Ah, Amazon. The great e-commerce giant that has simultaneously revolutionized and terrorized the retail industry. For small businesses, surviving in the age of 2-hour shipping, flash deals, and grocery delivery can be an uphill climb—and thriving in this world can be even more of a challenge.
While the Amazon brand takes the brunt of the blame for really creating an online shopping-crazed retail culture, other stores such as Costco, Target, and now even Walmart have joined in the fray. For independent businesses, surviving and thriving in this new world is still possible, it just takes a little bit of strategic focus and planning.
Say Yes To Online Experiences
For independent retail organizations looking to remain competitive in today’s ‘Amazon-era’, it’s important to not shy away from online experiences. This doesn’t mean rush out and build a professional-grade store website. There are plenty of ways to engage with consumers online without spending too much time or resources.
If you’re a small business owner looking for ways to ease into the online retail space, a great place to start is social media. With free platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, you can share visual representations of your merchandise, grow a consumer base, and get your name out there. Many small businesses rely on brand ambassadors to help grow their market share organically over social media. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to share news of sales or in-store events with your followers.
Embrace The Local Advantage
One of the biggest advantages independent businesses have over large ‘big box’ retailers is the sense of locality and community. Anyone can shop online at Amazon, but only a select group of people can visit an independent retailer. Small businesses can use their relatively ‘small’ size to their advantage when it comes to attracting a certain type of customer.
Consumers today are becoming more socially and economically conscious—they want to spend their money at retailers with local ties or altruistic messaging. Independent business owners can embrace ties to the community by hosting events at the store or joining in a neighborhood-wide sale. It could even be advantageous to ramp up local messaging in your advertisements or on your social media posts.
Leverage Data For Best Results
Although it may seem like small business owners know their customers better than anyone else, it’s still important to rely on numbers and data to make critical inventory decisions. One of the biggest mistakes independent retailers make is investing in unnecessary inventory. This often happens because small business owners don’t have access to the data and metrics that can tell them what products customers are actually buying.
To avoid wasting valuable resources on unnecessary inventory, make sure you’re monitoring both incoming and outgoing inventory. Track on-off events, such as a certain sale that might make an item sell faster, to establish repeatable processes and workflows. With the right data in place, small retail owners can make confident decisions based on numbers—not just on gut feelings.
Try Selling Unsold Inventory Online
At the end of the day, for small businesses to truly compete with retail giants, they may have to take a ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ mentality. This means trying to sell unsold or discount inventory in an online marketplace. Relying on online sales is no longer just for established businesses anymore. In fact in 2016, 51% of all retail purchases took place online. For independent retailers to truly succeed, business owners must turn to new avenues of profit.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean throwing a ton of money at a custom online shopping platform. Small business owners can leverage a cloud-based online marketplace to quickly appraise inventory, monitor offers, and manage logistics all from a single platform—all with no coding or website experience necessary.
It’s important to remember that no matter how large Amazon or other online retailers get, the world will always embrace small businesses. With a little strategy and planning, however, independent retailers can more than hold their own against the online retail giants.
Chris Palmer is a social, retail, and technology entrepreneur focused on solving big problems to effect positive change in the world. As the Founder & CEO of BoxFox, he has created a way for vendors, retailers, distributors and wholesalers to evaluate, buy, and sell aged inventory using their B2B marketplace and inventory appraisal technology. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding, and adventuring into the backcountry.