A Strategy for Saving the Mom and Pop Business.
First off, let us address the fact that online shopping is not only here to stay, but that online shopping is a good thing.
Online shopping benefits the following marginalized groups of people:
- those without transportation
- the sick
- the elderly
- the caretakers
- the homebound (for whatever reason)
Change is hard
If you spend much time on Facebook, you no doubt see people complaining about online shopping and how it is destroying mom and pop, or brick and mortar, businesses.
While all of us empathize with the problem, I believe it is time that we look at this realistically.Change is often hard - but it is inevitable. We can either progress through changes kicking and screaming, which can be painful, or - we can embrace the change and learn to adapt. Click To Tweet
Either way – Change is ALWAYS Happening.
Saving the mom and pop business will require change.
How can local small businesses remain viable amidst these changes?
Here are just a few ideas to help get some creative juices flowing:
- One of the first things to do (in my opinion), is to create a business page on Facebook. FB even offers online shopping from within the business page. You can set it up to allow users to purchase via PayPal, or you can have the checkout process directed to another website.
Check it out in the Facebook business section:
Add a Shop Section to Your Page
- Decrease stocked merchandise.
Take stock of your stock. Analyze which products sell best and how often, and then have a sale to move your less popular items. Develop a plan to monitor your inventory and only keep enough for local walk-in demands.
- Rent (or buy) a smaller storefront or “share” the space.
Oncy you’ve decreased inventory, you won’t need as much space. If you already own a brick and mortar presence, then consider dividing it into two or more spaces and then rent it out to other small businesses in the same predicament.
Canvas the local vendors to see if this would be a viable strategy.
If it is, act quickly, or someone else might beat you to it!
- Distribute catalogues, brochures, postcards, or flyers with specific sale items (or unique, one-of-a-kind items) and allow customers to phone in their order.
Offer options for available delivery such as notifying them when they can pick it up, plus delivery or shipment options. Provide an email address in case they have questions.
Here’s an example.
- Obviously, shipping fees can be a problem.
Take a lesson from other online sellers. In some cases you can increase the price of your item by a small amount (not the full shipping fee) and then offer shipping at a reasonable cost. Most Amazon shoppers are aware of this practice (not on every item), and it does not seem to matter to them.
Convenience and expediency are more important to many shoppers than saving a buck or two.
(Delivering to your local area can alleviate the local mailing expense, depending on the size of the area.)
- Develop an online presence.
You can take this one step at a time. Place a few items online and then either allow customers to order online or at least order a product by making a phone call. While there are many things to consider, such as an attractive, responsive website, let’s look at some of the legal issues to consider.
- Make sure your site is secure.
- Clarify your refund and return policy online, and verbally (over the phone) for phone orders.
- Email the customer promptly (especially after a phone order) with a receipt, confirmation of the order and expected date of arrival.
- Follow up with another email once the item is shipped, and then ask for feedback and a product review. This will help build your online reputation. You can let them respond via email, or offer them a specific area on your website for reviews.
- Offer to make house calls and business calls (when your service can be provided in this manner) by appointment.
This opens up a market to other small businesses, people stuck at work with a short lunch break, young mothers with babies and small children, the homebound, the elderly, and the caretakers who cannot leave their loved one.
- Offer transportation to specific events (that’s another topic altogether) held by your business.
This will enable the elderly, disabled, or those who do not wish to drive to town, a viable alternative to shopping online.
Progress requires change.
It’s not somebody’s fault, it’s just the way it is.
It makes life easier.
Do not assume that this task is too daunting. It is not. Learning new methods and techniques can be challenging, but it is also rewarding.
If learning technical internet marketing is not your choice, that’s okay. You probably have good friends or family members that are internet and computer savvy enough to lead you in the right direction. You can also hire someone to do the work, or to at least get you started.
I’m here as a Social Media Coach and can offer many of the services mentioned above. (SandraJaneMedia [at] gmail .com)
By no means is this to be considered an exhaustive supply of solutions or online marketing ideas, it’s just a good place to start.