Keeping sales flowing after the Christmas rush can be tricky, but there are plenty of ways to boost your revenues. PCR asked firms for advice on squeezing every last penny from your business’ potential by offering alternative products and services…
With a constantly evolving market, low-priced products online and ever-demanding customers, it can be hard to continually capture consumers’ attention – and keep the cash flowing through the tills.
One of the easiest ways to keep your business’ name on the lips of customers is by offering something no-one else has – a niche product or service.
One company that has triumphed by identifying the need for a particular type of product is phone accessories retailer Mobile Fun.
“In the early days, we saw that mobile phones were growing in popularity, but the market for accessories was only just emerging,” Mobile Fun MD Mohammed Hussain told PCR.
“Every mobile device needs at least one accessory, and while retailers were focusing on phone sales, we identified a niche and became experts.”
Hussain suggested that businesses shouldn’t be afraid of departing from the idea of trying to please every single consumer.
“Always segment the market and keep segmenting until you deeply understand the customer you are selling to,” he said. “It’s critical to define your market tightly so you can develop a full proposition to serve that segment well. We’ve learned that having a strong market proposition means that customers keep coming back.”
“The market is a moving target, never stable, which means there are always new opportunities for retail.”
GOING AGAINST THE FLOW
Another company which has flourished in a niche market is Contact Sales, which was established in 1997 and has become synonymous with PC simulation games through its Excalibur Publishing label.
“We were very successful in add-ons for Microsoft train and flight simulators and it was really a natural progression to look at standalone simulation products,” founder Robert Stallibrass told PCR.
The company now develops, publishes and distributes its own titles and its popularity among gamers is clear – it sold some 329,000 units in 2013.
Like Mobile Fun, Excalibur hasn’t allowed its precise scope of products to limit experimentation – a one-off magazine produced by the company shifted 50,000 copies and had a “great reaction” – but it has always remained staunchly grounded in the genre that led to its success.
Stallibrass explained that sometimes recognising a business’ existing strength and not trying to cash in on a trend can be beneficial.
“Not everyone wants to download. People still like things on a shelf,” he said, referring to the increasing number of software companies forgoing boxed products in favour of digital downloads from services such as Steam.
“People who say ‘I’m only going to do it digital’ – you’re missing out on half of the market.”
He added that going against the flow of the market can often help to define smaller firms.
“Everyone can keep focusing on digital – we’ve got a nice little niche in box,” he said.
The importance of having a digital presence as well as a physical storefront has never been more obvious than now, and selling products online can be as easy as opening a store on third-party marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon.
Other firms may consider hosting their own website – which can be created through a number of services offering custom-made or template-based designs – and offer online sales, contact details and result in a massive rise in virtual visitors (see overleaf for some more tips on boosting online traffic).
Web traffic can be driven using online-only offers, or offering vouchers which can then be used in-store. “If you are to be on the internet, invest the time and effort, take the risk and make the commitment, you must be clear why,” stated Target Components business advisor John Coulter on the ShopTalk blog.
“But having a website that generates business isn’t as simple or easy as just getting one made.”
Another way in which firms can generate business is by bundling products – both online and off – which can become the deciding factor in customers’ purchases. Offering must-have security with brand new computers, a cut-price case with a tablet or even something as simple as free help to set up new devices can be worth a slightly higher asking price, and will keep consumers coming back for more.
RUBBISH TO RICHES
Sometimes the best method in which to gather momentum as a business is by optimising services and products – oiling multiple facets into a profit and interest-churning machine.
Independent retailer Colley Gate Computers recognised its ability to benefit from what might have previously seemed like useless waste by using the internet, and began selling the components left over from the repair side of its business via its eBay store.
“The benefits [of selling the components through eBay] are on many different levels,” commented founder Steve Keating.
“Firstly, it recycles parts that would otherwise be sent to the scrap yard – but it also generates a worthwhile profit.”
He said that other companies might literally be throwing the opportunity for profit away by ignoring the chances around them.
“Look at the things that you would throw or give away and see if they can be turned into some extra income,” he advised.
“Likewise, if you are the only computer shop in the area, think about IT disposal services. You never know – some local business out there on your doorstep may want to dispose of 200 PCs and laptops.”
However, while such services can benefit the company without directly affecting consumers, Keating said that, for small consumer-facing businesses, service would always be the foundation on which both reputable and financially successful firms are built.
“Our niche service is the fact that we offer friendly, helpful service to our community where providing the right product for the customer comes first,” he explained.
“The big chain stores cannot compete with us on that level – and never will.”