There are two ways to increase profitability: cut costs or increase sales. The best way to make a music store—or any retail operation—profitable, however, is to do both by increasing the efficiency of the operation.
As a music store owner, your business likely provides retail sales and various types of services, such as instrument repair or lessons.
Here are some tips for increasing the efficiency in both categories.
Adopt Retail Technology
There are only 24 hours in a day and music stores can keep their doors open for only a portion of them. Owners could open more locations, but that adds significant operational costs, including rent, salaries, utilities, and insurance.
While technology involves upfront and maintenance costs, after that they are practically set-it-and-forget it.
Adding an ecommerce platform to an existing retail operation enables owners a 24/7 “location” at an address with https.
Owners spend a lot of time and energy to connect their outlets with the local music scene, and ecommerce may seem like a contradiction or sell-out. But adding convenience (for you and your customers) is no comprise. Online stores are so prevalent for a multitude of individuals and big businesses alike that expanding your retail to meet customers where they browse and shop—on the internet—can be a low-cost opportunity to grow sales. A popular, easily adaptable ecommerce platform is Shopify. For as little as $29 per month, you could have an online store up and running the same day.
Technology Improves Customer Service
But people love coming into my store and the personal attention they receive. First, adding ecommerce does not mean you’re closing up shop. The loyal community—your best customers—likely will not leave; online shopping is an extension of your brick-and-mortar, not a substitute, and there will come times when they appreciate that service.
For instance, they go to school, work, and have other obligations that don’t always make it easy for them to shop during set business hours. Ecommerce allows them to shop at their convenience and have items shipped to them directly or delivered curbside. The key is that people can shop, and orders can come in when your store is closed, which means you’re making more while working less.
An online store can be equally effective for your service offerings. Post price lists of standard repairs so clients know how to budget for routine instrument maintenance and reconditioning on your website. You can also provide links to troubleshooting tips and replacement parts needed, and directions for mail-order services.
Also, there’s nothing to prevent an online store from providing excellent customer service. Amazon built itself into a multi-billion online retailer with its commitment to multi-channel customer service. Its return and refund policies remain the standard for ecommerce, and its shift to automated chatbot—rather than personal—is getting better.
You may think that you’re not ready to take on all the extra business that will come from having an online store. That’s falls into the category of “good problem to have.”
As an extension of your brick-and-mortar store, going online merely offers a way to serve your current client base around the clock without staying open—burning electricity and paying employees—for extended hours. It has the potential to increase efficiencies by cutting costs, increasing sales, and making service more convenient—the definition of gaining efficiencies.
Technology Is Essential to Efficient Marketing
The internet never sleeps so if you’re effectively marketing through social media, you’re effectively marketing around the clock, which integrates nicely with a 24/7 ecommerce presence.
Marketing is essential to growing your business and enabling you to make more while working less. Consumers are inundated with advertising messages, which is why it’s important to develop and execute a custom marketing plan for your particular music store. We highly recommend reading the musicbusinessahead.com article “Marketing 101 for Music Store Owners,” which will help take you from A to Z of putting together your marketing plan. One of the critical aspects of developing your marketing plan is social media.
People Drive Efficiency
Good employees can go a long way to helping you generate more income while working less. While recruiting and hiring is not directly technology-driven, there are online job boards like ZipRecruiter and Indeed that deliver potential candidates right to your human resources—meaning you—department.
You could also tap your customer pool for referrals. Your loyal clients also are members of your local music community, so they can offer suggestions on potentially good fits for your operation. If they recommend a candidate, shape the interview around open-ended questions such as “What aspects of working at a music store interests you the most?” Also, don’t be afraid to ask non-business questions like what their favorite movie or book is and why. Personal questions—be advised, though, getting too personal can cause problems—puts people at ease, turns interviews into conversations, and reveals character.
Keep an eye on new hires. Are they good with customers? Do they take pride in your store like cleaning counters or dusting without being asked? Are they eager and adept at learning how to use the systems you have in place regarding payment processing and inventory?
Watch the numbers, too. Did they generate more sales in line with your expectations? Were they able to free up more of your time to provide extra lessons or service more instrument repairs during regular business hours? Did they free up time for you to grow your business by spending less time on the floor. An employee with the right combination of technical expertise and music-business knowledge is ideal for handling the website and ecommerce operations, allowing you more time to spend with customers.
Gaining efficiencies that cut costs and drive sales is not a pipe dream. Expanding your business online, executing a solid marketing plan and hiring good people could turn that wish into a sustainable reality. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you may just have to push past your comfort zone to reap the potential rewards.