Sunday, 5 August 2012

How to make your retail business relevant for today's consumer....

It's easy to forget to the worlds money worries when you have an amazing day and sell lots of products. In Australia we are just starting to see the warmer weather kick in after the coldest winter in around 15 years. Retailers and designers alike have definitely felt the chill in the air with loads of stores having to close their doors. 

For some retailers, it may be the right thing to close and reopen after a little research and training to understand how the industry has changed. Do not take that as offence though, i say it with complete seriousness. Here are some things that retailers on the old system should get up to date with. 

  • Simple website design
  • Ecommerce website design
  • Product Photography
  • Search Engine Optimisation "SEO"
  • PR
  • Marketing  
  • Networking 
  • Facebook
  • Blogging
Now if you're a big business, i would advise you get the professionals in to do these for you but it is important to learn the basics for yourself so that you understand the processes involved.  If you're a small business however, you can learn how to do all these yourself at a basic level and save yourself a tonne of money. 

You might be thinking, how on earth am i going to be able to do all of this on top of the work i already do in my retail business? To put it simply, IN HARD TIMES YOU HAVE TO WORK HARDER! 

The priorities of retail have also changed. Forget spending hours of time planning your stock displays or ordering new stock that you think will sell better, get your front end systems right and you'll have enough sales soon enough to hire someone to help you with everything. Whether you run your retail business from home or from an actual shop, you'll now have to spend 95% of your time on your computer.   

Simple Websites
Even if you think you are completely computer illiterate, i promise you there are some very easy ways to get your business on the web. A basic website might just include you business name, your address and a few images (plus a list) of the kinds of things you sell. Let's face it, if your details aren't on the web these days, you're missing out on the majority of people searching for you.  put all of your products online. One of the easiest ways to set up a basic website using some really well designed templates is
A simple website using a Wix template can take as little as 10 minutes to make
E commerce Websites 
If you think your business would benefit from having all your products online available to buy (and let's face it, if you can post it, then it's worth it) then you'll need an E Commerce website. There are a lot of them out there and they are a little more complicated to use but not out of anyone's capabilities with a little help. I recommend as a great service to get your webstore up and running. 
A Miiduu store template can give you a professional looking webstore
Product Photography
OK so if you're going to put all your products online, you'll need to have decent photos of everything. But you don't necessarily need a photographer, you can do it yourself with any digital camera. My tip: keep the background clean and white. It's much easier to see the details. If your products are small, grab your self a sheet of white cardboard from the craft store, stick it to a wall and bend it out onto the floor or a table. 'Eh voila' you have a photo studio backdrop. Just make sure you set it up somewhere that gets lots of light and that light is not dappled. It's best to always shoot in the same spot, that way you light stays relatively the same. And shoot during the daylight. 
A piece of cardboard makes a great backdrop. I used my iphone to take this professional looking photo with no special lighting other than daylight. 
OK so you've heard the term, what does it mean? Well in a nutshell, it means that your website should have relevant words that will help people find your website using a search engine. If you sell fishbowls but all you have is a picture of fishbowls on your site, anyone searching won't find you. That's why having at least a list of everything you sell is super important. 

When was the last time you read an article about a small business? today? yesterday? Newspapers, magazines, online news etc is full of news stories about small business. And you know what, they didn't just make up an article title and go searching for a small business, that small business contacted them and gave them the story! Journalism, like retail has completely changed, journalists get sent stories these days and whatever is interesting and relevant enough to print, they will print. Best of all it costs you nothing, it's not an advertisement, it's an article. 

Who is your target market? It's not just whomever happens to be passing by your store that day.  Think outside the suburb you're in. If people can find you online and you sell what they want, they will come to you. If you have all of your products online to buy, then your target market just expanded dramatically, worldwide in fact (as long as you're happy to ship overseas). 

Do you meet or chat regularly with other businesses in the same boat as yourself, or those business that compliment yours? Whether it's online or at council meetings, you need to be in touch with these people. By working together, everyone is stronger. Networking also helps you keep up to date with your industry. 

I know i know, you either hate it or you're addicted. Well if you hate it, wake up! Facebook is one of the THE most powerful free marketing tools in the world today. If you don't have a business page, then make one, even if only post something once per month, it is worth it.

Like websites, there are simple free tools to help you set up a free blog. I use Google's Blogspot (Blogger i think it's called now). If you own a retail store, it usually means you're pretty interested and passionate about the kinds of products you sell. Take that knowledge you have and share it with the world, people LOVE hearing new tips or seeing new fashion, learning things etc. You don't have to advertise a blog, they are easily found by random people worldwide. If people can find your blog, then you can point them to your website and your store. 

Ciao for now!

Nicole Herrick
Founder and Creative Director of
Kids Style Hub
The Australian Alliance of Designer and Retailers
The Australian Photographers Directory