By Stephanie Braun
It’s an exciting time to be an independent retailer. You might have noticed that, over the past few years, there’s been a huge resurgence in shopping local as well as new tools to help indie businesses thrive. There are some super-progressive pet supply retailers who are rock stars in the game. If you’d like to join them this year, consider the following:
1. Turn your website into a revenue site
Retailers list a number of reasons for why they are not ready for a web store. More often than not, they report not having enough time or know-how to run an online store. Here’s some good news: it’s easier than you think.
Having a web store allows you to make sales while you sleep. Not only are you extending your business’s reach and increasing sales by selling online, but you are also offering customers something you couldn’t before: an increased level of convenience.
Even your local customers who enjoy visiting your shop in person appreciate the convenience of ordering goods on the Internet. Once you are finally ready to open yourself to the infinite opportunities of selling online, look for a solution that offers these key features:
• Easy to setup: look for solutions that don’t require any, or minimal, coding skills.
• Customization: a solution should come with a large selection of customizable templates and designs, as well as the ability to very easily import and export your current products.
• External services: make sure you find a web store platform that can easily integrate with your point of sale and accounting software.
• Support: Look for an eCommerce solution that offers training and support (via tutorial videos, step-by-step instructions and phone support).
• Security: an eCommerce platform must come protected by a 256-bit SSL certificate.
For more information on how to choose a web store solution that best suits your needs, check out the eCommerce Buyer’s Guide at lightspeedhq.com/resources.
2. Ramp up your social media strategy
Having a Facebook page is essential for any retail store, but what about other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest? You might not believe that a basic shop—that perhaps exclusively sells kibble or dog crates—could possibly look interesting on a photo sharing site, but that’s where social strategy comes in. What pet stores sell is a love for animals, a healthy solution for pets and a sense of community. With that in mind, think about the kinds of photos that convey these ideas.
When it comes to your Internet presence, content is king. This year, invest in proper photography. Pet clothing should be shot with proper lighting and backdrops (no blurry iPhone pictures of clothes on a rack, please!). You can also start gathering stock images of happy animals that convey your shop’s story, or make sure you can use the professional photos from the brands you carry. Need some inspiration? Check out Californian pet supplies retailer’s Instagram account @healthyspot, which has over three thousand followers.
Social media is great way to engage with your clientele. If you haven’t already, launch a photo-based competition, where customers must take a selfie with their pet and tag your store for their chance to win a prize. One of the biggest advantages of having a large audience of followers is that you can advertise to them for free. With a dedicated audience on Instagram, your digital flyer is sure to get noticed.
3. Get automated
We’ve been evangelizing the benefits of automating processes for years. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, it would be advisable to have some systems (and skills) in place that don’t require the Internet but, until then, apps are going to be key to saving you time and money. Automated systems (such as a point of sale, cloud-based loyalty programs and other digital apps) serve to make retailer’s lives simpler and provide the kind of data that couldn’t easily be gathered manually. Fortunately, these solutions are getting easier and easier to set up. In 2016, you’ll notice that the systems available for retailers have been designed for users with computer skills of varying levels, and provide a ton of support for those who don’t feel comfortable installing an app.
This year, while major chains and Internet giants like Amazon continue to gobble up sales, you’ll notice just how many tools there are to help independent retailers thrive. You might already be a tech-savvy merchant with a web store and great content for social media, but kicking off the new year is a great time to explore new ways (and new apps) to make smarter buys, improve your customer relationship management, or simply make better merchandising decisions.
For those who are still a bit reluctant to start selling online, we promise it’s not as complicated as it might seem.