In the age of desktop computers and laptops being rapidly replaced by, or at least supplemented, by factory-sealed tablets and smartphones, one has to wonder.
Add in a general movement away from on-premise refrigerator-sized servers and racks in many small- and medium-sized businesses, and replacement by off-premised cloud computing solutions, there definitely is a sea of change.
But does that mean the end is near for computer repair stores? That all depends on a number of factors.
The Wall Street Journal Weighs In
A few months ago, Ann Zimmerman of The Wall Street Journal wrote, Can Electronics Stores Survive?
And while the retail giants do understand the urgency for reinventing themselves, you can change the course of a canoe faster than you can alter the course of a 5,000 passenger cruise ship.
Death of the Downtown Computer Repair Store
More recently, our own contributor Ben Taylor addressed the issue in Is the Main Street Computer Shop a Dying Tradition?
This post recommends capitalizing on the frustration many consumers face in shopping a mega-retailer, and instead focusing relentlessly on personalized service that will always allow for charging moderately higher prices.
In addition, by playing up a computer repair store’s affinity with the local community (Think: sponsoring Little League teams, being active in the Chamber of Commerce, etc.), and by making the owner accessible to customers on a first-name basis, the Main Street IT purveyor may still have some life left in its business model “as is.”
But the “as is” part of the business model is the most fragile and needs the most urgent attention.
5 Ideas to Help Your Computer Repair Store Survive and Thrive
So what needs to be added to the list of services provided to ensure a computer store’s survival?
Offer tablet and smartphone training, support, and service…and even sales (if at all possible) – Take away every possible excuse to send a valued customer somewhere else. If need be, partner with another similar-sized, local business to make this a reality.
Get in on cloud computing and managed services (if you’re not there already) – Many of these services are relatively inexpensive and provide great value to customers. But does the average non-technical user know what to select? That’s where you enter the picture: needs assessment, training, and support. In addition to the modest recurring revenue commissions, charge modest prices for these value-added services and you’ll set your store apart big time.
Upscale your skillset and marketing into at least the low-end of B2B – If your store doesn’t already have the capabilities to support even relatively tiny small businesses, with 5-10 employees, you need this market and its accompanying revenue stream like yesterday. If you can’t get it fast enough in-house, partner or subcontract with a solo practitioner independent IT consultant. What to offer? Anything and everything to deliver the services of an outsourced Virtual IT department.
Consider offering memberships to all customers – Whether you want to borrow recurring revenue concepts from the HVAC industry or health club industry, your best customers want a long-term relationship with your store. If you have the ability to offer training, service, and support, bundle in some baseline services into a monthly or annual membership. And offer steep discounts on other services and products (i.e. charge everyone else more).
Hybrid your retail business model into part Internet café, part computer repair store – Want to make your store a cool place to hang out? Provide free Wi-Fi, perhaps with a marketing offer on the terms-of-use acceptance page. And team up with an experienced coffeehouse operator that provides yummy drinks, sinful baked goods, and delicious sandwiches. Daytime IT seminars. Open mic night. A guitar player one evening a week. An awesome place to host local business networking events. Book clubs. Amazing cross-promotional opportunities. And a built-in marketing base that would run you thousands of dollars a month, or even a week, in advertising to replicate.
Go forth and reinvent your computer store to survive and thrive!
Oh by the way, you might also enjoy some of these other related posts on:
What do you think? Are computer repair stores here to stay? Or are they on borrowed time? Or does it all depend on how well the store reinvents itself? Please make your voice known in the Comments box below.
And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on How to Start a Computer Consulting Business: 6 Proven Ways to Build Your Initial Client Base.
Creative Commons Image Source: flickr dno1967b