Thursday, October 22, 2020

As more people are working from home and staying in, online shopping has become the dominant means of commerce. It’s more important than ever for small brick-and-mortar retailers to get their products online and accessible to their customers. However, with so many large e-commerce competitors, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd.

To give these smaller businesses a leg up, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council how brick-and-mortars can still thrive in today's digital landscape. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Get Familiar With E-Commerce

If foot traffic is down or if you've had to close, I would recommend spending every extra minute learning e-commerce. Just start—learn Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Shopify and Walmart.com. Become the brand, start trying to sell your products using the “private label” model so you can own your product listings. Start learning now to survive and you just might thrive in the following years. You never know which online marketplace might be the best for your products, so try them all and scale as you go. But start learning and executing immediately. – Michael Barnhill, Specialist ID

2. Capture The Spirit Of Your In-Store Experience Online

A lot of care and attention goes into the design of a brick-and-mortar store. From the smell of the space to the furniture, you've thought of everything. When building your online presence, think about the ways in which you can capture that spirit. For example, if your store smells like cinnamon, can your color palette call upon that through the use of deep reds and browns? If your furniture is mid-century modern, can your choice of fonts align with that era of design? Small cues like these create a sense of familiarity for anyone that knows your brick-and-mortar experience. – Matthew Manos, verynice

3. Offer Multiple Convenient Shopping Options

Brick-and-mortar stores offer a unique experience that can't be rivaled. However, to thrive in today's world, it's important to modernize and digitize as much of your brick-and-mortar store as you can. If you can offer a buy-online, pick-up option or others like it, it only provides more value and convenience to shoppers. Also, make sure you start thinking digitally. If your customers aren't coming into the store, do you have a way to communicate with them? Are you gathering emails? Are you sending regular emails to them? Are you providing incentives that they can't get online like free alterations? Or, can you turn some of your services to online? Can you do styling or design consultations? Whatever you can do to accommodate what customers want today is key to helping you in the future. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS

4. Create A Personalized In-Store Experience With Technology

Whether you’re offering a product or a service, you have the opportunity to create a personalized customer experience that carries from your digital experience onto your physical location. Technologies like NFC (near-field communication) and augmented reality make this possible. Let's say your customers come into your location on their birthday. As soon as they come in, they get a push alert on their phone through an NFC beacon. The alert tells them that there is a gift waiting and to ask an associate. Your team will also be notified, and will greet these customers with a “Happy Birthday!” The need for human interaction has become even more obvious through these times. Brick-and-mortars are challenged to get creative with customer experience. – John Lie-Nielsen, One Park Financial

5. Promote Virtual Appointments

Although customers might be reluctant to leave home, they often feel comforted knowing they're talking to someone just down the road. It can be an uphill battle encouraging customers to shop in stores even with the right safety measures in place. Instead, for guests who still want to support your brand from home, provide them with the opportunity to schedule video conferences or phone calls with your local retail teams. That way, they can still feel like they're shopping at your nearest location without having to actually leave home. – Firas Kittaneh, Zoma Mattress

6. Invest In Digital Marketing Strategies

Use digital marketing strategies to encourage foot traffic to your store. Even if you have both an online store and a physical store, online cart abandonment is high. This means you want people to actually come to your store, where you have the opportunity to use in-store marketing tools, such as displays and Covid-19-appropriate showrooms. On your social media channels, try offering in-store exclusive sales or in-store hand-sanitizer or mask giveaways. Advertise that you offer curbside extras, such as bike racks, tables or other features appropriate for your business. And, as always, keep both your homepage and your storefront looking amazing, and you'll increase the chance of brick-and-mortar success! – Shu Saito, SpiroPure

7. Collaborate With Existing Online Businesses

Currently, a major portion of small and traditional businesses are out of business. But those who survived have learned how to pivot and adjust to their market’s needs. With a growing rate in online shopping and remote working systems, many e-commerce and other online-based businesses are taking advantage of the trend. So the best tip for brick-and-mortar businesses is to partner or collaborate with existing online businesses. Whether you’re a restaurant, gym, real estate firm, etc., start associating with businesses like online delivery partners and digital marketing agencies where you can connect with your customers virtually. Try technologies like online meetings, virtual reality and augmented reality, where even the most traditional business can meet with their clients virtually. – Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

8. Use A Template E-Commerce Site

Creating a custom online shop is a huge investment of time and money. A quick and budget-friendly option is to use a template shopping site, such as Shopify. These sites are set up to help businesses manage e-commerce and can be somewhat customized to match existing branding. This is a great solution for smaller companies that aren't able to build their own site, or for companies that are looking for short-term solutions while they invest and build in a completely custom site. This allows customers who may not be comfortable shopping in person to still have access to your products and inventory. All brick-and-mortar shops should also be offering curbside pickup, and have that heavily noted on the website and social media. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

9. Improve Your Local SEO While Expanding Your Global Reach

Think both locally and globally. You can reach out to your existing and potential local customers with local search engine optimization so they can order your products online (or, if possible, arrange for delivery). You should also realize that e-commerce means you're not limited by geography. This gives you a chance to expand your business globally, or at least nationally. If people in your neighborhood appreciate your products, so will people in other regions. Even if you're largely service-based, you can get creative and think of products to market. Information products such as e-books and reports are another possibility. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

10. Create A Seamless In-Store And Online Experience

Make the physical and online store connected as one. The good experience a customer has whenever they are assisted online should also be felt when they decide to purchase in-store. There should be rewards when purchasing online and at the stores, like free set A products when you purchase a certain amount at the store and free set B products if online. This gives them more options and triggers them to purchase both ways. Make the experience quick and seamless for both online and physical stores. Give customers a good experience that will make them crave more. Have excellent, awesome customer service anytime, anywhere. – Daisy Jing, Banish

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