Case Study: Brick-and-Mortar Shop Looks to Compete with Online Sales

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Merchant: Nutrishop
Location: San Francisco, California
Platforms: Pointy, Lightspeed POS, MailChimp, Instagram, Facebook
Bottom Line: Brick-and-mortar businesses can use digital marketing tools to give their products an online presence without actually selling through their websites.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are clamoring to take advantage of the boom in e-commerce, but the costs and time involved in creating a website and posting merchandise can be overwhelming for a small business owner tasked with doing-it-all.

At Nutrishop in San Francisco, Jason Miller thinks he’s found a solution. Using a digital platform called Pointy, Miller has been able to automatically publish his products online and also drive customers into his store.

“The deal today is how can I compete online with online sales? How can I, a business that does not ‘sell’ online, use online presence to get customers to decide to walk through my doors as opposed to clicking a product to the front door.”

By integrating Pointy’s box with his Lightspeed POS system, Miller has been able to scan products with a scanner and have those products appear on his store’s Pointy page online. Each product page includes an image of the item and the current stock status, along with directions to Miller’s San Francisco store. Products also come up in Google search results, without requiring a paid AdWords campaign.

“It works because every time I scan a product it is sent out there to the online world, cloud, whatever you want to call it. That means that all my transactions, day in and day out, put my products out there and increase the optimization and presence of my business online,” he says.

Miller was introduced to Pointy four or five months ago, and says he was persuaded to try it, in part, because the company charges a one-time fee instead of a monthly subscription. He also appreciated that a representative from the company actually came into his shop and explained how the platform worked “face to face.”

Those small, but important, factors helped Pointy stand out amongst the thousands of digital platforms vying for the attention of small business owners in San Francisco. Miller says he’s approached by technology marketing firms on an “almost daily” basis, and he’s grown weary of providers that make outrageous claims about what they can offer.

“I am approached by telemarketing almost daily. It’s always some ‘Google’-associated type of business offering search engine optimization of some sort. I am not a fan and they don’t work,” he says. “The majority of calls in come from ESL [English as a second language] tech affiliates. This means call centers located across the globe. There is no personal interaction.”

In addition to the local shopping platform, Miller says he also utilizes MailChimp, Instagram, and Facebook for online marketing.

“I can tell you that all of these are important. The idea is to get the attention of a potential customer wherever possible,” he says.

Despite all the technology vendors trying to tackle the small business market, Miller says too many companies are still missing the mark when it comes to meeting the needs of local merchants with brick-and-mortar stores.

“[Local business owners] are looking for the most cost effective way to get people into their store. That is to say they are trying to find a way to connect with their particular demographic,” he says. “The biggest marketing challenge, as a business owner, is to get customers through the door. That means finding a way to shine a bright light on a specific brick and mortar.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.