E-commerce. The word strikes fear in the heart of many brick-and-mortar store owners.
The statistics can be concerning. In 2011, internet marketing experts reported that 78% of Internet users conduct product research online and 40% of US smart phone users compare prices on their mobile device while shopping in-store. Shoppers often use local stores as a showroom and then purchase products online for a lower price. Armed with smart phone apps like Amazon’s Price Check, where customers can scan a barcode and compare prices in-store, consumers are more price-savvy and have more buying options than ever before.
How can retailers compete?
Love Instead of War
Rather than fighting the online behemoth, embrace it. Selling via the internet provides an opportunity to extend customer reach by establishing new virtual territories. This doesn’t have to mean an expensive capital and time investment to create your own branded shopping site (luckily)! You can leverage established virtual stores like Amazon, eBay, and Google and hitch your cart to a safe, secure and trusted horse.
In addition, the internet marketplace can actually entice customers to come to your store. Mega retailers like Walmart, Sears, and the Container Store are accommodating online shoppers in their stores by offering pickup locations for online sales. This eliminates shipping costs for the customer and allows retailers to reduce inventory costs. Providing customers with the option to return items in-store that were purchased from your online store increases customer satisfaction and gets consumers in the door.
With in-store pickups and returns, you can offer online shopping and still give customers the opportunity to experience your customer service first-hand.
Many stores offer some form of price-matching, even informally. Do your customers know this? Publicizing your willingness to match online pricing for certain items can give your customers the security to know they’re getting a good deal, even if they don’t actually take you up on your price-matching offer. Don’t give the business to the competition just to hold on to slightly higher margins.
Keeping Customers In-Store
And of course, there are the tried-and-true methods for that crucial element – getting customers in the door and keeping them in your store. How-to workshops and friendly, helpful sales staff add value to the brick-and-mortar experience that simply can’t be matched by online shopping.
Going up against the e-commerce giant can be daunting, but it may be easier than you think to get in on the action and increase your revenues by as much as 20% or more. So are you losing customers to online stores? Not if you embrace them and use them as an advantage for your business.
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