Whether you’re just setting up shop or been running your store for decades, acquiring new customers and keeping the ones you already have are paramount. The good news is that there are more than enough ways to market your business.
In this post, we’ll shed light on the ins and outs of retail marketing and offer insights into the various strategies you can use in your business.
What is retail marketing?
Retail marketing pertains to the strategies and tactics that retailers use to attract customers and drive sales. Retail marketing has 4 key components, also knows as the “4 Ps”: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
- Product. First is the Product, which is the physical item that’s being sold.
- Price. The second is Price, which refers to the pricing strategy that the merchant uses to sell the item. (Examples include “everyday low prices,” implementing pricing psychology like using “$9.99” etc.)
- Place. Third is “Place” which refers to the location or platform used to sell products.
- Promotion. Finally, there’s Promotion, which is what the retailer does to get the word out and entice sales.
1. Be where your customers are
Effective retail marketing isn’t just about the specific campaigns that you run; the channels and platforms on which you run your initiatives matter a great deal. Even the most brilliant marketing tactics won’t be effective if you don’t meet your customers where they’re are.
So before ideating on your next slogan or initiative, take some time to analyze where your customers are and where they’re coming from.
Here are some areas that you can look into:
The channels that are driving traffic to your brick and mortar store
Identify the channels, tactics, and activities that are bringing visitors to your retail stores. Some common ones may include:
- Retail displays and in-store initiatives – Are people coming into your store because of the vibrant windows? Are they attracted to the large signs or beautiful products you have on display? If these in-store efforts are driving results, then you know that it’s worth doubling down on them.
- Online listings – People are increasingly turning to tools like Google and Yelp to find and discover businesses in their neighborhoods. If this is the case for your retail biz, then be sure to make them a big part of your retail marketing strategy.
- Digital marketing – From Facebook ads and Instagram posts to AdWords and a strong ecommerce presence, the things you do online may also drive in-store traffic. See to it that you’re measuring your efforts on the digital marketing front.
- Word of mouth – Are your customers talking up your business? If word of mouth is a big traffic driver for you, be sure to incorporate it into your retail marketing.
The devices that your customers are using when browsing your site
If you have an online store, be aware of the devices that people are using when browsing your site. Are most of your visitors using a computer or are they increasingly on their mobile devices? What’s the device split that you’re seeing on your site?
The insights you gather will help inform your design and marketing efforts.
The performance of your brand across various networks and platforms
Compare your brand presence and performance across different platforms. If you have multiple social media accounts, for example, it’s worth measuring and comparing your fanbase and engagement on different sites or apps, so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.
For instance, are you getting more engagement on one social network over another? Are people clicking on certain ads and not paying attention to others? Determine the reasons behind these things, then use those insights to steer your retail marketing strategy.
2. Use with the store assets you already have
Before looking at fancy retail marketing tactics, start by leveraging the assets you already have. If your store is up and running, you likely have a lot of resources that you can use in your marketing efforts.
These assets include:
Your merchandise and fixtures
The best way to attract and convert customers is to wow them with your amazing merch. See to it that you’re always stocking the right products. Then once you have the right merchandise, come up with creative displays and arrangements to make them pop.
Not sure how to do that? Start by identifying your “Lake Front Property.” This is the area of your store that generates the most revenue.
According to Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender, “Displays in this area should house new, hot and high margin product, not every day, basic items that are best housed toward the rear of the store. And since 90 percent of customers enter a store and look or turn to the right, the Lake Front Property needs to be merchandised with particular care.”
Your window and curbside
Your window and curbside offer tons of opportunities to attract new customers, so get the most out of them. Let’s start with your windows…
Window displays – Keep changing things up and try to update your displays at least once a month. For busy shopping seasons like the holidays, you want to do it every couple of weeks or even every week if possible.
Every retail store is different, so certain design tips may work better for others. The “best” design or look depends on your customers, so zero in on who you’re targeting and craft your displays specifically for them.
Also, consider telling stories with your displays. You can do this by selecting a theme, and finding stories in line with it.
Check out what Anthropologie is doing. The apparel retailer changes the window displays of its stores depending on certain seasons or events. What makes their window displays great, though, is that Anthropologie always finds a unique angle or story within its chosen season theme.
