Think about your favorite indie bookstore, local wine store, or foodie shop. What makes it so appealing? Maybe you rely on the staff for their excellent recommendations and advice. Maybe you appreciate the specific products they curate and the experience of discovering new products you can’t believe you did without. Or maybe you’ve attended events there and made connections with the staff and other customers.
Online commerce is here to stay, and in many ways it has a definite edge over these sorts of brick-and-mortar stores. Online retailers frequently offer lower prices than real-world stores, usually with super-fast service and great customer interaction. There’s also the convenience factor: you can shop online 24 hours a day. Can you visit that indie book shop at all hours? It’s unlikely.
There’s no denying that brick-and-mortar businesses big and small have suffered as a result of this convenience. The rise of showrooming (customers researching or testing out products in a physical store, but then actually purchasing them online) is particularly bad news for shops.
But there’s hope: brick-and-mortar stores have their own set of advantages over web retailers. With a little ingenuity and flexibility, these businesses can hang onto—even increase—their cut of the retail market. And savvy marketers can translate online marketing into offline sales. Here’s how.
Showrooms aren’t just for car dealerships and the Apple store anymore.
Some products—such as clothes, cosmetics, or electronics—just need to be tried on or tested in person in order for a customer to make an informed purchasing decision. Showrooming is bound to happen, so it’s best to be prepared for it. Better yet, embrace it by selling space for product displays in your store.
Partner with manufacturers to work with showrooming. The foot traffic at your location gives the manufacturer visibility and an opportunity for customers to try out a product. Once customers have experienced it, they can go online to buy directly from the manufacturer or from online vendors. The manufacturer can encourage customers to purchase from specific sites by offering discount codes.
Seek Out Reverse Showrooming Opportunities
Just as common—perhaps even more common—than showrooming is a phenomenon called “reverse showrooming.” In this scenario, customers do their research on the web (using online retailers like Amazon, social media buzz, and review sites), then head out to make their purchase at a physical store.
Smart businesses can capitalize on this trend by integrating mobile into their in-store experience. One approach is creating an app that offers customers discount codes while they’re shopping the physical store, identifies what’s on sale at the time (like Target’s Cartwheel app), or allows customers to order online and pick up in person. Another is offering digital terminals for customers to easily locate the items they’re looking for in the store and receive recommendations or coupons.
Focus on Local Promotion
Search and advertising are becoming better targeted to local customers all the time—it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the powerful tools available. Make sure your review site presence is all that it can be, with fully fleshed-out profiles on all the major sites. Premium listings will improve your ranking on the review site and in search results—and to get listed alongside competitors. Keep your keywords and branding consistent across all the online channels you manage.
Try a local social coupon site like Groupon or Living Social. These sites increase your visibility by reaching new customers on the site as well as building buzz about your offer (and, by extension, your business). These sites provide analytics so you can measure the effectiveness of your discount offer and use that information to plan future promotions.
Develop and Showcase Your Expertise
A huge part of what we love about brick-and-mortar stores is the specialized, individualized attention they can provide. People who work in mom and pop shops are typically passionate, highly knowledgeable, and constantly pushing themselves to learn more. Customers benefit from a staff member’s vast knowledge of the products they carry and of their industry in general.
For a business, having this amount of expertise under your roof is an amazing asset. It attracts customers who need personalized recommendations and increases customer satisfaction. Happy customers will share their experience with others, building your word of mouth. And customers who trust your staff’s expert opinion are likely to spend more in a visit, adding similar recommended items or accessories to their carts along with whatever they initially came in to buy. Make sure that you encourage (and support) your staff in continuing to develop that invaluable expertise.
In addition to widening your visibility, blogs and social media are great places to highlight the expertise of your staff. Post recommendations, tips, and other relevant content that adds value to your service and proves your authority in your field.
Create a Community In-Store and Online
Make visiting your business an experience. Find ways to create a community hub around your location. Offer in-store events to entice customers. Add a cafe or bar and wifi encouraging people to linger. Provide a space for customers to host their own events such as meetings and parties.
Engage with your customers on your website and social accounts to let them know they are important to you and you value their feedback. Encourage your clientele to get to know one another online as well. Make it easy for customers to share their experiences and photos on social platforms and discuss with other consumers.
It can be challenging to integrate your online and offline marketing efforts, but the potential benefits are immense. Thinking creatively about your strategies—and being realistic about your customers’ true needs and behaviors—will help you get there.
Latest posts by James Loomstein
- Online Marketing Tips For Your Brick-and-Mortar Business - September 16, 2015