Two recent consumer trends have many merchants raising their eyebrows and looking to capitalize: Checkout lines at big-box and chain department stores are getting longer due to a lack of clerks, and the number of online consumers looking to purchase locally is increasing. Neighborhood retailers can take advantage of these trends by making sure their checkout is quick and easy, and their online presence alerts Googlers to their retail stock availability.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, notes that many large retailers are shedding customer service staff more quickly than they are closing stores to cut costs and remain relevant in the evolving retail environment. And it’s becoming evident from expert observation and customer comments, the staff-slashing strategy is backfiring badly.

“Retailers are shooting themselves in the foot trying to save pennies by lowering labor costs, and that’s costing them dollars on the top line,” Rogelio Oliva, a business school professor at Texas A&M University, tells the Journal.

Another trend neighborhood merchants can capitalize on, is the increase in immediate-needs shopping. According to a recent post on a Google blog, even though shoppers may spend nearly two weeks researching a potential purchase, when they move to buy, 33% want the item immediately, often leading them to look to local retailers.

These results are emphasized by the drastic increase in the number of mobile Google searches related to find items “near me” or “where to shop.” Over the past two years, searches related to those to phrases have increased 85%. The 2017 Retail Vision Study shows that while online and mobile commerce is transforming retail shopping, 91% of all sales still happen in bricks-and-mortar stores. That means independent merchants with solid customer service, a strong online presence, and integrated digital solutions can deliver on the heightened expectations of impatient shoppers.

Brian Bullock