Every month Beyond Analysis ceo Paul Alexander will offer advice and answer DIY Week readers' questions about how best to utilise the internet for your business.
Q: I own a small local hardware shop that has been running for 20 years. I have noticed that my customer base is declining and I think it might be because the younger generation are slightly cautious of shopping in my type of store, especially when there are two large local superstores nearby. What can you suggest to make my shop more appealing to younger generations and help increase footfall?
Focusing on a social media campaign will help bring in the younger contingent. We always advise clients not to stretch themselves here: pick one platform, such as Facebook, and do it well. You can link this to in-store promotions, or run special offers for your online followers. Take a look at what other, successful, local independent stores are doing to give you an idea of what works in your area and with your demographic.
Seasonal sales offer a strong opportunity to bring in young customers with creative promotions. Father's Day is an obvious choice, but you can be imaginative with it - why not give a tool instead of an Easter Egg for example? Try to think of fun and inclusive ways of enticing in families around big calendar events - get parents and their kids in with their hammers (real hammer vs. plastic toy hammer!) and they get 10% off.
You need to appeal to the community spirit and this works both ways, so as well as generating engagement with the younger market, you also need to give something back to the community, and preferably something that the big stores don't.
Providing a welcoming and engaging atmosphere is one of your main advantages. Aim to position yourself as a 'safe and trusted haven' for those seeking DIY help, but who perhaps don't trust the bigger brands to offer this, or are too embarrassed to ask. Emphasise your position as a local expert, and your connection with the community.
Q: My store opening hours have been the same for years - I am open 9.30am - 1pm and then 2pm - 5pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Over the past couple of years I have had some comments from customers that my store opening hours aren't convenient compared to large, big-brand chains nearby. How can I assess when the best time to open and close my store is and make sure I am catering to my customers' needs?
To get this right, you need to invest some money in finding your customer 'headroom' - the incremental spend that's up for grabs if you were to change your store hours.
This would look at where your customers are spending when they're not spending in your store (ie competitor analysis), overlaid with spend patterns and general store performance for your chain. You would need to work with a data analysis firm that could bring excellent third party data into the mix to give this '3D' customer view - for example, our partnership with Visa Europe, which processes 98% of debit card and 35% of credit card transactions, means that Beyond Analysis can do exactly this. It gives us access to the anonymised data behind 7 billion UK transactions every year, enabling us to track the behaviour of customers across the sector and identifying when, where and what they spend.
With this approach, you can use the resulting insight to make informed decisions about opening hours - as well as providing learnings around where to open a new store, for example, as the insight may reveal interesting knowledge about your customer base above and beyond store opening hours.
If you have any questions about online or social media that you would like to put to Paul, email them to email@example.com
or send by post to Windsor Court, Wood Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1UZ.