The retail industry has seen promising growth as the UK approaches an end to social distancing, but there are signs of new challenges ahead. Although Brits have more money to spend after lockdown, during which household savings and pent-up demand accumulated, retailers must now contend with bars, restaurants, theatres, beauty salons, travel agents, and other newly-opened businesses for their share of consumer spending power. Not only that, but they also need to compete for customers within the industry itself if they hope to capitalize on the recent surge in retail sales.
Prospective buyers may need a compelling reason to consider your business over competitors, and will only switch if they see greater value. However, since lockdown measures began, consumers have become more willing to experiment with brands. According to a survey by McKinsey, 44% of UK respondents had tried new brands or made purchases with a new retailer during lockdown, typically due to a lack of availability from their usual provider. Consequently, businesses have a great opportunity to acquire new customers in this buoyant market.
If you're looking to boost your sales by winning new customers from other vendors, follow these ten steps to outshine the competition:
1. Conduct competitor analysis
The first step to overtaking your business rivals is to find out who they are and what they offer to your target audience. In doing so, you can identify your competitive advantage and maximize these strengths to attract new customers. For smaller businesses that don’t have the budget to hire a market intelligence analyst, it’s still possible to learn a great deal about other companies with a basic competitor analysis.
Business owners will often focus on brands that provide similar products or services to a mutual market segment. However, it’s also beneficial to research businesses with a very different offering, but who are vying for the disposable income of the same demographic. As lockdown eases, your potential customers will be aggressively targeted by hospitality, beauty, leisure and entertainment businesses to start spending again, so you’ll need to persuade them that it’s your business they’ve missed the most.
2. Adapt to your audience
Consumer behaviour has been irreversibly affected by the pandemic. To win potential new customers, you first need to understand how your existing customers have changed. If your brand's story, offering, and prices have fallen out of sync with your regular clientele, it’s unlikely you’ll appeal to those of your rivals. By taking a fresh look at your customer base, you can reposition your business to better serve the demands of prospective buyers.
For shoppers who have lost income during lockdown, pricing will be a key factor in their purchasing decisions. Conversely, younger audiences are increasingly concerned with a brand’s ethical values, particularly the transparency of its supply chain. Providing you're quicker to adapt your products or services than competing brands, you'll instantly be ahead of the game.
3. Promote your USPs
Once you understand what differentiates your business from its competitors, and the post-pandemic shopping habits of your target market, you can begin to promote the desirable and unique qualities that make your brand stand out in a crowded market. These can be features such as your prices, delivery time, product availability, convenience, quality, or customer service.
These traits, or Unique Selling Points (USPs), should be consistently promoted across your entire business, including its website, marketing and PR, packaging, and product design. By upholding these values throughout your customer experience, you can ensure it's clear to potential buyers why they should switch to your brand.
4. Invest in digital marketing
With more people choosing to shop online than ever before, digital marketing is crucial to expanding your brand awareness and growing your client base. However, as your target customers are constantly bombarded by advertising, getting heard above the noise is a never-ending challenge.
Social media enables direct, personal connections to be formed between businesses and individuals, creating virtual communities of like-minded and loyal supporters. When it comes to your social media strategy, bear in mind that most consumers are looking for support, entertainment, inspiration, and interaction with your brand, rather than overt selling tactics. By posting content that's useful, relevant, and shareable, you can build a credible brand image that resonates in the minds of your competitor's customers.
5. Encourage brand advocates
One of the most successful ways to attract customers from your competitors is word-of-mouth marketing. A personal recommendation from a friend, family member, or colleague can have a profound impact on consumers who are shopping around for goods or services. Similarly, online reviews and testimonials are powerful tools when converting a prospective buyer to a dedicated customer.
Businesses can persuade existing customers to advocate their brand through referral marketing strategies, like refer-a-friend schemes. For small business owners, this can be a low-cost but highly effective acquisition channel.
6. Identify gaps in the market
If you’re looking to beat your rivals, you should constantly seek novel and innovative ways to fill gaps in the current market with new goods and services. This approach requires significant investment in product development, but you’re guaranteed to entice customers away from competitors if you can offer a unique product or service that responds to an unmet consumer need.
To find a gap in the current market, try asking your customers to share their pain points through surveys or interviews. Alternatively, spend some time researching new trends in your industry. Your competitors may come along with something similar later, but if your business was first to market, you’ll already be established as an industry leader. And with that accolade, new customers are sure to follow.
7. Create brand loyalty
Acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining an existing one. Once a consumer has made their first purchase, it’s essential to encourage repeat visits if you want to see a strong return on your investment.
Inviting customers to become a part of your brand through a membership or loyalty program is a great way to create an emotional bond with clients, rather than a solely transactional relationship. Building these connections will instil consumer trust and brand loyalty, ensuring that you've won a customer for life.
8. Carry out some social snooping
Business owners are inundated with the phrase, 'if you want to learn more about your customers, go out and find them'. But sometimes, that's easier said than done. But fear not if you are limited by the tools required to carry out market research - why not use social media instead? A great way of doing this is by visiting your competitor's social media pages and exploring the replies and comments section. What are their customer's pain points, and how can you adjust your approach to accommodate their needs?
9. Let the customer compare and contrast
Do you provide a product or service that monetarily works in your favour or even better online reviews than your competitors? Try adding a competitors comparison page to your website, so your customers are able to review the options they need and make the final decision.
10. Always ensure your customer service levels are tip-top
Of course, there are many short terms approaches that a business can take, but there is no better approach than ensuring your customer service is of the highest quality. Naturally, over time, customers will look to explore the market, and by providing an excellent service to a potential customer, there's always room for customers to jump ship and explore your product instead. A great experience with a business goes a long way.