Finding Your Niche in a Big-Box Market
While many retail giants across the country have dominated the market, some large retailers are struggling, leaving an opportunity for independent retailers to gain share. There is a major strategy left for independent retailers to stay competitive in the market: maintaining their independence.
In order to stay competitive, it is important for independent retailers to identify their own opportunities to win. Here are five things independent retailers can focus on to differentiate themselves through their storefronts and e-commerce presence:
- Create an experience: For customers, shopping is an experience. Create an environment, also known as “the ambiance” that a customer feels and experiences as they enter your store or browse your website. For example, offer doughnuts and coffee for early-morning Saturday shoppers, or wine and cheese for Friday-evening shoppers. If your store is kid-friendly, have a kids table with puzzles, cars and blocks that will entertain them while the parents are free to shop. By offering an experience beyond the average retail store, you set your business apart.
- Customer service: Build a relationship with your customer. Independent retailers have the ability to offer a more personalized and intimate shopping experience by having outstanding customer service. Shoppers know that when they call an independent retailer, they will not only be able talk to a knowledgeable employee, but also be able to meet that person they just spoke to on the phone when they come into the store to shop. Another advantage is that independent retailers often have more flexible return policies, allowing customers more reassurance if they have to return a product.
- Localize: Having local knowledge is an advantage unmatched by large retailers. Being aware of local trends and concerns allows independent retailers to better align their product mix and merchandise with their target customers to provide a personal buying experience. Having a unique product selection and knowledge of the local market will ensure repeat customers.
As a local business, it is also crucial for independent retailers to acknowledge that their target audience is significantly smaller than large retailers. While big-box companies have access to millions of customers through their various franchises and high-traffic websites, independent retailers must focus on targeting specific customers within their local area. The better you know your customer, the better you can serve them.
- Knowledge is key: The expertise and knowledge of an independent retailer is a key factor when trust is a concern to the customer. Product questions, tech help, and installation of an appliance can all seem overwhelming to a customer without professional guidance. Use your knowledge and experience to not only provide a simple buying experience, but to win the customer’s trust.
- Digitally define your business: Establish your identity. As an independent retailer, it is important to consider factors that separate your business from the competition. By defining your business and understanding your strengths and advantages as an independent retailer, you are in a better position to build upon your expertise and deliver a quality product and service experience. Create a unique and personal digital presence to reach local customers. In addition to traditional digital routes like a website, advertising and e-commerce options, platforms such as Facebook Live and Instagram Live allow companies to easily reach and engage with their target consumers while creating a strong following and customer database.
Retail is a cyclical and fast-paced industry. It is important to stay ahead of your customers, your competitors and the market trends. Don’t let the everyday challenges of running your business make you lose sight of your strategy to differentiate your business and grow.
Lyon is Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF), and an expert on independent retail best practices. Wells Fargo CDF delivers inventory financing solutions and services for manufacturers, distributors, and independent retailers in the electronics, appliances, furniture, and music industries.