Bettering Amazon: Advice for the Smaller Retailer

Following my article outlining some of the lessons learned from Amazon, here are a few pointers for the golf retailer on how one could use some of Amazon's tactics.


So what does the Rise in Online Sales Mean for the Smaller Retailer?

First of all, you are going to have to compete with Amazon and the other big online marketplaces - this is just a fact of life. These behemoths of the online world have advantages in the scale of their operation, the sheer range of products they can provide, their reach, and their infrastructure - but do not be disheartened.

You have strengths that the online giants don't have. So, what should you be doing?


Lesson 1: Have Clear Business Aims

You need a target, or something to aim for. And to get you there, you'll want a plan. We would always advise creating a budget for each financial year.

Review how you did last year, plan what you're going to do differently this year, and create a budget.


Lesson 2: Focus on the Customer

You need to know who your customers are and who spends money in your shop.  Your members or guests? What gender, what age group? You can do this by analysing the previous period’s sales. Use your EPOS system to track sales by customer type.

If you haven’t already set up Customer Types for individual, or grouped customers, you'll need to do this. After a few months, you will be able to run the reports.

Once you know who your customers are, you'll know whether you're offering the right products and service for them. Often retailers don't understand who is really bringing in value. Is it the members, or the visitors?


Lesson 3: Deliver a Great Customer Experience

Convenience is often cited as the top reason for using Amazon, ahead of price. This is really important. You don’t have to compete on price for everything. If you offer the right service for your customer and the right experience, they'll come to you over your competitors.

If a customer wants a product that you don't range, or don't have in stock, respond quickly and effectively. Offer to order the product into the shop where they can try it on. If it doesn’t fit, then you can manage the return for them.

Say you’re asked for this jacket in XXXL, or a jumper in red.. what are you going to do? You should be familiar with the brand's catalogues so you know what is available this year. You can often log in to a brand's website or online ordering system. If the product is available, order it into store for the customer to try. Make it as smooth and easy for the customer as possible. Don’t take payment first, simply place the order and put it on account. Then manage the return for the customer if the product isn’t right.


Lesson 4: Get Customers to Return Again and Again

Maximise your expertise as a Golf Professional and increase your contact with your customers

Use your role as a Pro and your relationship with your golfers to drive sales. Offer lessons, and maybe a Swing Studio, so you can identify ways in which they can improve their game – this can include product suggestions and advice too! Offer custom fit, re-gripping and other services – these are things the likes of Amazon can’t do!

Make sure you are managing the arrival of customers onto the course and the tee times. This will give you great interaction with the players as well as regular footfall through the shop.  It will give you a chance to upsell while you are talking to them. Maybe they need some wet weather gear? Have they tried the new balls? Even just a bottle of water and snack for their round!

Keep them coming back to the Pro Shop!


Lesson 5: Offer the Largest Possible Range

You can’t offer the same wide range of products that Amazon can offer. You don’t have the room in store, nor do you have the cash to do so online, and you don’t want to be left with excess stock. So, your challenge is to offer the range, or more importantly access to a wide range of stock, without actually investing in the stock in your store. You need to buy the right products and amount of stock for your business and shop.

How you offer a good range is by listening to what your customers want and responding quickly to it. Know what’s in the catalogues, online ordering system or even talk to your reps. If a customer wants a waterproof jacket in navy. not green, then jump to it and track down that jacket. If a customer wants a pair of shoes in the size 10.. react. Get a pair delivered tomorrow for them to try. This is your advantage. You have the customer in front of you. Your customer is likely to be coming into the shop regularly. Use that to your advantage. They can try the shoe on in the right size and you can always order in the colour, or style, they want. By working with the right suppliers, you can achieve this. Use brands that provide online ordering and catalogues, and keep delivery costs low.

Interestingly, Sears (a large US department store) is already developing this concept – a small store with one of every size where you can try things on, and then they can deliver the right colour or style to you. This model will work for you too.

Review your sales from last year, or the previous period. Understand what products sold well and which products returned a good margin.  Don’t forget to understand what sizes and what colours sold well.


On the flip side, understand what products sold badly and which ones you were stuck with at the end of the year. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Once you’ve understood this, put together a range for your shop. Only stock what you are going to sell.


Lesson 6: Speed Over Substance

This comes back to offering the right service and customer experience. If you can get the product the customers want delivered into store in a day or two, you can compete with Amazon. The advantage to the customer is that they can try the product in your shop and if necessary you can handle the return for them. Making it this easy for a customer to try a product will allow you to compete effectively.


Lesson 7: Make It Yours

You know most of your customers: I should imagine they are members, or regular players. This means that you can offer a very personalised service. From seeing them play on the course, to swing in your studio or in a lesson, you know how they play. You know what they have bought in the past (if you are tracking it in your EPOS system). This means that you can tailor your products to suit their needs.

If you get it right, they will keep coming back!