I recently blogged about ecommerce and the small retailer providing some alternatives to ecommerce for those retailers who were finding their online store to be more of a financial drain than a positive experience. But not all ecommerce strategies are created equal, and here’s an example.

maximize your returnThere’s a bike retailer that I know who took the ecommerce plunge and has found success. His success has however come from a very strategic competitive advantage that he identified from his online presence, and there’s an important lesson to learn here. But first the story.

The retailer in question (he shall remain anonymous but we will call him “Gerry”) has a single store in a rural town selling bicycles to a relatively small local market. He prides himself on providing great customer service and certainly walks the talk. His staff are better trained in bike technology than his competitors and Gerry’s make extra efforts to ensure that the bike that you buy fits you and your riding style perfectly. He doesn’t have any sort of CRM system (yet) but claims to know his customers personally, which is feasible in a small market.

Gerry is the restless type. Never satisfied with the status quo, he is always looking for new ways to attract customers, sell bikes and provide a full service to “customers for life”, so it was inevitable that Gerry would turn to cyberspace sooner or later. But the prospect of “Gerry’s online” was as daunting for him as it has been for other small retailers – building the catalogue, keeping it up to date, managing online enquiries, packing and shipping parts, dealing with returns – so he was hesitating and had delayed the decision. The other challenge Gerry had was the fact that customers needed to come to his store to take delivery of a new bike, because his staff had to build the bike and then tune it to the customer’s specifications. So whatever online commerce approach that he was to take, it would not be the traditional “order and ship” model.

Then one day Gerry discovered SmartEtailing.

SmartEtailing promotes itself as providing “website, marketing and data solutions to help independent bicycle retailers, cycling suppliers and cycling brands sell more product in-store and online.”

So they make it easier for a bicycle retailer build their online store and maintain their catalogue. They claim that “a SmartEtailing website is designed to attract local search traffic, including consumers searching for local bike shops as well as the vast array of products available in the cycling industry.” They also point out (and, based on my experience, accurately) that: “If an independent retailer were to attempt to build a comprehensive product catalog, it would be a full-time job to build, let alone maintain.”

But that’s just table stakes. Here’s the real competitive advantage: as well as POS Sync, which keeps the online site up to date on what inventory Gerry has in store, SmartEtailing also offers Supplier Sync. This means that, as well as his own stock, Gerry’s website shows inventory that his chosen suppliers have available in their warehouses – and it all appears seamlessly as inventory that the customer can purchase from Gerry. It seems that bikers are willing to take a day trip to get the bike of their choice and Gerry now offers more choice than any of his regional competitors both in the local town as well as in a 200km radius. Plus, of course, Gerry gets the customer contact information for that CRM system that he will eventually implement.

So what’s the lesson here? To quote another customer of mine, to be really successful, you don’t compete with the competition, you need to ‘out-evolve’ them – to go beyond where they are. With SmartEtailing, Gerry has certainly done that and is truly using his digital strategy to beat the competition and differentiate his business from all others in the region.

Are you a small retailer looking for a digital strategy to out-evolve your competitors? Dijitle can help. Contact us to find out how we can help your retail operation.