It's no secret that online retailers have had a detrimental effect on the high street. With many big companies today like Amazon, Argos, Littlewoods etc. many high street retailers are struggling to compete. But why? Why is the high street experience diminishing whilst the online experience flourishes? Why does this need to change? and how can this be done? These are the questions that I'll be answering in this article.
What's So Good About Online Shopping?
On average, people in the UK and US spend one day per week online, so it comes as no surprise that businesses wanted to capitalise on this. With most businesses having online stores, you can buy nearly anything over the internet and have it shipped directly to your door, which, let's face it, is easier than travelling to shops in a lot of cases. Especially with most supermarkets now offering the online shopping and delivery services.
When shopping online people can easily find the same item on multiple websites and compare the prices to find the cheapest one. Whereas on the high street it could more than an hour to get to each shop, find the correct item and compare the price. So online shopping does make this considerably easier.
Not everyone has an efficient mode of transport and depending on where they live, it could take them hours to get to the nearest shopping centre or high street. This is another reason why online stores are dominating high street retailers because shoppers can receive their items the next day, or in some cases on the same day as ordering them.
Why Should High Street Retailing Be Kept Alive?
There are many reasons why in-store shopping shouldn't be forgotten, here are just a few:
1. You Can See and Try a Product Before Purchasing. When it comes to online shopping all you see of a product before you buy it are images, which oft-times will not show the full product and will not have an abundance of detail. This is why in-store shopping is still important because you can physically see and try a product before you purchase it, meaning you can make an informed decision based on what you think of the product.
2. Human Interaction. Shopping online is something that requires very little interaction on the business' part. Whereas in-store there will be staff there to aid you in finding the item you are looking for. It's their job to make sure your shopping experience has a positive result, and if not, give you recommendations on other places that might have what you’re looking for. This is what shoppers need, interaction with a helpful, friendly member of staff. Online, the closest interaction between the customer and the business is the order confirmation email.
3. No Waiting Times or Delivery Charges! When you purchase products online you often have to wait at least a few days for it to be delivered, unless you spring for next-day delivery which can cost nearly as much as the product in some cases. When going in-store, you can find the item, pay for it, and that's it, you have it in your hand. There are no lengthy waiting periods or special delivery charges, just instant purchasing.
4. Supporting Local Business! Supporting local businesses and ensuring that they remain active in the community is essential for keeping high streets alive. There are many benefits to keeping small, local businesses up and running, for example, creating a community with its own unique character. Depending on your location, your community could be a popular holiday destination, meaning that the original, one-of-a-kind businesses will attract more visitors than chain stores, and therefore bring more income into the local economy.
What Can Small Businesses Do to Remain Afloat?
The main struggle for small businesses is trying to compete with online vendors. The first thing to address is “What are they offering customers that I'm not?”. The best way to answer this question is to analyse information about your customers and who your product is aimed at. There are many different tools that you can use for this.
You will need to look at how many customers you have in a certain period of time and the age range of these customers. What products are the most popular and how long customers stay in certain areas of your shop. If your customers often require assistance and if so, is there enough staff on hand to handle this?
Answering questions like these will give you a good idea of who your target market is, the demographics of your target market, how you can facilitate these customers and what you can do to ensure that they come back. Once you have information about your customers and your competitors, use it. Create bold and eye-catching marketing campaigns, give customers an incentive to come to your business. For example, special offers and deals, reward schemes, special events etc.
Another method could be to look at the B2B sales route. You may be focusing on your public consumers but there is a lot to gain from business clients. The benefits can vary depending on your brand, product and business goals but you may be able to increase your sales exponentially. Also, creating a co-branded partnership can be a way to expand your business. Creating projects and events together with another business could help you both gain exposure for your businesses, and also catch the eye of the media which is essentially free marketing. A good co-branded partnership to look at is GoPro and Red Bull, who jointly organised the 'Stratos' project in 2012. Obviously, for a smaller business, it could be something as simple as a joint managed charity event, which gains positive publicity for both businesses.
For the B2B route, telemarketing is still one of the most prominent methods you can use to interact with your prospects. Despite some of the bad press it receives, telemarketing is undoubtedly one of, if not the best, ways to generate new business. However, some business owners don't have the expertise, workforce or even the time to organise effective marketing campaigns. That's where outsourcing comes into play. By outsourcing telemarketing to a specialised company, you no longer have to worry about creating the campaign yourself or finding the staff to manage it. All you need to do is give enough information about your business, product and goals to the lead generation business and they manage it all of you. Simply put, another company does the work, whilst you reap the benefits.
So, in conclusion, high street shopping is an in-depth shopping experience that can't be matched by online retailers, supporting high street businesses is more likely to benefit your whole community as local retailers will have a greater chance of putting some of their income back into the local economy. To remain present and gain more exposure in the retail environment, businesses need to analyse their customer and target market needs and behaviours so they can tailor their products to match. You shouldn't focus on just B2C but look at opportunities in the B2B environment, as you could be missing out on opportunities to gain exposure and grow your business' reputation.
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