9 Ways to Stay Ahead of Competition as a Retailer
Reading time: 10 minutes
The retail industry has always been a competitive one. When you take into consideration that there are 3.8 million retail establishments in the U.S. alone, it’s easy to see that your store needs to come up with a strong retail marketing strategy to stay ahead.
Having a great product is no longer enough. Cutting down on your prices is not the best way to beat the competition unless you want to hurt your overall profits. Staying ahead of competition may seem tough but it’s not impossible.
Here are a few tips that you can start implementing today to take your business ahead of competition.
1. Get to Know Your Customers
It’s no secret that customers are the life and blood of every retailer. As such, you should drill down on the ideal audience for your product and get to know them as much as possible.
If you sell clothing items, it’s not enough to know that you’re targeting females. You need to know the specific age group, their income, and their shopping habits if you want to create an effective marketing campaign. After all, not all women will be interested in clothing items that are suitable for women in their twenties.
For brick and mortar stores, you can begin by observing the customers that you currently have. Pay attention to people walking into your store and make note of what they purchase. Observe how they behave and how they carry themselves. You can also ask them to fill out a brief survey on the way out of the store in order to get to know them better.
If you’re an online retailer, you can make use of your analytics to get demographic data about your customers. You can also use your social media accounts and look at your followers to get a better understanding of your customers. See where they like to spend their time online and capture the comments they leave on your profiles or specific questions.
You can also use social media listening to monitor for your brand mentions as well as mentions of your competitors to see how your customers talk about you and them online. Conducting a survey is even easier online; either by asking them to fill out a survey as they are about to leave your site or by creating a specific email marketing campaign.
Knowing the demographics of your customers and making note of the specific phrases they use online can help you position your products better by improving product descriptions and your marketing campaigns. It allows you to establish a better relationship and make your customers feel welcome and appreciated which has a positive effect on your sales.
Once your research is complete, create a buyer persona and keep that avatar in mind whenever you need to write a description for your product, send out an email campaign, or promote your product on social media.
2. Know Your Competitors
Similarly to knowing your customers, you also have to get to know your competitors. While there is some advice online that will tell you to do whatever it takes to make your competitor look bad, keep in mind that doing so may reflect poorly on you too.
Instead, take a look at the way your competition positions their products and make note of their prices. Analyse their campaigns and see what’s lacking in their campaign that you can add to yours to stand out.
Explore their social media profiles and note the number of followers as well as taking a look at how they interact with their followers and customers online.
Doing so will allow you to get a better understanding of your competition and give you insights into how you can carry out a similar marketing campaign with your product in mind.
Keep in mind though, that copying your competitors would be pointless. While they may carry similar items as yours, or in some cases, even the same, taking their marketing efforts and applying them to your retail business will not work. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another one so just because your competitor is doing well on Pinterest, that doesn’t mean Pinterest marketing will pay off for you.
Use the information you gather to see where you can improve your existing marketing as well as to get ideas of potential markets to explore. Come up with a way to differentiate yourself and present your products in more compelling way.
3. Take Your Retail Business Online
If your business still relies on its brick and mortar location, you’re already falling behind your competitors. Numerous research shows that many consumers prefer online shopping so taking your store online is a wise business move. It allows you to expand your store beyond your location and tap into a worldwide audience.
There are various ways to give your brick and mortar store an online presence. You can invest in your own online store using your business name as your domain name and a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. This allows you to have complete control over your store’s inventory, products, and it can also provide you with valuable insights into your customer’s demographics and their online shopping habits.
Another way is to use a marketplace like Amazon or eBay and open an online store with them. This will allow you to tap into a huge customer pool and take advantage of their marketing efforts. Online marketplaces often promote their sellers, in return this causes an increase in sales and revenue. This allows you save money on marketing while still enjoying an increase in revenue.
Lastly, you could also opt for selling on a social media platform like Facebook or Pinterest. With 1.94 billion users on Facebook and 150 million monthly users on Pinterest, chances are your audience and customers are there as well. Using the platform’s built-in selling tools or a third-party platform like Ecwid makes it easy to open your online storefront and start selling your goods online.
