After Amazon.com announced that it will be offering same-day deliveries (albeit in limited locations) the retail world has been abuzz. Many believe (quite understandably) that the push for same-day delivery by the online mega-retailer may hurt local brick and mortar stores. But if you own a small shop and see that you are in the cross-hairs of Amazon’s strategic maneuvering, you don’t have to sound the death knell just yet. If you are open to change and can do some strategic maneuvering on your own, you may just survive the onslaught. But you need to keep the following five points in mind:
1. First, realize that you can’t compete on price. Amazon is a mamouth, ecommerce giant. If you try to compete directly with them, you’re wasting your time and effort. Even when Amazon adds the sales tax to the price of an item (a move that the company has famously been avoiding since it was founded), you will still have a hard time competing with the online retailer on price, and you will have a hard time convincing customers to come to your store if you are merely carrying the same products they can almost effortlessly purchase online. It doesn’t matter how much you are discounting or trying to keep your window display (and your store), fresh, beautiful, and stocked.
2. Re-evaluate your product and service offerings. Are you feeling angry, resentful, anxious and/or overwhelmed that this corporate cookie monster is taking away your customers? It’s to be expected and understood. But, you don’t necessarily have to throw up your hands and close up shop, either. Realize that just because you cannot compete on price, it doesn’t mean you can’t “compete” in other ways… and even win. But you may have to change your business model to get there. The Harvard Bookstore is a prime example of what I mean. Read this article over at Forbes, study it, and use it as a model for your own attempts at redefining your business.
3. Make sure customers can still find you online. Since the Internet has become a medium to purchase goods, it has always favored bigger businesses that have the resources to ensure that their business gets the coveted top spots on the search results page. But over the past year or so, as Google has quite publicly shaken-up the online search world, many online retailers and brick and mortars alike have cried afoul. If Amazon was dominating the searches before, now its presence seems to be even more imposing. How can a small business compete on those prime, relevant keywords when the likes of Amazon (and affiliates) are dominating (at least) half of the first search results page? The answer is, don’t!!! It’s a game you won’t be able to win. Focus instead on less popular and long-tail keywords, and look for other, non-search based traffic, such as via social media or by hosting a relevant forum. Again, it’s about creating a niche user experience. If you can create a focused community around your site you will be in a better position to bring in targeted (paying) traffic.
4. Re-vamp your loyalty programs. In my last post, I offered a rundown of some methods to breathe life (and ROI) into your loyalty programs. If you are not including social media in your loyalty program in some way then chances are pretty good that you are losing customers. Take a look at some of the platforms mentioned in the post, and figure out what will work for your business.
5. Reach out to your local community. If you go about researching ways to market your local business (especially if you want “on the cheap”), you’ll find countless articles from marketing gurus who advocate sponsoring community events and giving to local charitable causes. While this may create some good feelings about your business; it may not necessarily convert to an increase in sales. So does that mean you should scrap your plans for these events and publicized acts of kindness? No. But you have to be smarter with them. You are looking for the kinds of events that will build a community around your business. To know which events will do that, you’ll have to invest yourself in some good, old-fashioned market research.
So, if you own a small, local shop and you don’t want to lose it all to Amazon, know that with a little openness, flexibility, and effort, you can still come out winning.