For instance, for Earth Day 2013, the retailer decided to “pay homage to the gifts of gardening with a variety of handcrafted fruits and veggies, and containers made from recycled cans, tires, bottles and more.”
Curbside – Don’t neglect your curbside. In addition to keeping this space clean and tidy, consider adding “curbside extras”. For example, why not set up a sandwich board outside your shop with some eye-grabbing text or art? Doing so can make passers-by stop and pay attention.
Check out this great example from Covet Shoppe & Jewelry Bar in San Francisco
Did you know that Starbucks spends more money on employee health benefits than coffee beans? And according to AOL, the company also “offers extensive benefits packages that are customized for each employee, called “Your Special Blend.” Options include things like bonuses, 401 (k) matching plans, health/medical/dental plans, and even adoption assistance.”
Starbucks recognizes that happy and healthy employees perform better and are generally more pleasant. Walk into any Starbucks store and you’ll likely find enthusiastic baristas who chat up customers and recognize their regulars. Starbucks’ employees provide a great in-store experience that keeps people coming back.
Here’s our point: employees could be your best marketers. It’s important to keep them engaged and motivated. Accomplishing that starts with hiring the right people and treating them well. Offer competitive compensation, provide ample training, and strive to be a great place to work.
These steps will lead to happier employees and higher levels of performance, which in turn lead to better retail experiences and more satisfied customers.
3. Leverage social media
When it comes to retail and social media, there are three platforms you should seriously consider: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. These are the most consumer-centric networks, making them ideal for merchants. Pinterest has the added edge of being a platform people specifically go to conduct research before they purchase something.
So let’s break it down:
Facebook tips for retailers
Here’s the reality: if you’re a brand who wants to get more visibility on Facebook, you need to pay for it. The social network has been decreasing brands’ organic reach for some time now, but in 2018, we can expect business’ organic presence to decline even more.
Mark Zuckerberg himself said that they will be rolling out changes to the News Feed to prioritize content from friends, family, and groups, so business pages will have to fight even harder to get exposure.
Here’s what you can do to compete:
Start a Facebook Group – Facebook lets you create Groups for your business or brand. Think of Facebook Groups as clubs or communities where your most engaged customers and fans can congregate.
While you can talk about your products and business, the primary purpose of having a Facebook Group is to allow your customers to connect with each other. It’s not a place to shamelessly promote your business.
One example of a company that’s leveraging Facebook Groups is Peloton, an indoor cycling brand. The company established the Official Peloton Rider Page, which is “intended to be a community board for Peloton members to share their experiences on the Peloton bike and iOS app.”
The Group is very active, and people use it to share their workouts, ask questions, dish out tips, and more.
See if you can do something similar for your Facebook presence. If you sell something that’s centered around a particular lifestyle or interests (e.g. fitness, food, crafts), then consider creating a Facebook Group for your patrons and potential customers.
Run Facebook ads – If Groups aren’t your cup of tea, or if you want even more brand visibility on Facebook, then you’ll need to run Facebook ads to reach your target audience.
The good news is, Facebook has a variety of ad products with robust targeting capabilities that let you zero in on your specific audience.
The best thing to do is test different advertising solutions, then keep track of your metrics (e.g. clicks, engagement, sales, etc.) Take note of the numbers, then use those insights to determine your ROI. This will help you figure which ad types are right for you and how much to budget for Facebook advertising.
Using Instagram to market your store
With over 800 million monthly active users (over half of which are active daily), it’s obvious that Instagram is a go-to social network for today’s shoppers. Here are some best practices to consider:
Curate your visual content exquisitely – Your Instagram posts should be anything but random. You need to create a clear brand aesthetic so when people visit your profile, they get a quick idea of who your brand is.
Check out Clad and Cloth’s profile. You can see instantly from their collection of photos that their brand produces casual clothing items and likes a clean neutral palette with pops of color.
So, if you haven’t done so yet, spend time thinking about your brand aesthetic. Ask yourself, what kind of first impression do you want people to have about your brand? Find the answer then figure out how to make it come to life on your Instagram page.
Make liberal use of Instagram Stories – Instagram Stories allow you to be more informal with your aesthetic, as people expect Stories to be more spontaneous and less curated. You can use them to give people behind-the-scenes glimpses at your store or showcase new products.