Bear in mind that you can also use a combination of all three methods for the maximum potential.
4. Use Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is another great way to put yourself ahead of competition. In fact, chances are your competition is already using social media, so ignoring it would be a huge mistake. Even if you don’t have an online store, you can still use social media to your advantage.
The first step is figuring out where your customers are and which online platforms they prefer to use. Once you know that, you should create a social media account on that platform and optimise it to reflect your brand.
Aside from promoting your products, your social media messages should offer a behind the scenes look of your day-to-day business and offering helpful tips that your customers can benefit from. You can also use social media to poll your customers and get their opinion on how you can better serve them.
Another way to make use of social media is to invite your customers to post a photo of your product on your wall or in your feed, or simply to share it using a special hashtag.
This allows you to build a better relationship with your customers and make your brand appear more human. Moreover, it makes your customers feel like they are a part of your community and establishes the trust factor which has a positive impact on sales.
5. Improve Your SEO Efforts
If you have an online store, improving your SEO efforts will help you rank better in search engines and drive more traffic from organic searches.
Start by improving your product descriptions and tailoring them to keywords that are related to your products. Using a tool like Google Keywords Planner, you can search for your product keyword and get additional ideas on the exact terms your customers are using to search for it online.
Re-evaluate your product titles and use the brand-model-product type formula to improve them. Chances are some of your customers will have a precise idea of what they want and they will use those terms to search for the product online. Formulating your titles to follow the above principle will increase your search engine visibility.
A final note when it comes to your products is to ensure all your product photos have ALT text filled out. Search engines can read the ALT tag description and use it to decide the relevance of your images in search engine results. As a result, your product images will often appear when someone searches for images that are related to your product.
Besides products, there are a couple of more ways to get better rankings in the search engines. The first one is to ensure your website is responsive and mobile friendly. Recently, Google rolled out their mobile-friendly algorithm which favours websites that provide a smooth user experience across a variety of devices. Considering Google is the most used search engine, it would be foolish to ignore this update and have a website that doesn’t display properly on devices with smaller screens such as mobile phones and tablets.
The second way of bettering your SERP rank is to ensure your website loads fast. According to research, 47% of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less and 40% of them will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Test the loading time of your website with a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom tools and then talk to your developer to make the necessary improvements.
6. Invest in POS Software
If you’re serious about taking your business ahead of competition, then you should invest in an POS (point of sale_ system. A good POS system will streamline the selling process both in-store and online, providing a more antifactory experience for your customers that will keep them coming back for more.
A point of sale system is easily compatible with your existing equipment, making the integration seamless. Vend offer a point of sale system that uses something called “Quick Keys” which ultimately makes checking out faster. You can track your most popular products and create buttons for them so customers can find them with ease, without having to navigate through your website.
POS can also benefit your customers in several other ways. Receipts can be customised with sales notes that will provide them with more specific information about a product they’ve purchased, such as care instructions or an offer they can claim. You can also brand them to keep your company name on their mind.
The shopping experience can be improved further, as through POS software, you can effortlessly offer multiple payment types, provide easy refunds and returns and give them the option to “park” a sale and pick it up later on when they’re ready to purchase.
But, point of sale doesn’t just improve things for the customer, it also helps your business and staff significantly. You needn’t worry about issues like which staff members have access to what data, as user permissions can be set up on your POS system. You can also monitor employee sales performance and switch users around, so that your making use of your most valuable employees.
Finally, a POS system can increase overall productivity in your store. Integrating your POS system with your checkout systems will also help you to speed up some your outdated process, for example instead of scanning every item, you can simply type and search for the product keywords. In a nutshell, it improves efficiency, saves the retailer time, and makes the day-to-day running of the store simpler.
7. Offer Value
Providing value to your customers doesn’t include simply ensuring that your products are high quality. The value can also be found in the entire shopping experience as well as in additional perks that you offer.
