Telling the truth about SME life today

Tips for budding retail entrepreneurs

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This feature is placed in association with Manchester Business School

Be social

Unless youve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, youll know that social media is an important tool for todays businesses. But social isnt just another advertising platform; social should be used to engage customers on a personal level, talking to them as a human, rather than a brand, and this is where many businesses fail.

Keep it chatty and conversational and avoid automating Twitter and Facebook updates if you can. Think about running some giveaways and make sure you respond to every comment you receive on your social media pages, whether good or bad. Take a look at the team at Comcast on Twitter (@comcastcares) as an example theyre great at staying on top of responses and retaining a human persona.

Bye street

Success in the retail industry will never solely be about the high street. More and more, consumers are moving online to make their purchases, and with mobile predicted to account for 50% of all retail sales by 2020, it’s more important than ever that retailers (and of course, e-commerce sites), have a quick and secure checkout experience and ensure that their sites are optimised for mobile and tablet devices.

Industry news

Subscribing to blogs is a great way to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to new trends in the ever-changing world of retail. There are some really great blogs out there for retail entrepreneurs, such as Retail Touch Points, where youll find case studies and cutting-edge insight from inspirational industry experts. If you’re looking for marketing inspiration and advice for small businesses, then youll find some great insights from Duct Tape Marketing.

Technology trends in retail are fast-changing and can be one of the toughest things for small business owners to keep abreast of. The blog at Retail Technology Trends does just what it says on the tin, and whilst some of the ideas may be too big and expensive for a small or start-up business to employ, it certainly pays to be aware of whats available to you and the way consumers are interacting as a result.

Keep learning

There are a great number of fantastic courses out there that can really help business leaders harness the knowledge they need to remain relevant and competitive in the retail world.

Manchester Business Schools MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship is a great example of a course that will help to equip budding entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures. There are also a large number of part-time courses available, meaning any plans dont necessarily have to be placed on hold whilst you’re still learning.

Follow the leader

There are several people you can follow on Twitter for up-to-the-minute advice and even some inspirational quotes to help guide you through your new venture. Those in e-commerce should check out Practical Ecommerce (@practicalecomm), which has some great resources, including podcasts, blog posts and webinars containing the latest intelligence on all things e-commerce.

There are also some really successful and passionate individuals out there, such as people like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) and Jacqueline Gold (@Jacqueline_Gold), who have a contagious enthusiasm for business that will really help to inspire you.

Many leading retailers have also published some great books about the industry, which will provide ample inspiration and advice for any budding retail entrepreneur. Best Served Cold by Malcolm Walker, founder of Iceland and Sam Walton: Made in America , by the founder of Wal-mart offer fantastic personal insights.

Start small

Even if your particular role at your future retail start-up won’t involve direct customer facing, budding retail entrepreneurs need to develop an understanding of just how important customer service is to the industry.

Customer service is the beating heart of retail, and can make or break a business according to its quality. 

Lecturer in Enterprise at Manchester Business School, Dr James Hickie, couldnt have put it any better when he said that: To start a retail business, you must appreciate the vital role of customer service. One of the best ways of preparing to start your own retailing business is to get work in a customer service role, working in a pub or a shop, so you can understand what makes customers tick and how to provide outstanding service.

As Steve Jobs once said, Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. One of the biggest pieces of advice you can give to any budding entrepreneur, is to do what you love, and dont be afraid to take a calculated risk.

More from Manchester University Business School: Tips for budding technology entrepreneurs

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