Run a smarter small business

Starting a new business is like raising a child: it requires learning in order to achieve growth and development. If you are a business owner — or a parent — you probably get what I mean. Here’s the difference: children will grow up regardless of what is invested in them – it’s the parent’s objective to provide them with the tools to ensure that they grow into productive adults, but no matter what, they will grow up. A small business, however, will only grow if we give it appropriate attention and invest into it at the right points in time – otherwise, it will never mature.

Smaller retailers have traditionally had a hold over their neighbourhoods, they were once the only ones able to offer a personal service and to create a one-to-one relationship with their ‘neighbor-clients’; however, the retail landscape is changing. Larger stores see the value and increasing focus on the personalized shopping experience and are attempting to move into the space previously reserved for local neighbourhood stores. When it comes to investment resources – big corporations have the upper hand; their structure and size allows for them to use new technologies to transform the shopping experience of their visitors. They can invest time and money to collect data from theirs shoppers, to segment them into profiles and to offer tailored products and experiences based in their past behavior and purchases. New technology is allowing these larger chains to get control of their extensive mailing list of clients, to create a dialogue with them, to engage and to offer their products and services offline and online, at the same time, crossing experiences between channels.

Door with sign that says Open Shop

It’s time for independent retailers to adapt. They need to look at the landscape and ensure they keep their competitive advantage. Luckily, this tech used by larger business has become more accessible and what was once the domain of the big retailers is now available to everybody. Independents are realizing that investing in technology and automation makes them more competitive in the market and helps them grow their business.

Certain retailers like Bornísimo, in Barcelona, have felt the need of enter in the tech world. The store is two years old, and they have already opened their eCommerce. Melina, the founder of the business, told FA RETAIL team, that her main clients are tourists and in order to keep these clients involved with the brand following their in-store visit, she took the step into digital sales. According to Melina, online sales still represent a very small portion of their total sales (around 5%), but believes this is because she has not yet invested in a full digital marketing plan. Her offline and online retail management systems are not yet connected — something she intends to change very soon. She knows that it will be much easier and more convenient to have just one system for stock and sales control, entirely integrating the physical and online store. She knows where she’s currently lacking and where she intends to go – although she has already been collecting customer information, she needs to find a better way for her brand to approach them.

Owner of Borinisio Melina

Bornísimo owner Melina

I see many businesses like Bornísimo, not wanting to stay behind, but not knowing exactly how to make the transition into the modern retail age. More and more, retailers want to get closer to their customers and differentiate themselves from the big box retailers. Bringing their unique flavour and offering to more people, using the technology they previously wouldn’t have had access to. I receive daily SMS and even Whats App messages from my favorite independent stores inviting me for events and telling me about promos, but it is still all too rare to see one of them speaking personally with me, offering me a customized experience. Many retailers (and cafes) have loyalty programs, for example, but they all expect me to keep their cards and they always reward me with a generic “free item”. We are living a revolutionary moment for independent businesses, and these retailers need to find their place.

It is time to turn on the engines. We are living in an omnichannel era – there are no longer barriers to communicate, to sell, to engage. Independent retailers need to find a way to communicate with their customers and remember what it was that gave them their competitive edge in the beginning.

Casual neighbourhood scene

Fernanda Accorsi

Fernanda Accorsi

Fernanda Accorsi is a retail expert and content researcher, enthusiastic about the purchase process and the shopper’s behavior. She has developed multichannel strategies and innovative marketing projects at globally known corporations, emerging with hands-on solutions. The digital transformation has inspired her to seek deep in the market for new technologies and platforms that can deliver remarkable busines impact through unique experiences and high ROI.