Can brick and mortar stores thrive in a digital age? Definitely – provided they know how to make themselves stand out.
Focus Website on Local Traffic
Search almost anything on Google, and you’ll end up with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of results. How is a small business owner supposed to feel optimistic about ever getting to the top page?
The secret of Internet success is that you don’t need to conquer the global market to see results. In many cases, brick and mortar stores can benefit by focusing on their local community. Almost three-quarters of users who do a local search visit a store within 5 miles. The business address, phone number and hours of operation are the primary information these users want, so display those details prominently.
Long-tail keywords (e.g., “Arlington VA kids hair salon”) are smart. You want to set up your website’s SEO not only to rank high for your business name, but also for the kinds of local search phrases shoppers use to try to find you.
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Offer Perks Ecommerce Can’t
Online shopping is on the rise, but it does not need to be your brick and mortar shop’s biggest fear. In fact, more than 92 percent of retail sales in the first quarter of 2016 happened offline. Here are three benefits your brick and mortar store can offer:
- Same-day pickup: Online shopping involves at least a day’s delay for shipping, but usually more. Brick and mortar sales can complete the sales cycle faster.
- Hands-on experience: Trying on, tasting, touching, smelling and seeing details that a screen can’t capture adds value. Train staff to give customers the hands-on, sensory experience that helps them decide on a purchase.
- Easy returns: Customers may feel more confident if they know they can get a refund or exchange processed quickly, instead of shipping a package back to an online retailer.
Create a Memorable Experience
Shopping on the couch in your pajamas is hard to beat for convenience. But successful brick and mortar store owners also realize that this scenario also carries a critical weakness: customer service. Customers come to your store in search of a certain shopping experience. Retailers who provide it will create a loyal customer base.
Some businesses offer expert information. Think of DIY home repair classes at Home Depot, or cooking demonstrations at specialty cookware stores. At Sephora, associates act as experts to match customers to the ideal shade of foundation or skincare formula.
Other stores use events to create a stellar customer experience. Bookstores commonly host readings where readers can meet their favorite authors face-to-face and get their copy signed. Specialty home store Salt & Sundry is hosting a series of pop-up events in honor of its fifth anniversary. Evaluate your customer base to identify which experiences will bring them in the door.
Integrate Online and Offline Experiences
Brick and mortar retailers can recreate the appealing atmosphere of their store online. Besides your website, your social media presence is your strongest online tool. Millennials in particular are eager to connect to favorite brands on social media. They also use social media prominently in their research before making a purchase.
Social media success can be a balancing act for small businesses. If you don’t have a dedicated social media manager, you may be better off choosing a few platforms that are most popular with your customers. Post a mix of helpful information and promotions, and answer customer questions ASAP to win a loyal following. Don’t be afraid to show personality. Keep the same tone online and in-store to reinforce your brand style and values.
How’s foot traffic at your brick and mortar store? Share your successes and challenges with getting customers in the door!