Small businesses have a chance to beat the big box retailers and brand names.
That means Target, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Google? As a business standing in the shadow of the big retailers, it’s not always easy to see where you stand out and where you have the edge.
All of these major retailers have one thing in common: They attract customers at a neck-breaking speed. They have almost everything a consumer could ever want, and oftentimes, they have their own brand to offer. This gives them a virtual monopoly on the things they sell.
But what about small businesses? How about the mom-and-pop shops at the local mall and the upstart product company looking to gain market share?
So, how can small businesses attract local customers and compete with the major players?
Play to Your Strengths
Accept the fact that you’re a small business. It can be to your benefit.
When people go shopping, they’re looking for a combination of price and quality. While some small businesses struggle to compete with big box stores on price, they can compete on the quality of the customer experience.
Provide exceptional service, go the extra mile, and shake all of your customers’ hands. Become the embodiment of the small business spirit, because that’s the exact thing that’s missing from the big box stores.
It may sound obvious, but many small businesses don’t do it. Act like a member of your community and compete on the quality of the experience and the product, rather than on price.
Differentiate Your Products
Consumers are always looking for new and innovative products. But, often times, big box stores are the last companies to take chances on new initiatives. Instead, they stick to what works and only change when the entire market has already done so.
So, it’s possible for small businesses to compete by offering different products and services that major brands don’t offer.
You can be a small retailer or a company that does all of its sales online. As long as you have differentiating products and a way to reach your consumer base, you can beat the major companies, even during the holidays.
Offer Local Value
The internet has changed the way we all do business. It’s now possible to purchase and sell items internationally at the touch of a button. But this is exactly how the big box stores do it, which means that there’s an opportunity to do something different.
The local customer is often forgotten in this “Internet 2.0” world. Large companies try to keep their prices, and their deals, at the national level.
Therefore, small businesses can compete by focusing on the local consumer. Offer deals that specifically target your local customer base. Draw in passing foot traffic—both online and in person—with added value that speaks to the local customer. This could be through discounts, deals, or even nonprofit donations that help the local community.
Play Off the Competition
Ultimately, competition can be a good thing! For example, if a Target opens in your local community, it’ll increase consumer traffic into your area. Then, you can profit off that increased activity by drawing new customers into your physical location.
The beauty is that by implementing the other tips above, and then bracing yourself for the inevitability of competition, you’ll have the greatest chance of beating the big box stores. Let them do the work for you.
Offer Online Orders
If you can’t afford to carry a large inventory of every variation of a certain item, such as every size and color of the same shirt, put a range of choices in-store, then make it easy for customers to order what they want. Offer to order the item for them. Customers will appreciate the convenience and extra attention.
Create an Environment Customers Want to Spend Time in
Box stores can be bland, as many don’t offer much in terms of aesthetics. Most shoppers want to avoid the crowds and commotion and get in and out as soon as possible. As a small business, create an atmosphere your customers will want to spend time in.
Create a Unique In-Store Experience
Customers don’t visit big box retailers for an experience. They want to get in and out of these stores as fast as possible. So, cater to the opposite experience at your store. Create a space that your customers can enjoy. When setting up your showroom or store, focus on the five senses and create an immersive experience that guests go to for the atmosphere as much as the products.
Offer Superior Sales Support
A small retailer has a great opportunity to compete with a big box store when it comes to the sales experience. Big box retailers have salespeople that are often only there to help you help you once you have decided on a product. They don’t take the time to listen to your needs and budget and match you with the best product. Use this to your advantage as a small business. Provide an expert sales team that can connect with customers and help them find the perfect product for their needs and budget.
Build Social Media Buzz
Just as you can compete with a big box store in search, you can compete with them on social media. Set up profiles for your business on Facebook, Instagram, FourSquare, and Yelp, and encourage your shoppers to check-in and share updates while in your store (by offering promos, contests, and giveaways). And, use your social media pages to highlight the personal side of your business by regularly sharing photos of your store, staff, customers (with their permission), events and products.