It’s no secret that retail can be tough, and that to win it helps to be pretty awesome. At Vend we work hard to try to make what you do as retailers easier.
In that spirit, here’s five strategies with examples from five of the best that can help you do better.
1. Segment your customers
Unless you’re running a poncho store, as a retailer you will know well that one size does not fit all.
You can’t engage all your customers with a single message or campaign, so do away with those impersonal mass email blasts or general coupons that you send to everyone. Instead, place your customers into specific groups, and tailor your messages or offers to each segment.
Some of the most popular types of customer segmentation include:
Geography – Determine where your customers are and send them messages accordingly. The last thing you want to be is the rock-star that says Good Evening New York when playing New Hampshire.
Referral Sites – If you’re doing online advertising and marketing, look into where your customers are coming from. How did they find your website (i.e. web search or ad clicks)? The insights that you get from referral information can help you tailor your landing pages and offers.
Ecommerce vs. Brick and Mortar – Send them offers relevant to where they like to shop.
Customer Activity – Look at how your customers interact with your brand. Who are your active patrons? Who are the ones who haven’t dropped by in while? Connect with your customers based on how engaged they are. For example, if you want to reconnect with your inactive subscribers, why not send them a “We miss you” message with the offer of a free flower in-store?
Interests – You can determine your customers’ interests by looking at their past purchases. A bookstore, for instance, can tailor their marketing messages based on the books that its customers bought in the past. Those who purchased Sci-Fi novels would receive a different message from those who bought Young Adult or Mystery novels.
Case in point: Target
Target does a great job in segmenting customers based on interests and past behaviour. The retail chain mines user data and uses that information to send relevant coupons and offers. For instance, if a shopper frequently buys items from a specific brand, there’s a good chance that they will receive coupons for that particular brand in the mail.
Target has done such a great job mining customer data that at one point, it even managed to figure out that a girl was pregnant before her father did. We don’t exactly recommend that, but hey, we admire how well they know their customer.
What customer segments can you find in your business? Group your customers and market to each segment differently.
2. Build relationships
Get to know your customers. Instead of running focus groups or surveys, why not try asking them when they come in-store what led them there? Ask them what else they might be looking for? Do your market research on your market.
Simple and effective whether it’s face-to-face, via email, or social media. Ask them questions, respond to their tweets, and get decision makers to take their calls and answer their emails.
Establishing real relationships with your patrons gives you deeper insights on what they’re like, so you can serve them better. In addition, being more connected with your customers builds loyalty, which in turn encourages repeat purchases and word-of-mouth.
It’s not rocket surgery, but it is the kind of thing that can always be improved on!
Case in point: Secret
The deodorant company builds great relationships with customers through personal responses via email and social media.
Secret has been known not just to respond to comments on its page, but to actively reach out to interesting customers via direct message or email as well. The company even sends out free goodies complete with personalized notes to the most engaged members of its community.
Are you effectively building relationships with your customers? Think of more ways you can personally connect with them.
3. Offer a seamless web-to-store shopping experience
If you have a “bricks and clicks” type of business—that is, if you have a brick and mortar location as well as an ecommerce store—you’re in the position to offer a best of both worlds shopping experience. You can offer shoppers the convenience of researching a product and making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, yet still give people the chance to touch and test a product in person.
Do strive to create a seamless shopping experience for both stores. Be consistent with your branding messages and more importantly, make it as convenient as possible for your customers to shop online and in person. You have to remember that your customers do not think of these as different stores, so you must not either.
Consumers value convenience. They value it so much that it is often a deciding factor when it comes to choosing where to shop. Enable in-store pick-up or returns for online purchases, or allow them to use online coupon codes when they’re shopping at your physical location and vice versa.
Case in point: Nordstrom
Take a leaf out of Nordstrom’s book. The retailer has a wide ecommerce site and hundreds of physical locations, but it still manages to unify all that and create a smooth shopping experience by allowing shoppers to pick up and return merchandise at Nordstrom locations close to them. If a shopper isn’t satisfied with their purchase, they can return the merchandise either by dropping it off at a nearby branch or shipping it back to the company for free.
