Do you think it’s impossible for a small retailer to compete against e-commerce giants? It can be tempting to imagine the worst when almost half (49 percent) of all online purchases in the U.S. are made on Amazon, according to a recent survey, and 83 percent of consumers have bought something on Amazon in the past six months.


Fear not! There’s still opportunity for independent brick-and-mortar retailers to fight Goliath. Here’s how you can battle the giants and come out on top.


Make shopping simple. Convenience is the primary reason 28 percent of shoppers use Amazon. While you can’t compete with bigger retailers on price, you cancompete on convenience. For example:


  • Streamline the payment process. Offer a range of payment options, including mobile wallets, so customers can pay in the way they prefer.
  • Shorten wait times. Almost half of consumers alwaysvisit a physical store when they need a product fast. To make it snappy, use mobile devices to process transactions from anywhere in the store.
  • Simplify returns. Clearly state your return policy and train all your employees on how to accept returns so the process goes quickly.
  • Offer click-and-collect. If you have an e-commerce website as well as a store, give customers the option to pick up online orders in the store so they can get them quickly.


Provide a personal touch. E-commerce retailers offer personalization via automated emails and recommended purchases delivered by artificial intelligence algorithms. Your store can offer that and much more. Here’s how:


  • Use retail loyalty software to gather detailed data about loyalty program members, and marketing automation to deliver timely messages, special offers and shopping suggestions.
  • Share customer data with your salespeople so they can make personalized suggestions or alert shoppers when a particular product is available. Some 79 percentof shoppers say personalized service affects where they buy.
  • Hire employees who genuinely like people and provide training that empowers them to help your customers.
  • Educate your employees about your products so they can explain options, offer suggestions and help customers make decisions.
  • Equip your team with tools they can use to provide a better customer experience, such as inventory management software to show shoppers what’s available.


Claim your place in the community. Your physical presence in the community is a key differentiator. Here are some ways to play it up:


  • Emphasize your independent spirit. Tell your story in your marketing materials. Why did you start your store? Why are you so passionate about what you sell? What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
  • Encourage customers to shop local. Almost 90 percent of consumers say independent businesses strengthen local economies. Remind customers that supporting your store also means supporting the community through sales taxes and employment. If your community doesn’t have a Shop Local organization, start one.
  • Get involved in your community. Give back by volunteering for local charities and participating in community organizations. Sponsor a local sports team. When people see you care, they’re more likely to buy from you.
  • Create community at your store. Hold in-store events such as book signings, musical performances, or classes for customers. Use social media to build bonds with your real-life community online. 


Enable discovery and delight. Online shopping can’t match the element of discovery that retail stores offer. Try these tips to delight your customers: 


  • Curate your merchandise. Instead of the endless options giant ecommerce sites offer, streamline your selection so customers can choose from the very best.
  • Appeal to the senses. Use sight, sound, smell, and touch to make your store a place where customers enjoy spending time.
  • Keep ’em coming back. Change your store inventory and displays regularly so there’s always something new to discover and shoppers will return more often.
  • Be unique. Almost 40 percent of Amazon shoppers say they’d go elsewhere if a retailer carried unique products.


Nearly 86 percent of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar locations. Follow these tips, and hopefully, your store will be one of them.


About Rieva Lesonsky


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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: or Twitter: @Rieva

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