A ‘big box’ retail store is usually a large bricks and mortar location with a wide range of products available at a relatively low price. Their lower prices are due to their large stock holdings and greater purchasing power.

In most cases, big box retailers have the advantages of being open longer and large advertising budgets.

This customer might be waiting for his wife, or he might be bored out of his brain by big box stores.

However, there are some aspects of retail where the big box retailer fails: 

  • Providing a personalized experience for their customers
  • Providing expert advice
  • Efficiency and flexibility when sorting out problems
  • Providing unique products, for people who want to stand out
  • Building customer relationships
  • An awareness of unique localised community trends, needs and values

People get tired of making decisions. They get tired of having to compromise on what they want. They get annoyed when their questions aren’t answered and their priorities are ignored.

Pricing of products does come into the equation when making buying decisions, but a customer is 4 times more likely to go to a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Bain & Co).  Combine that with two more statistics; 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report) and customers assess 70% of buying experiences on how the they feel the shop treats them  (McKinsey). It’s revolutionary – price doesn’t influence customers very much at all!

But how can you attract shoppers who would otherwise go to a department store or big box retailer?

The first step is to be found.

Consider what people look for, and where they will look. People won’t look through the yellow pages for a gift shop, so don’t waste your money on advertising there (if you are a gift shop!).

Think about what motivates people to buy from you and go upstream from there. Maybe most of your shoppers visit because they see your beautiful window displays when walking past. Ensure that if your shop is closed, there is the option for them to access your website and shop online there. If they come because of friends’ recommendations, have a reward program to encourage more recommendations.

The second step is to stop competing on price.

The big box will usually win the price-obsessed customers. To offer lower rates, you must shave your margins. Then you have to cut back on expenditure and neglect the things that make your store a pleasing environment. It all continues in a ‘race to the bottom’. Forget about the price conscious customers, and find other ways to compete.

The third step is to promote your differences.

Run a ‘shop local’ campaign, hold events in store where you bestow your insider expertise on customers, do things the big box will never do.

Remember, big box needs a large volume of customers to break even, because of their pricing policy. You’re different, all you need to do is attract some loyal followers, who will spread your shop’s name around and bring in more likeminded people.

Go forth and conquer!

Statistics from http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/08/customer-service-stats.html

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