In today’s digital world, it’s almost always a bad approach for businesses to be invisible or nonexistent online. By and large, consumers are searching for local businesses online and engaging with their favorite brands on social media. They’re browsing online reviews and sharing feedback of their own with others.
As a business owner, you’ve probably come up with a strategy for reaching these consumers online, whether that’s through your own website, on social media or on third-party review websites, like Yelp and Tripadvisor. Of the consumers you’re reaching, though, how many of them are buying from you as opposed to another business they’ve found online, like an online-only retailer.
According to the 2016 Independent Business Survey, published in February by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the Advocates for Independent Business, competition from large online retailers remains one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. In fact, 70 percent of independent retailers describe competition from Internet retailers as a very significant challenge to their business. For these businesses, reaching customers among the crowded field of the Internet is only half the battle; the rest is all about closing the sale and bringing the conversation offline.
Become a Resource
While convenient, the online shopping experience is highly impersonal. It does not allow customers the opportunity to ask questions about a product or to learn from the in-store experts that make up small businesses. Show your online customers that you have the expertise and the answers they need to make an educated buying decision: Offer a short testimonial from your own experience with the product, or better yet, maintain a blog that features informational articles about your products. That way, customers see your business as more than a marketplace – as a place where they can go to get valuable answers and insights.
Get on Mobile
Your brick-and-mortar store could have a real advantage over online retailers when customers are on the go. According to a 2014 study by comScore, 78 percent of local searches performed on mobile devices result in an offline sale. In other words, when consumers are searching for products near them via their mobile devices, they’re usually eager to buy – and they do so in a brick-and-mortar store.
To make sure those nearby shoppers find your store, you’ll want to have a website that’s mobile-optimized. Mobile sites rank higher in search results, and they load better on mobile devices, making them more helpful for customers on the go. To get a mobile-optimized website, you can use a service like PagePart or Mobify, which have mobile solutions specifically for small businesses.
Offer an Enticing Promotion
A unique or exclusive promotion can give customers a reason to get en route to your store. Consider offering an in-store-only discount or the opportunity to demo a product. Then, customers will have a reason to become familiar with your business and meet with your knowledgeable employees.
Once you’ve gotten those customers into your store once, you can keep them coming back with some sort of loyalty program. For example, customers can rack up points and redeem rewards – such as free samples or small discounts – when they shop frequently in-person. You can also launch a periodic email newsletter to remind customers of the rewards waiting for them in the store – just don’t forget to capture email addresses at the point of sale!
Remaining a brick-and-mortar business in an increasingly digital world is no small feat. The key is to convert online visitors into paying in-person customers. For more tips on blending the digital and physical aspects of your business, read a recent post on omni-channel retailing.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.