As I mentioned earlier this month my wife and I are currently shopping for baby gear, focusing at the moment on getting a travel system and I’ve been amazed by our experiences. The local shops obviously fear losing sales to the Internet – several assistants gave us well reheresed speaches about the need to try out the systems in person before buying, something we happen to agree with them on – yet each shop managed to lose our business.
The whole experience made me wonder, why when we regularly hear that companies like Tesco, Walmart et al are the big monsters killing small retailers, or that the Internet is killing the high street, do these small high street retailers not play to their strengths, strengths that the big chains and Internet only retailers can never hope to be able to compete with.
So what are the strengths that a small retailer can use to create opportunities for their business to thrive?
- Personal, expert level service – know your product or service and provide a good level of support to your customer. Internet businesses can’t offer this and the big chains don’t have the motivated staff or expertise within that staff.
- Instant gratification – these days we all want instant gratification – we don’t save up for things we get credit as we want it NOW, we can’t wait to get home to phone people so we live with our mobile phones glued to our ears, the post is too slow, we email, even email is too slow so we use instant messaging. If I order it off the Internet I have to wait for it to be delivered, which depending on Bank Holidays, weekends and the courier could be 24 hours to 5 days. Yet if I go to a shop I can get it NOW!
Yet the small retailer doesn’t manage to offer good service if staff aren’t trained properly either. We asked several questions to which the only answer was “I haven’t a clue”. We then found out that one of the shops didn’t keep any stock and would have to order the travel system in, could we wait at least six weeks for it? Hmm technically we could, the baby is not due till June but hey I can order it off the Internet for less money and have it here in 48 hours!
So whatever your business make sure you have a good understanding of your USP (unique selling proposition). Think about the opportunities to make your business different from the competitors you face and come up with ideas to play to your strengths.Email This Post