Nearly every retailer has a marketing strategy, but they’re not always as effective as we’d like. According to Econsultancy, only 22 percent of businesses were satisfied with their conversion rates in 2016.
Striking a balance between working on your business and working in your business can be tough. When you get dragged into the day-to-day tasks, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture, causing your marketing efforts to suffer.
From advances in technology and e-commerce competition, to shifting consumer purchasing habits and preferences, there’s a lot to contend with in 2017. Check out these five elements many retailers miss when it comes to marketing their business–and what they can do to improve.
1. Clear Branding
Many retailers believe their branding is done once they’ve chosen a color scheme and set a logo. Taking a hands-off approach to branding is a missed opportunity. In addition to your marketing materials and in-store decor, your brand extends to why you exist and your reason for doing business: your core values that cause customers to identify with your company and choose your product over the competition.
As Jeff Bezos famously said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” As such, your branding should answer three fundamental questions–who you are, what you do differently and what your customers can expect.
People buy brands, not products. They need to feel a connection with the companies they support. Millennials, in particular, demand authenticity, so be sure to communicate what your brand stands for, either through humanizing your team on social media, or holding in-store events to educate your customers about what you do.
If you source your products locally or believe in sustainability or equal rights, highlight this through your marketing channels. Some 70 percent of Millennials will pay more for a product that has a positive impact on a cause they identify with. Make it clear through your branding.
2. Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs play a key part in customer retention, and can actively encourage customers back in store. When you consider that existing customers spend an average of 67 percent more than new customers, it’s a good idea to get serious about holding onto yours.
Make sure that your program adds value to your customers’ lives. The smartest retailers are designing loyalty programs that go beyond point accumulation to lifestyle apps. Starbucks, for example, provides their users with an app that lets them place and pay for their order quickly while accruing rewards they can redeem in real-time. Walgreens allows users to refill prescriptions and monitor orders.
These brands understand that in a time-pressed society, convenience drives loyalty more than price. Think of ways you can make your customers’ lives easier through your program, rather than merely implementing a points accumulation scheme.
3. A Plan For Customer Service
Customer service is about much more than answering phones or troubleshooting problems. It’s the number one method for retailers to communicate with their customers and hear what they have to say. Genuine interaction with your customers can lead to the best marketing campaigns you’ve ever deployed.
So take the time to reach out to customers and ask where you can improve your service or how to make their experience at your store even better. Run a survey, send an email, or interact on your Facebook or Twitter account. You’ll be surprised how many suggestions you receive.
Retailers often overlook payment processes as an important component of customer service. (I’ve written before about the tie between payments and customer loyalty.)
“A superior POS system can improve guest experience and ultimately increase sales,” says Toan Dinh, CMO of TouchBistro, a restaurant POS system that touts the ability to support up-selling and customer loyalty. “From the ability to send orders wirelessly to splitting bills within seconds, advanced payment systems can help merchants improve service while enabling staff with better tools to do their job.”
4. A Credible Internet Presence
A solid internet presence is vital for retailers that want to encourage people to come in-store for products off the shelf. With a cell phone in 92 percent of the pockets in America, you simply can’t afford to keep your storefront offline.
81 percent of customers conduct online research before purchasing – if you don’t show up in their search results, you can bet your competition will. Be sure to get listed on local business directories like Google and Angie’s List. Encourage customers to leave reviews, as peer reviews are becoming essential in swaying a purchasing decision. Interact with your customers on social and be sure that your online efforts focus on driving more foot traffic to your store by capitalizing on timely opportunities.
Hold competitions and scavenger hunts that start online and finish up in store. Promote in-store events and special deal days, and be sure to communicate your values online by updating customers about worthy causes you support and how.
Far too often, businesses lose touch with what makes them unique as they grow. Remember to stay focused on why you’re in business and what motivates you to be better, rather than the nuts and bolts of the products you make. If you haven’t heard it already, check out Simon Sinek’s TED talk about this very subject, and how companies like Apple and Nike are able to remain creative.
The challenge resides in honing that creativity effectively in your marketing strategy. Ask yourself whether the creative idea you love will be received in the same by your customers and how you can incorporate it in your everyday marketing efforts, such as email campaigns and social media. Whatever you can do to set yourself apart will leave a lasting impression on your customers.
Don’t just blindly “market” to your customers without considering context first. Be clear about your branding and values, have a plan for customer service and consider your loyalty program carefully. Get online and get creative, and make sure you’re consistent. Marketing is an ongoing effort. Just as people grow and change, your strategy for marketing should too.