Unless you’ve been doing business under a rock these past few years, you’re likely aware that the holidays are fast approaching. Kids are on their best behavior to make sure they land on Santa’s “Nice” list, film lovers are gearing up for their Christmas movie marathons, and, most important, consumers are starting to loosen up their purse strings.
At this point of the year, it’s not so much a question of if consumers will spend money, it’s a matter of where they’ll shop and what they’ll spend their money on.
One of the most effective ways to be at the receiving end of people’s holiday shopping dollars is to maintain top of mind awareness with your customers. The goal is to make sure they’re aware that you can offer the products they want and need, so when the time comes that they’re ready to make the purchase (which is bound to happen in succeeding months), you’ll be the merchant they turn to.
How do you achieve this? Here are 6 ways:
Touching base with customers to send offers, reminders, and updates is essential to staying top of mind, but you can’t do any of that (at least, not effectively) without the right data. You’ll need gather intel on your customers so you’ll know exactly how, and when to approach them. Doing so will help ensure your messages are well-received.
Tap into the following data sources to get a better understanding of your customers:
Historical – What did customers buy last year? What types of promos did they love? Determine what worked during previous holiday seasons and incorporate those elements this year.
Behavioral – Pay attention to the products that your customers previously bought or looked at. If you have an online store, this can easily be done through you ecommerce and analytics software. If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store, you can dig into behavioral data through your POS, CRM, or in-store analytics programs.
Your Customers Themselves – Don’t just passively gather information, be sure to talk to customers to figure out what they like. Strike up conversations with willing shoppers to learn more about what they’re looking for. Online, you can do this by conversing with people on social media and via live chat.
Implementing both passive and active forms of data-gathering will enable you to get a more well-rounded understanding of your shoppers, and in turn help you give them better offers and spot-on recommendations.
Personalize your emails
Gathered enough intel? Great. Plug the information into your email marketing software and start creating campaigns. Email can do wonders for top of mind awareness. It gives retailers a quick and convenient way to reach shoppers, and plenty of consumers rely on this medium to receive deals and updates from stores.
Of course, this entails that tons of other companies are also using email to keep in touch with customers, so standing out in a user’s inbox can prove to be challenging.
To help your messages rise above the clutter, only send emails that are relevant, engaging, and timely. Start by segmenting your subscribers according to specific parameters (i.e. demographics, location, purchase history, or all of the above) then compose relevant messages for each group.
Next, decide when and how often to send your messages. This is a tricky balance. You want to send enough messages to ensure that people know you’re there, but you don’t want to overdo it and be in their face at every turn.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to email scheduling and frequency, so the best thing to do is test your campaigns and take note of their performance. Send out your messages then optimize them based on open rates, clicks, and conversion.
Use social media (particularly image-centric social sites)
Don’t neglect your social media accounts. It should go without saying that posting regular updates on social sites is essential to maintaining top of mind awareness.
But one additional tip to keep in mind–especially if you’re selling merchandise–is to devote a considerable amount of effort on image-centric sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Why? Because these sites not only allow you to showcase your products, they can also generate intent. They remind and give people ideas of things they would want to buy in the near future. And when their intent turns into action, there’s a good chance that they’ll choose to buy from your store if they already know that you carry those items.
So invest in these image-heavy communities. Grow your follower count, engage with users, and share irresistible product images. On Pinterest, create boards for gift ideas or holiday cheer, like what Lowe’s did with its Gifts for Her and Gifts for Him boards.
Using Instagram? Look into Like2Buy, a platform that makes your Instagram feed more “shoppable”. With the service, you can create a Like2Buy site that behaves just like your Instagram page. When users click on an image, they’ll be taken to that item’s product page so they can learn more or proceed to checkout. The platform also has a My Likes tab that compiles the “likes” of each user so they can easily find them when they’re ready to buy.
Offer convenient services
Click-and-collect, endless aisles, in-store pickups and other convenient services can make or break people’s purchase decisions especially during the hectic holiday season. Consider offering such services in your store and be sure to broadcast them to your customers, so they’ll have more reasons to think of you when they’re deciding where to shop.
Need ideas on implementing these services? Look to retail role models such as Nordstrom and Target, which offer free in-store pickups and returns for online orders. You can also check out what Bonobos is doing. Formerly an online pure-play, Bonobos now has physical Guideshops where people can try on clothes and experience one-on-one service (while drinking beer). Once they’ve decided on what to buy, the store ships the merchandise to their doorstep.
Educate and provide value
It’s not enough to just show up when you have deals and offers; it’s highly important that you stay in your customers’ radar by regularly providing educational and engaging content. Publish insightful blog posts, informative ebooks and guides, or find your own unique way to provide value.
Take for instance, The Chef Shelf. This online speciality food retailer publishes blog posts and videos to engage and educate users. It even has a series called Tanner’s 15 Second Show where company founder and CEO Tanner Agar demonstrates a quick how-to recipe that viewers can try at home.
“Content is a large part of our online strategy to engage customers,” mentions Agar. “Our 15 second cooking show on Instagram is well liked by our customers and helps keep our brand top of mind.”
Get involved in the community
Grab opportunities to get involved in your community. Keep an eye out for speaking gigs, sponsorships, or charitable causes you can take part in. This not only helps spread goodwill and reinvigorates the people around you, it’s also good for business. A 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 87 percent of global consumers factor in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into their purchase decisions.
Getting involved also increases top of mind awareness. When people see you regularly participating in events, charities, and other functions, they’ll be more likely to remember you when it’s time to buy.
Here are a few ideas of what you can do in your community:
Participate in Small Business Saturday – Not too keen on taking part in Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Go for Small Business Saturday instead. Taking place on November 29, this event celebrates small businesses and encourages consumer to “shop small.” It’s a great initiative and it gives you plenty of opportunities to gain visibility and sales. (Consumers reportedly spent $5.7 billion with independent merchants last year).
If you’re ready to take part, head to official website of Small Business Saturday where you can learn more about the initiative and even download free marketing materials.
Sponsor a local sports league – One of your local sports teams could likely use your help. Consider sponsoring their games or offering funds for uniforms, courts, etc. You’ll not only make several athletes and sports fans happy, you’ll gain exposure and increase top of mind awareness in the process.
Check out what Powers Chiropractic, P.C. did for the Omaha Rollergirls, an all-female flat roller derby league in Omaha. Powers became a game day sponsor for the Rollergirls, and this gave him a chance to put himself in front of the team and their fans (who are likely very active and could use a chiropractor). In addition, the team was also extremely grateful and gave him shout-outs on social media and on their website.
Sponsor and participate in a local charity event – Find a local charity and see if you can sponsor any of their events. Similar to sponsoring a local sports team, doing so will increase visibility, exposure, and top of mind awareness.
Donate your products and services – Seek out an organization that could use your products or services and offer to help. For example, if you own a pet supplies store, consider lending a helping hand to the local shelter or animal hospital. Does your store cater to women? See if you can support a local women’s advocacy group.
How are you maintaining top of mind awareness with your customers? Share your tips in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.