Brick-and-mortar stores have been feeling the effects of the growing shift toward e-commerce for years. During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many that had held out on online selling have made the leap to stay afloat, as consumers’ shopping habits have gone increasingly digital.
In-person shopping may be down, but it’s unlikely that it’s gone for good. Still, if much of your revenue depends on your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need smart financial strategies to remain competitive and keep up with retailers that exclusively sell online. To help, we asked a panel of Forbes Finance Council members for their advice.
1. Form strategic partnerships.
Incentives and subsidized offerings help the value proposition, but it requires leverage within the supply chain to generate sustainable net income benefits. Seek out strategic partnerships that enable value innovation, and integrate vertically where efficiency benefits can be uncovered. – Benvenuto Marcello Mezzapelle, First Tech Federal Credit Union
2. Promote your business on social media.
If you are not online, you don’t exist. Local businesses must invest in social media advertising if they want to compete against growing e-commerce brands. As little as $5 a day is enough to use geotargeting ads to remain relevant to your existing customers and reach more people. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to do everything online, and if you are not there you will get left behind. – Gabriela Berrospi, Latino Wall Street
3. Bolster your online presence.
If brick-and-mortar businesses don’t adjust their financial strategies to compete with online sales, they will get left in the dust. Brick-and-mortar businesses need to invest in digital marketing and have a very strong online presence that includes a user-friendly website, a strong digital brand, engaging social media platforms, SEO, etc. Adapt to the times or get left behind. – Abe Abich, Abich Financial Services Inc.
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4. Focus on demand forecasting.
Brick-and-mortar businesses should spend more time on demand forecasting through various online accounting and other tools. Demand forecasting can help reduce physical inventory requirements and inventory financing costs. Another strategy would be to reduce SKUs to only high-moving products to decrease carrying costs for such things as financing and warehousing. – Pratik Budhdev, Volvo Cars Tech Fund
5. Leverage digital transformation tech.
Brick-and-mortar businesses need to invest in digital transformation technologies that enhance the experience of being in a physical venue. If they try to compete with the convenience of e-commerce, they will lose and be pushed down the value chain to being just simple distribution points. But if they enhance the experience of being in a physical space, they can compete and win back consumers. – Dan Malven, 4490 Ventures
6. Sell online and provide an ‘experience’ at your physical store.
Digital is the way of the future. Brick-and-mortar businesses should not fight against the change but embrace it. Utilize the physical location as the experiential aspect of your business and your online presence for selling your produce or service. – Robert Patin, Patin & Associates
7. Adopt creative cash flow strategies.
Brick-and-mortar businesses are taking advantage of new-age financial tools and adopting creative cash flow strategies to compete with online sales. Businesses in every industry are using fintech to protect themselves, remain competitive and grow—for example, leveraging their credit cards for an extra 30 to 60 days of cash float or accepting payments online without having to open a merchant account. – Eliot Buchanan, Plastiq
8. Ensure customers feel safe.
The No. 1 way is to make customers feel safe when entering your store. Start with giving customers access to e-commerce and curbside pickup. Other ideas are offering your best customers private invitations to special sales hours/times or allowing them to schedule a time. The combination of e-commerce and in-store has many stores seeing increased sales. – Tom Hood, Business Learning Institute / Maryland Association of CPAs
9. Make your storefront a showroom.
Brick-and-mortar businesses need to transform their storefronts into showrooms that showcase their best products. People still want to touch and feel goods—they just don’t need to see 25 boxes of the same good on the store floor. They need to see it installed and in use to ensure it’s practical for their use. Additionally, provide clients with easy and fast delivery options. – Will McDonough, Corestone Capital
10. Invest in a more efficient fulfillment structure.
Reallocate your budget to invest in a fast and easy order-fulfillment infrastructure that adds convenience. If you own an e-commerce business, leverage your reach through drop shipping. Boost online sales by marketing your business online and via social media. The same opportunity exists in the restaurant industry—I shipped a pizza across the country. You can always put a premium on convenience. – Joe Camberato, National Business Capital & Services
11. Provide a sensory in-store experience.
People still want a sensory experience that online shopping can’t offer, so focus on touch and feel. This differentiating factor may require holding more inventory, especially personal items such as clothes, jewelry, kids’ toys or anything that might have a special purpose or feature. Have test items customers can use before buying what’s in the box. – Chris Tierney, Moore Colson CPAs and Advisors
12. Build a strong sales team.
Invest in your people, especially during this critical time. While many companies offering online sales drive customers toward their Web store, the key difference between online and brick-and-mortar has more to do with human interaction than technology. Instead of driving customers to purchase online, invest in good people who can cross-sell, upsell and promote your brand in person. – Marjorie Adams, Fourlane
13. Try offering flexible payment terms.
Online sales provide convenience and lower prices. Price wars don’t end well, but you can compete on payment terms. If your customer base finds flexible payment terms attractive, it’s something to consider. Just make sure you forecast out a delay in cash inflow and a potential product return uptick, since customers may be more likely to return something they haven’t fully paid for yet. – Aaron Spool, Eventus Advisory Group, LLC
14. Allow consumers to check your store’s current inventory online.
Tie your inventory system into your website so consumers can see in real time if what they want to purchase is currently in your store. It will appeal to people who do not want to wait for an online order. Turn your business into an inviting destination, and embrace e-commerce as well. – Dave Sackett, ULVAC Technologies, Inc,
15. Differentiate your business through personal service.
Brick-and-mortar businesses can offer local delivery as a service to compete with e-commerce plays. Brick-and-mortar businesses should also focus on business differentiation. What differentiates your products or business in such a way that customers are buying your business and not just a product? Focusing on personal service also serves to distinguish your business in a crowded online marketplace. – George Souri, LQD Business Finance
16. Plan for a reduced income in the near term.
Survival is the key here. The pandemic will end and customers will return. But how long will that take? No one knows. This is why it’s so important for businesses to have a realistic financial strategy to bridge to their future. My counsel to Main Street companies is to build a one-year operating plan that assumes little income. Leverage PPP, loans, savings and other strategies to survive. – Mia Erickson, Whitnell