In 2020, it’s time to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar and online retail. Locally owned, independent businesses tend to have a stronger foothold in the physical world, but going online presents the opportunity of reaching new customers and expanding into new markets. Building this omnichannel model requires a unique kind of savvy, but it’s easier when you have partners like Google and Pointy, an online inventory tool for local businesses. Earlier this year, the North American Retail Hardware Association enlisted their expertise for a free webinar for small businesses. As you launch into 2020, revisit their tips for online retail success—because online retail shouldn’t just be for Amazon.
Claim your Google My Business Listing
What happens when a customer in your community searches online for products near them? If your business is relevant, you want it to show up in their search results. Perhaps the easiest way to increase your chances of appearing in these local searches is to claim your Google My Business listing.
“Essentially, it’s an ID card for your store,” says Ajay Arora of Google. The listing shows up on the right-hand side of a user’s Google results. It shows a picture of your business, its name, operating hours, reviews and more. “Globally, we drive hundreds of millions of people to locations through this free tool, so I think it’s a really scalable and easy way for you to get some traffic without doing too much.
To claim your free Google My Business listing, visit business.google.com.
Use Events to Get More People in Store
Ironically, as online retail grows, the in-store customer experience becomes even more important. Today’s customers can order almost anything online, so when they do choose to go to a store, they tend to want more than a transaction. Engaging events can draw people in and add value to their experience.
“We do lots of distributor and vendor barbecues throughout the summer,” says Cheryl Brown of Knudson Lumber. “This is a good way to get customers that might not come into our store all the time, but when you say, ‘Free food,’ that tends to get them into the store pretty quickly.”
Get your In-Store Products Online
Joining the online retail market might be easier than you think. Pointy offers a plug-in device that connects to a retailer’s existing POS system and barcode scanner. As you scan products, Pointy automatically builds an e-commerce inventory with those items.
“It’s really, really simple,” says Pointy’s Matt Dockrell. “It doesn’t involve any kind of deployment or configuration. You don’t need to manage it. You just plug it in and forget about it.”
With an online inventory, customers searching online can find what they’re looking for locally, rather than through a big-box or online-only retailer. Pointy also provides real-time analytics, so retailers can keep track of their online traffic. With this information, you can see what products are most popular online and when people are finding your items.
Use Google’s Free Tools to Get More Customers
If your business already has a website, then take advantage of Google’s Grow My Store tool. This tool allows Google to audit your website and provide you with a report that offers specific advice for optimizing it. That way, you know how Google views your site and what you can do to drive more traffic there.
Take things a step further by indexing your inventory on Google with the See What’s In Store tool. With See What’s In Store, online inventory tools like Pointy can share inventories on behalf of retailers. This inventory information is then added to the retailer’s Google My Business listing, making that panel even more robust.
“This really does democratize access then, in terms of leveling the playing field between you and a larger player,” says Arora.
Easily Advertise Online to Local People
When people search for a product or business online, they often look for results “near me.” These so-called local searches are a strategic place for small businesses to allocate advertising dollars, since they know the customer is in the community and may want to shop in-store. Capturing local searches with online ads is possible through Google and other platforms, but it often requires a level of expertise. For this reason, small businesses should find a partner like Pointy or another digital advertising specialist to take the guesswork out of the process. By allocating budget to local searches, local businesses can target online consumers who matter most to their businesses.
Make the most of the new year by investing in an omnichannel business model. By diversifying your platform, your business can bridge the gap between the brick-and-mortar market and online retail—and play to your strengths in each space.