The five-step Amazon survival guide for small, local retailers

You know that Amazon’s arrival here in Australia is important when you receive calls from investment analysts in New York wanting a local view on what effect Amazon’s arrival will have on the Australian retail sector large and small, and their suppliers, large and small.

That’s the subject of a separate blog, but today I thought we’d look at how small, local retailers can survive their journey alongside Amazon, without getting washed away.

Having undertaken desk research, walked stores, and spoken with small store owners and retail trend trackers here, in the US and the UK, here are five things to do to help you stay in business in the face of the arrival of the world’s fastest growing, and now eighth largest, retailer.

1. Be truly local

In shopper research about Australian local retailers, the most trusted shop on the high street is a pharmacist. The second most trusted is the newsagent. Your role within your local community is your greatest defence against any major retailer. But you have to live it. So do your staff.

Support local schools, clubs and teams. Know your shoppers’ names and preferences. Be an old fashioned service and community focused retailer.

2. Shop Amazon … every week

To stay across what your big competitors are doing, shop with them online every week. You can do it from your phone. Then change your prices and move displays around your store to highlight your offers. Be bold once in a while and mark a product as “Same price as Amazon”. Do this two or three times a month and your shoppers will trust that you’re actively keeping your pricing competitive.

Your nimbleness in being able to react to price changes and merchandise your products accordingly is a great way to compete with the data driven, marketing automation that defines big, online models.

3. Develop or improve your direct-to-home delivery

If you don’t have any form of home delivery you need to develop one. If your business is truly local, then look at Sherpa or Uber to allow your shoppers to choose a fee-for-delivery, especially for larger orders.

4. Be convenient

All shoppers are time poor. Your opening hours, parking, ordering, delivery and payment methods need to help save them time. Do that well and price will be less of an issue in their decisions to shop with you.

Offering convenience in as many parts of your retailing as possible is key to staying competitive.

The essential thing here is to choose a suite of shared technology services to enhance your service offering. Successful coffee shops use apps such as Skip and Find Me Coffee to improve the shopping experience and build a loyalty program. Research online and find one that suits your type of retail store and subscribe to it.

5. Don’t fight in killer categories

Amazon will focus on the key categories where it can quickly win via very low prices: nappies, batteries, music and books. Stay out of the price battle here as you cannot win.

If you look through these five areas, there is one common theme: creating the best shopper experience you can with the tools at hand. That’s you, your staff, your store and your products. Harness all four well and you’ll still be in business in five years’ time.

Kevin Moore is a retail expert and the chairman of Crossmark Asia Pacific Holdings and Mirador Retail Technology. He is also the founder of TheRoadToRetail.


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