How to Compete with Online Retailers

We can understand retailers’ frustrations with the “showrooming” phenomenon, where customers use their shop to try and size before making a final purchase online.  But we don’t think the sign spotted in a Brisbane shop window and posted on Reddit recently is the answer.  The sign reads “As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for ‘just looking’”.  Not exactly an invitation to walk in store, is it?

So what is the answer for our local retailers?  How can we successfully compete against the Amazons and eBays?  Here are our tips for fighting back.

Give Customers a Warm Welcome

Online lacks the human touch.  Of course, this gives online the advantage if your human touch is tired and grumpy.  But little touches like a warm welcome, remembering your customers names, giving the kids a sticker….the online retailers struggle to compete with this.

Create an Environment People Want to Be In

Make sure your merchandise is displayed in a way that invites exploration.  Offer people a comfortable place to sit so they feel they can linger.  Consider offering free WiFi.  Remember – online retailers get to reach customers in their own homes – what can you do to make your shop feel a bit like home?

Hold In-Store Events

Consider running training workshops, book readings or cooking demonstrations to add value to your customers and bring them into your store.  Then encourage people to shop by offering event specials or giving attendees credit to spend in store.

Make It Fast and Easy for People to Pay

Not matter how warm and friendly your shop, if people are made to wait too long to pay they will walk out without buying.  Look into cloud based POS systems to enable shop assistants to complete transactions on the shop floor.  Check out the smartphone payments systems from the likes of the Commonwealth Bank or Visa’s payWave that lets customers pay with a single tap of their debit card.

Implement a Loyalty Program

We know this seems overdone and possibly expensive…but loyalty programs work.  It doesn’t have to be another piece of plastic.  Have a look at mobile apps like or The added benefit of a loyalty program is that it can help you gain insights into your customers shopping patterns.

Go Online Yourself

Your shop is the perfect place to establish customer relationships that can never be matched by online competitors.  But why stop there?  Why not offer your customers an opportunity to shop online as well as in store?  This will make life easier for your existing customers and could also help you to find many new customers.

With Coffs Harbour moving to NBN our local retailers are perfectly positioned to have it both ways….friendly local shops and convenient online vendors.

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