Finding innovative ways to attract customers to your local hardware store remains a tough challenge as customers are constantly drawn to big branded chains. So it is up to you to find a niche that will sustain your local business and draw in the locals, in spite of the competition. Actually though, there are many innovative ways that you can build a loyal community of customers, starting with these key strategies.
Identify your target customers
The most important first step in building your hardware store is by identifying the people you want to attract. You need to be very clear in your own mind who your customer is and what they need from a local business like yours, in order to understand their expectations very clearly. It is also important not to target too widely and so it isn't helpful to say that your business is relevant to “everyone”. This makes it way too hard to target the specific people who may buy from you. Rather start smaller and specifically target those who you can build meaningful relationships with. For example, if you are a family owned and managed store, then highlight this and send out communication to local families. Do you offer specialty products which are not located in big branded stores, then sell this idea to the local community so they are aware of what makes you special. Well known brands are important to stock too as the affiliation will be good for business. So you need to strike a balance between these different product streams and make this product diversity known to your customers.
Use social media to build a customer base
The next step is actually getting to know your local community. Social media is an excellent place to start as your local residents can be found geographically and you can then monitor their interests and activities in order to understand what is important to them. This in turn helps you understand how your product fits in with their needs and you can then supply accordingly.
Social media is also a great place to engage with your customers and potential target market. You can offer helpful content with things like how to hang a painting. Then you can engage with your followers once they respond to your posts and get to know them better. In this way you will also be positioning yourself as an expert in your trade. Sending the message that when they need an expert with your skills, they know exactly where to find you.
What solution are you offering?
Once you understand your customer, you will then be able to understand what they need and how you can fill this gap. As a local hardware store, you need to find unique ways to fulfill your customers' needs by offering brands, services or supplies that big box stores may not offer. Or perhaps it's the special hands-on service that you can help with or local call outs that would never be possible with big brand retailers. The key here is to offer an exclusive experience that only your store can offer. While people do value convenience, that also like a personal touch which cannot be found in a big retail environment. If you can strike the balance between offering useful services and products, in a friendly and familiar atmosphere you can then out maneuver the big retailer down the street.
Partner with local businesses
Have you considered working closely with local businesses in order to bolster your offering and bring in their customers. The idea here is to partner up with a business nearby whose service or product compliments yours - for example a renovations business, local nursery, landscaper or paint technique businesses. Perhaps you can offer a good deal to their customers and they can offer the same in their retail environments. This type of cross-pollination can really boost business as you are then fishing in two ponds simultaneously. Time and time again, building a business comes down to creating lasting relationships between like-minded retailers and the people who shop there.
Loyalty should be rewarded
Communicate clearly with your customers that you appreciate loyalty by thanking them for each purchase in a meaningful way. Here, giving your customer an incentive to return like a discount off their 10th purchase or points towards a redeemable voucher will go a long way in both promoting loyalty and also encouraging the upsell. Intrinsic in this strategy is that customers who use loyalty programs, become regulars. This can be done either with loyalty cards or by automating pop-ups on their customer data pages. Remember that the more a customer feels seen, the more likely it is that they will come back. In this way they will feel vital to your business and return many times over.
The bottom line
It can often feel very challenging to get your local hardware noticed, especially when there are big branded retailers in every neighbourhood. That is why it is so important to emphasise that you can do what they can’t - offer a niche retail experience with a community feel and a special touch. By implementing some of these key strategies you will be well on your way to building your local business, creating loyalty and boosting your bottom line.