As part of Independent Retailer Month, Professor Heiner Evanschitzky, professor and chair of marketing at Aston Business School, has outlined his dos and don’ts for small businesses.
Evanschitzky believes that now is the perfect time for small businesses to make the most of their adaptability and local knowledge.
Professor Evanschitzky believes that independent retailers should:
- Utilise their local knowledge: “Instead of using big data like their supermarket rivals, small businesses know their customers and community inside out, so can provide the products and services they know they want.”
- Focus on customer service: “Independent retailers give customers the feeling of being understood and looked after. Smaller businesses often know their customers by name and may see them almost every day. Customers trust people more than companies. Build your relationships to offer a personalised service that just can’t be found elsewhere.”
- Be flexible: “You have fewer restrictions in terms of assortment and pricing compared to bigger stores. Whereas supermarkets have to ensure consistency, independent retailers can adapt completely to their local environment. This makes them more nimble in meeting local and seasonal needs.”
- Use your networks: “For example, a local artisan bakery will supply custom cakes and home-made bread, whereas the supermarket around the corner will only stock mass-market, generic products. Customers like the idea of shopping local and unique, especially for special ‘treat’ purchases. Look at what’s around you locally in terms of new suppliers. Perhaps there’s a farmer who wants to sell local produce through an independent retailer, or an artist making one-of-a-kind pieces. Get out there and have conversations to get the products your customers want.”
- Be more than just a shop: “Offer those additional services that supermarkets can’t easily copy. Offer easy pick-up or home delivery, or be a ‘locker’ or pick-up point, becoming a point of convenience for your customers. There are endless opportunities to offer additional services and only the independent retailer knows what their customers really want.”
However, Professor Evanschitzky warns that independent retailers can fall into the trap of wanting to become more like a supermarket than a local institution.
“Don’t try to copy supermarket strategy in terms of price or assortment,” stated Evanschitzky.
“Customers don’t shop at a small business to find the exact same products (likely at a higher price) than they would in the megastore down the road.
“Supermarkets want the qualities independent retailers have – adaptive, close to customers, personal. They invest a fortune in analytics and databases to get to know their customers. This is intuitive for small businesses, who are the ones having real conversations with shoppers. Focus on your strengths – your local knowledge, your flexibility, your customer service – to reap the rewards as an independent retailer.”