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Candace D'Agnolo

It’s Not the Internet. It’s You.

Almost 90 percent of all pet parents still shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

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WE’VE ALL BEEN there, cringing when a customer comes in  and asks lots of questions, seeking out solutions for their problems, and then easily says,  “Thanks, I’ll buy it online.” How about the shopper who actually pulls out her mobile and makes the purchase right there and then … in front of you! Or worse, when a shopper inserts herself into others’ conversations and tells them to go somewhere else. Uuuuuggghhhhh! Makes you want to scream in frustration and blame the internet for taking all your customers. (Check out this month’s Real Deal on page 50 for more on this subject.)

Blaming Amazon for why customers don’t return or complaining that Chewy is the reason your food sales are declining might seem logical. But it’s not. Almost 90 percent of all pet parents still shop in brick-and-mortar stores. So I’m sorry, but you can’t blame the internet any longer for why your sales are down.

What will make you stronger is right at your fingertips. Grabbing it will totally transform your business, making your store the best and most profitable shop on the block.

With these three strategies, show online retailers who’s the boss!

Be a Data Boss

The No. 1 way to transform your business is to get a solid POS (point of sale) system. Not a glorified cash register like Square, Shopify POS or Clover. My favorite POS systems are Lightspeed and Springboard Retail. Investing in one of these platforms will change your business faster than building an online store. A good POS is highly customizable for tracking customer data and pulling reports about your inventory and sales. It should integrate with your website and even offer a loyalty program. All its bells and whistles were created to empower you. Facebook and Amazon know everything about your customers. Now you can, too!

Be an Experience Boss

While customer experience is critical (from your policies and hours to the actual experience with your team), I’m talking about you letting your experience shine. In a recent study by e-commerce retailer Zulily, 63 percent of millennial pet owners believe they know more about cats and dogs than pet store employees do! Well, do your customers know that you are an amazing resource for them? The staple of being a trusted retailer was that we were the experts in our fields in customers’ eyes. But with content at their fingertips, what sets you apart now? You can’t win against the internet if you’re the best kept pet parent secret! Could you be better at sharing all that knowledge you’ve gained? Get the word out. Put all your amazing knowledge on your website, share it on social media and in emails to customers. To get a jumpstart, host a regular Facebook Live Q+A show or record 20 quick video responses to your most asked questions. This type of content can be repurposed over and over again. Show millennials that you know more about pet parenting than their mobile device.

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Be a Fresh Boss

Even if you’re not a grocery store, your goods should be “fresh.” How much of your inventory is new in the last 90 days? In an ideal world, it’s 100 percent fresh. Your store should have an average turn of four or more, with food and treats turning much higher. The freshness of your inventory and stock levels says more about your business to customers than any sales associate ever will. Are you out of stock frequently? Is it old, dated merchandise? Is it what your customers want? Is it collecting dust? Has it moved since you put it out? As an independent retailer, you have the luxury to curate a selection of unique merchandise and make a beautiful presentation while doing it. This merchandise is handpicked by you! Fresh new merchandise on a regular basis excites customers to come in frequently.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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