The internet’s influence in retail extends far beyond people shopping online. The original threat seemed to focus on online shopping and many hypothesised how bricks & mortar stores will lose a large portion of their market share to the convenience of online shopping. This is part of it of course, but in truth, it is a small part of a much bigger picture. The internet is now playing an important role in everything we do and shopping online is only one side of the coin.
The extended influence of the internet is largely due to smartphones and the availability of internet on the go. People are now using the internet not just to shop online, but to get more information on bricks and mortar businesses and the products they sell. 92% of smartphone owners seek local offline information about businesses in their vicinity – so if you have clear information about where your business is located, your phone number, hours of operation etc. readily available online you could make an in-store sale thanks to the internet! 89% of people act on local information they see online about your business, and if that information isn’t available, you’ve just lost a potential customer. This lost customer will not go online to shop but to a store up the road from you who has all the necessary information available online.
You don’t need to be an e-commerce company to have a strong online presence and nearly 50% of small businesses do not even have a website. This has a negative impact on in-store sales because if information about your business isn’t available online it will be difficult for people to know that your business even exists. This is especially true of the younger generation who spend so much time online talking about where they’re going and what they’re doing, tagging themselves at their favourite locations, and essentially giving businesses free promotion amongst people they’re connected to across the different social media platforms.
How to respond
So, if you’re a small business with no website what should you do? First off, you should get yourself a basic website as this gives your business instant credibility. Websites are reasonably cheap these days and if you have some time you may be able to work on that yourself with a basic template. From there you should start getting all the information about your business on local business listings – many of these will be free and help you to establish your online presence.
Don’t forget about setting up your social profiles. These are free to create and if you post on them regularly it will show people that you are a reputable business and you can start building your following slowly. If you find these are particularly effective channels for you, consider doing some paid adverts, but just set them up for now.
The reality is if you don’t get the basics right now you will fall too far behind your competition to catch up. The largest retailers have begun to merge online and offline retail experiences to create a seamless shopping experience for their customers. For example, Starbucks is making it as easy as possible for people to order their coffees. Simply place your order on their app and your drink will be ready for you when you arrive at the shop. Things like this can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line and all that Starbucks have essentially done is made it a bit easier for people to order their drinks.
As a further point, many people are also using their smartphones in-store to check product information. This does not mean that they’re planning on buying the product online but more often people like to check reviews of products before they buy it. If the products in your store are reasonably priced the customer will buy in-store rather than wait and order it online so make sure your store has WIFI available for customers.
Furthermore, the internet of things is already having a significant impact on retail and its influence will only grow in time. This will have many benefits for both the store and the customer. For the customer, they will be able to receive offers on their phone about promotions available in store while they’re in the shop. For the store, the internet of things will vastly improvement inventory management and bring a high level of efficiency to how they operate. The essential message is that times are changing. Small businesses are fantastic but even they must get the basics right online these days.
Need a guide?
Check out this infographic from Storetraffic for more information about what your business needs to do to ensure all your business details optimized online. Get the basics sorted now and think about the rest later.