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Business Practices to Keep Retail Competitive with Online

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Line at store entrance

(Rachel Martin, Unsplash)

23 Aug. 2019. Retail stores face increasing competition with online vendors, making it harder to grow a business, and in some cases even survive. Main Street stores may offer a convenient location and put up attractive window displays. Yet brick-and mortar stores have other natural advantages over online businesses that they should relentlessly exploit, not only to survive in this competitive world, but also thrive.

More social than social media

Social media may be in today’s headlines, but retail stores bring customers in face-to-face contact with real people such as store employees, as well as other customers. And these people are real flesh-and-blood humans, not avatars nor phony Photoshopped images. As a business owner, you need to create and project an enjoyable atmosphere for your customers that they cannot find online.

One place to start is the physical conditions in your store. Web sites like LifeHack.org, for example, can offer ideas on lighting your workplace for effective results.

That also means of course your staff must be carefully screened during the hiring process to find employees eager to interact with customers and treat them with respect. And your HR efforts after hiring, including training and on-the-job coaching, needs to maintain your corps of knowledgeable and personable workers. Good customer service can make all the difference.

Speed and security

Another key advantage of retail stores is transaction speed. Next-day delivery or even same-day delivery cannot beat instant delivery, where customers take possession of their goods and walk out of the store immediately after purchase. But retail stores need to upgrade their technology to minimize waiting in lines, so sales are not lost and customers are happy with their purchases. This is particularly important for point-of-sale in a fast food restaurant, where waiting times cut directly into sales.

With people’s e-mail inboxes and social media filled with spam and scams, the brick-and-mortar store can be a welcome respite where secure transactions are routine. Person-to-person interactions, credit cards with embedded chips, and hard-copy receipts provide assurances of security that few, if any, online vendors can match.

It’s easy to despair the seemingly unfair advantages of online commerce, but Main Street has its not-so-secret weapons waiting to be unleashed.

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