If you’re looking to set up your hardware store, you know you’re going to have some stiff competition from the Big Box hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes. These mega-corporations offer massive product selection, cheap prices, and same-day delivery, but it’s not impossible to compete with them. However, if you’re willing to think outside the box, there are plenty of ways to beat the other hardware stores at their own game.
Strategies for SMB
Big box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes are ubiquitous throughout the United States, but it doesn’t mean that everyone wants to shop there. It’s possible to succeed as a small or medium-sized business by embracing these nine competitive strategies:
1. Open an Online Store
Big box hardware stores aren’t going away, but you can offer your products online, where customers can order from a wider variety of companies. Whether you set up a physical location or operate solely online, you’ll find that you’ll attract just as many customers as the competition with the right marketing. Many customers prefer buying directly from a mom-and-pop company rather than dealing with the hassle of shopping with a big box company, especially if they live in small towns or rural areas.
2. Engage in B2B Marketing
In your attempts to outshine big box stores, don’t forget to engage in B2B marketing. Many businesses neglect to market to other companies, but there are a lot of benefits to working with another company instead of only working with consumers. For example, other businesses already have a budget in place for purchasing new products or services, which means your sales job is far less difficult. In addition, since business customers often spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single purchase, you’ll find it easier to close bigger deals and get more revenue from B2B marketing campaigns.
3. Provide Consistent Service
Keeping customers happy is critical to long-term success. Studies show that if your customer service is not good, it doesn’t matter how inexpensive your products are; people will not do business with you. Companies like Costco and Sam’s Club have built their empires on providing exceptional customer service at low prices.
To give yourself an edge against these big-box giants, you need to know your customers and what they want. For example, construction contractors may be looking for specific tools like pneumatic grinders to help them work faster and more efficiently. So it might be worthwhile for you to stock these tools to lure those clients away from your bigger competitors.
4. Offer Incentives
Take a page from big-box stores and offer incentives to get people to buy, such as high-value coupons for regular shoppers. In addition, big-box stores offer incentives to get people in their doors, such as coupons for new products or free shipping on big orders. Offering these kinds of deals at your store can be a great way to attract new customers and get them to shop with you.
5. Create Loyalty Programs
Your customers are your best asset, so give them a reason to come back by introducing loyalty programs. According to recent studies, customers who belong to loyalty programs are less price-sensitive and more likely to spend more on your products. Create an app that makes using these loyalty programs seamless for customers, so they don’t have to jump through hoops or carry around cards or coupons. You can also offer discounts or perks that are only available through membership in these programs.
6. Make In-Person Shopping an Experience
The best way to make shopping at your store vs. big box stores less is to make it an experience. Consider making trips to your home improvement store more of an adventure where shoppers bring along their friends and family for fun entertainment that doesn’t involve technology. For example, having a coffee shop or pizza place inside your store will set you apart from the competition and give consumers a reason to visit again and again.
7. Plan Family-Friendly Events
Events are another way small businesses can stand out from the crowd. When you know when your high-traffic times are—weekends, football season, or after school when kids get out of sports practice, plan family-friendly events at the store around them. For example, if it’s a beautiful fall day before a big game, host a company-sanctioned tailgating event at the hardware store to bring in more traffic.
8. Upgrade Your Signage
If you’re opening a hardware store, one of your first purchases should be custom signage. This can help your business stand out from its competitors. Invest in vibrant and attention-grabbing graphics to sell products and attract customers. Let them know what you have to offer and entice them to shop with you.
9. Take Advantage of Less Popular Tools
You might be surprised to learn that many of your customers aren’t sure exactly what they want when they come into a hardware store. Since you can’t offer a full range of products, you need to hone in on a niche where you can become an expert and provide better service than any competitor. For example, if your primary focus is appliances, make sure your list is limited to refrigerators and dishwashers.
If you’re in the home improvement business, you know that competing with big box stores can be tough. So use these nine strategies to beat the competition and win over customers from those chains.