This article will guide you on ten techniques that you can implement in your small business to increase your sales.
If small businesses already had a complicated future due to the intense pressure of supermarkets and shopping centers and the growing threat of electronic commerce, the crisis and changes in consumer habits have hit this sector hard, with the consequent impact on both sales and employment.
The statistics of consumption in small businesses from the INE testify to this. With successive years of continuous falls until finally two years ago, a slight recovery in retail sales began.
This article has collected ten strategic recommendations for small businesses based on digital transformation opportunities and the good practices of large stores, shopping centers, and numerous small businesses that have already adopted. They are, therefore, strategies that are not limited to the current year but have their scope for action, with variations, modifications, and optimizations, in the medium term.
It is necessary to innovate in the retail sector to survive and/or grow, and it is not enough to continue doing things as usual. Each self-employed person and each SME, based on their characteristics, must assess which of these recommendations are the most appropriate for their business and reflect on how to adapt them.
The goal is to become the reference store in your neighborhood and a destination store that attracts customers from other neighborhoods and even tourists.
1. Good online presence
You have to be where your customers are, so it is essential to have an attractive, simple corporate website with a current and responsive design, which allows the website to be displayed automatically on all types of devices (mobile phones, tablets, etc. computers).
Business file in Google My Business will allow you to appear in the plane of Google maps and in the first search results in Google, indicating your business hours, contact information, link to your website, and including photographs of the establishment. You should also encourage your customers to leave opinions that reinforce your online reputation. Google stars and good comments help! It may also be interesting to sign up for the Bing or Apple maps.
The website of a store is the basis for using the new online marketing techniques and achieving the omnichannel nature of your business (integration of the offline channel, that is, the physical store, with the various online channels). So once you have your corporate website, depending on the type of business and the time and effort you can dedicate to online marketing and electronic commerce actions, you can choose between the following actions:
Create an online store for your website if you decide to bet on e-commerce.
Present in at least one or two social networks with social media campaigns.
Have online marketing actions: SEO, SEM, content and inbound marketing, and email campaigns.
2. E-commerce for the specialist
A virtual store can be a good option to include on your website if your store specializes in a specific product and is very well positioned in its market segment. This would allow you to reach clients from other neighborhoods, cities, and countries and also strengthen the relationship with your current clients, to whom you will offer a better service. It is a strategy to which many freelancers have already joined, and the figures demonstrate this: Spain ranked fourth in online commerce growth in Europe in 2017, and its turnover reached 30,406 million euros according to the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC).
Today there are very affordable online solutions to set up your virtual store, which greatly facilitates its implementation and that you can start experimenting. Of course, do not forget that the competition can be very tough and that to achieve a position in Google, a considerable investment in marketing may be necessary.
3. Online marketing for small businesses
In parallel to creating your website and your online store, you must promote online marketing actions that allow you to achieve the visibility and authority necessary to get the traffic first and sales conversions later.
Your online marketing strategy should include a combination of some or all of the following:
- Social networks: it is recommended that you have a presence in at least one or two social networks. Both Facebook and Instagram are the ones that have the most relevance at the moment in the commerce sector, although Twitter continues to be a complementary alternative. Some businesses even bet only to be on Facebook, without a website, to reduce workload, it may be adequate in some cases, but from our point of view, it means giving up to achieve the full potential that your online presence offers you.
- SEO positioning: implementing techniques that favor appearing in the top positions of Google, for example, a website adapted to the keywords that customers use in their local searches (e.g., a hardware store in Sales or Hospitalet) and bet on a domain.es, plus cash for local sale.
- SEM: campaigns in Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, which allow each time to refine better the campaign’s segmentation criteria (example: women under 35 years of age in the area interested in fashion) and which are very suitable for promoting the actions of animation in the store, such as tastings, parades, demonstrations or social gatherings.
- Content and Inbound Marketing: the creation of content of interest to your potential clients and its weekly publication on a blog or on a YouTube channel, must play a fundamental role in this strategy. Creating eye-catching videos will help you reinforce your SEO and social media strategies and even create a customer database.
- Reputation online: you should boost it by collecting positive comments from your customers or by collaborating with influencers.
4. Build customer loyalty in your small business
To the traditional systems (personalized treatment, payment facilities), you can add some novelties that new technologies and online marketing techniques offer you at affordable prices for any merchant. The loyalty strategies go through the dissemination of content, events, and offers through social networking and email campaigns through newsletters and online newsletters.
Or loyalty cards and purchase points, in the style of gas stations and certain specialized department stores, without forgetting the possibilities offered by SMS messages. WhatsApp, however, still cannot be used for commercial campaigns.
Regarding the online discount coupons offered on mobile phones, although their use has not yet become widespread, their integration with the geolocation systems of mobile phones is a reality and continues to present great growth potential in the coming years.
5. Modernize your management systems
As a first step, it is necessary to manage your business with a point of sale terminal ( POS ) software that allows you to offer an agile customer service system in addition to optimizing the management of stocks and orders and the control of margins and prices. But the next step, especially if you consolidate an e-commerce store or have several establishments, maybe to implement advanced management software (ERP).
The data that these programs will provide you, together with the data that you will have on the online marketing actions, will allow you to create your own dashboard with the fundamental metrics or KPIs for your business:
- Sales by months, days, and time bands.
- Average sale amount per product line.
- Profit margins for each product.
- Most sold products.
- Visits to the web.
- Results of promotions and campaigns on social networks. The number of followers.
- Customer database.
- Purchase frequency.
6. Use hook prices and continuous offers
It competes with the same weapons as the supermarkets, a few products at very attractive prices to attract customers. We are still in a post-age period in which most people still pay a lot of importance to price, and since it seems that the full recovery is going to last, you should try to adapt. Being a local business is not enough for the customer to assume certain surcharges.
In addition, the sales strategy has become complicated. It is no longer valid with the traditional January and summer sales. It is convenient as far as possible to offer sales and promotions at various times throughout the year, even if it is only for a few products and with a minor discount. Black Friday is the best example in this regard. And this type of campaign will help you build loyalty and maintain a continuous relationship with the customer.
7. Offers an entertainment bonus
Due to the influence of large stores and shopping centers, shopping has become an experience that combines consumption with leisure for many people. Therefore, consider the possibility of introducing an element of entertainment that gives the customer the feeling that your store does more than just sell: contests, product tastings, and tastings, coffee gatherings, courses, or raffles. And if the children are involved, the better.
8. Excellence in customer service
Undoubtedly, one of the main competitive advantages of small businesses since people appreciate the proximity and good advice. So do your best to earn the appreciation of your clients for your attentive, personalized, and professional treatment. Are you really doing it right? If you have never received training in this regard, we recommend that you take a short specialized course. It will help you reflect on the way you work and adapt to new trends.
9. Quality of service
It hurts to admit it, but sometimes you have to start with the most basic, cleaning and decoration. It may be enough with a hand of paint and a few details to modernize the image of the establishment.
It analyzes all those aspects that, being apparently secondary, influence the shopping experience, such as home delivery. Have you considered the possibility of offering this or other complementary services even if it is charging for them? And don’t forget to optimize the distribution of the products in your store and your windows by applying the latest visual merchandising techniques.
10. Specialization and Innovation in product and service
Not everything is invented. It is about introducing some nuance, some improvement, or differentiating novelty. Have you thought about whether you can make the product that you buy from someone else? Or if you can at least change providers to access new products in your market, more competitive, or that give you a more attractive margin? Also, consider the possibility of specializing in some type of product or customer profile.