With the right marketing, brick-and-mortar stores can still compete.
Even as online sales continue to command a greater percentage of consumer purchases, online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba have started to invest in brick-and-mortar stores. If you are a small brick-and-mortar retailer, it's more important than ever to properly market your physical store. Here are some of the most popular and effective channels and tasks recommended by marketers.
What is retail marketing?
Retail marketing is the planning and process that goes into bringing consumers to retail locations. According to Eric Grindley, founder & CEO of Esquire Advertising, whether the establishment is brick-and-mortar or e-commerce sites, the goal is to convert your audience to satisfied retail customers.
"Retail marketing involves a wide variety of strategies and techniques that can be used depending upon the retailer’s location, industry, inventory, and their customer base," Grindley told business.com.
What are the various types of retail marketing?
When it comes to the retail marketing strategy the spectrum of techniques is incredibly vast, Grindley said. You can use the many options at your disposal to expand the reach of your marketing campaigns.
You can use online spaces like websites, social media and email to promote your product or service. You can also use digital marketing campaigns, which are plans geared toward building brand awareness to consumers you’ve analyzed and examined as potential customers. This includes creating a Facebook ad or Instagram for your brand.
This is the use of ads, newspapers, magazines or brochures to boost your brand awareness. Direct mail can be used to manage this physical form of advertising. As a business owner you can use direct mail to choose who receives their company’s promotions in their mailbox. This retail strategy allows you to use mail to send messages to consumers you feel are more likely to become actual participates or buyers of your business.
Public relations services
Public relations representatives are also a very helpful resource to have on your team. They can help you clean up and strengthen your consumer reach through reputation management, press releases, customer retention and event planning.
You can also take advantage of social media influencers. Influencers are just as popular as celebrities and using one to incorporate your brand or product in their social posts – many of which reach millions of followers – can increase your reach to consumers.
Word of mouth
Telling someone about your business or having an event that gets people talking about your brand will never run out of style. Word of mouth can be just as powerful as sending a promotional email. This also creates a more intimate and personal customer experience and connection.
"Different types of retail marketing can be used depending on the size and type of the retailer, be it a department store, supermarket, franchise, shopping mall, or web store," Grindley said.
Retail marketing strategies for success
These tips offer insights as to how retailers can plan a marketing strategy for long-term success.
Keep accurate information online.
Within the retail industry, even people who shop in physical stores turn to the internet. They look for contact information like phone numbers and directions to the store. Ensuring that information is current across all directories keeps you relevant. With thousands of directories to track, you may want to consider a marketing automation program that monitors directories, alerts you to mistakes and sends corrections. Otherwise, check the most common directories like Yelp and Google regularly, especially when you change anything.
Have an online catalog.
More than half of shoppers use online media to pre-shop. Once in the store, people go online to compare prices and check reviews. Even if you don't sell online, having your catalog on your website with good keywords is a marketing effort that may draw others to your store, especially if you undersell the competition.
Use loss leaders and bundles.
Deeply discounting a product to draw people into your store or bundling a popular product with a less popular one and discounting the package provide the lure of a deal, the urgency of limitation and the expectation of exclusivity.
Make an awesome window display.
Most retail marketing experts agree that an enticing window display is the best way to draw in street customers. Highlight your best products, including one big draw (like 50 percent off items or bundles). Reflect your store's unique style. A drab display loses the casual window shopper who might buy on impulse.
Seminars, fashion shows, book signings and other events are one area where online venues can't compete. Some experts suggest monthly events, but not all need to be heavily planned. Also, work to convert events to sales. Your "Spring Into Fitness" seminar would generate more sales if the attendees got a discount that day on athletic wear, for example. You can also include one-day-only sales, limited availability items and online coupons to use in-store.
Create a shopping experience.
With so many products available in abundance from multiple sources, no one really needs to frequent a specific store. Therefore, to attract and keep customers, you need to make them want to visit, linger in and return to your store. A clean store with friendly clerks and extras that make shoppers comfortable or excited to be there is one people will want to frequent.
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Hire product experts.
Hire people who know the products or train them. For example, computer salespeople need to listen to the customers' needs and suggest the best laptop rather than the latest model, clerks should be able to advise on what outfits go best with specific body types, and the best shoe store employees know how to analyze a customer's gait and find the perfect shoe.
Make a relaxed atmosphere.
Bookstores started this to compete against Amazon by providing reading areas and sometimes coffee (free or paid for) to encourage browsers to linger long enough to fall in love with a book.
Even more than friendly staff, workers who recognize and acknowledge repeat customers can encourage more frequent shoppers. Encourage employees to greet familiar faces and, if they remember, reference past visits.
Incorporate the online with the physical.
Walmart and other retailers have started to let people order online, then gather the items for pickup. For example, Rebecca Minkoff fashion stores are fully integrated online, so women can choose outfits online, try them out in the store and, if they aren't ready to purchase, save them in their favorites online to purchase later.
Leverage social media.
Use social media to promote your unique brand. While offering coupons and deals for followers is great, most fans of a retailer's social media page do not want to be sold to. Therefore, show off the experience. Instead of announcing a new product, make an unboxing video or have employees model the latest shipment. Let patrons post photos. Do customer shout-outs or hold contests. Post articles with expert tips related to your types of products or services. The key is to engage rather than push sales.
Use a loyalty program.
Most point-of-sale and credit card processing systems offer loyalty programs. Use these not only to encourage repeat customers with discounts or freebies, but also by collecting their information to contact them on special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries.
Send targeted emails.
Email newsletters are the new junk mail. Get yours read by providing useful, targeted information. Tie emails to your POS or customer relationship management software so you can send campaigns based on shopping habits. For example, you can have separate campaigns for your shoppers who buy Macs and those who prefer PCs. You can also go more individual by programming the software to send someone who bought a printer a six-month reminder to buy printer ink (along with a limited-time in-store coupon).
Brick-and-mortar stores still have value; otherwise, successful online companies would not be expanding into that market. Whether you have a single business or a chain, you can still compete if you remember the basics, use technology to your advantage, and provide a shopping experience that brings your customers back.
Additional reporting by Simone Johnson.