As a local shop you might not have an online presence, or you may have a small one but, as is often said; your online presence is just as important as your physical presence. But let’s look at why that is and why bolstering your online presence is not only feasible but beneficial.
First, let’s look at the proverbial elephant in the room: competition from large-scale online retailers. It’s well known that they will more than likely beat a small local shop on price and convenience. But do they have to? Shipping is shipping and any local retailer can offer the same convenience of delivery, particularly locally, but a local shop can also offer collection at a cost savings to both the retailer and the customer, more on this later.
Additionally, an online presence can boost your customer base, perhaps to the point where you are able to get better prices from your wholesalers, thus leading you to be more competitive in price as well, or more profitable. And if you find you have downtime during the days, this is when you can take on the aspects of packaging at no additional cost, simply by utilising the time you have available already.
Now, let’s look at the characteristics of your customers. There are a number of factors here from being pressed for time, to access, to lifestyle. Let’s break them down:
Let’s face it, we live in a fast paced world and people don’t have the time (or take the time) they need to do all the things they want to do or get the things they need. Hence, the proliferation of online shopping. Initially it’s convenient to pop online to do your shopping when you’re pressed for time and it’s just as easy for someone to type www.xyz.com as it is for them type www.abc.com. That’s where your online presence makes you competitive by virtue of being easy to find; you’re just as easy to access as any other shop out there.
So, by having a strong online presence, you not only make yourself accessible but also potentially increase your customer base in the same effort. The same people that might pass your shop day to day, but then go to a major online retailer instead of stopping in, will just as easily be able to go to you via your online presence. Additionally, when you’re closed at 5 or 8 pm, you’re customers can still buy from you at 1 a.m. You’ve suddenly become a 24 hr business without having to work 24 hrs/ day.
It’s well known that one of the biggest costs to a small business is advertising, and all the old traditional methods such as mailers and flyers have been proven over time to be ineffective and costly. But, an online presence becomes your advertising. It’s a way for people to browse at their convenience. It’s a way for you to show off new and exciting products. It’s a way for you to communicate with your customers.
There are many techniques that can be utilised to communicate with your customers via your online presence and the advantage that you have as a local business is that your communication can be personal, targeted, and much easier to connect with. You could tie into local events, make connections with other local businesses, and more. You, more than anyone will know that business isn’t just business, it’s about people and connecting with them.
But what else do customers want, particularly something that you, as a local business, can provide that the large-scale online retailers can’t? A shopping experience! And that’s something that shoppers are starting to yearn for. Many people still want to see and touch the things they are buying before they do, and it can make for a stronger sale. The only way to do that is to get them into your shop.
Online shopping has the opportunity to provide the gateway into your physical shop. By bolstering your online presence you can give your customers that chance to “pre-shop”, to look at the selection of products that you have before coming in, the selection of quality products that you, as the retailer have chosen. You’re online presence is your commercial, your teaser that not only allows people to buy, but entices them in the door.
Not only that, your online presence gives your customers the focus they may need and want. Rather than sifting through thousands of similar products that overwhelm shoppers, you can actually take advantage of a more limited range of products to focus your customer’s attention and help them make decisions; use your selection to your advantage.
Similarly, you can get to know your customers and use your expertise to make recommendations to them for other products. This can be complimented by the various algorithms available to automate recommendations but as a small shop, you have the edge of adding in a more personal touch. As well, if you offer online shopping with collection, this is the trifecta: The convenience of easy online shopping for the customer, you get the customer in your store to see more products without having to deal with shipping, and your customer gets the luxury of a personal shopper.
Bolstering your online presence isn’t just about trying to compete; it’s about improving and bolstering your existing business strategies. It’s about enhancing and complimenting what you already have to make the best use of your time and investment by giving your customers the things that they want: convenience and cost.
Most importantly it’s about giving your customers the things that the larger competition can’t; an experience and a personal touch. And amongst this, it’s about making your business more visible and more accessible, to get you more customers and more income with as little investment as possible.