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How to Market Your Brick & Mortar Business to Online Customers!

Q: My family owns an independent book and gift store. What are the best ways to market ourselves, stay afloat, and compete with online bookstores?

We get this question a lot and we want to reassure any of you that feel you may be loosing your customer base to an online retailer there is a solution. In a word, it is all about creating an exceptional customer experience. If your business is a stand alone, meaning not in a major shopping center or mall, you have several things going for you. We have to say as an those who has been in the publishing field for several years now,  we would like to offer a couple of simple steps that could change your entire financial picture and generate years of success.

First, what any of the online giants or big box stores could never offer for the simple fact of whom and what they are, is personalized customer service. The more you emphasize a great customer experience in your daily business practices the more successful you will become. Continually look for any opportunity to add a special touch or service throughout every stage of each business transaction. We will give you some reasons why and then we will give you some examples of what we mean.

Create Instead of Competing

First, stop trying to “compete” with others in your industry whose presence is primarily online.  Instead, keep your focus on serving your customers and creating new ways to bring more value to them and their experience with you.  If you have been following any of the trade publications over the last year or two, you will see one glaring fact and that is e-readers, digital downloads, and smart phones are here to stay and now make up the bulk in book sales.  

Our recommendation to you is to build your own e-bookstore online and set up an in-store kiosk so your customers can shop online, in your store, download digital books, or purchase a hard-copy all under your brand.  You should already have a website up and marketing to your customer base even though you are a brick & mortar business.  If you don’t, get one pronto!  We have a list of resources to help you get your business setup online and we have put a link to it just below.



Having an online presence will also allow you to build your online “customer list” and send thank you auto-responders after they purchase and campaigns or notices of special events.  In today’s market this is an absolute essential. You will be able to continually upload new books as needed for your customers to purchase. Now, here is the kicker.  Brick-n-mortar bookstores who also have an online store have seen a 30% increase in revenue.  Your online store works for your 24/7, 365 making you money while you sleep and letting your customers shop at their convenience and well beyond your physical location and community.  

Serving Your Customers

The key here is customer service.  The better your service your customer in all the ways they like to shop, the deeper the brand loyalty.  Then, add that something special they can only get at your store such as year round gift wrapping and gift cards that can be used for digital downloads at your online store or in-store purchases. 

Listen to Your Community

If you’re providing a great product or service, you can bet your customers are talking or writing about their experiences. Provide a friendly home for your community by inviting ideas, comments, and participation. Create a community space on your website that allows customers to interact and share feedback. Your best customers will be glad you asked for their input. You can gather information through online surveys and share special invitations and advance notices of upcoming products and services with them through e-mail. Be prepared to accept input–good or bad–gratefully.

Incorporate Online or Curbside Pick-up into Your Business Model

If this global pandemic has taught us anything in regards to business, it is the fine art of pivoting. Being flexible in exactly how you serve your customers is going to be key to your survival over the long-term and your ultimate success as we begin to recover. Keep your focus on meeting your customers most urgent needs and if it benefits you, use the big box online companies as tools to better serve your own customer base. Pivot, create, repeat. Luxury label fashion houses stopped dead in their tracks to create desperately needed facial masks. Tesla stopped production to create respirators. Whisky producers began creating much needed medical grade alcohol. Restaurants offered curbside pickup. Small retailers offered online ordering from their website with curbside pickup. If you have your own success tips please share them below or on our Twitter page. You will be helping our entire planet!

We hope this has genuinely helped you understand how to effectively implement your own digital marketing. If you have a comment or question about this week’s post let us hear from you! You can join the fun on our Twitter Chat and share your own success tips or challenges! Post your own success stories or ask a question about how to move your own business forward! We love hearing from you and read every post personally! If you are looking for more practical hands-on help, we have two other resources for you. First, we have created an actual Marketing Message Toolkit for small business owners just like you as our free gift to help you create your own marketing message build your brand and generate more sales with confidence. You can find yours right here. 

If you scroll down just a bit further, we also have a collection of more success tips. Just click on any of the links. If you have a question about your business, please feel free to Contact Us and send a personal message. We love hearing from you!



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