The first step is ensuring your brand’s values are conveyed in every interaction you have with your customers. Ensuring all your employees know what your company policies and values are will go a long way towards providing a memorable shopping experience and making your customers feel appreciated.
Another way of offering value is to create a coupon or a promotional offer that you can mail out to your existing customers. Gathering customer information through your EPOS system or your website will help get the needed information.
Seasonal sales also offer value as your customers can save while doing their holiday or back-to-school shopping. However, announcing the sales in your store or via email is not the only way to promote them.
You can also use social media to share updates about an upcoming sale well in advance to build anticipation and make sure your customers are aware of the date and times. You can also create online coupons and distribute them via social media, having your customers print them at home and bring them to your store to redeem them.
Consider offering a support line either via phone or by implementing a live-chat option on your site. When your customers know they can talk to someone before making a purchase, they will have an added peace of mind knowing their questions will not go unanswered. It makes you appear more approachable and helps you build trust with your customers.
8. Include Gift Cards or Membership Reward Points
Gift cards or membership rewards are a great tool to give incentive to your customers to come back to your store.
Gift cards can vary in amounts and you can set the amounts ranging anywhere from $10 to $200 and up. They make a nice gift when your customers aren’t sure what to buy for their friends or family or as a wedding present so the couple can buy what they need most.
They also help you expand your customer base because your customers’ friends and family may not be your customers yet. When you look at it, it’s a win-win situation: your customers still spend money at your store and you may even get new customers from it.
When it comes to membership rewards, you can set up a points reward system where every dollar spent earns them one point. You can even design a set of member cards that they can swipe at the checkout to add points to it or keep track of it electronically. Once they reach a certain number of points, they may qualify for a discount on a specific item, their overall purchase, or they may exchange their points for a set of products.
Be sure to send out an email campaign every so often that notifies them of the number of points gathered and show them how they can exchange points.
Ultimately the choice is yours, but bear in mind that both methods can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
9. Create an In-Store Event
An in-store event can attract more sales and more leads and differentiate you from your competitors. Before jumping on board though, you should spend some time planning the type of event as well as the timing.
When it comes to the type of the event, take your customers into consideration and plan activities that would resonate the most with your target audience, ideal customers, and existing customers.
Consider the timing of your event too. Will you have it during summer or closer to Christmas holidays? It may be prudent to tie the season into your event but it will also help you not to plan your event too close to the holidays when everyone is going home or heading for their summer home.
Make sure the events are planned well ahead of time to ensure the event goes smoothly. Come up with a list of tasks that need to be accomplished by a specific deadline, assign them to your employees and assign a project manager to keep track of the schedule so every task happens on time.
You’ll also want to spend some time brainstorming promotion and marketing ideas so your store is full on the day of the event. Once again, this is where email and social media marketing can play a huge role. Use your email list to send out invitations to your customers or add a more personal note by using handwritten post card invitations.
Announce the event on your social media channels and consider creating a Facebook event to invite your followers. You can also set aside a small budget and pay for a boost to reach more people in your area.
Once the big day arrives, keep in mind that it’s not all about the sales. While it’s normal to expect sales to happen, it should be natural, rather than feel like a push from you or your employees.
The main reason behind an event is to generate awareness about your store and provide your ideal customer with a fun experience while getting to know your brand. Use the event as an opportunity to establish a relationship with your customers and then follow up with email campaigns and social media connections to continue cultivating that relationship.
Stand Out from The Competition
Standing out amongst a sea of retailers may seem like mission impossible but with a little careful planning and research, you can find ways to differentiate yourself and come up with a unique selling point for your products. Social media marketing, email campaigns, knowing your customers as well as your competition are just some of the ways you can take your business ahead of competition and ensure your sales don’t trickle down.
Keep in mind that you should always be on the lookout for ways to improve which is why it’s essential to have an in-depth knowledge of your customer’s habits but also knowing who exactly you’re competing against.
Use the tips above as a starting point and don’t be afraid to experiment and try offering a new product or a different take on the sales process. Good luck!
Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.