a payment, and monitor shipping and delivery schedules. The pages displaying your products should feature the right combination of text, images, and videos. Add a blog where you can educate your potential customers about new products and other useful information. This is a good place for user contributions and feedback that creates a unique value proposition. Be creative and present a viable alternative to Amazon's standard format.
  • Video demos: Use video merchandising to demonstrate how some of your products look or function. Whether it is the latest tech gizmo or clothing accessories, a video demonstration gives shoppers an opportunity to evaluate your products and make an informed decision.
  • Email marketing: Make it a point to collect customer email addresses so you can send them new product information, promotions, and discounts. Send out periodic catalogs featuring the latest inventory. Getting and maintaining an email database will ensure that you develop relationships and build customer loyalty. . Customers can fill out surveys or simply opt-in on your site or at the physical store.
  • Be mobile-friendly: You should tailor your service offerings to mobile users as well. Make sure your website is optimized for the mobile audience to allow for expedited purchases via phones and tablets. Invest in developing smartphone and tablet apps for your retail store.
  • Referral incentives: A referral customer comes at a significantly lower cost yet has a high potential for retention and loyalty. Create loyalty programs to reward customers who refer readers to your site that convert. This will motivate the customers, who can track their points or rewards on their accounts and be involved with you, the retailer, on a personal level.

Maximize your digital presence by energizing your static business website. You have mere seconds to engage and hold the attention of your website visitors. Managed well, various online platforms will ensure increased sales and a healthy bottom line.

Branding and differentiation

With Amazon's many products for sale, it is a challenge to offer specialty retailing. Customers are looking for a shopping experience, and if you can offer your product expertise, the customer feels empowered when indulging in your brands. Sell unique products rarely found anywhere else instead of competing with Amazon's offerings.

Logistics

Shopping from Amazon entails paying for the product and paying shipping fees. Additionally, the customer has to wait for another two to four days for the product to arrive. Sometimes a damaged product may be delivered, and there are instances when the wrong product is shipped. As a retailer, you can take advantage of this weakness by urging your customers to shop online and collect the products from your store themselves. This will depend on distance and convenience. The customers will have to weigh whether saving on shipping costs and getting the right product when they need it is worth their while.

If you have stores across state lines, you can operate temporary pick-up points where customers can collect their products instead of waiting for delivery. These points can operate seasonally, for example, during holidays.

Occasionally, offer free shipping, or at least pay for returns. It is about learning the shopper's psychology. Customers generally dislike paying large shipping fees on a domestic order and would rather pay extra for the product than shell out for shipping. By providing free shipping, you can incentivize them to shop your store and support small business.

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