Online shopping is continuing to boom as more and more people seek to avoid the hassle or perceived risks of in-store shopping. While the convenience of e-commerce is great for consumers, brick-and-mortar businesses have been feeling the effects in a very real way.
If in-person retailers are getting crushed by their online competitors, it may be time to update their strategies so they can compete with online retailers based on their unique strengths (or maybe even beat them at their own game). To that end, 10 members of Forbes Finance Council members explain how brick-and-mortar businesses can draw customers away from their screens and into the store.
1. Make Your Store A Showroom
Brick-and-mortars should look at their stores as showrooms and fully utilize the brilliance of e-commerce and 21st-century logistics to fulfill customers’ needs for their products. At the store/showroom, enable assisted or self-ordering so customers can check inventory at various stores and warehouses, place orders and then pick their items up at the current store or have them drop-shipped/delivered to their home. – Kurt Kunselman, AccountingSuite™
2. Use Your ‘Localness’ To Your Advantage
Outpace online retailers on the convenience factor. Why would a customer wait a day or two for an item to be shipped when their local retailer can deliver that item within the same day—or better yet, within hours? Brick-and-mortar businesses should make their “localness” a true competitive advantage and demonstrate they can get the products customers want and need into their hands faster than online retailers can. – Omar Choucair, Trintech
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3. Provide An Outstanding Experience
Online retailers provide a service that’s based on convenience. For a brick-and-mortar business to compete with that, they must create a customer experience that’s so good, people are willing to go out of their way to travel to their physical locations. One company that comes to mind is Build-A-Bear Workshop. People can’t get that experience from online retailers. – Justin Goodbread, Heritage Investors
4. Offer Additional Online Services
The easiest way for physical stores to compete is to offer online services themselves. They can offer everything from online booking or appointment options all the way up to the ability to order something online and pick it up in the store. A brick-and-mortar business already offers a customer experience and service that can’t be had online—couple that with the convenience offered by an online retailer, and physical stores can be just as competitive. – Jerry Fetta, Wealth DynamX
5. Build An Online Marketplace
Build an online marketplace immediately. If you are a brick-and-mortar store without a website, you will continue to lose ground to those that have one. There are lots of options for building an online marketplace for your business; take advantage of one and enjoy your business growth with this new revenue stream. Being online is not an option, it’s a necessity. – Joseph Orseno, Tiltify
6. Widen Your Target Audience
I don’t think adjusting your financial strategy is necessary, but consider selling online. With platforms such as Shopify and Goldbelly, it’s very easy and inexpensive to instantly sell items online, across the country. Nowadays, if you’re a pizza place in New York City you can be selling pizza to customers in California. – Joe Camberato, National Business Capital
7. Emphasize Your Strengths
Differentiate yourself in the market and emphasize your strengths as a brick-and-mortar business. Change how you sell and buy. Carry smaller inventories, but offer more variety for those who “need it now,” and reduce your real estate footprint. Sell for direct ship or pick-up in the store at a later date. Offer an online option as well for the remote shopper. Evolve to compete. – David Kelley, Mailprotector
8. Leverage New Technology
Retailers can work in conjunction with their landlords to leverage new technology. For example, The Summit, a lifestyle center in Birmingham, Alabama, is allowing its customers to “Shop The Summit” from their desktop or mobile devices. Users can browse available inventory from all the retailers at the lifestyle center via capabilities provided by Adeptmind. – Katherine Jackson, Bayer Properties, LLC
9. Finance Your Inventory
Brick-and-mortar businesses imply physical inventory, which can eat up a lot of necessary cash. Finding ways to finance your inventory, whether with your supplier(s) or via a working capital loan, can give your business cash breathing room. Suppliers and lenders are very well aware of brick-and-mortar economics, and quite a few have reasonable rates and seamless processes. – Aaron Spool, Eventus Advisory Group, LLC
10. Communicate Your Unique Value
You can only compete so much on price, and at the end of the day, your best financial strategy will be the value you add to your customer or client. You have to communicate that value so that they would be crazy not to stop in and see you. Doubling down on advertising, utilizing social channels and investing in becoming the best-known option locally will always beat the cheapest price. – Patrick Rood, Rood Financial Services