Giant retailers like Amazon serve customers with lots of tricks to keep them locked in. But small town retailers can borrow a few of these, and make them into ethical, helpful ways to keep customers coming back.
1. Give a lot of information about your products.
Amazon listings usually have a lot of detail. Train your people to know and share a lot of detail. Use your tablet to show customers more details from product websites or review sites.
2. Recommend and suggest related items.
Amazon automatically lists items “frequently bought together” and “recommended for you” items. You can do the same thing, but even better because you have real people listening to customers. Train your people relentlessly to make recommendations and to learn (and remember) as much as possible about customers. Use signs in your store to highlight good pairings. Shelve things together that are purchased together.
3. Recommend items from other retailers.
Amazon lists ads from external sellers right in their search results. Do the same thing by knowing what other stores in town have, and making recommendations from their stock. Even pick up the phone and place orders for customers. Use an iPad to show photos and info on items you frequently recommend from another store. When you get really good at this, let that other store start a pop-up mini store inside yours!
You know what beats Amazon’s next-day delivery? Your same-day delivery. If you don’t or can’t deliver yourself, use your small town advantages. Ask around and find who is doing an errand service or informal taxi. Work with fellow retailers. Find a store that already delivers and ask if they’ll add your deliveries for a set price. Or, get with more of your fellow merchants to share the cost of a delivery person.
5. Offer automatic orders and deliveries.
Amazon allows customers to set up delivery schedules for regularly used items like shampoo or protein bars. Extend this idea to all kinds of regularly-purchased items. Use a modern calendar tool to track orders on any kind schedule the customer wants to set. Google Calendar can handle all kinds of crazy recurring events. Make it as completely automatic for the customer as you possibly can.
6. Connect with causes and charities.
AmazonSmile donates .5% (one half of one percent) of sales to a charity designated by the customer, but only when customers start their shopping at a special site. You can do better than that with local causes. Try a tool like CauseTown that lets you establish the donation rules (times, days, amounts) and lets the customer pick the charity.
7. Take orders from mobile customers.
Amazon’s app let customers scan any item’s bar code to order it automatically. You don’t have to be that high tech. How about allowing customers to text in orders? Or accepting emailed photos of items customers want to buy? You’re on Facebook Messenger, too, right? So take orders that way, as well.
Bonus: trick Alexa, Siri, and Google Home to order from you.
Digital assistants are programmed to favor the high-paying corporations, but you can get around that. Learn how to trick Alexa, Siri and more into capturing more sales for you, here.
Don’t try to do all seven tricks at once. Just pick one, and start on it this week. Which one will be easiest for you to adopt in the next seven days?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.