In a world where customers are often driven online to find the cheapest option, it can be hard for bricks-and-mortar businesses to feel they have a fair chance to be competitive.

Bricks-and-mortar business can be tough – but there are also some fantastic advantages that might not work for online businesses, particularly in light of recent pressures on the postal system.  If you have an actual storefront, you can offer customers instant gratification as they leave with products in-hand, instead of waiting days or weeks for delivery and worrying about whether that outfit or gift will arrive in time (or fit!)

Here are some quick tips to help you level the playing field with your online competitors.

1. Make an impression

Your window display could be the very first impression customers will have of your brand – and you know the old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression! Bold colours and unexpected elements such as decorations, textures and layers can all help to grab attention and draw people into your store. Try to keep it simple – it’s probably best to try a different element each week or month instead of trying everything at once and looking cluttered.

2. Get to know your customers

Everybody talks about the importance of data in online transactions. With a physical space to interact with your customers, you have the advantage of actually getting to know them. Over time you might learn their names and faces and get to know what they like and don’t like. You can make sure your regulars know about new stock or changes to your store since their last visit. And let all your customers know about your support services such as refunds, advice, returns and warranties.

3. Host events or demonstrations

Unlike stores which only operate online, you can invite your customers to in store events such as special product launches, previews, talks or demonstrations. If you sell products such as computers, cameras or drones, you might consider offering a free or low-cost workshop for customers to learn how to make the most of their new purchase. You could serve light refreshments and make it into a real event, giving your customers a great experience and even more reasons to buy from you.

4. Use online interactions

Online stores always keep in touch with customers after a purchase – and you can too. Ask if your customers would like to sign up to your database, so you can let them know about upcoming events or promotions. It’s also worth engaging with your customers through social media. As an example, you could run a competition and ask customers where they have worn or used their purchases. Encourage them to tag your business in photos of them using your products, and to review your business on Google My Business.

5. Get to know your neighbours

Work together with your neighbours to seek opportunities to cross-sell and support each other. For example, if you sell fashion, you might partner with the hair salon nearby, offering a discount or special promotion for certain purchases. If you are located in a shopping district, approach your local government authority to see if you can partner on place activation ideas or by local promotions to attract more local customers. 

Thriving with an offline business in an online world is definitely possible. It just takes a bit of careful planning and some imagination.

More information

If would like to discuss your business ideas contact our free business advisory service to speak to one of our experienced small business advisers.

Starting and growing
18 November 2021