Oct 21, 2011

If You Can't Beat Em ...

Brick and mortar stores are indeed threatened these days by many obstacles, namely the internet, but instead of fighting, success may just rest in compromise ... or just giving in altogether.  A great article by Convince&Convert got me thinking.
I wrote earlier about what I believed would happen to physical stores in R.I.P. Strip Malls, saying that stores that provide non-differentiable products will ultimately lose out to online websites.  It's far to easy to compare prices and far to convenient to have items shipped directly to your doorstep.  How can a small store or small store chain, with any aspirations for growth, possibly complete long term with Amazon.com or Walmart.com?  They can't ... unless ...

Maybe the secret is embracing the enemy instead.  By incorporating technology, including social media and the online experience, a store could create a completely unique shopping experience.  I'm not sure what this looks like, but here are couple of possibilities.
- Create and promote a fun and festive online presence.
- Provide free wi-fi at the store, and encourage patrons to bring their smart phones or tablets.
- Create games and discounts for people who come and check in through Four-Square/Facebook/etc.
- Offer to match prices found on reliable websites for a day, or even a certain period of the day.  A real "Happy Hour".
- Invite people to attend a Twitter party at the store and participate live.
- Invite others to post pictures on your company's Facebook/Instamatic/etc site or contribute to a blog.


I'm sure there are many more options to consider.  Regardless, the message is clear.  Small retailers need to do something to differentiate themselves and, more important, to compete with online disruptors.  They aren't going to compete on price or selection, so they must compete on experience.  Embracing that which is hurting them just may turn out to be a savior!