Technology: A Small Business’s Secret Weapon

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With the explosion of online shopping, brick-and-mortar small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in specialized industries, such as pool and spa, have many challenges. Ecommerce and price-checking tools have made it difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to keep competitive product pricing intact without hurting the bottom line. In addition, finding, training and retaining sales associates for brick-and-mortar locations can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. For many SMBs, getting ahead of the constantly evolving retail industry can feel like a daunting task.

But there are ways to succeed as a brick-and-mortar retailer in a specialized industry — and technology is the secret weapon. Implementing simple technology can be used to increase sales, enhance the customer experience and expand business. Here are three easily deployable, and proven, marketing and sales strategies to consider:

1. Geolocation marketing/advertising

Using geolocation to target potential customers via advertising is relatively cheap, easy to manage and effective. In fact, 57 percent of consumers are more likely to engage in location-based advertising.

Marketing pros for brick-and-mortar retail owners can use Google AdWord’s location-based targeting to show targeted messaging and offers to specific geographic areas. This enables retailers that may not have additional locations or a robust online sales presence to advertise to customers within a close proximity.

RELATED: How a Spa Retailer Used Geofencing to Boost Sales

Another powerful geolocation-based strategy is to deploy local inventory ads. According to Google, ads that display real-time inventory availability drive customers to visit stores, with 50 percent of customers making an in-store purchase after searching for product sold nearby. We live in an on-demand market — if consumers see a desired or needed product, they’re probably willing to journey down the street for immediate availability and the lowest price.

Facebook can also be used as a low-cost and effective geolocation advertising tool. Facebook allows marketers to get extremely granular about their target audience. For instance, in addition to user interests, Facebook allows ads to be targeted at users that live in a specific location or are only VISTING a specific location (based on mobile device location). These granular features can be especially useful during seasons or events when businesses are aware potential target customers will be in a known, specific location.

2. Implement technology at the point of sale

To no surprise, 89 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a company after receiving a poor customer experience, and 55 percent of customers would gladly pay more for a better customer experience. How can brick-and-mortar business owners mitigate customer experience issues? And what about finding and training experienced seasonal staff? Implementing technology with the in-store sales process may be the answer.

In the retail era we’re currently in, self-service isn’t frowned upon, it’s desired. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers stated they would be more likely to buy in-store if given self-help technologies like kiosks or interactive displays. Kiosks and displays allow customers to look up the information they need while still engaging them in your brand and product. The business owner controls the product messaging, positioning and what features to highlight. Of course, you’ll still need sales associates available to answer any detailed questions and take product orders — but this strategy mitigates a common SMB sales process challenge.

RELATED: A Showroom with No Salespeople?

One of the other challenging aspects of specialty retail is the amount of training employees need to ensure they’re up to speed on current products. As a business and its product lines expand, product training becomes more difficult. With specialty sales software, business owners can cut employee product training time down to one week in some instances. Employees can use sales software as a guide through their sales process – with little to no knowledge of product needed. The software presents a series of questions for employees to ask a customer, and based on the customer’s response, provides product recommendations. Effective point of sale software allows business owners to ensure employees are presenting the right product at the right time, while also offering add-on products and services, resulting in a higher average order size.

RELATED: Time for Tech — Pool/Spa Industry Software Roundup

3. Incentivize through omnichannel 

Omnichannel is more than multichannel marketing, it’s ensuring the entire customer experience is cohesive, fluid and consistent — no matter how the customer receives information. Omnichannel can be used to drive brick-and-mortar sales by communicating in-store promotions and sharing personalized coupons and discounts. Eighty-five percent of shoppers are more likely to shop in-store if they receive personalized coupons and exclusive offers. Retailers can create a seamless, omnichannel experience that drives foot traffic into stores by sharing deals, coupons and discounts through email/social marketing, direct mail and SMS marketing.

RELATED: Customer Service in the Digital Age

By implementing these marketing and sales strategies, retail businesses will see a measurable increase in browser-to-buyer order conversion rates. But technology implementation shouldn’t stop at just marketing and sales. Specialty brick-and-mortar retailers must continue to evolve and implement technology across all facets of their business to succeed. When implemented correctly, the net effect is a solid online and offline reputation and the finest complement of all: customer referrals.

Dan McManus is the president and CEO of Evosus, a business software company headquartered in Vancouver, Wash. McManus has 25 years of experience helping companies streamline, grow and identify new market opportunities. He earned his MBA from New York University.


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