Retail marketing. It’s a necessary evil. In the grand scheme of running a business, it’s definitely several pegs below having to file your taxes – but it can still be a thorn in your side, especially if you’re already time-poor or overstretched.
With the myriad other tasks on your slate, marketing can sometimes seem like money better spent elsewhere – but that’s a big oversight.
Consumers are willing to spend their money in your store; they just have to know you exist and sell what they’re looking for.
Retail marketing definition: what is retail marketing?
Retail marketing is anything you do as a retailer to promote awareness and drive sales to your company’s products.
Retail marketing strategy
If you’re a local retailer who has been in business for a significant amount of time, it’s very tempting to presume that the community knows who you are. You’ve been around forever – why wouldn’t they?
It’s also potentially a crucial mistake for your business.
Companies like Caswell-Massey are exceptions. A New York-based perfume and soap store that dates back to 1752 and includes George Washington as a former customer, its history is only one reason why the store is still alive and well today.
It also moved with the times, with a beautiful website and strong brand to complement its long history.
Marketing strategy 101
Your marketing strategy is your number one tool for drawing customers in, and it will impact how you run your entire business.
Your marketing strategy will include:
- A description of what your business does and why it is unique. What’s your business’ key selling point? Why should customers come to you and not a similar store a couple of blocks away?
- The positioning of your store and products. Where does it fit into the market?
- Information on your buyer personas. Who are your customers? What is their basic demographic information (age, gender, interests)? How will you reach them with your marketing?
- The marketing tactics/channels you’re going to use. What mix of traditional, online, and local marketing are you going to use to reach the audience?
- How you’ll measure if it works and the budget you have.
Positioning your product
How you position your store will be super-important to your retail marketing strategy. Essentially, this is how you’ll showcase the benefits of your store or products.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider doing market research or holding a focus group to figure out your store’s benefits and what’s unique about it.
If you’re worried about how much all of this will potentially cost, you can take a step back and start on a smaller scale. Ask your current customers or anyone who comes into your store. Print a short survey and offer customers $5 off their purchase to fill it in. The more information you have, the more accurate you can be.
Once you’ve gathered your data, you should be able to put together a short, powerful positioning statement.
Nike’s positioning statement ticks all the boxes:
For athletes in need of high-quality, fashionable athletic wear, Nike provides customers with top-performing sports apparel and shoes made of the highest quality materials. Its products are the most advanced in the athletic apparel industry because of Nike’s commitment to innovation and investment in the latest technologies.
Why does it work?
1. It tells you who Nike’s customers are and what they want.
2. It tells you what Nike is selling.
3. It gives their unique selling point.
Retail marketing tactics
The marketing tactics that work for one store won’t necessarily work for another, so it isn’t a case of copying what a store you like does. Why? Well: 1. You can’t see behind the curtain and 2. You have no idea what their budget is or how they’re targeting their marketing.
Instead, it comes back around to knowing your positioning and your target market.
Take two clothing stores for example. One is targeting trendy young people, while the other wants to reach older professional men in need of a sharp suit.
Store A, targeting teenagers, might invest heavily in marketing on Instagram where a lot of their market is. Store B, targeting professional men, might place an ad in a relevant national newspaper or digital ads on a site like Forbes.
Both will still need to tick all the obvious boxes of having signage, merchandising, attractive window displays (the styles will be very different!), and email marketing.
Store A might also run events – for example, hosting a party in-store with a popular DJ and promotional offers on all stock, while Store B might host a get-together in a popular brewery for professionals to network together.
It’s all about the positioning and using the tactics that make sense to reach your audience.
Generally, your retail marketing tactics will fall into several types, which we’ll look at in brief below:
- Online retail marketing.
- Traditional retail marketing.
- Local retail marketing.
Online retail marketing/Digital marketing for small businesses
Online marketing (also called digital marketing) is super-important for most businesses, but it can be particularly difficult for independent retailers who don’t necessarily have the know-how or budget.
Online marketing isn’t for every retailer and that’s okay. If you’re particularly small or only have a small potential audience, spending lots of money on online advertising and marketing tactics probably isn’t worth it for your store.
However, if you know your audience is on particular channels (for example, with the clothing store we mentioned earlier, Instagram is an obvious place for them to make sales by targeting young people) or if you have a large product inventory, online marketing makes a lot of sense for your store.