Nordstrom even lets people shop by region right from its website. This way, shoppers know which items are in stock at a local Nordstrom branch without having to go there in person.
Do you provide a smooth web to store (and vice versa) shopping experience? How you can make shopping more convenient for your customers?
4. Differentiate your business
The key to effective marketing—especially in a sea of similar products and “me too” companies—is determining your company’s own unique flavour. You might even like to find your own Vend Awesome Sauce.
Determine what makes your company unique by recognising your quirks and by going back to your core values. Also make a list of your competitors and go through each one to identify the things that only YOU can offer as well as the feelings or emotions that only your brand can evoke.
Once you’ve identified the key factors or even the little quirks that make your business unique, use them to position yourself in the market—then own that position. Whether you’re crafting an ad campaign or designing a new product, always go back to your differentiating factors and ensure that your business decisions are in line with them.
Also see to it that your values and differentiating factors are instilled in your employees. One way to look at it is to orient your staff to become “likeable experts” rather than sales people. As likeable experts, your employees should be trained not to sell, but to guide customers, solve their problems, and help them make the right decision. By doing so, your customers will learn to trust your employees (and in turn your brand) and see your company as more than just a commodity source.
Case in point: Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s, a popular US grocery chain, differentiates itself from other supermarkets by promoting interesting products free from artificial flavors, MSG, and added Trans Fats. Trader Joe’s dubs itself a trader “on the culinary seas, searching the world over for cool items to bring home.” For this reason, the brand has a beach-esque or island-ish feel to it.
Its stores are decked with cedar planks and the staff wears Hawaiian shirts to re-affirm the brand’s unique flavor. Speaking of staff, Trader Joe’s employees are all likeable, warm and approachable. The cashiers always make conversation and the staff members on the floor are happy to point people in the right direction.
As a result, the Trader Joe’s brand has built a loyal following composed of people who are interested in finding unique products and are more conscious about purchasing fresh or natural items.
What makes your company different? How are you promoting your company’s own unique flavor?
5. Network and Be a Thought Leader
Consumers prefer to buy from companies that they perceive as trustworthy and credible. These days though, conveying authority and credibility isn’t as simple as displaying a bunch of certification logos or awards in your store (though they do help). In this day and age, you need to go beyond that, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Demonstrate how knowledgeable you are by publishing reports or writing guest posts on reputable websites. Get yourself some speaking engagements or networking opportunities at events or conferences. If there aren’t networking opportunities where you are, start some! The Creative Mornings concept is a great one to roll out in your area. http://creativemornings.com/
It also helps to have a solid blog. Regularly publish actionable and informative blog posts to help and educate your audience. Build authority and strengthen your presence in the blogospshere by connecting with other bloggers in your market.
Case in point: Google
Not only will you find Google keynote speakers at the largest tech conferences in the industry, but the company also hosts its own events, such as the annual Google I/O conference for developers. In addition, the search giant even has its own research hub, Think Insights, which is home to numerous research articles, infographics, and case studies about search, advertising, and marketing.
Google also has product blogs where it publishes updates and tips on how to make the most out of its tools. Additionally, top Googlers such as Matt Cutts and Vic Gundotra can also be seen dishing out advice and commentaries on their blogs.
Despite being a leader in search and SEM, Google never lets it guard down and continues to engage in networking and thought leadership activities through its numerous events, publications, and research initiatives.
Can you identify any events that you can participate in? What about websites that you can contribute to? Reach out to them and promote thought leadership and networking in your business.
Overall: Do Awesome stuff.
These are some tips to think on. But if there is just one idea we can leave you with it’s this: visit lots of retail stores and always keep an eye out for every good experience you have. And then adopt/borrow/lift/homage the heck out of them for your own store. If you enjoyed it then so will your customers!