Five mantras for 'mom & pop' stores to survive in the disruptive digital world...

It’s an e-world now.

Mobile & Internet connectivity, with economically priced smartphones, are changing the rules of the game. All established (and archaic) businesses are getting disrupted. What makes brick & mortar retail believe that they will survive?

24x7 connectivity has disrupted even the most traditional services like hailing a cab and ordering food. People are not standing on the streets to hail a cab (or thanks to Ola, even an auto). Customers are now least interested in being put on hold... Everyone is looking for convenience, convenience, and more convenience with prompt and reliable services.

And this is spreading fast to the brick and retail NOW…

If you are a retailer with a high street shop in a market area and choose to think that things will never change for me, you are ignoring the writing on the wall. Yes, it may take time, but the online disruption will hit you. First your vertical will see consolidation (already happening with mobile shops) and then the larger players will adopt digital. Isn’t it better that you adopt digital and stay competitive.

Let’s go a little deeper into what it takes to ride the internet bandwagon. Here are top five things for you to do:

  1. Change your mindset. Don’t relax under some false assurance that the buyer will always come to your shop as you are in the prime market. Yes, they will come, but more and more will come to explore the merchandise rather than to buy. They will explore but buy online, or patronize the next shop that has given them a better deal online. Once you have changed your mindset, the rest will be easy…
  2. Join a digital platform even if you have to invest. Be available to your customer online. There are so many hyperlocal ventures out there. Pick one, which has traction in your category and offers favorable terms. Ensure that the online partner gives you a visibility with the buyer, creates points of interaction between you and the buyer, so that you build some customer loyalty and justify the monies that you have spent in setting up a shop with a great ambience in a prime market. If the online partner is reducing you to a dark store (warehouse for shipping), you may want to re-think about the engagement. You don’t want to go down in status from a retail shop owner in a prime market to a warehouse operator in some non-descript basement. So, carefully select your online partner, and do this as soon as possible.
  3. Be prompt; very very prompt in servicing an online query. The online buyer (who will be a majority in a few years) is impulsive and used to a quick response. Thanks to Googling, when they post a query, they expect an immediate response. So, when your phone buzzes with an online query, respond immediately. Just the very act of responding immediately will make you stand out of the competition.
  4. Keep a sharp eye on ‘online.’ You can be dead sure that everyone is conducting an online researching before buying. So, if you are not tracking your merchandise trends online, you are shooting in the dark. Be competitive, and ensure that you offer a variety to the buyer. Look at this way. A woman wanting to buy shoes on –line will get to see a lot of variety; but not to try and exactly see how she looks after wearing them. It’s only a physical shop where she can try half a dozen of them and then decide what she wants to buy. If you don’t show variety to this woman in your online response, you have lost your key differentiator.
  5. Offer home delivery if the buyer is in your proximity geographically. Note that, people are going online due to the convenience it offers. You get the product right in your living room. Why can’t you do that? Hire one less salesperson and replace by field sales and if the buyer is nearby, let the person show/deliver the merchandise at home at a time convenient to the buyer.

To summarize, if you have to compete with online, get online with a partner who exposes the buyer to you; allows your response in real time; allows you to show variety which is stocked in your shop; and gives options to arrange for home delivery. If your hyperlocal online partner is meeting this requirement, I can almost guarantee that you will be able to pull online buyers to your shop and close a majority of deals. Try PriceMap. It is one such one such platform, which allows a retailer to pull a typical online shopper to their shop by responding to their query in real time.