How can small independent shops keep up?

The death of the high-street is a prevalent issue, particularly in light of Covid-19, with the retail industry taking a hit in particular. Independent high-street retailers have not only been hit by the pandemic, but competition with online shops is also intensifying and footfall on high-streets is declining.

From simple tips like ensuring you have a card machine to using social media, here are some top tips to help small, independent high-street shops keep up with a culture that shops online.

Make sure you have a card machine – Even before Coronavirus, more than half of all payments were made by card last year. The increase in a cashless society has also been heightened by the pandemic, with shoppers more reluctant to use cash through fear of transmitting the virus. By ensuring you have a card payment option, you’ll be more likely to facilitate the customer experience that shoppers are now seeking. 

Build a social presence – Online activity spans beyond just online shopping – you’ll find many of your customers using social media. Engaging with customers here is crucial – retailers can not only use social media platforms for free marketing to get the brand out there, but they can also inform customers of current offers or products in stock to help drive interest and footfall. Customer experience is everything, so don’t avoid any negative tweets, make sure you respond and show you care.

Offer a great customer experience – One thing that you have that big online retailers sometimes lose is human presence and interaction. Make sure your staff are clued up on all of your products, are welcoming and on-hand to deal with any questions. It’s important to ensure you’re still accessible whether that’s through social media, in person or by phone.

Keep up-to-date with trending products – Depending on the nature of your shop, monitoring consumer trends and offering popular products at affordable and competitive prices in store can further help keep up with online retailers. Keeping up with the trends is also something that you can post on social media, driving the buyer to your store.

Target your local community – Participating in or sponsoring local events is a great way to raise awareness of your business and attract new customers. Alternatively, organise your own event. Depending on your brand you could look to host workshops or partner with a local charity or other local businesses to garner new interest and get your brand out there.

Be reactive with Covid-19 updates – Many customers may still feel uncomfortable being out and about so ensuring shops are equipped with appropriate protective gear and advertising will help ensure people feel at ease when shopping. Registering the fact that you’re also open on IndieRetail will help let consumers know you are trading.

Be environmentally conscious – Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact in all aspects of life, including shopping. Independent retailers can use this as an opportunity to promote purchasing locally. Can you focus on this as part of your messaging and marketing? Additionally, is there a way you’re able to provide ethically produced products and packaging? 

Naturally, it can be hard not to compare yourself to the online retail giants, but it’s also important to remember that they have huge budgets when it comes to investing in their company.

Remember to focus on your brand’s strengths – what is your unique selling point and why should customers continue to shop in-store? Play to these strengths and make sure you promote them on social media even if you don’t have a big-budget site built up for your brand. Additionally, you can learn from larger brands – analyse their negative feedback and get an idea of consumer demands so that you can adapt your strategy accordingly.