TWICE: How do you advise brick-and-mortar retailers on how to compete against Amazon and other online retailers?
Rick Wigen, Almo: Brick-and-mortar dealers must provide an outstanding shopping experience, before, during and after the sale. From advertising credible brands, to their product floor display assortment, to maintaining a well-educated sales staff who can educate customers on how the in-store selection addresses their needs. They can also broaden their product offering by working with a distribution partner that brings additional categories via catalog or website along with direct-to-consumer drop-ship capabilities.
Jeff Davis, D&H Distributing: Brick-and-mortar stores need to offer terrific customer service, plus elements like better in-stock merchandise, price matching and varied selection. They should utilize in-store apps and social media to attract customers to the floor. The in-store experience has to offer something superior to the online experience — otherwise, why venture out? Retailers can leverage the consumer’s need for instant gratification, e.g., “You can get it now at our store at the same price.” Or offer discounts on future purchases if customers come in for a same-day special.
Curt Hayes, Capitol: Dealers have to get back to the basics by providing a superior customer experience from the time they enter the front door until they leave with the product. Their staff needs to be educated on new technologies so they can provide real value to the consumer. There are too many horror stories about staff who are not up to speed on even the most basic technologies and products. To say this is detrimental is an understatement. Capitol provides monthly hands-on training or webinars directed at the latest technologies for that primary purpose. The retailers that give their staff the time needed have seen the rewards in increased sales and higher profit margins.
Jerry Satoren, DSI Systems: Short of price matching, which is not the battle most brick-and-mortar retailers should take on, the only answer is in the value proposition. I know this is not a revelation, but there is no magic bullet here. In the end, if you can find ways to make the complete purchase experience better in your store, you can compete and you can be rewarded for it. Yes price is one of the most important components of the sale, but brick-and-mortar retailers, especially local independents, can use their local market knowledge to their advantage and most successful ones are in fact doing it now. From financing, to store demos, to add-on sales, to installation, the list is only limited by your desire and imagination.
Fred Towns, New Age Electronics and Jack of All Games: With online shopping being so ubiquitous, retailers need to continuously reinvent the shopping experience in their stores to draw consumers in. Once they are in store, retailers have to make the experience convenient and educational. Many retailers are offering store pick-up or ship-to-home options. Retailers are also creating “store-within-a-store” setups, which allow shoppers to get in, get what they need and move on. Stores-within-a-store also feature experienced individuals who help educate the shopper and close the sale. Many are armed with portable devices so they can help facilitate check-out. With the right in-store perks and setups, brick-and-mortar retailers will be able to gain a competitive edge against the growing number of online retailers.
Bill Stewart, Petra Industries: While we understand that Amazon and some of the larger etailers have an advantage of scale, we truly believe that brick-and-mortar dealers have equally beneficial advantages. The biggest, we think, is their ability to build relationships with customers that position them as product consultants and not just a place to shop. Additionally, these dealers can demonstrate products in ways that are not possible online, and even though free-shipping is becoming standard for many e-tailers, local dealers still maintain an advantage for customers who want to take their purchase home on the day they pay for it. We also think brick-and-mortar dealers should employ some advertising and promotional activities into their marketing plan to promote what they have to offer over a big dot-com because, ultimately, they’ll generate positive word-of-mouth, which is the strongest, most effective promotional tool around.
Dennis Holzer, The PowerHouse Alliance: For the brick-and-mortar retailers to compete successfully vs. online retailers they need to have the stock readily available in their locations, priced competitively, credit options to meet their customers’ needs, and make sure their sales people are fully trained. All too often, retailers meet some of these requirements but not all. Products are becoming significantly more sophisticated, which should allow showroom retailers an edge and one opportunity when the consumer enters if complete and competitive to close the sale. Lastly and equally as important, all brick-and-mortar retailers must maintain a significant online presence, promoting their abilities and strengths to help drive the business back into their stores. Remember, not all consumers are online shoppers! There is still a lot of business that will remain through traditional brick-and-mortar retailers for those that adjust and promote!