The growth of e-commerce has been all over the news recently. According to AdWeek, online retailing in the United States has grown 13% in the first quarter of 2013, which makes it the fastest growing retail segment. It’s important for owners of small brick-and-mortar businesses to know how they can compete with online stores. Continue reading to find out how to keep your business from falling behind.
Create a website.
In 2014, it’s almost impossible to own a successful business without having a website. Even if you don’t sell your products online, it’s important to include your hours, location, contact info and some information about your business. A website is a great opportunity to showcase your brand so that customers are excited about your store before they walk through the door.
Integrate your web presence with your actual store.
According to eMarketer, Americans will spend over two hours using the Internet on their smartphones in 2014. It’s likely that your customers will be using the Internet in your store. You can take advantage of this by integrating the Internet with your store. For example, display your business’ Twitter handle at the cash register and encourage customers to Tweet their purchases. You could also invite customers to subscribe to your newsletter so that they learn about discounts and new shipments.
Take advantage of social media.
Social media is essentially free advertising for your business. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare are all great platforms for reaching new customers and promoting your brand. One of the newer social media platforms is Pinterest. Because Pinterest is so visual, it's a great way promote your store's products and brand without selling them online.
Use your space to showcase your brand.
One advantage that your business has over online retailers is that you are able to create a memorable and specific shopping experience for your customers. When your customers walk into your store, they should feel completely immersed in your brand. The Apple Store is an excellent example of store branding. When you walk into The Apple Store, you're surrounded by white walls, floors and tables and lots of Apple products. There's no way that anyone could mistake that they were in any other electronics store. With The Apple Stores, Apple has created a memorable and specific shopping experience for their customers.
Stay connected with your community.
Another advantage that physical stores have over online retailers is their community. Join the Chamber of Commerce and look for networking opportunities in your community. Seek out opportunities for referral business, and be sure to provide referrals for other businesses as well. Get your name out their by sponsoring local charity events and school functions. The great thing about towns like Gainesville is that people are always happy to shop local and support businesses that they know. Being able to build real and lastings relationships with shoppers in the community might be the brick-and-mortar store's greatest advantage.