9 Ways How To Compete With Online Retail Bandits Stealing Your Business

By Bob Phibbs

how to compete with online retailSo many retailers love to complain that online retailers are killing them.

And yes online is affecting all of us, but you can minimize online shopping from eating your lunch if you are proactive and up for the fight.

No one is attracted to a brick-and-mortar retailer's pity-party and shame-based fliers scotch-taped to the door to shop with us or we’ll be gone.

And there are a lot of people saying retail can’t survive, but I’ve found…

People rise when they are told they can’t do something.

People rise when they are told they can’t do something.

Here Are 9 Ways How To Compete With Online Retail:

Do a better job with those in your store. And I don't mean your products or services. The soft skills of customer service are not in employees’ toolkit these days. Your employees may think they are doing a great job, but from the shopper’s perspective they aren’t. That’s why you have to know your customer journey, what you want shoppers to feel when they first walk in, and what associates should choose to say to them after they buy. You must have a relentless focus to be curious about, to understand, and yes…to get your customers to purchase if you want to keep them from pulling out their phones. Checkout retail sales training that thousands are using right now in their stores to increase conversions – SalesRX.com

Have more employees on the floor. One of the biggest reasons loyal customers jump on their phones is to find information. The fewer employees you have, the more shoppers will grow impatient. Don’t give them a reason to go on their phones! And if they do, have your employees well trained and able to poke holes in online retailers’ claims about the same product. Make sure they’re able to compare and contrast offers from your online competition with models the shopper can take home right now.

Provide services. Yes, events are fun but oftentimes not worth the expense. Think different. Think bigger. Add services that add to shopper convenience but can’t be easily price-shopped online like products. What would shoppers pay for that which makes their lives easier? How about adding styling services in partnership with a local salon? How about offering assembly or moving services? Using Thumbtack or other service providers behind the scenes will allow you to be a true one-stop shop that delivers true customer loyalty.

Have your own online store. I know, many years ago I said you shouldn’t, but my thinking has changed. You do need an online presence so for your customers can purchase your products online. I still believe you can’t compete with Amazon who is responsible for 55% of searches online…they’re basically a search engine connected to a warehouse. But your customers are expecting to buy from those they trust when they want, where they want, and how they want. Start your online store with your top 25 items then expand to your top 100. Make sure to mention your site to everyone. And if you’re open to haggling with those online shoppers, take a look at Pricewaiter

Connect your website to your POS. The big boxes have done this for awhile. There are many ways savvy entrepreneurs are using new technologies to allow shoppers to buy from them directly, either through drop ship from manufacturers or by offering the ability to pickup in your shop within a few hours. This can be a real timesaver for stressed out shoppers trying to cram all their errands and shopping into one Saturday morning. Again, it’s about convenience.

Find new markets. How many times do you go back to the same customer with the same offers? Say you’re a bike store and you had a successful charity ride last year so you send out the same invitation to join this year. Instead, go to a new charity to expose your business to a new market. And go to your online competitors’ sites and see what organizations they support to see which could be a good fit for you.

Marketing to new customers. Take note, this is a game-changer! What if you could find people online who are just like your customers and market to them? You can do that with social media. Here’s how. Take all of your customer emails – you do have those right? Organize them into a spreadsheet. Create a Custom Audience on Facebook then upload your list to the Facebook Ad Manager. After you have created that custom audience, create another Custom Audience but choose the option Lookalike Audience. These are people Facebook believes are like those who purchased from you. Filter down your custom audience to your local zip codes or towns. Next install the Facebook tracking pixel on your site, create ads that feature your best items and services, and analyze your results. Find more here.

Broadcast in real time. What if your shoppers could see what you just got in in your shop - offline - instead of having to wait for someone else’s website to show them? Resale stores are wising up to the opportunity to beat online retailers by holding merchandise shows using Facebook and other social media live streaming features. A bonus is this gives your millennials a chance to partner in your success and show their personalities. Online marketing doesn't have to be expensive and can help you build foot traffic. Here are five businesses killing it with Facebook live video

Use more technology in-store. There are a host of new consumer apps that allow shoppers to do more online – why not use them or create your own? For example, a furniture store can look at Modsey which gives 3D renderings of rooms so consumers can make sure that new couch will fit their current room. Delectable is a great source for wine enthusiasts – why not use it on your salesfloor? You can encourage your employees to build profiles so they understand what shoppers are using. But tech doesn’t have to be just apps. We trust technology that tells us the best mattress to buy based on a bodyscanning evaluation in store, or shoes to buy based on a foot scan, or even which Ray-Bans to buy from virtual mirrors. These technologies are becoming more and more affordable and accessible. Look at how to bring these gee-whiz technologies onto your selling floor to cement the deal after you’ve built trust.

Online retailers push you to excel.

Online shoe retailers are really hitting brick and mortar stores. Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) is testing allowing customers to rent their shoes as well as giving customers a credit for returning their worn ones.

I wouldn’t have thought those two ideas would fly a few years ago, but DSW is determined not to let online competition from the Zappos of the world eclipse their brand.

See also, 5 Hot Retail Trends You Can Implement In Your Retail Store Today

In Sum


The only constant in retail is change. Change the way you respond to your competition or die.

If you are up for the challenge to fight the online retailers, you need more employees who can deliver a true branded customer experience working in your store. You need to add more services, have more integration between your online and brick and mortar store and online shop, and hold a winning attitude in the face of it all.

That way you can harness the power of being one of the brick-and-mortar retailers who see the opportunity - people to people.

How to compete with online retail? Focus on the people – who you allow on your floor, how well they are trained in the soft skills, and how engaged they are with your shoppers first.

Then use technology to focus on the customer – both in your store and online to brand your shopper's butt wherever they shop with you by providing an exceptional experience every time.

Do that and you can enjoy the ride instead of complaining about it.

I have over 90 lessons to train your retail associates how to capture more sales in your store. Checkout SalesRX retail sales training below. 

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