3 Tips to Help Small Retail Stores Gain Ground on the Big Box Stores

We’ve all heard about the Main Street mom and pop stores getting elbowed out of business by the big box retail stores. With the landscape seemingly working against the independent business owner, those of you with small retail shops may wonder if you can really compete with the big boys and continue to grow sales.

The answer is yes, you can—if you have a strong mobile and social network presence and take advantage of your flexibility. A study from the international research firm Latitude found that 61 percent of shoppers have better opinions of brands when they offer a good mobile experience, and 85 percent of survey respondents said that being able to shop from their mobile devices makes it more likely they will actually buy something.

Be Mobile-Friendly

When you decide to create a mobile presence, be sure to understand responsive design and mobile site optimization. In fact, because growth of sales via mobile devices has been high—an average of 135 percent increase in sales conducted via smartphones from 2012 to 2013, according to the National Retail Federation—creating a mobile-friendly site could be a great first step to increase accessibility outside of your store.

Get Social

To further differentiate yourself from the big companies and to add a personal touch to your business, consider ramping up your social media presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or wherever your customers hang out. Launch an online competition is a great way to increase visibility and consumer engagement—you can decide on an item or coupon to give away and then ask followers to leave a comment and like/follow you on your various social media platforms. Then inform the winner at the end of the week.

Use social media to re-post articles or inspirational quotes that fit your company’s culture or share anything that resonates with and engages your customers. You can also ask for input on interior design choices or opinions on which line to carry, because as the Ben Franklin effect shows, asking people for favors can actually lead them to be more invested in you.

Take a look at the way Joss and Main has grown their online presence on LinkedIn. They even landed a top rating for their iPhone app ahead of big companies like Walgreens and Home Depot. It’s further proof that small companies can gain ground by investing in their mobile and social presence.

Do What the Big Guys Can’t

Small businesses don’t have the same level of corporate restriction that the big retail stores do, so take advantage of your flexibility. You can experiment online with dynamic pricing (changing prices based on the market and consumer interest) and flexible pricing (changing prices based on individual customer preferences). You can decide to offer incentives for certain items that you need to move out of inventory. You can choose to offer sales not only when customers have come to expect them (think Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.) but also during times that are important to you like say, for instance, the anniversary of your store opening.

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