Competing with Big Box Stores during the Holidays is Easier than You Think
Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) may appear to be at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for holiday spending from consumers. But the reality is that they have some distinct advantages compared to larger retailers, and when leveraged strategically, SMBs have the opportunity to capture plenty of consumer attention and holiday spending dollars.
Here are my top five tips for small businesses to stay competitive this holiday season.
Adoption is Key
SMBs are in a unique position to take advantage of new technologies like mobile-based payments and loyalty solutions because they can react to infrastructure changes better. SMBs should capitalize on their advantage to quickly pilot new technologies that may provide a better experience for their customers to drive deeper engagement and loyalty.
Level the “Technology Playing Field”
Big-box stores have one advantage when it comes to technology. For a long time, this meant SMBs couldn’t afford POS systems and other expensive merchant software and hardware. However, with the advent of tablet POS systems and user-friendly business intelligence apps, it has become both affordable and attainable for SMBs to benefit from the same kind of technology as big-box merchants. Don’t be afraid to upgrade your systems and improve your marketing programs and business analytics. The return on this investment can be immediate.
Find Your Niche
SMBs may compete indirectly with big-box stores, but the smart ones know that to survive and thrive, they must carve out a niche. SMBs tend to naturally have a niche because they generally don’t sell the same SKUs that big retailers do. SMBs should recognize that most customers who walk into their stores would prefer to buy on the spot; this presents the opportunity for SMBs to provide these customers with the experience they desire in order to complete the purchase.
Sale, Sale, Sale
With low margins and mass merchandise, big box stores typically have less interest in merchant-funded discounts and have difficulty competing with SMBs in this way. The SMB space tends to recognize that because of their higher margins. At times, it makes sense to offer a discount in order to encourage the customer to buy. Take advantage of this wiggle-room and offer customers the type of deals that keep them coming back.
Don’t Fight “Webrooming”, Evolve With It
Showrooming isn’t the only trend that has merchants scared this year. Webrooming -- the act of doing product research online, then going to a brick-and-mortar store to purchase -- presents a whole other host of challenges. Perhaps the biggest of these challenges for SMBs is ensuring their products are listed when people search locally. We recommend doing some basic SEO research and implementing best practices to ensure that your business appears on maps and in local search results for the products that you carry.