Small businesses struggling to compete with online retailers have a hidden ace up their sleeve, according to a business consultant.
Justin Dorward spent the past five years working for a business intelligence company and he said people needed to change the way they thought about online shopping.
“The online shopping experience provides a different relationship between the business and the customer,” Mr Dorward said.
“Don’t think of online as an extension of your shopfront, look at how those customers come to you and interact to identify new relationships.”
The advice came amid flailing retail chains closing up shop and a stark contrast between small and big business’ attitudes to Boxing Day trading.
Rather than spending precious time and money transforming into an online retailer, Mr Dorward suggested using tech-savvy youth to create a complementary web presence.
“For retailers, their younger casual staff grew up with Facebook, so start picking the brain of your young go-getters and get them to teach you how it works,” Mr Dorward said.
“The best thing is that it isn’t all that hard, it’s very similar to how businesses traditionally connected with their customers.”
Riverina retailer Confetti doesn’t have an online store, but it does use Facebook posts to boost sales. Staff take photos of new and interesting items and post them online, which draws in customers they might not otherwise get through the door. One product, a bottle opener, sold out several times before the product made it to the shop floor.
“Be an expert and an influencer in your field,” Mr Dorward said.
“Use your knowledge, you probably don’t give yourself enough credit for how much local info you have.
“Make yourself someone that other people will come to online.”
Mr Dorward also suggested businesses should make it easier for customers to contact them.
“No-one wants to send an email and wait for a reply,” Mr Dorward said.
“Get them to send you their name and number so someone can ‘chat’ to them instead.”