Retail is a tricky sector, with a downward retail trend. Over the last few years, operating a retail business became increasingly difficult as a definite shift in the way people shop occurred. While we’ve seen news stories showing this retail trend in closures of retail stores, even entire retail chains shut their doors. Online shopping isn’t immune to this downward retail trend, with an abundance of e-commerce websites and retail giants like Amazon and Alibaba (China) make it challenging for online retailers hoping to succeed. If someone is selling it, you can buy it online from anywhere at all hours, with online commerce open every day of the year. That convenience had an effect on the retail industry as a whole over the last two decades, and it has led to many closures.
Added to this, the banking crisis and several other social and political factors affected the way people spend money. Discount retailers dominate in many product lines, whereas high-end retailers, such as department stores found survival increasingly challenging.
However, the outlook isn’t all doom and gloom. While many big retailers started to go under, there’s a growing movement led by smaller retailers offering a unique buying experience who look to buck the retail trend of homogeneous faceless corporations filling our high streets and online places.
Here’s some advice on how to buck the retail trend and succeed. So, read on.
Getting your retail business off the ground
If you have a great idea for a retail business, don’t feel as though your potential business is doomed. Independent retailers do very well as long as they have a clear idea of what they want from their business and how they will go about getting their business going.
Create a business plan and budget
The first key to standing out and bucking the retail trend is creating a business plan to support your business. Your business plan is a roadmap, not only guiding your early actions but forcing you to think through factors that will help you succeed.
This requires research into the competition, economic and legal environments, and your target customers. You’ll need to plan strategies involving product, price, distribution, and advertising that differentiates you from your competition. You’ll also need an estimate of the costs needed for setting up your business. Don’t just try to do this by the seat of your pants. Instead, research and build projections of revenue and expenses. You must also make a comprehensive list of everything that you need to pay out when it comes to setting up your shop.
Many businesses run out of money because they encounter problems they didn’t plan for, so add a buffer for such eventualities. Your shop build, whether virtual or real, may overrun, there may be problems getting some of the materials that are needed or you might run into unexpected expenses. Your store may have maintenance issues that you didn’t know about before starting the project. You need a contingency of around five or ten percent of your total budget for when things inevitably go wrong.
Also, look at cash flow, not just revenue and expenses as more businesses fail because they don’t have cash on hand to pay bills than fail because they’re not making money.
Create a marketing strategy
The core element that drives your business is your marketing strategy. You need to think about what consumers want, providing something unique over what they get from competitors. Don’t rely on prices alone as your only tool for differentiation as that strategy favors larger, better-capitalized businesses with an established market.
Then, create messaging that supports your differentiation and resonates with your target audience. Spread that message through media used by your target audience.
Social media is a must when it comes to marketing. Your company must have a profile on the major social media channels used by your target audience. You need to post on social platforms on a consistent basis using images and messages that your target audience enjoys or finds valuable. This means posting updates daily at the appropriate times when your audience will see them and interacting with your followers to encourage engagement (likes, follows, comments, shares). You shouldn’t just post about your business or your products. You can also share interesting articles and posts about all manner of other things that may be relevant or useful to your followers.
For instance, you could set up contests or giveaways to engage your customers. Sharing these on social media is a great way to build your following.
In terms of offline marketing, you should get involved with local events. Charity fundraisers are a great way to get your name out there, and by donating to or sponsoring such an event, you get your name out there in a positive way.
You could set up a table at a networking event, sponsor the event, or just have employees meet prospective customers informally at an event. Order swag such as pens and branded mugs, create some flyers and information that attendees can take with them to remember you, and have some of your products on hand to show potential customers your awesome products and let them try them for themselves.
Getting the right products
You cannot have a retail business without stock. You need to buy some great lines that will attract customers. Find items that your target audience can’t buy elsewhere and try and source them at the best price possible. You might reduce your price from the supplier by increasing your order quantity. In order to do this, you need to ensure that you can sell all of the items that you order. If you cannot sell them, you will have stock sitting around, sucking up capital that you can put to better use.
Merchandising your shop
Getting your shop in the best shape possible is vital. Online, customers should find your website easy to navigate, visually appealing, and easy to use regardless of which device they’re using. Taking clicks out of the ordering process ensures fewer customers leave products in their shopping carts.
In a brick and mortar store, make sure your displays show the products in their best light, aisles are easy to navigate, the atmosphere matches your target and product, and that ample parking and support staff are available. If there are accessories for a particular line, display them together to encourage link selling.
Delivering excellent customer service is crucial
One of the fundamental things to consider when it comes to running a retail business is to provide the best customer service experience possible. For instance, engaging customers when they visit in a positive and helpful manner., such as greeting them with a smile, using their name after accepting a credit card containing this information, or just being available for questions Think about how you speak to your visitors. If they feel as though you are only trying to sell them, you may lose their business. However, if someone seems genuinely interested in helping them or offering suggestions that solve their needs, you’ll build a relationship that brings customers back. That’s true whether online or off.
Creating a strong relationship with your customer is important, and being as helpful and positive as possible towards them ensures customers feel comfortable enough to recommend you to their friends and family.
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