Three Keys to Competing with Amazon and Walmart
One of the biggest conundrums of owning, or in my case advocating and marketing for, small, brick-and-mortar-based retail businesses is figuring out how to compete with big box stores and online giants. With the wide selection of price points and brands offered with large, national business models, it can seem hopeless for a family owned storefront, or even a smaller, regional chain, to try to contend.
The bad news is that if you try to compete with, say, Walmart on price alone, you probably can’t win.
The great news is there are ways big box chains and online mega stores will never win—but that requires smaller stores and shops make these tactics among their biggest priorities.
I now present to you the three biggest keys to small-to-medium retail business success, and they are crucial.
Maintain some sort of online presence, and make it authentically YOU
Do you have your own website, sell on some kind of online platform (eBay, Etsy, etc.), or have a social media page (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? If not, make it a goal to get online. At bare minimum, make sure your business shows up on Google searches and business listings. Take the time to, whenever possible, say what kind of business you are, and what you sell or what services you provide.
If you have a social media page, make it your own and try to make it fun! Post a photo when you have a new item in stock, make a little tutorial video of a project you’re working on, talk to potential customers via posts about your passions as they relate to your business. Don’t be afraid to pair your brick and mortar shop with an online platform that fits well with your product types. If you’ve got a website, keep it simple, modern, and up to date, and make sure your business’ unique identity is represented.
In an effort to help with online presence, the Eagle Grove Chamber of Commerce is, in the coming months, going to roll out some new business features, including video profiles of member businesses on our Facebook page and website, a new Instagram that will showcase great things about Eagle Grove via photos and invite people to explore with scavenger hunts and activities, and Q&A profiles of our citizens, including businesses, groups, and community leaders in our Eagle Events email newsletter.
Offer experiences, personal touches, and great customer service
In this world of decreased face to face interaction, many people crave experiences and connections, and this is absolutely true with shopping—whether it be grocery, gift, or items for the home. The one thing small businesses have that big businesses spend millions trying to replicate is that feeling of community and belonging that comes from knowing you’re going to see a familiar, smiling face at local establishments. That personality, that unique experience, you offer your customers just by being you is priceless.
Got a silly game someone can play to receive a discount or a unique promotion you’ve always wanted to try? Go for it! Make it a standing thing where people know, and tell their visiting friends and family, about the quirky, funny, or just plain fabulous thing they must come try in your town. Don’t be afraid to get a little outside the box. We need more of that.
Don’t be afraid to, every so often or every day, offer someone a glass of wine or snack while they shop. Can you offer free delivery, teach a class to the community about something related to your business, or host an event in your shop? These experiences will draw people in, make them feel good, and keep them coming back. Think about what feels right to you, how you can uniquely and authentically give your patrons a great experience, and do it. I mean, it’s your store, isn’t it?
Strive to make sure all your staff understand the importance of great customer service, and don’t stand for anything less than delighting your customers. Don’t be so concerned with money that you forget to go the extra mile for your customers (within reason—I mean, a person must eat, right?).
Need ideas? Come chat with the Chamber. We’re happy to help you, and our goal is to help you make your store a destination, and make sure you have a pretty darn good time while doing it!
Remain visible and active in the community
If you’ve been to a Chamber function since I’ve been on board, you’ve likely heard me talk about how community involvement and giving back are great ways of demonstrating the importance of shopping local. If a business owner or manager or staff member is on community boards, helps at events, and volunteers his or her time, it shows passion for the success of the city. It shows buy-in. It builds a sense of belonging.
And while it’s great to help the community just because it’s the right thing to do, local businesses also need to make sure the community sees when it happens. I know, I know–Iowans are typically humble to a fault, which is definitely noble, and it will likely feel weird to publicize your good works, but it is absolutely crucial that people see the ways our business owners care for Eagle Grove. It’s just like the memes you see daily saying something to the effect of “shop local because Amazon won’t sponsor your kid’s sports team.”
Show your community love and pride, and let the Chamber help you show it. First, make sure you’re a member so we are able to help you in all the ways we can—some of which are for members only. Chamber Membership helps with credibility and visibility in towns of every size. For real. Tag us on social media, drop us a line, give us a call, and will happily show just how positive the effects of local business owners and organizations are in a city, and how the town would be a much worse place without all the good done by shopping, and giving, local.
Thanks for all you do, Eagle Grove. I’m inspired by you daily.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King