The Importance of Community for Your Hardware Store
Big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot often have a leg up on the competition due to their sheer size, brand recognition, and ability to offer lower costs than some of the independent hardware stores can. What those chain retailers lack is a sense of community, however—and that’s more important than ever as consumers look to support small businesses and more sustainable consumption. That being said, independent hardware stores have the distinct advantage of knowing the people in their communities on a deeper level than your standard box hardware store.
One of the lures of the larger retailers is that they can offer contractor discounts due much in part to their large size. The catch with that is the fact that box stores, also because of their size, don’t have the ability to offer hands-on service and a personalized approach. Think about it: when was the last time you walked into a giant store as a regular and were greeted by name? The distinct advantage smaller shops have is the one-on-one connection they can provide. The more niche products you carry and the more seasoned professionals you hire, the more likely you are to have a repeat and loyal customer base. You are also likely more in-tune with changing trends in the hardware industry and can pass that knowledge off to your customers.
One target audience you should be paying close mind to is the DIYers out there. In the wake of the economic downturn and COVID-19-related quarantines, consumers have turned to demoing, retiling, painting, and building by themselves—no contractor needed. It’s hard to find true “experts” on the floor of a big box chain; sometimes if there even are any, they’re so elusive it becomes impossible even trying to track them down. When weekend warriors walk through your doors, they’ll be greeted by professional staff that really know their stuff. What’s more, tons of folks are making their home reno projects public by posting their progress to social media. Have them hashtag your business to promote your staff and products. You might also investigate sponsoring some of their blog posts.
As a small business owner, you’ve got an ear to the ground of what’s going on in your local communities. You’re not bound to the same marketing strategies as the big competition, therefore you can offer discounts and incentives based on what’s happening in the moment. Use feedback from your customers to help drive marketing techniques. Your loyal customers will repay you with word-of-mouth advertising—“Your biggest marketing asset is your existing customer base,” according to this article from Yotpo. The vast majority of customers will still trust the recommendation of friends and family over traditional marketing anyway! If you please your existing patrons, they’ll essentially repay you with free advertising.
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