Retailing has significantly changed since the Internet came into the picture. There are new challenges encountered but at the same time new opportunities are cropping up. Also, as more retailers compete for customers, there is an undeniable need to step up strategies and methods to remain competitive.
About.com’s “3 Ways to Thrive in a Retail Slowdown” offer great insights on how to remain competitive, but there are many other useful strategies you can use as discussed below:
Know and Understand Your Competition
It is essential to analyze the competition. Venturing into any business without knowing anything about the competitors is like entering a vast maze without a map or without having a bird’s eye view of the maze. You might find your way out of it but doing so wouldn’t be as fast and efficient if you know where to go or what to do.
You have to understand what your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses are as well as the target market’s potential. If you can’t match their strengths, compete with them through their weaknesses. Find opportunities your competitors have not covered yet. You can learn many things from some basic assessments.
Decide on a Target Market
Part of the business planning process is to define your target market. It does not make sense starting a business without ascertaining if there are indeed people interested in what you offer. You have to know who will likely buy your products or avail of your services to have an effective marketing campaign or to know how to craft your promotional materials and product packaging to make them more appealing to your intended customers.
Have a Differentiating Factor, Focus on Narrower Categories
Nowadays, even the most novel business ideas have some form of competition. Online stores that offer unique products, for instance, have to overcome the state of being unknown by competing with a multitude of sites that already have been optimized for specific keywords.
It is recommended focusing on a narrower category and build business reputation and success from there. It’s like competing for the top spots for search engine results on certain keywords. There are keywords that are almost impossible to win so you have to choose narrower keywords or keyword phrases with which the chances of landing on the first search engine results page are higher. If you have a convenience store that sells almost everything similar to what others are selling, you have to know how to create a business identity that stands out.
It does not have to be a truly unique identity. You can differentiate by focusing on small things like highlighting your fast and efficient customer service, offering the guarantee that the products you offer are always the freshest or newest, or using an atypical product packaging that makes customers feel that they are getting something different when they buy from you.
Treat Products Differently
An across-the-board way of handling product marketing and movement is inadvisable. Even if you are running a retail store with a wide range of different products, you have to carefully examine them separately to maximize marketing and handling efforts. Products that hardly get noticed have to be promoted some more through looking for opportunities to do more with low performers. There could be problems in positioning them in a store’s shelves.
For online stores, product pages may not be well-optimized with the right and viable keywords or there may be insufficient links or direction to those pages.
Know How to Price Your Products
Retailers base their prices on the costs. A markup is simply set to come up with a selling price. However, the question is how much markup should you have? How do you make sure that your prices are competitive? Logically, you have to know the prices of your competitors to be able to set a reasonable price that is not too high to drive potential customers away but not too low to the point where you’re even barely breaking even.
Fortunately, there is pricing analytics software like Wiser that makes it easy to learn about the prices being offered by competitors for a specific item. With it, you no longer have to manually visit your competitors’ pages to learn about their prices. Wiser’s WisePricer makes it easy to track products in different marketplaces in real-time and automatically. It even comes with dedicated eBay and online store repricing tools so you don’t have to manually reset your prices across multiple store pages. Pricing solutions like this are vital for businesses of all sizes to remain competitive as the retail world gets more aggressive.
Offer Rewards or Incentives
This sounds like an old trick and it actually is, but it remains to be one of the most effective strategies retail stores can use in attracting and keeping customers. Simple tokens, reward coupons, or discounts on succeeding purchases rarely fail in inviting potential customers and making existing ones feel rewarded for being repeat customers.
Get Personal, Ensure Satisfactory Customer Service
These days, because of the convenience of the Internet and efficient systems that allow buyers and sellers to complete purchase transactions very quickly, personal connections between sellers and buyers are hardly established. For sellers, this can be something worth capitalizing on. Providing personalized service or building familiarity with customers can be enough to convert a new customer into a repeat customer and eventually a brand ambassador.
Moreover, great emphasis should be given to ensure excellent customer service. Complaints should be promptly and prudently handled. Inquiries should be efficiently addressed. Communication channels with potential and current customers need to be properly maintained.
Employ Innovative Marketing
Of course, retailing always requires marketing efforts. If you are selling products that are very much similar to what other retailers are offering, there will always be a need to actively promote your products for them to be noticed. But traditional marketing is unlikely going to create an impact especially when others are also employing the same marketing tactics.
It’s important to be creative and ingenious. For instance, a retail store can offer limited edition shopping bags with creative or funny prints and texts. Storefronts can also be decorated imposingly by using optical illusions. “Pranksvertising” is also worth a try. Just be sure to keep everything under control.
Be Very Visual
Don’t forget how powerful images are in marketing. If you want to attract attention, use images in your marketing copy. Even in your price labels, you can employ visuals to make your products or your store in general more appealing to customers. Just think of the difference of having prices that look too homogenous and having price tags with creative fonts and varying sizes attached to funny cartoon characters that announce discounts or upcoming promo sales – certainly you should use imagery appropriate for your particular industry.
For online stores, visuals are likewise very important. People who browse the web rarely continue exploring a site that looks dull and boring because of the lack of images. You just have to make sure that the graphics you use are properly optimized so they don’t make your site loading time unacceptably slow.
Make the Most of the Internet
Lastly, don’t forget to make the most of the Internet. You can do virtually free marketing online, especially to reach customers with web-enabled mobile devices. Be sure to make use of social media to market your products. Also, aside from doing marketing through the web, you can use the Internet to do research on your competitors or to find useful tips and ideas on how to do creative marketing campaigns for your retail business.
The retail industry is unlikely to disintegrate even as more challenges appear and changes occur rapidly. However, individual retailers have no guarantee of success especially with the growing competition from several other retailers. Hence, it is important to strive to be competitive and to try new ways to adapt in the midst of tough competition.