The retail landscape has been changed dramatically by the pandemic; however, it has also brought about new opportunities for independent retailers. Retail shops undoubtedly add an exciting dimension to local shopping and there is huge potential for growth for those owning and running their independent retail businesses. The key to success is to stand out from the competition, but to take advantage and increase sales and profit entails a lot of hard work. So, what can you do to make your independent retail business the ‘go-to’ store and one where people stop and walk in, not walk by?
Here are nine ways to make your retail shop stand out:
- Ensure customers feel safe
- Sell your brand – use pavement signage, window displays and interiors
- Know your customers
- Get the right team in place
- Collaborate with other businesses
- Ramp up your marketing campaign
- Provide excellent customer service and the best shopping experience
- Create attractive loyalty schemes
- Optimise the counter area
1. Ensure customers feel safe in your shop
Even though restrictions have been lifted in England, and relaxed across the rest of the UK, many customers will still have concerns about shopping. They need to feel that they can shop safely and that you have appropriate health and safety measures in place, so ensure you and your team remain mindful of social distancing and hygiene measures. Let customers know they will be safe in your store via your website, social media, email marketing or text messaging, or by way of your own business app if you have one.
2. Sell your brand to gain a competitive edge
Share your story and brand ethos to let potential customers know that you are a lot more than just another place to shop. Your brand needs to communicate the personality of your business and promise an excellent quality product and shopping experience to gain the competitive advantage you are striving for. Think carefully about the colours and language you use and your logo – does it represent who you are?
- Use pavement signage and a great window display
- Utilise in-store visuals
- Create a pleasing in-store layout
- Get noticed through your website and social media
3. Get to know your customers
Take the time to get to know your customers, which will earn their loyalty. It’s vital to offer excellent customer service. Customers are getting more demanding so focus your resources and your marketing budget on the behaviours that are most aligned with your target market to ensure the greatest return on your investment. Meeting customer expectations will create happy customers and when customers are happy, they are more likely to become loyal and have a larger basket spend.
Understanding your customers includes knowing, or at least having a good understanding of:
- Where they live
- Their interests and habits
- How they prefer to be contacted
- The things they like about your store and the things they don’t!
- The incentives that are most appealing to them
- How price-conscious they are
- How often they visit your store
4. Employ the right people and train them well
To increase sales, you will need to invest in your employees and employ the right people, those who really want to work for you and are passionate about what you are selling. As soon as you take on a member of staff, start training straight away, as they will be representing your business. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you implement a continuous training programme to refresh their knowledge and give updates on any new products. Sales training is a must-have in your retail strategy so that the team fully understands your expectations. Sales staff must be well informed, courteous and helpful, with the ability to offer expert personal help, which will dispel or confirm any doubts a person may have about an item. It is a real advantage for customers to have the opportunity to talk to knowledgeable staff and this is one of the greatest benefits of buying locally and in person. Exceptional service is likely to turn browsers into buyers.
5. Collaborate with other local businesses and cross-promote
Getting to know and supporting other local businesses opens a world of opportunities for collaboration. There are lots of ways to collaborate with them, which will be beneficial to all. Try to cross-promote; for example, a fashion store could make a great partnership with a jewellery or handbag store. Collaboration can be expanded to social media and is a great way to raise awareness and double the reach. You could also team up to run competitions together with both parties offering prizes to make it more appealing and attractive to a wider audience, as well as more cost-effective. Other ways to collaborate include running events together, producing combined newsletters and writing guest blogs on each other’s websites. Working with other companies can be a valuable marketing tool for growing your business and it’s all about building relationships.
6. Ramp up your marketing campaign
You will need to embrace modern marketing and reach your customers online. The first step is to create an engaging website which mirrors your brand. Your target audience needs to be able to find you easily online and discover what you sell, how much it costs and where they can find you. Look into an email marketing campaign, which is a great way to remind your customers you are still around and get them excited about coming to your retail shop. Blogs are a great addition to your website, as they can help your customers learn more about the items you have. Plus, using social media can help to promote your shop location and website.
Other marketing activities you could consider are:
- Website and SEO
- Social Media
- Email campaigns
- Google My Business
If you are looking for more tips on digital marketing, or to find out more about some of the activities above, why not download our free digital marketing guide?
7. Provide excellent customer service and the best shopping experience you can
Online shopping is easy so your retail shop will have to respond to this by offering the perfect purchasing experience in store. This starts with offering excellent customer service and, of course, great products. Go the extra mile by showing your customers you know them, and you genuinely care about them. Provide experiences that will make customers want to return to your shop. This could include something simple such as playing music or providing samples of your products.
A positive experience will make customers want to tell others about your shop and mean they are more likely to return. Be aware of repeat customers and perhaps offer a reward to say ‘thank you’. Over time, you’ll learn your customers’ shopping habits and perhaps even their name, so once you know what they are called, address them personally to make them feel important and valued.
8. Create attractive loyalty schemes and know your most valuable customers
Customers love to feel appreciated and valued, and once a customer has a relationship with your brand, they should be rewarded. A great way to do this is by having a loyalty rewards scheme. These schemes can provide useful and important insights into customer preferences and significantly increase customer loyalty. However, do make the rewards easy to obtain, as if they are too complicated, people will opt out – they need to see that the ultimate prize, such as a free gift or discount, is achievable. Other ideas could include exclusive offers and birthday or anniversary specials.
9. Optimise the counter area
When people come to purchase, have items on display in your counter area to encourage more sales and impulse buys. Choose the right products to feature, for example, in a clothing shop, display scarves, jewellery and other accessories and in a shoe shop, have polishes and protector sprays available.
Growing your business is achievable by standing out from your competitors
Making your independent retail shop stand out could mean the difference between surviving or closing your shop. Growing your retail business is certainly achievable but you will need to be creative. The in-store experiences should be exciting, engaging and compelling so that people want to come back, or in fact, can’t wait to visit you again to see what’s new in store. You want people to purchase from you and not a competitor. Plan a strategy for your particular retail shop and always combine it with great customer service and a strong marketing campaign.