How to Make Your Brand Stand Out From Big Box Retailers

  • 3 Min Read

Being an independent retailer in any industry can be a challenge, especially when you’re competing against discount chains and e-commerce retailers. Independent pet stores often have to compete against big brands like (ryhmes with ewwwy) and Pet___ (ryhmes with fart) and still find a way to have their business stand out from the crowd.

However, there are effective strategies for local stores and small platforms to be heard above the noise and to make sure they stay competitive with bigger chains. We’ll talk you through some tips and tricks to ensure that your store stays relevant and viable in today’s crowded marketplace.

Create Unique Brand Awareness

There’s something about your business and what you have to offer that no one else can duplicate. In fact, your passion for what you do is why you got into the pet biz in the first place. And somewhere in your unique passion and drive is your brand.

Brand strategy requires boiling down who you are and what you offer into replicable marketing gimmicks. We know, we don’t like the word “gimmicks” either (we prefer “gizmos”). Still, you’re going to need things like taglines, mottos, logos, and marketing campaigns to create a strong brand that potential customers immediately associate with you and your store.

Take some time to think about how your store excels. Excellent customer service? Specialty items you can’t find anywhere else? Local brands and delivery? Design marketing materials around your core strengths and use these as jumping off points to create branded marketing campaigns that introduce and reinforce your branding identity.

If you don’t feel comfortable with this side of the business, don’t be afraid to hire a branding coach or marketing specialist to help you figure out a cohesive branding strategy and tone of voice. And once you’ve got your logo, your tagline, and your core message, use them every chance you get. From blog posts to local events to promotional stickers and magnets, make sure your brand is everywhere you are.

Lean Into Local

Once you’ve developed your brand and marketing materials, it’s important to understand how to best leverage them as a small independent retailer. Independent retailers in the pet supply industry have one immediate advantage over big box stores: they’re often local.

Being local means, you have the opportunity to provide a much more personalized customer experience. This more engaged connection to your customers helps you develop loyalty and retention. In addition, many people are intentional about shopping locally. Add to that an easy-to-use rewards program, and you start to create reasons people want to buy from your store.

Having a booth at local events, sponsoring community charities, and utilizing local advertising can help boost your presence where you benefit most: your own backyard. Ultimately, it’s your interaction with your community and the word of mouth it creates that can keep you competitive with bigger retailers. 

Localize Your Social Media

Social media is a great way to reinforce your local presence. Too often, small businesses believe that they have to become large-scale social media influencers in order to truly take advantage of their social media platforms.

However, having a thousand likes on a post doesn’t help you much if most of those likes come from people who are too far away to ever visit your store.

It can be much more effective to tailor your social media presence to your local area. Simple practices like shouting out local people and events, using local location hashtags and hashtags relevant to the area, and posting about local trends and issues can position your store as your community’s choice.

In addition, be sure to interact with other businesses and organizations in your area by following or subscribing to their social channels, especially if they are likely to be followed by your targeted audiences. By liking, commenting on and reposting their posts, you can start to develop a network of local businesses that support each other and lift up each other’s efforts.

Social media is also an excellent way to promote a particular product or service. Running sales or promotions through social media can boost your brand and drive people to your store for special sales and promotional events.

Make It Fun

Ultimately, becoming your community’s chosen pet store is a combination of offering valuable products and services, following through on a brand promise of locally engaged customer service, and creating a brand that’s fun and friendly.

From pet photos with Santa to holding a pet of the month contest to in-store giveaways for holidays, keep offering opportunities for your customers to engage with your store and your brand. Whether you’re hosting pets available for adoption from your local rescue, or teaching a class on holistic medicine for horses, make your store the go-to for your community and watch your sales soar.

About The Author

Katherine Carbonaro Kat lives in a spooky house surrounded by farmland in Hillsborough, NC, and couldn't be happier! Her two beloved cats, MeNow and Mr. Bumbles were both bottle-fed and raised by her. Huxley, her faithful companion, is estimated to be around 16 years old but still enjoys his daily mile-long walks and occasional hikes, a testament to the power of proper nutrition. Long live Neighborhood Pet!