A secondary feature of Instagram Stories is that you can create a few permanent ones to display on your profile, highlighting things you really want your potential customers to see. Check out what Peridot Decorative Homeware is doing. The retailer uses these permanent Story spots to make it easy for people to view interior designs, shop for items, and more. They even created custom Story cover images to make them look more attractive!
Hashtag it up – Research which hashtags are relevant to your brand and use them to help your photos surface in front of people you’d like to become customers. Pro tip: rather than putting the hashtags right into the caption, post your picture without hashtags and immediately comment them. It looks cleaner than putting hashtags in the caption.
Pinterest for retailers
Now let’s move on to Pinterest best practices:
Remember that curation is key – Like your Instagram profile, make sure that your Pinterest boards are carefully curated. You should create boards that make it simple for potential customers to navigate to things they’re interested in.
J.Crew, as you can see, has boards that make it easy for you to look at their jeans, their prints, or their stripes.
Don’t just pin your own things – Get social and pin things on your boards from others. (But make sure it fits your aesthetic.)
Be aware that the Pinterest algorithm doesn’t necessarily surface your content quickly – It can often take up to 6 months for your content to really start appearing in people’s feeds.
This means that, while you should be pinning your products, pages that will do best for you organically are likely to be links to your blog posts. You can write blog posts specifically for Pinterest, such as gifting guides that help get your brand lift and will then direct your customers on to your correct pages all year round. As for products, they’ll do great on Pinterest in ad form.
4. Consider SMS marketing
SMS marketing has been making waves, and for good reason: people love their phones. Research shows that US consumers check their phones 52 times a day and that text messages have a higher open rate (98%) compared to email (25%).
That’s why if you haven’t dipped your toes into SMS retail marketing, it may be time to do so. Start collecting your customers’ mobile numbers and send — with their permissions — relevant marketing communications.
One retailer that’s seen amazing results with SMS marketing is Tulsa Vapor Store.
To mark the end of the year and celebrate 2020, Tulsa Vapor Store sent an SMS campaign that delivered to 2,726 of their customers. By offering those customers a deal on selected stock, they saw $3,431.75 in sales from just that single SMS campaign.
And that’s not their only successful SMS campaign either – Tusla Vapor Store has launched a number of other SMS campaigns, and their efforts have lead to just over $26,700 USD in revenue and a total ROI of 29.7x.
5. Market your business through key partnerships
Partnering with a local business or charity is a wonderful way to get your brand’s name out to people who can come and shop in person, not just online. There are a few ways to do this:
Partner with the stores in the same location as you – If you’re in a strip mall or downtown area, you can ask the stores around you to offer your coupons to their customers (in return for you doing the same). The upside here is that you’ll be directly reaching people who are perfectly positioned to just pop by. The downside is that your neighbors’ clientele may not be your clientele.
Partner with stores in the general area whose clientele are your clientele – If you have stores in the nearby area that service the same clientele as you, you can also ask them to offer your coupons. Alternately, if you worry that no one will be motivated to drive to you based on coupons, you can always take your business to your partner and set up a pop-up shop for a day.
Partner with a local charity to put on an event – Customers these days are much more socially conscious and like to shop with brands who care. Partnering with a local charity offers you the chance to hit two birds with one stone: get your name out to a new set of people and show your customers you care about making a difference at the same time. Choose a charity whose values align with your own and set up an event!
6. Beef up your email marketing
Email marketing is still the most effective marketing channel, with a 4400% ROI. Taking advantage of email to acquire new customers just requires a little savvy-ness.
Segment your non-customers – The best way to use email marketing for getting new customers is to segment your subscribers who haven’t purchased yet into their own list. (For even more effective and personalized emails, you should further segment this list by other relevant pieces of information.)
You can then send people who haven’t purchased yet targeted campaigns with first-time buy offers or giveaways.
Showcase your story and values while you’re at it – Another great campaign idea is to send an email detailing your brand story. It’ll get people engaged with your brand and excited about your values.
The Farmer’s Dog is killing it on this front. Check out this gorgeous email I received after not purchasing. Their story is touching and the 20% off coupon is a solid CTA to end on. (And fun fact: their marketing automation software also served me a personalized 20% off CTA when I went to the website independently about 20 minutes later. Genius.)
Provide value (period) – Email promotions aren’t the only way to acquire new customers.
