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When Borders bookstore closed in 2011, many attributed it to the rise of Amazon.com and the subsequent lower prices that consumers came to expect when buying books. While that did play a part, it’s not the whole story. Yuki Noguchi of NPR put it best, while Amazon may have been the final nail in the coffin, the trouble for Borders started in the mid-1990s. They weren’t making choices that would future-proof their business.
At a time when other brick-and-mortar stores invested in their own digital ventures, Borders outsourced their web presence and doubled down on stocking items like CDs and DVDs in their stores. Items that, as we now know, soon became predominately digital goods. As technology changed the industry, Borders made a series of poor choices that ultimately led to their downfall. What’s interesting, though, is what the end of Borders did for small bookstores: It gave them a niche in which to thrive.
In business, bigger is often seen as better—bigger profits, bigger reach, a bigger impact. But small companies have a power that the giants can’t harness. They can adapt to new technology faster and offer experiences that big competitors can’t. Consider Washington D.C. bookstore Duende District. Founded in 2017, they flipped the script of traditional booksellers by opening a business with no fixed address.
Duende District Bookstore leveraged technology to their advantage. They created a website where books were always available, but the core of the business was pop-up shops featuring specially curated book selections. Founder Angela Maria Spring leveraged the flexibility of a small business to travel with her store. She consulted customers on the road and determined that readers wanted something the big-box sellers didn’t provide. They’ve since installed permanent pop-up shops around D.C., but the mobile pop-up shops—and their cult following—remain a big part of the business.
The impact of small and mid-sized businesses is evident in the marketplace. Consumers are drawn to the idea of “shopping small” and supporting local establishments, but they won’t compromise on customer experience to do so. Modern technology enables you to embrace the strengths of your small business while providing the high level of service customers expect.
Whether you’re curating a strong brand with your social media presence or cultivating and nurturing lasting customer relationships through personalized experiences, technology gives your small or medium-sized business the tools needed to compete against industry giants.
To make sure your business lasts, you’ve got to use technology to your advantage at every turn. In our tip sheet, “Six tips to leverage technology and future-proof your small or mid-sized business,” you’ll learn key ways to use technology to compete with—and even outshine—large competitors.
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