We’re going to look at the four most important digital marketing tactics for retailers in brief below.
1. Retail marketing: Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps your store get found online (and rank higher in search results).
SEO can be a complicated headache for most businesses – and it’s even harder for companies who aren’t technical or who are family-run and don’t have the resources.
Of course, you want your store to rank first when someone searches for “[your store type] near me” but SEO can be costly – especially if you’re investing in a website too.
SEO is so important because it helps your customers find you online, which can put you ahead of your competitors.
In its simplest form, SEO breaks down into three main sections:
1. Technical SEO: This is more like traditional web development or IT work as it makes sure that search engines can find your website without any problems. Even if you have a website, Google and search engines like it might not be able to find it if it has issues with its technical SEO – for example, the way the URLs (the links) are built, or how one page leads to another.
2. On-site SEO: These are rules that apply to your website so that search engines can scan what’s on it and know what it’s about. For example, running a blog about young people’s fashion is a good way to tell search engines like Google that your website is related to that topic.
3. Off-site SEO: This is all the ways you promote your website so that search engines know about it and what it does, i.e. using social media, creating a blog, or paying for online advertising.
SEO is important but it can be expensive and difficult to master, so a lot of store managers will outsource it to a company or website, especially if they have a product that a lot of people search for online.
Retail email marketing
Email marketing is an old marketing tactic, but it’s still popular today because it works so well. According to a study from McKinsey & Company, email marketing can be up to 40 times more effective than social media for retailers.
The reason why is simple: if you can get someone’s email address, you can send emails about promotions or products.
If you have a website, make sure you give your visitors the chance to sign up for your email newsletter where you can send them promotions or coupons or even just company news. If you don’t have an email list, you can start one using Mailchimp. If you’re only starting out, don’t be afraid to ask your in-store customers if they’d like to sign up, or to print information onto your store’s receipts.
It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated. Netflix, for example, sends TV show recommendations to users to get them to log back in:
Meanwhile craft store, Michaels, uses its emails to drum up business around its sales. Again, it’s simple but it’s eye-catching and it’s sure to drive potential customers into the store.
Retail social media marketing
Social media marketing is powerful for many retailers, especially if they have budget for ads. Generally, the social media channels you’ll use will consist of some combination of:
The audience on each channel is different, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding where to spend your time and money. You don’t need to be on every channel – instead focus on the one that makes the most sense for your business and use that.
8 tips for social media for small businesses
- Have a goal in mind. Do you want social media to drive sales to your store or do you just want to give your followers updates on your shop?
- Make sure you know where your audience is. The people on each platform are very different so that’ll inform the marketing choices you make.
- Use social media to give your brand a personality. Showcase your staff and your personality as a brand. Have a sense of humor and engage with your followers as much as possible.
- Post content (updates, photos, products) on your social channels when your audience are online. Tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social will give you insight on what’s working and what isn’t, as well as having useful features like schedulers to pre-schedule content.
- Create and share short, interesting videos – for example, a sales person talking through new items in-store or a tutorial of how a complex product works.
- Ask your employers to share your updates so that they’re seen by more people.
- Trial paid spend on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest with a couple of dollars set aside per day to see if there is any uptake. If ads do well, you may be able to scale them and invest some extra budget.
- Be smart with your retargeting. You can use retargeting to hit your website/social audiences with a follow-up ad: for example, if someone puts items into a cart and doesn’t finish the sale, you can show them a follow-up ad reminding them to complete the sale or giving them a coupon to save some money.
Much like social media marketing, digital ads aren’t for every small retailer – especially if you don’t have a website.
The most effective types of digital ads are:
- Pay-per-click advertising: Brands pay Google and Microsoft to show their ads in their search results, based on people looking up keywords – for example, the name of a product. A game store might run ads for “Nintendo Switch” and when someone searches for “Nintendo Switch”, they’ll see the ads. The downside is that many popular keywords can be expensive.
- Social media advertising: Paying Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., to show your ads to users who fit certain criteria. A clothes store targeting teenagers could run ads targeting boys and girls aged 13-18 who are active on the platform.
- Display or banner ads: Banner ads or display ads often run at the top or the side of websites and tend to very graphic-based to draw attention.