You also have to think about the long game of email + content marketing, in which you send valuable content without any hard sells or strings attached. This builds trust and positions your brand as an authority, so when people are ready to buy, they’ll think of you.
Check out what The Dollar Shave Club (DSC) is doing. While DSC sends promotional emails now and then, they also have DSC “Original Content” emails that contain informative (and entertaining) articles on grooming, health, style, work, and more.
These content pieces are non-salesy and they’re refreshing to read, especially when every other company out there keeps sending “SALE” or “BUY NOW!!” emails.
The bottom line? Your email marketing strategy should have a mix of promotional and valuable content. Find the balance that works for your subscribers and go from there.
7. Run a win-back marketing campaign
Marketing to new shoppers is great, but what about your existing customers? I’m specifically referring to those who haven’t shopped with you in a while. Identify inactive shoppers and win them back with a marketing campaign showing them what they’re missing.
A good example of this in action comes from Our Bralette Club (OBC), a lingerie retailer based out of Singapore. OBC uses Marsello to automatically run “win-back” campaigns.
Using Marsello, OBC automatically identifies customers who haven’t shopped with the brand in a while, and sends them a series of messages encouraging them to come back — complete with a 15% coupon. These messages have generated amazing results. OBC earned $4,000+ in revenue in just 4 months thanks to this automated email flow.
Boost your retail marketing efforts with automation. Using a solution like Marsello, you can automate various customer outreach campaigns so you can spend less time doing tedious tasks like customer segmentation and data entry, and devote more energy ideating and strategizing for your business.Learn More
8. Consider influencer marketing
These days, a nod or endorsement from an influencer carries more weight than traditional advertising. Why? Because people are more inclined to act on the recommendations of sources they know, like, and trust.
This is why it pays to have an influencer strategy. Getting key individuals to recommend or talk about your brand can drive awareness, traffic, and ultimately, sales.
The basis of influencer marketing is that your brand partners with a third party content creator who then pushes your products on their platform(s).
One brand, Morphe, used influencer marketing to become in less than a decade one of the most powerful names in the beauty industry. Morphe was founded in 2008 with the very intention of using beauty influencers, particularly those on Youtube, as their primary way to generate sales. They have given many, many beauty influencers affiliate codes, but Morphe really refined the art of marketing by working very strategically with a certain few top influencers, whom they pay extra.
They also collaborated with these influencers to create customized beauty items, like eyeshadow palettes, which the influencers then encouraged their huge followings to purchase.
This strategy paid off in a big way when Morphe’s top influencer, Jaclyn Hill, delivered Morphe 1 million sales of her palette in 6 months last year. At $38/palette, that’s pretty life-changing for a brand.
The best part about this story for your store? You can totally replicate their success! Morphe was an almost unknown brand when they first partnered with Hill, who was also relatively unknown at the time. Morphe prudently chose to invest in her early on and their partnership ultimately allowed both parties to flourish. If you’re looking to use affiliate marketing, follow Morphe’s footsteps and get strategic about who you’re investing in.
Want to learn more about influencer marketing? Here’s a detailed post on using influencers to drive word of mouth and sales.
9. Start a referral campaign
Capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing with a referral campaign. While there are many variations on referral campaigns, the core idea is that you provide some sort of incentive for your happy customers to share the word about you to their friends.
Stitch Fix, a fashion box company, has referral marketing down to an art. Their referral campaign is such a permanent part of their strategy that it actually has its own page on their website.
Each customer is provided with a unique link to Stitch Fix’s home page. The customers can then share this link with their friends and social network. When someone purchases a box using that link, the original customer is given a $25 credit towards their next box. (And the new customer is enticed to make a purchase with their own $25 credit.)
For stores looking to replicate Stitch Fix’s success, consider testing out referral marketing with an initial campaign. Choose your incentive, set up goals and get cracking. (For a great step-by-step guide on how to run your first referral marketing campaign, check this article out.)
Acquiring new customers can be daunting for a SMBs, but these strategies have worked wonders for many retailers. By testing different things out and analyzing your results, you’ll be able to figure out what works well for your brand.
And take note that these retail marketing tactics are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more ways to acquire new customers. You could try promotions, mobile marketing, or events, among other things. They key is to try different things, figure out what works, then go from there.
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+.