Thanks to the pandemic, retail stores everywhere are living in some unprecedented and difficult times. Fortunately, brands that think outside the box and stay on top of marketing can still thrive.
Although people are paying closer attention to where they spend their money and turning more to necessities, there’s no reason you can’t make your storefront one of the must-haves on their lists.
Even with economic challenges, total U.S. retail sales will grow about 2.3% in 2021 to an estimated $5.6 trillion. With determination and smart marketing choices, there’s no reason you can’t strengthen your business in the next year.
We’ve considered some of the most successful businesses we know, as well as a few that have failed. We’ve sorted through what they did right and what they should have done differently. Here is our list of do’s and don’ts for promoting your brick-and-mortar establishment.
Do: Pay Attention to Return on Investment (ROI)
Those who own a physical store as opposed to an e-commerce one have higher overhead. You have to buy or rent a location, and you’ll have bills such as electricity and water. You may need more employees than a small online store needs, which adds to your costs.
Whenever you look at a marketing campaign, consider how much you’ll spend on advertising. Have similar ones brought enough of an ROI to pay for themselves in the past? How can you track the results and see just how much revenue the campaign brings in?
Stores with an online presence can add a coupon code and ask users to show it to a cashier for a discount or have them use a specific phrase. You need to make each campaign unique so you can track how well different ones perform.
Do: Use Online Methods
Know when to use online versus offline lead generation to drive the right traffic to your retail location. One of the best parts of online marketing is that you can target the exact audience you want, and even narrow it down to people in a particular area.
In addition to your social media strategy, get your customers to sign up for your email list. You can then let them know when you run specials or have a new arrival. The more you can segment your list and send specific offers, the better results you’ll have.
Promoting your storefront doesn’t only happen in the front of your building. There are many different ways of driving traffic, and online methods should never be overlooked. They are very cost-effective and will allow you to expand your reach beyond your immediate neighborhood.
Do: Create Seasonal Sales
Does your town have a UFO Day like Fyffe, Alabama? Perhaps you simply want to recognize a shift in seasons. Creating seasonal sales allows you to push products you may have too much of in inventory.
The goal of any seasonal sale is to move as many of the items you have on hand as possible. This creates cash flow and allows you to replace old stock with new things.
You must know your local customer base, though. Pay careful attention to the types of things that sell. If necessary, sell hard-to-move items online or through Facebook Marketplace or online auction sites.
Move stock that isn’t selling however needed and refine your choices as you see what your local customers want. Don’t rule out e-commerce as part of what you do to get things sitting around too long moving again.
Do: Run Offline Promotions
Getting the word out about your storefront location requires creative use of your advertising abilities. While online marketing can drive leads to your store you may not have reached, so can offline efforts.
Some of your customers won’t hang out online or in the spots you advertise. On the flip side, others won’t see your in-person promotions. For the best results, you have to develop a strategy that includes both online and offline efforts.
We already discussed some online promotions you can do and how you can target a very specific and local audience. Now, let’s look at some top ways of promoting in-person.
- Open a booth at a local craft fair.
- Place flyers in newspaper boxes in neighborhoods surrounding your store.
- Run an ad in the local paper.
- Sponsor a Little League team that hangs a sign thanking you for your support.
- Give a talk.
- Host a free seminar.
- Be a guest on a local radio station.
- Hang a banner outside your store that can be seen by motorists driving past.
Get as creative as possible to get the word out about what you do and any specials you’re running. The goal is to get those most interested to visit your store. Once they are there, you can easily sell to them.
Do: Use Technology
Technology advances rapidly, and it’s easy for small-business owners to overlook the many ways it can help them promote and grow their companies. Save time and become more productive by implementing some of the most cost-effective technologies available.
A few of the ways you can use technology include:
- Put inventory in the cloud, so your workers can see what’s in stock when customers call and ask.
- Create a killer website that invites people to visit your store. Consider adding an e-commerce element to what you already do, but you should also offer a few things that can only be bought by coming into your physical location.
- Automate tasks such as posting to social media by using platforms that curate content and allow you to schedule ahead.
- Communicate with customers and employees with email newsletters and reminders.
Think about your typical tasks completed throughout the day. Anything that saves you time frees up moments to work on other tasks.
Don’t: Spam People
Does anyone on earth enjoy spam? It doesn’t present your store in the best light and is a huge turnoff. Don’t just send a direct message to someone because you see they live in the town where your store is.
By the same token, if people are kind enough to share their contact information with you, don’t constantly sell to them. Send them tips for how to use your products, industry news and fun announcements. If you only ever focus on what they can do for you, you’ll lose them over time.
Instead, send out articles giving them tips that help solve their worst pain points. Tell them about the latest innovation in the industry. Introduce them to one of your top employees. Share a little about your customers and highlight them and why you love them.
Think about what you’d want to see if you were getting an email from a business. It’s OK to also share information about new products and sales, but don’t make that the only focus of your messages.
Don’t: Ignore the Local Community
Some retailers find their online promotions become so successful that they don’t really focus on offline efforts. However, ignoring your local community can backfire over time. They may feel you don’t care if you keep their business.
Be active in your area. Volunteer for a local organization, not just for the free press, but to show you care about others who live and work around you. Donate funds to causes. Put on fun events to keep people entertained and engaged.
It’s fine to promote these things online. However, offline promotions can expand your reach and keep your name at the forefront of customers’ minds.
Don’t: Forget Curb Appeal
Have you ever started to pass a store, and something about it called you inside? Don’t forget about curbside elements that might attract customers.
- Place signs in front advertising specials.
- Create amazing window displays showing your best products.
- Hand out free samples if you sell something that lends itself to it.
- Use floor markers in a mall to direct traffic the right way.
- Add vinyl stickers to your windows to share important messages.
Get input from some other store owners or family and friends about the outside of your store. What can you do to make it more appealing? Does it need more warmth, such as a few plants? Perhaps your store sign needs some work to make it clear what you sell.
Don’t: Forget Convenience
2020 was a challenging year. Many retail stores added curbside pickup and delivery out of necessity. They displayed signs about wearing masks and other measures to keep patrons safe. Even as society moves back to a new normal, some of these conveniences will remain. People love the ease of ordering and picking up.
When you promote your store, showcase the conveniences you offer. Create packages ahead of time they can grab and go. Offer online ordering and then prep the purchase for them. You may get more sales that way.
If you were shopping in your store, what conveniences would help you? Mention those in your promotions.
Pay Attention to Results
Always track how well campaigns function. Pay attention to the efforts that result in new customers or higher sales. Rinse and repeat the successful marketing campaigns.
Don’t keep something just because you’ve always done it that way. If the newspaper ad no longer brings in traffic, try a local magazine instead. Seek to improve your promotions over time and raise your ROI until you find the perfect combination that equals long-term success.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.