Amazon entered the smartphone fight with its Fire Phone. However, it's more than just another smartphone entering the market; it's a challenge to every small-business retailer. With a single click on the locked screen, an application called Firefly lets buyers point the phone at a product, which is quickly identified for purchase online. When you add this to the Mayday feature for direct customer service help, Amazon becomes a formidable competitor to retail business owners.
This new smartphone is a sure way to boost an already growing shopping trend: showrooming. This behavior happens when a customer shops in a retail store and then buys the product cheaper (and many times tax free) from an online retailer like Amazon.
Showrooming is eliminating the divide between online and offline retail. The shopping advantage can go to online retailers that carry a bigger inventory, provide easy comparison shopping and even offer next day—or in some cases, same day—shipping anywhere in the country.
Showrooming can be costly to retailers in terms of lost sales. According to JiWire's Mobile Audience Insights Report, there has been a 25 percent increase in the use of mobiles in retail stores for comparison shopping (59 percent), coupons (48 percent) and product reviews (47 percent).
That doesn't mean small retailers should throw in the towel. You have other advantages big online retailers don't. Use these benefits and the following 12 strategies to win over in-store shoppers.
1. Train your staff again and again. Shopping online is a place where customers educate themselves through research to narrow down the choices. However, many customers still like to talk to staff face to face to find the exact product. Make sure your staff can answer all their questions, because in-person engagement is a huge competitive advantage. All employees should have easy access to Internet resources (using mobile devices) that tell them every product available in the store or from their competitors.
2. Host in-store events. Have special events that enhance the shopping experience that can’t be found online. For example, conduct education classes or community receptions or designate a day when a portion of all sales are donated to charity.
3. Offer post-purchase support. Provide free post-sales support to answer questions by phone or on a follow-up visit. Installation is also a welcome addition to any complicated product.
4. Sell exclusive bundles. Differentiate your products so they're not online commodities. Sell special bundles that are unique to your small business. You can also combine products with service.
5. Price match. If you can’t hide it, feature it. Emphasize to customers that you will match the lowest price. This has become a standard policy of Best Buy.
6. Give them credit. Before there were credit cards, customers were allowed to “run a tab.” Bring this back (with caution), where some customers don’t have to pay for every purchase until the end of the month.
7. Provide same day delivery. This is still difficult for many online retailers to offer, but you can partner with a courier service that will deliver the products the same day within a local shopping area.
8. Have instant checkout. Eliminate lines. Allow customers to check out with any retail salesperson with a Point of Sale (POS) tablet device. Apple stores have had success with this checkout approach.
9. Start a frequent buyer program. Use a loyalty program so customers have an incentive to come back and buy again.
10. Partner with online apps for in-store purchases. For example, Shopkick is a mobile, location-based app that rewards customers with points, which can be redeemed for in-store purchases. It also has features that help customers discover products before they enter the store.
11. Use geofencing. Send mobile marketing texts to buyers when they're in a specific geographic location around your store to attract additional foot traffic.
12. Emphasize shop local. Tell customers how shopping local keeps more money in town, which benefits the local economy. Partner with other local businesses to offer joint rewards.
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