Reports of the high street’s demise have been grossly exaggerated. Whilst chains might be struggling to maintain their stores, independent businesses are thriving providing a brilliant opportunity to grow your own highstreet business!
You need an online presence
Contemporary shopping experiences are profoundly digital, and increasingly mobile, as consumers will often use their smartphones to check your website before they visit the physical store. If you’re one of the2 million small UK business that doesn’t have a website then chances are that consumer will simply go to someone who does.
As we’ve previously noted, customers are now approaching businesses with the baseline assumption that they will be able to interact with them on the channel of their choice. Taking an omnichannel approach might seem daunting but it’s basically all about ensuring that customers enjoy a great shopping experience, whether they’re visiting you physically or digitally. This is especially important when it comes to customer retention.Companies that employ strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers.
Leverage your physicality
That word, omnichannel, might seem a bit intimidating but all it means is taking a holistic view of all the channels through which a consumer can approach you. This includes physical channels, in fact having a store where customers can “see, touch, feel and try out items” is a major advantage. So use that to your advantage by giving out samples, letting customers try products or giving expert advice in store. The key concept here is not that you’re directly trying to compete with the convenience of online shopping. Instead, you’re adding value for customers that they simply won’t get without coming into your physical store.
Actively seek improvements
When your business is succeeding, it can be tempting to simply maintain the status quo and rest on your laurels. Regardless of the size of your business, this can often prove to be a fatal mistake. Not only does it greatly hinder the potential and scope of your growth, it can also see you left behind by your competition. Even loyal customers can be swayed if there is a perceived lack of improvement and innovation from your business.
The extent to which you can make these improvements will vary depending on your circumstances, but a good rule of thumb is to always be looking to improve at least two elements of your business. One of these should be something that customers find frustrating, a ‘pain point’ that is annoying existing customers and putting off potential leads. The other should be something that you’re already doing satisfactorily or even something you’re being praised on. You might be leading the market in that area now, but if you don’t continue to improve that area, you’ll soon find that your competition will catch up and your hard won advantage will be lost.
Use your size to your advantage
The enviable, manpower and expertise advantages enjoyed by big businesses is a surprisingly double edged sword. Something simple as a change in focus can be a ponderous affair, requiring weeks of meetings and approval to set into motion. You, on the other hand, can identify strategies that are applicable for your business and get going straight away. This is referred to be as being ‘agile’ and is a key advantage of being an SME.
So use it! Be adaptive and respond to market demands. Not only will this help to increase your revenue but it will be essential in improving your customers’ experience as you dynamically meet their needs. The value of this is hard to overstate: according to research by Gartner, customer experience is set to become the key point of competition for the overwhelming majority of businesses in the immediate future. Anticipating and fulfilling the desires of your customers is an ideal way to provide a service that differentiates you from both your competitors and big brands.