Beating big business: how local merchants can compete with online giants

The gargantuan purchasing power and user numbers of large online merchants are certainly intimidating for local retailers. Online stores have certainly shifted the retail industry. With ever improving delivery services, the rise of click and collect, and an increase in online purchases through smartphones, it can be difficult to see how local merchants can compete.

06th July 2015

Point of sale software is one technology that’s now accessible to merchants of every size, but this tool alone won’t let you compete with the big guns on price. Are there any other ways you can seek to outperform them?

#1 Expertise

Small businesses with the right staff can easily win business over chain stores by showing their expertise. From small DIY projects to large construction jobs, the merchants with the best knowledge and suitable recommendations will be valued far more highly than larger stores with sub-par expertise. Sound advice and suggestions are far more valuable to your customers than saving 5% per unit. Your expertise is one of the best ways to win customer’s loyalty. Take an interest in customer’s DIY projects and give honest product recommendations when asked. Resist upselling in these situations – an individual’s continued custom is more valuable than a one-off boost to your revenue.

#2 Personal touch

Online stores may be able to track user data to provide targeted product recommendations, but you can do your own targeting without having to use technology. As a local store, you quickly learn your customer’s preferences and specialisms. You can provide personalised customer service by making quick notes through your point of sale software, or simply checking back through a trade customer’s past sales to see if they have a preferred brand or product line. You can also notify customers when a product is back in stock.

#3 Local credentials

An average of 63p from every pound spent at a small business is spent in the local economy, compared with 40p spent in a large business. Don’t be afraid to boast about the ‘local’ nature of your business. Team up with other SMEs in your area to promote your businesses through events and marketing campaigns. Ask your trade customers to provide testimonials and explain why they choose you over the chains, then publish the testimonials online or print them on posters for use in-store.

#4 The right kind of social media

Corporate social media campaigns can seem soulless – particularly when big businesses use the platform try to be chatty and friendly, as they know you personally. This type of social media presence can be off-putting to customers. As a small merchant, you can do social media as it was meant to be done – on a small-scale, personal level. Use Twitter to post photos of new stock. You can even tag your trade customers when you’re offering a discount on social media. Your social media strategy won’t be as fine-tuned as many corporate approaches – but that’s often beneficial.

#5 Responding to feedback

If a customer isn’t happy with the service they received from a big business, they might submit a response through an online form or spend time on hold with their customer complaints department. The sheer size of the business means that it’s rare to see any response to your feedback. As a small business, you’re far more agile than the big guns and you can respond quickly to customer complaints and comments. Use this information to swiftly bring in new products, alter your opening times or improve specific areas of your service as appropriate.

By using your company’s size to its advantage, you can easily compete with big business. You’ll never win the battle on price, but there are plenty of other ways to win business from the giants.

Taking advantage of today’s affordable technology is a no-brainer for small retailers – find out how Integrity Trader can help you compete with larger merchants

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