Since it started as an online bookseller in 1994, Amazon has challenged and basically rewritten the rules of retail. Worth at least $356 billion today, Amazon is the leading e-retailer in the United States with close to $178 billion in 2017 net sales. When it comes to Amazon Prime, the company has more than 100 million people among its subscriber base — and it’s still growing.
They rose to such astronomical popularity by offering what customers wanted — fast delivery, low prices, great customer service, and the option to ditch regular trips to physical stores in favor of the convenience of shopping from their own homes.
This might sound like a death sentence for brick-and-mortar stores trying to compete, there’s actually a lot that small business owners can learn from this retail giant. In fact, there are things that you can offer that even Amazon can’t compete with.
We talk about some of these lessons and tips below. Check them out:
Increase Your Digital Presence
If you’re a small business, Google should be your best friend. Around 50 percent of search traffic comes from the first three Google results, and if you’re a local business that knows how to optimize your digital presence, you’ll rank above those stores that only sell online.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon is slipping when it comes to searches. In 2017, they took 49 percent of consumers’ initial product searches, down from 55 percent the year before. Search engines took 36 percent and other retail sites took 15 percent, which is where you fit in.
How do you increase your Google search ranking? According to Search Engine Land, the simplest answer is backlinks — references or links from another blog or website other than your own. This doesn’t have to involve paid promotions. Instead, contact bloggers, local influencers, and websites running weekly or monthly roundups related to your niche and invite them to your store. Another way is by contacting local journalists to cover an event you put on.
Finally, make sure you’re listed in all the relevant online directories related to your location and industry. Google directories related to your niche and send them an introductory email that includes a description and keywords about what your store specializes in.
Offer In-Store Wi-Fi
Nothing draws people in more than seeing a sign that free Wi-Fi is offered in-store, as more than 90 percent of consumers use their smartphones while shopping in retail stores to check product details, compare prices, and read reviews of the items — just like they could do if they were shopping on Amazon at home.
Connected consumers are more likely to shop longer and spend more. According to a survey, 74 percent of consumers approve of a retailer sending them a promotion via email or text while using in-store Wi-Fi. Not only that, but equipping your staff with tablets that offer product information brings the customer’s shopping experience up a level. And while you have them in the store, you have the opportunity to make an additional sale for things they didn’t even know that they needed.
Make Payments Easy
It comes down to the fact that the easier it is for shoppers to make purchases, the quicker you can seal the deal. With Amazon Go, it automatically scans items while they walk around, which means shoppers login with their Amazon Prime account at the entrance and walk out with their products without standing in any checkout line.
That’s not possible for 99.9 percent of retailers, but what is possible is Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Wallet, and even PayPal in some instances. With smartphones replacing wallets, it’s as simple as tapping and paying. Not only will customers appreciate the convenience of mobile paying, but you will also appreciate the speed at which you can checkout those shoppers.
Considering almost 2.1 billion consumers worldwide are expected to use mobile wallets for payments by 2019, it’s best that retailers jump on that train sooner rather than later.
And if it makes sense for your business, try offering other types of payments. Giftcards, lay-bys, and “buy now, pay later” programs are just a few tried-and-tested ways to entice people to buy from your store.
Offer In-Store Pickup or Local Delivery
Consider providing free pick-up and local delivery within a certain area. Forty-four percent of consumers said that the option to pay for a product online and pick it up from a local location helps them make a purchasing decision.
Not only do you get that initial sale, but you also get the consumer in your door, where you have another opportunity to sell to them.
Optimize The In-Store Experience
Speaking of getting them into your store, once they’re there, you have an advantage that Amazon can never compete with — the interactive experience. According to Big Commerce, online shoppers spend 64 percent of their budgets in-store, so offer things they can’t get online like in-store exclusives, invitations to special events, and items like complimentary drinks and snacks while they browse.
Advertise in-store only specials to drive traffic to your store, which gives you an opportunity to engage with customers in a more meaningful way and capitalize on add-on sales. When purchasing on Amazon, customers see the message: Customers who bought this item also bought and Recommended for you based on (the item’s name.) The reason Amazon is so successful is because they sell more items based on what the customer was interested in — which is what you can do, too.
Suggesting additional items isn’t pushy, it’s smart business, and the shopper who buys the additional item is happy because they’re getting extra value out of their purchase.
In addition to running in-store promotions, you also want to make sure that the buying experience is as smooth and efficient as possible. People often visit brick-and-mortar stores because they want to get their hands on their purchases right away, and the last thing they want is to stand in line at the counter.
You can prevent long lines at checkout by keeping your store well-staffed. Take note of your shop’s peak hours and set employee schedules accordingly, so there’s always a healthy ratio of customers to associates.
A good point of sale system can also do wonders for your customers’ checkout experience. Modern POS solutions are typically faster and more intuitive than traditional cash registers. And depending on your POS provider, you may even have the option to run the software on an iPad, which means you can ring up sales from anywhere in the store.
Generate — And Reward — Customer Loyalty
According to Invespcro, “the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20 percent.” That tells you that rewarding your customer for their business isn’t just polite, it’s profitable, and the easiest way to do this is through a customer loyalty program.
Amazon Prime members get free shipping, but Amazon actually loses more than $1 billion a year on the program. They make up for it with increased transaction frequency, but no matter how great their warehousing capabilities are, they still can’t compete with retailers when it comes to face-to-face service and personalization.
Keep your program simple and user-friendly, and offer customers generous rewards like points good for free merchandise, coupons, or even exclusive deals based off tracking and incentivizing purchasing behavior. Simply put, the more they shop and spend, the more they receive in return.
For retailers, these programs help them better understand their customers’ purchasing behavior, meaning they can shape that behavior by rewarding them for the actions they want them to take. It’s important to remember that personalization is key to the success of a program. You don’t want to give a bag of cat treats out to someone who is allergic to cats. Knowing what your customer wants — and how they want it — will make them loyal for life.
Photo via Shutterstock
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If you are running an online store I would recommend using WooCommerce which runs on top of WordPress. They have a loyalty add-on available for this purpose.
If you don’t have a WordPress web site yet, see my blog post on how to build one easily.