- Google’s Shopping Ads/Local Inventory Ads: These ads show your products at the very top of the search results, with a photo and relevant information so they’re particularly effective for putting your products in front of people who might be interested in buying them.
Traditional retail marketing
Traditional marketing includes any type of promotion/advertising that has been in use for years, e.g. billboards, TV, newspaper, radio, print ads, direct mail.
Most retailers use traditional marketing tactics because they’ve always done them and not necessarily because they’re the most efficient.
Traditional marketing ideas
- Print: Considered the oldest form of advertising, print includes newspapers, brochures, newsletters, and any other printed marketing collateral.
- Direct mail: This is marketing collateral that’s typically sent in the mail: postcards, brochures, letters, catalogs.
- Telemarketing: Making phone calls to potential customers.
- Broadcast: Radio and television commercials. Generally, this is the most expensive form of advertising – especially on TV during peak times.
While many companies tend to focus on digital marketing more so than traditional, it still has huge potential to reach customers, particularly if it’s tailored well to the medium and market.
Direct mail can be particularly powerful: the San Jose Blood Bank used striking visuals and very smart design to drive blood donors.
Local retail marketing
Local marketing is any tactic you use that’s aimed at the local community or neighborhood. It includes both online and offline marketing tactics, and overlaps other types of marketing such as SEO and traditional.
Local marketing is particularly relevant for independent retailers and smaller stores as it can give them an edge over big-box competitors who lack personality. Big, national businesses can sometimes forget about their customer and focus too much on the numbers, so having a personality and getting to know the locals is a big advantage for independent retailers.
So, what should retailers do to finetune their local marketing?
How to win at local marketing
1. Get the online part right
If you have a website, you’ll need to improve your local SEO. We mentioned this earlier, but it essentially means using relevant, local keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions in your website.
Let’s say you’re a plumber in California. The basic idea is that you’ll use relevant, local keywords that people actually search for (for example: “plumber California”) and put that into the technical parts of your website so that search engines can see that that’s what you do.
As well as getting your SEO right, it’s important to let potential customers know what you stock and the type of store you are.
Pointy makes this easy as it connects to your POS to get your in-store product inventory online and optimizes it so that people can find it in search.
Let’s say you’re a bike shop and you sell a certain type of patch kit. It’s perfect for people searching in a hurry – their bike tire has burst and they need a speedy replacement. They search for the product they need and they see it at the top of the page.
They’ll come right to your store to finish the sale. It’s an easy marketing win – and all it takes is Pointy, which you can find out more about here.
If you have the budget, you can also promote some of your more popular products so that they appear at the very top of the search results, which could be a very powerful tool for your store.
2. Build a community
Your big advantage as a local retailer is just that: you’re local. Get to know your customers. Take part in local events. Support other local businesses or charities. Sponsor a sports team or an award ceremony.
Use social media to show off everything you’re doing and to give a personality to your brand. Add your store to local directory listings and ask your customers to leave you a positive review on Google, Facebook or Yelp.
Word of mouth is important, online and off.
3. Take advantage of POS marketing
You’ve got customers in your store which is great, but is there more you could do to market to them while they’re there?
POS (point-of-sale) marketing could be a huge advantage to your store as it can help you drive more sales from your current customers. Simple ideas include having visual display stands, drawing shoppers in with loyalty cards or special offers, and being smart with the ticket items near the cashier.
If you have an ePOS (an electronic POS such as Vend), look into possible app integrations that pair well together with the data you have. The Pointy app will get your live in-store product inventory online while other apps can be used for payroll, employee scheduling and much more.
Retail marketing: takeaways
Retail has changed. More and more customers are shopping online or using their cellphones and laptops on their journey to buying a product.
You can’t rest on the strength of your history or your place in the local community anymore. In order to succeed, you need to be smart with your marketing to get the most out of your budget.
- Know why your store is different and why shoppers should choose you.
- Your marketing should include a mix of online/digital tactics; traditional marketing; and local marketing.
- You don’t need a massive budget – but you do need to be smart, especially to be found online.
- Look into tools like Pointy, which can help your in-store products and store be found online. Trusted by over 12,000 retailers, Pointy can make a big difference to your marketing.
Competing with big-box retailers and online giants is hard, yes, but it’s possible. Make sure you have the right marketing know-how and tools fighting in your corner – and not your competitors’.