By Chester Avey

The phenomenal rise of online shopping has put the humble high-street boutique under considerable pressure. Diverse shopping centers are slowly being replaced by monotonous rows of coffee shop chains, interchangeable hair salons and phone repair shops. As an independent retailer, it takes a lot more than it used to in order to beat the competition.

If you’re launching (or already running) a high-street boutique, you might already be aware of some of the struggles, like getting people through the door, building a rapport and generating repeat business. If you’re not sure what your next step should be, here are our top tips for shop survival.

Know Your USP

What makes you different from your competitors? Finding or developing your unique selling point (USP) is essential for standing out from the crowd and showing customers why they should come to you and not a competitor. Your USP should be an integral part of your branding and will need to be consistent across the displays in your shop, product packaging, your website and any signage or advertising.

Perfect Your Store Front

Once you have planned out your branding, don’t forget to apply it to the outside of your shop, too. This is what will make passers-by notice you and – even better – come in and buy from you. Signage, window displays and branded awnings or canopies are an essential part of this, making your business look professional and welcoming.

Cafés, coffee shops, restaurants and delicatessens offering snacks should consider an outside seating area (even if it’s just a couple of bistro-style tables). Umbrellas and café barriers with your logo will also reinforce your brand and people walking past are more likely to be tempted in when they see a buzzing crowd enjoying your specialties outside.

Get Networking

If you’ve been putting off getting your head around social media, it’s time to brush up. Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter aren’t going anywhere and can work wonders for promoting your businesses, attracting new clients and interacting with existing customers.

Don’t feel you have to have a presence on every single platform – start with the ones that are most relevant to your business and build up. Forbes offers a comprehensive guide to help you get started.

Give Your Customers an Experience

With online shopping more popular than ever, high-street branches need to give customers a reason to come into the physical store. Getting a chance to see, feel and test products in person is an excellent way of doing this, as well as demonstrating your excellent customer service. However, it can take a little bit more to nudge consumers through the door.

Hosting exclusive events – such as launches for a new branch, new product or new season – is a great way to do this. Not only do invitees feel special, but being welcomed into a quiet shop for personalised attention (and no hectic queues) would be enough to tempt anyone off the sofa. Incorporate previews, demonstrations and classes and you’re onto a winner. In fact, it’s estimated that by tapping into the demand for in-store experiences, you could boost your turnover by up to 14%.

Provide Customer-Centric Service

You can have the best product in the world but if your service isn’t up to scratch, you’ll have disgruntled shoppers leaving to get their goods elsewhere. Getting the customer service basics should simply be a starting point. Train your staff to be:

  • Welcoming to new shoppers
  • Attentive listeners
  • Knowledgeable about products
  • Creative about offering complementary products or similar styles
  • Responsive to unique situations

When word gets around that your customer service is exceptional, you’ll be building a reputation that will stand you in good stead.

One of the most important parts of customer service is keeping the promises you make. If you offer quick delivery, don’t let your customers down. If you advertise a competitive returns policy, make sure you stick to it. If you stumble, do something to compensate and highlight to your customer that it is an unusual mistake. Remember, one bad review could put some potential customers off for life.