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There’s some great news if you operate in the retail space.
In top trends to watch for 2018, small stores are hot. Massive brick and mortars such as Nordstrom and Target are experimenting with smaller outlets, while digital giants like Amazon are moving into physical locations.
That might seem like more competition for small businesses, but the big players are scrambling. While monster stores can try to squeeze themselves into scaled-down formats that customers prefer, they rarely fit.
For authenticity, local knowledge, and genuine caring, small businesses win hands down. Research from First Data, Clover’s parent company, supports these and other projections, with a forecast for sunny days ahead.
1. Smaller is better.
You already know this from firsthand experience, but the chains are finally waking up to an unsettling fact. People are losing interest in anonymous big-box shopping, particularly when buying online is easier.
First Data finds that an increasingly urbanized population wants something more personal and enjoyable. Rather than being stuck in their cubicles and apartments, they want to go out and experience life.
That includes shopping at local businesses that know them, offer merchandise they like, and add-on services they care about, such as exchanges, recommendations, and even events that bring the community together.
Check out these indie bookstore programs that are driving foot traffic and fueling the sector’s comeback.
2. Same-day delivery is on the rise.
Customers expect convenience, which is why so many people order online. But brick and mortars can outperform online competitors in a key area: same-day delivery.
From Macy’s to Walmart to Office Depot, large stores are jumping on board. The experts at First Data found that the number of stores offering same-day delivery rose dramatically in the past year—from 16 percent in 2016 to a whopping 51 percent in 2017.
Small businesses can easily match the big players, while better managing the process. Clover apps such as Better Delivery and Delivery Fee help you seamlessly accept, fill, and deliver orders to your customers.
Better Delivery targets efficiency—a big problem when you have drivers on the road and little communication between runs. When orders come in, Clover POS software locates the nearest driver, sends the order through a mobile app designed for phones, and directs the driver to the shortest route. The app saves employees fuel and frustration, while cutting delivery time for customers.
Better Delivery also lets customers and staff track orders in real time. The app links driver data to the company website so everyone can see where on a map the driver is located and when the order is expected to arrive.
With the inexpensive Delivery Fee, a pop-up appears with each order that asks employees to add or waive a delivery fee. The app helps capture extra fees that often get lost in the ordering process.
3. The gig economy is coming to more stores.
Physical retailers are now linking up with quick, inexpensive on-demand services. First Data noted this trend in new partnerships:
- Ikea acquired TaskRabbit to expand its assembly and installation offerings.
- Amazon launched Amazon Home Services, a marketplace of service providers.
- Lowe’s partnered with Porch to bump up access to home improvement professionals and advice.
These massive websites of freelance help can be great. But they can also be a crapshoot, with shoddy work and no-shows damaging the customer experience.
Again, small businesses have the edge. You know your business and your customers. You know what steps they should take or who to recommend to get the job done right. You’re reliable and proven.
Most customers want experts they can count on, not websites full of random people. Capitalize on your reputation—and beat the big guys every time.
4. Subscription services are back.
There’s nothing new about subscription services. If you’re old enough, you probably remember mail-order music clubs like Columbia House or Book of the Month club.
What‘s new, however, is the resurgence of interest in the concept. Research from First Data tracks the rise of buzzy startups such as Birchbox, Stitch Fix, and Rent the Runway. Now larger retailers such as Trunk Club, Under Armour, Ann Taylor, and GameStop are joining in.
What’s driving the trend? As with many of the changes, big companies are trying to develop ongoing relationships with their customers, while providing value and an element of surprise.
But when it comes to relationships, local merchants are far more effective. Beyond the personal service you deliver on a daily basis, Clover apps such as Rewards let you create a custom loyalty program in minutes, while others like PinPoint Rewards help you expand into member discounts.
You can even develop a subscription box of your own, delivering farm produce or locally made beauty products—whatever you offer that customers need on a regular basis.
5. Mobile-only shopping is gaining ground.
Love it or hate it, but consumers—especially Millennials—are spending more time on their mobile devices. They want digital convenience in the way they shop, purchase, and track spending.
First Data found that banks are developing all-mobile banking apps, such as Finn by Chase or Wells Fargo’s Greenhouse. For merchants, the mobile-only trend means moving beyond the credit or debit card and allowing mobile payments from customers’ smartphones.
Clover’s suite of POS hardware and software lets you accept everything securely—credit cards, EMV chips, and contactless payments from customers. From countertop command centers to small, portable devices, we offer the right solution for every kind of business.
For particularly hectic or mobile operations, consider Clover Go, a contactless reader that works with your smartphone or tablet. This POS lets you secure credit card swipes, dips, and taps like Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay®, and Google Pay®.
The tiny Clover Flex is easy to take with you and hand to customers in your store. They simply dip, swipe, or tap—another quick, safe sale.
It’s easy to feel intimidated when large retailers start entering the small-business arena. But stories such as this one show how independent stores can thrive even as an industry giant fades.
Small business owners have the knowledge, skills, and tools to beat the big guys. Clover is in your corner helping you win.
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, Sun Trust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including Ignite Payments, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.