Championing Independent Retail with Key Learnings from the BIRA Conference

BIRA Conference delegates

Independent retail is vital to the UK economy and something we are extremely passionate about protecting. That’s why we were delighted to sponsor the BIRA Conference and Awards, celebrating the best of what UK independent retail has to offer. The conference was jam-packed with great retail success stories, tips for the future and reflections on the past. Here are some of our top takeaways from the day.

Get new customers with Google

Experts from Google’s Digital Garage academy shared top tips on how to make Google search work for you and your business. Here are some of the things we learnt:

Create lots of top quality content

It’s important to include key phrases and keywords in your copy, however it’s important to remember not to go overboard and repeat phrases over and over because search engines may see that as spam. It’s important to remember you’re writing primarily for people, so be sure your message is clear and makes sense. Creating relevant and good quality content will appeal to potential customers, and creating content including relevant keywords and phrases will appeal to search engines.

Get noticed locally

Attracting customers to your online store from all corners of the globe is great, but how can you use Google to get local people through your shop doors? There are some super simple things you can do to help local people become your local customers. Local directories are a great way to connect with potential customers in your area – make sure you are listed at the correct directory of Yell, 118, Facebook etc.

Learn with The Digital Garage Academy

These were just two of the top tips we left the Google session with. You can learn loads more, from the basics right through to advanced at The Digital Garage. The garage is a free online resource centre from Google, where you can view videos and take part in on-demand lessons to master the art of promoting your business online. Best yet, you can get a Google certified certificate of completion.

Navigating the New Retail Landscape – consumers are changing

The retail landscape is constantly changing. The rapid emergence of new technologies is impacting the way customers view the retail industry. No longer is the choice for shoppers limited to the town, neighborhood or even the country that they live in. Co-author of Navigating the New Retail Landscape, Jonathan Reynolds, shared some of the insights and learnings from his book.  The overarching message from his presentation was that consumers are changing, and it’s the job of retailers (no matter how big or small) to keep up.

Retail has to move at the speed of culture, and culture has moved quickly over the last 5-10 years. The new generation of retail consumers have grown up with technology – they are used to being able to turn to their phone to meet all of their needs, whether it’s ordering a taxi, buying new clothes or ordering their breakfast. In order to appeal to this new type of consumer, retailers need to be able to offer seamless service across all channels, whether it’s online or instore.

Shoplift vs Shoptheft

‘Shoplifting’ falls into the petty crime category with UK police, but of course, for the independent shopkeeper, it eats into profits and is not petty at all. No matter how small your business is, shoplifting is something which could set your growth back months, if not years.

One of the most inspiring and thought provoking talks, came from Neil Mackay, the owner of an independent hardware store in Cambridge. Neil has launched a nationwide campaign and petition to try and eradicate the word ‘shoplift’ and replace it with ‘shoptheft’. He shared his story as a victim of shop theft saying: ‘The government has issued directions to the police to treat shop theft below £200 as ‘low level – that is just opening the doors to our shops and shouting help yourselves!’ His crusade against shoplifting has seen him appear in the Daily Telegraph, Metro, Independent and The Daily Express.

If you were at the event and learnt anything we may have missed out, please let us know in the comments below.