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For the past twenty years or so, small and medium-sized brick and mortar retailers have been forced to change how they do business. Retail giants such as Wal Mart and Target have established their very large footprints in thousands of locations around the U.S., forcing the smaller retailers to lower the price of their products or services, or go out of business. Smaller retailers had to adapt their product and/or service offerings into specialty products and/or services that the larger retailers may not offer, or simply can’t compare to (think pet supplies, hardware stores, sporting goods, etc.).
The almost mechanized shopping experiences customers were receiving from the big box retailers started to work to the smaller retailers’ advantage. Sure, lower prices were great, but shopping, to many people, meant more than just getting a good deal. To these shoppers, it meant walking into a store and getting a warm welcome by name; or walking into a bakery and, without having said one word about what you wanted your order to be, one loaf of your favorite marble rye bread was already wrapped and ready for you with a special ‘thank you’ written on the wrapper.
In this way, smaller retailers have always been able to offer that personalized shopping experience to customers and, in many cases, it’s worked to their advantage over larger retailers. Unfortunately, smaller retailers no longer have that market cornered.
Enter online retail.
Using complex algorithms, online retailers such as Amazon.com are able to make the customer’s online shopping experience personal through detailed product information, online reviews and ratings, price comparisons and personalized product recommendations. To make matters worse, the large purses of the larger retailers enables them to enter the online retail market with ease. Smaller retailers were once again at a major disadvantage and were forced to change how they do business.
Thankfully, however, where technological advances have once impeded the growth of the small retail market, it has now helped level the playing field with customer engagement technology.