3 Tech Tips for Scaling up Your Independent Retail Business

Independent retailers face some big challenges in 2017, but also enjoy some unprecedented opportunities, reports Independent Retailer contributor and Sumner Communications managing editor Meaghan Brophy. The biggest challenge is staying profitable in the face of online competition, labor skills gaps, higher labor costs and high taxes. On the positive side, nominal retail sales are projected to rise by 4 percent, and technology is giving independent retailers the means to compete with big box stores. Independent retailers are well-positioned to occupy a middle market niche between online marketers and specialty stores.

Competing with larger retailers successfully, however, requires effectively implementing some strategies to level the playing field. Here are three ways technology can help you scale up your independent retail business to compete with larger retailers.

Use an Integrated Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Omnichannel was the big trend in retail in 2016, and 2017 is seeing more of the same, making effective omnichannel marketing a cornerstone of a successful retail sales strategy. Making sure your website has a mobile-friendly, responsive web design is mandatory. To support your mobile marketing efforts, you need a fast 4G LTE Network from a reliable provider such as T-Mobile, since slow speeds and downtime mean lost sales.

It’s also essential to integrate your customers’ online experience with experience of your brand through other channels. Customers form a single perception of your brand regardless of which channel they use to engage you, so you need to deliver a satisfying customer experience across all channels. Marketing strategies you use on your website should be replicated on your social media channels, through customer support channels such as live chat and phone calls, and in your store. Tools such as geotargeting and beacon marketing can help you integrate your customers’ online and in-store experiences. Many customers use their mobile phones to compare your prices with competitors while they’re online or in your store, so using a comparison shopping engine can help you win sales by offering price-matching discounts.

Gear Your Online Marketing Toward Specialty Niches

Specialization is the key for smaller independent retailers to compete with online giants like Amazon, says Retail Prophet consultant Doug Stephens. Amazon’s selection is broad, so independent retailers need to go deep into their niches, Stephens explained to Independent Retailer. A good example is the Dollar Shave Club, which delivers razors and personal grooming products to customers by mail. Specializing in this niche enabled Dollar Shave Club to begin generating $150 million in annual revenue within a few years and get acquired by Unilever for $1 billion.

To position yourself in a specialty niche, your online marketing needs to be niched as well. Use online market research tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Page Insights to pinpoint your target market and what products they demand. Optimize your website with keywords geared toward your target market. Post content that speaks to your target audience and positions you as a leader in your niche.

Employ CRM and Personalized Marketing to Cultivate Your Ideal Customers

The fastest way to grow your retail business is to focus on your top 35 customers, says Retail Mavens founder and president Cathy Donovan Wagner. Identify your top customers, study what they like and identify ways you can serve their needs. Then reach out to them individually with customized offers geared toward their preferences.

Automated customer relationship management tools such as Salesforce can assist you in implementing this strategy. CRM tools let your sales team track and analyze interactions with customers so that you can identify your hottest leads and gear your sales efforts toward individual buyers’ patterns and preferences. You can support this effort by using mobile marketing and email marketing to extend personalized offers to customers. For instance, you can send automated notifications to customers when their favorite brands are on sale, or you can use their past purchase history to suggest purchases that complement their shopping habits.

Finally, remember that challenges can often lead to opportunities. With this in mind, consider how tech can help.

Photo Credit: Image provided by Social Monsters with permission to use. 

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