The Age of Small Retailers
The situation for retailers looks grim at the moment with the current health crisis in full swing. While there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic, I want to try to present a few ways that you can use this time to strengthen your business and maybe even come out ahead.
Online Retail Communities
The first thing is: stay connected. With all non-essential stores closing down, it will benefit you to keep in touch with the retailers around you and in other areas. Having a pulse on the industry will help you respond quicker and more effectively. There are many online resources available, but we’ll focus on a few here. I recommend doing a quick search for local business channels that you can get plugged into.
Perhaps the easiest way to stay informed is through Facebook. Here you can talk directly to other retailers from across the country. Check out the Christian Retail Help Center and the Christian Retail Vendor Help Center to discuss any issues you’re dealing with. But there are also other groups you can find like www.indiebound.org.
Social Media Presence
Since we’re on the subject of staying connected, this is a good time to mention the importance of social media. Throughout my years speaking with retailers across the country, I’ve noticed that a lot of them complain about simply not having enough time to devote to growing their social media presence. Well, now is the best time to start. And you can do it from home.
Facebook algorithms, as of right now, favors video content–especially their Facebook Live format. The reasoning behind this is that videos keep people on their application longer. Whether you agree with this philosophy or not, no one can argue the power of reaching hundreds or thousands of people at any time, right on their mobile devices. Consider doing a Facebook Live event where you talk about you, your staff, and your store. People love stories. And this is the perfect platform for telling yours. Why should people shop at your store? They may not know and it’s up to you to tell them.
Declutter to Stay Focused
If you’re able to get into your store, now is a great time to get in there and reassess your focus. We all have a tendency to collect little odds and ends that end up cluttering our homes. They seemed like good purchases at the time but now it’s just taking up space in the attic. Retail stores are no different. We all may be out of pocket for the next few weeks, but we will get back to work soon. Now’s your chance to spruce up the store and redirect the focus of your customers to where you want it.
You may have been in business for 20 years or you may have just opened your doors. Either way, it is always worth finding ways to add value to your customers–give them a reason to frequent your store. I changed barbers when a new barbershop offered a hot towel treatment with every cut, for free! Just this little feature alone captured my business. What are some ways that you can offer value? Think about what your customers are interested in, then get creative. Maybe that looks like rewarding frequent shoppers, finding ways to give back to your community, promote savings on future purchases, offering in-store classes or clubs, or recognizing local heroes or organizations that align with your values.
I’ve noticed that some retailers are hesitant about new technology. Whether it’s because they think it will take too much time to train their staff, the initial investment seems too high, or they question the value it would bring, retailers can come up with a lot of reasons not to add technology to their stores. But the reality is, retailers, stand a better chance of capturing new customers through the use of technology and digital solutions by standing out from the crowd. Becoming an early adopter is important to set yourself apart from the others and it shows your customers that your store is ahead of the curve.
One of the ways you can add technology to your stores is through a personalization system like the Artsy Olive Retail Kiosk (AORK), which allows your customers to customize and print beautiful art prints for different occasions and seasons. Moreover, it gives you and your employees the chance to connect with your customers, to strike up a conversation and build a relationship. Now that you’re temporarily out of the “office” it’s a great time to look into adding new services like the AORK to your store.
It’s often in times of difficulty that we can really shine. This time may be confusing and uncertain, but we can’t control what’s going on. We can only control our response. So, use this time wisely and you will reap the benefits when the smoke clears and life returns back to normal. You can come out the other end stronger, more focused, better connected, and ready to serve your community.