7 Lessons You Can Learn From the Top 100 Retailers

Top 100 Retailers

What can a small, brick-and-mortar retail store learn from STORES’ annual Top 100 Retailers report?

Perhaps the most important lesson is that retail is changing at the speed of light. While the 2014 Top 100 Retailers list raised concerns about the future of brick-and-mortar stores, this year’s list shows physical stores are making a healthy comeback. Rather than eCommerce putting brick-and-mortar retailers out of business, both types of retailers are taking pages from each other’s playbooks to develop a hybrid, omni-channel shopping experience.

Below are 7 lessons you can learn from the Top 100 retailers to grow your store.

Small is Big

Big retailers like Macy’s are shrinking store footprints. When customers can shop online for the store products, there’s less need to have everything imaginable under one roof.

Even if your small store doesn’t sell online, you can appeal to customers by offering a carefully curated selection of items.

Convenience is Huge

More than anything, consumers today expect to browse, shop and buy whenever, wherever, and however they want. In reality, the report notes that most purchases are still made in-store.

Focus on how you can make your store experience more convenient for your customers, whether that’s extending hours, adding mobile checkout via tablets or smartphones to speed wait times or (yes) offering some products for sale online.

Think Mobile — But Not Necessarily Mobile Shopping

While mobile shopping has gained a lot of hype, the report notes that the actual volume of mobile transactions is still low. What customers do want to do on mobile devices is interact with stores.

Think of ways you can use mobile marketing, social media (especially retail-friendly Instagram and Pinterest) to appeal to customers on their mobile devices.

Upgrade Your POS, Loyalty Program, Inventory Management System

If any of these systems are still in the dark ages (paper punch cards?), now is the time for an upgrade. There are a wide range of POS systems affordable for small businesses that enable you to capture information about customers’ purchasing habits, what products are your hottest sellers and more. (QuickBooks POS, RetailPro and ShopKeep are three to consider.)

Mix this with loyalty programs such as Belly, Flok and Mplifyr that reveal which marketing messages get customers in-store, automate marketing to them based on their past purchases, and personalize your outreach, and you’ve got the means to really power up your sales.

Finally, make sure your inventory management is up to snuff. With everything on earth available online, it’s more important than ever to have what customers want in stock when they want it—or lose the sale.

Be Customer-centric

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the nation’s top 100 retailers boils down to this: Focus on what the customer wants, and be nimble and flexible enough to cater to their changing desires.

Now, more than ever, business really is all about the customer.

Develop Your Local Online Presence

If your business doesn’t pop up online when customers do an online search, you’re losing business to someone who is.

Get your business listed on local search directories and make the most of those listings with details and photos. Develop a website and invest in good SEO (hire someone if you have to). Spend some of your marketing dollars on pay-per-click or social media advertising.

By boosting your online presence, you’ll capture those offline customers who are in their cars and looking for the nearest boutique/hardware store/bookstore.

Dip Your Feet in the eCommerce Pond

If at all possible, try selling at least some of your products online. It’s a great way to test the ecommerce waters.

You can use your eCommerce site to clear out slow-moving merchandise—or to spotlight hot sellers in the store. By tracking where your online buyers live, you can even get insights into where to open up your next brick-and-mortar location.

Offer a buy-online, pick-up-in-store option — this is working great for retailers like Kohl’s, Nordstrom and Home Depot. In fact, retailers report that in-store pickup often leads to additional sales, as customers browse and make impulse buys on their way in or out.

Train your sales team to upsell customers doing pickups by suggested related merchandise, and you can boost your sales even more.

Macy’s Department Store Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.