little retail must go digital` little retail must go digital` little retail must go digital` little retail must go digital`
New media

Small shops should go digital right now

Little retailers are often stuck in the present, but they must begin to catch the attention of young and connected people, or in a few years they will lose many customers!

Bars, pharmacies, grocery stores and stores, are typical retail businesses that embellish cities and towns, but in recent years have suffered a lot from the competition of large retailers.

Large retail chains, use an “big economy scale”: they make ambitious plans, they can access better finance and finally spend adequately on advertising to gain a certain awareness (brand awareness) among potential customers.

Small shops in defense

On the other hand, the small operators, although almost always have a better service and a better overall quality, often stay still at the time of the opening, of the first years where the business opens up with enthusiasm and is necessarily updated. Then stop, the machines, the PCs, even the cash register itself, everything remains the same.

It also stops being proactive and trying out new initiatives to capture new customers, to renew.
In this way, stores stops their challenge against the GDO and franchising chains, giving up innovative services to customers.

In my “proactive tours” that I occasionally do, I found one thing:
not only is there not an active e-commerce, but also the institutional website is not realised, either for distrust towards the medium — seen as the competitor — or for a lack of propensity for advertising investment.
Google cards, notoriously free, are seen almost with suspicion.

The public changes, and will change more tomorrow.

The situation described is typical of the Italian province, countries and small towns, but I think it applies to large areas of the USA and Western countries: there is wealth, there are shops open since the 80s with large accumulated assets, which but they give up on innovating and investing to make themselves known.

But times change, and in a few years they will suddenly change more.
What do I mean exactly?

La Piramide della popolazione 2017, Italia

This is the age pyramid, a cross section of today’s population.

As with many advanced states, the shape is no longer a pyramid but a “spinning top”: after the boom of the generation called just Baby Boomerthere has been a gradual decline in births, with even some sudden changes.

In practice, the customers on which many stores are based, are now 55–65 years old.

Customers who use smartphones but do not have a ‘digital’ lifestyle: they choose their store in a traditional way.

Basically: the pyramid will move in top direction! If you have a 40–50 years old, try moving upwards the bars

They are good customers today, but if your store is mainly based on this senior clientele, and you are also giving up to make yourself known among young people, your business is at medium-term risk: in ten years there may not be some of them, or some moved to a hospice! 🙁

A new generation of consumers faces the market: Millennials and “connected” generation.

The connected generation

A new generation of consumers faces the market: Millennials and “connected” generation. Not only is the person who is a Millennial, born after 1982, but also those who, from a different age, choose their premises, shops and purchases based on the information they find on the internet.

Smartphones and wearable devices are at the center of the “Connected” consumer life

Some data:

  • 70% of “connected” read online reviews before deciding to purchase
  • always 70% look for the product or service on iphone, tablet or PC in the decision-making phase

In addition, many write reviews, watch TV on several different devices and not necessarily TV. Most likely they avoid local TV.

It is estimated that by 2025 75% of the workforce (and consumption) will be made up of people of this generation.

This is what I was referring to when talking about the future, which, after years of stability in purchasing styles, will suddenly change.

What can I do?

What can a small shop do to prepare for this change?
Moving in time, it can start to have a fixed presence on the web, like a site and a google business, then it can start to communicate (commission its communication to specialists) by advertising on social networks and at the local level.

But it is not enough, as mentioned it’s the present, a shop should try to innovate and experiment with new technologies and even new business models!

Here are some ideas that a small shop or a bar could introduce without spending a lot, and that us connected people, we would like to find.


It’s a good idea to have a wifi network in the store, it does a lot of “Starbucks” (and maybe there’s even espresso coffee that’s better ;-).
Better to use one of those dedicated router that splits the cable connection in an “open” WIFI for customers, and a reserved secure network for the store.
In the end it will be useful for the merchants themselves.

Rule №1 It must be easy to register.

Impact: 6 / Cool ratio: 5

Apple Pay and its copy Samsung Pay

Apple Pay and contactless payment.

This is already a step further, but a POS enabled for Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or even only Contactless Credit Cards is something very welcome that will give a cool image to all customers.

But also: less cash to be managed.
Yes, there are commissions, but these will affect only those customers who actually have an enabled Apple Pay payment.

Impact: 6.5 / Cool ratio: 8

Digital Loyalty

A further step linked to the Wallett app and Android equivalents: think of the typical bar consumption card where at the tenth purchase you have a free gift or a 100% discount on consumption.

In practice they are methods of customer loyalty in their digital evolution. Some examples? Loopy Loyalty, Passkit and Cherrypie.

Of course, we add one more step in the checkout, but once the staff is trained it is not much slower to make an X on a tag. Some customers may be pleasantly impressed, others will adapt to the mass in a few years.

Impact: 8 / Cool ratio: 7.5

Android Nearby and iBeacon/Eddystone

Proximity marketing

The last step of the shopkeeper who wants to anticipate the times and try to intercept new groups of users, is the so-called proximity marketing.
This category of mktg is based on the Beacon technology, where a bluetooth 4.0 device allow you to show notifications on smartphones of potential customers when they are nearby.

Obviously the best potential will be the stores with a high traffic of passers, the typical shops of ‘Main Street’ in the USA, or those of the historical center in Europe.

There are several standards fighting each other: Apple’s iBeacon and Android’s Eddystone referring to apps. The Physical Web project and Android Nearby instead allow notifications without a branded store app (that’s the typical situation of a little store).

Impact: 6–8 / Cool ratio: 9

The end

There are other technologies just around the corner, but I prefer to list only what a shopkeeper or bar owner can actually introduce from tomorrow.

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Giovanni Minelli

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Small shops digital article (rev. 2)

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Giovanni Minelli

Art Director & Cross media designer, content curator at minodesign. ADCI member.
He deals with advertising projects, graphic design and web design, with a focus on corporate image, UI and image manipulation. Experimenter of new media but also lover of the 70s graphics and 80s90s adv; seek a contemporary synthesis of these three. It is also dilettans mangaka and ebay seller.