How is the retail space adapting in the age of online shopping?

For answers, we interviewed Bill Bates, owner of KAOS Music Centre, about his business goals, challenges and successes. KAOS Music Centre is a full-service music store and school in Etobicoke, Canada, with over 800 students.

Bill provided insights that can be applied to any brick and mortar business looking to stay ahead of the online competition.

Keep reading for key takeaways.

Bill Bates, Owner of KAOS Music.

What are the goals of your business?

My long-term plan is to build a profitable debt free business, so that when I retire, it will be attractive to potential buyers. To achieve this, I’m concentrating on making sure the business is adjusting to changes in the industry- especially the shift to online.

Takeaway 1: Have a clear long-term goal for your business.

What type challenges does your business face?

We’re facing challenges brought on by the internet.  Ecommerce is encroaching  on product sales and online content is impacting our music lessons.  There is a lot of high quality music education available online for free or near free and many potential clients are opting for this easy, convenient, low cost option. The instruction isn’t the same as what a good music teacher can provide, but some people accept a lower level of teaching in exchange for less cost and obligation.

For a long time, I didn’t think music education was susceptible to technology disruption- but all of a sudden it happened.

Takeaway 2: Look around the corner.  What technologies might impact your business in the coming years.

How are you addressing these challenges?

We’re focused on ensemble programs that educate while playing music with other people. Online technology isn’t ready to disrupt this part of the market because any slowness or lag impacts the experience when multiple people are trying to connect and play from different locations.

For example, we have a successful band program that is growing.  We also have a new rock choir program that is in collaboration with Voice of Rock in Canada. We’re working with them to create a national choir, where small choirs across the country come together regionally to perform bigger concerts.

Takeaway 3: Have a plan for dealing with industry changes. For instance, consider what your business can provide that isn’t being done online.

What marketing tactics work for you?

Facebook ads, Google Adwords and email marketing work for us.  Facebook ads work particularly well because we can target our primary demographic, moms, as they are more often the spouse looking for lessons for their children.  

Also, a good physical sign can make all the difference.  For instance, two signs around a school will bring in many clients for our business.

Takeaway 4: You may want to try Facebook ads, Google Adwords and email marketing if you haven’t already.  Also, you may want to invest in better signs in key areas.

What software tools do you recommend for your business efforts?

We love, love LightSpeed Retail. We use it to manage all of the retail portion, inventory and service department of our business.  Quickbooks is great for accounting.  They are the industry standard for small business. We use Squarespace for our website. I have medium tech skills and I was able to inexpensively create a good looking site. We will still lose some business to Amazon, but the ability to participate in online sales with Squarespace has helped mitigates the losses.

I would also recommend Perkville for a loyalty program because the integration aspect is terrific. It not only helps with loyalty, but it also helps sell to new clients.  For example, when someone is buying a guitar, we inform them they will earn as many as 4,000 points which is the equivalent of a big discount rather than just giving a discount right away.  

Takeaway 5: Check out LightSpeed Retail, Quickbooks, Squarespace and Perkville if you haven’t already.