Most of the time, running a rural or equestrian business feels a world away from major retail. Even a perfectly successful business of this sort tends to have a pleasantly “niche” feel to it, whereas major retailers tend to have at once broader appeal and more limited personality. Despite these differences though, there are still some clear lessons in marketing, sales, and general presentation that you can draw from thriving big retailers.

http://build.hartmillerdesign.co.uk/portfolio/austen-house-southern-health-nhs-trust Images Make a Website

We have spent some time in the past covering why images are the most important part of a website, and there’s really no disputing the idea! Images are the first things to catch your eye when you visit a site, and high-quality images incentivise engagement. Essentially, when you see a fuzzy image, or one that is poorly positioned, too small, or otherwise unsatisfying, you’re more likely to ignore whatever content the image goes with. On the other hand a sharp, attractive, and relevant image will lend that content additional appeal and give you another way to relate to it.

The use of great images is by now a fundamental building block of modern websites. But it’s also something major retailers frequently exemplify in showcasing their own products and categories. You simply don’t see companies like these posting inadequate visuals, and you should do your best to adhere to a similar standard with your own business.

Sales & Promotions Should Be Specific

If you’re running a business, you’re likely aware that holding a sale or promotion now and then is a good way to drum up enthusiasm and generate conversions. But one subtle strategic point that major retailers teach in this regard is that efforts like these should be specific, rather than general. That is to say, rather than simply spreading a temporary discount across your whole site, you can use a sale or promotion to highlight a given product line or service, effectively turning it into a marketing technique.

This is something we’ve seen in a few prominent examples recently, during the holiday season. Maybe most notably, worldwide retail giant Amazon tends to carve up its various seasonal sales into categories, showcasing things like the best deals in tech, or discounted gifts “for him” or “for her.”

More specific to UK retail, a recent sale guide for Very the online retailer demonstrated the idea very clearly, highlighting sales related to limited periods (like Boxing Day or Black Friday) as well as product lines (like dresses, TVs, furniture, and so on). Breaking things up in this way allows you to not only offer the basic incentive of a sale, but also to pitch part of your business in the process. It’s an excellent way to ramp up business and, with a smaller operation, generate some feedback and positive reviews for products or services you want to focus on.

Social Needs Strategy

By now it’s quite clear that every business needs social media even if it serves a niche audience or community. But what big retailers teach us is that it’s not enough for a business to simply maintain a social media presence. That’s certainly better than nothing, but you’ll only be making the most of social media when you’re able to build up strategic uses and campaign that more directly drum up attention and/or drive conversions.

To give just one example, we’ll refer to a look at retailer adoption of social media from a few years back, and specifically an initiative by Victoria’s Secret. The vaunted women’s fashion brand created a campaign through which shoppers could post selfies of themselves with store displays, and then show these selfies to store personnel to obtain free gifts. You don’t need to follow this exact example of course, but it’s an excellent demonstration of how social media can be leveraged such that consumers help to spread brand awareness in exchange for small perks.

Local Impact Should Be Promoted

Last but not least, you should also follow big retailers’ lead in promoting any impact you have on your local community. Per another piece on what small business can learn from big business, large corporations tend to spend a lot of money “promoting the good they are doing” and making themselves look like good “corporate citizens.” In a way, they’re investing in making themselves seem smaller — or at least more personable and more engaged on a community level.

As a smaller, more rural business, one of the best things you can do to ensure long-term success is build up a strong connection with your community. The effort will look different for you than for a major retailer, but making a point of emphasising your local impact is still important. It will turn you into a valued part of the community, and likely, over time, help you develop a loyal following.

In the end, there’s a lot that big retailers do that smaller business owners don’t have the means to imitate — or may not even want to imitate. But these growth strategies are all accessible, and big retailers prove that they’re effective as well.