The world’s population is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-10 pandemic, and so many businesses have had to quickly transition online because of store closures and lockdowns. Given the circumstances, this is the right time to discuss what you can do to make sure your business can thrive, even at this challenging time.
Whether you are planning to launch a new product or you just want to expand your customer base, you are going to need a solid marketing plan to acquire new customers and keep your existing ones. In this article, we’ll explore the different things you can do when it comes to retail marketing. Let’s dive right in!
What is Retail Marketing?
Retail marketing is a broad term, referring to various strategies that retailers implement to attract new customers and improve their revenue. At the foundation of retail marketing, there are four elements that need to be taken into consideration; these are often called the four P’s:
- Product (or Service): The item that is being sold, or service if you’re not providing physical goods.
- Price: The pricing that you use, and strategies that revolve around it.
- Place: The location (or, in the digital age, the platform) where your product is located and available for purchase.
- Promotion: What you do to get word out and attract potential customers.
These categories don’t cover all of the tactics you can use to improve sales, but cover those directly related to the product itself and the ease of purchase. While a lot of techniques outlined here can’t really be used in full lockdown, they’re ideal to spread the word and get more business as the world opens up and gets back on its feet.
1) Targeted Social Media
Ads are all well and good, but you can utilize social media platforms to a much greater extent if you plan things out. The best news about this strategy is that it’s all online, so there’s no worrying about how to fit it into local restrictions, as you can just sit down and get on with it.
While covering all your bases is good, it’s often a better strategy to begin with focusing on a few social media sites and then expand once your presence has increased. If you keep your eye on the platforms that your target demographics are likely to be using, it enables your ads to be more targeted without doing any filtering at all.
Of course, there’s more to social media than simply posting information. Using platforms such as Instagram you can make use of their tools such as the Story feature and video uploads to create a much more appealing aesthetic, something brands such as Frank Body have used to the tune of millions of dollars of revenue per year by growing their Instagram following to almost 700,000 people by focusing on an all-natural movement that their customers can connect with. Traditional advertising is nothing in the face of genuine connection and feeling of social acceptance.
In fact, several brands have shifted their focus to social media entirely with Instagram helping out by altering their format into an e-commerce platform in addition to their already established social media services.
2) Video Platforming
Tying in nicely with your social media, video advertising is nothing new but is still very relevant in the digital age. Whether it’s adverts that play before videos or simply play in a sidebar, most tech-savvy consumers have grown desensitized to adverts and simply skip them or ignore them as happened with television adverts before them. You’ll need to grab the viewers’ attention by creating a masterful video that not only shows off your product, but provides entertainment value making your brand memorable and interesting to potential customers.
Making yourself relatable and entertaining is the key here, with a great example being BauBax’s video that lambasts airline travel in a way that people can resonate with, as almost anyone who has travelled by airplane has something to complain about!
However you don’t necessarily have to make your products/services the main focus so long as they are visible. A great example of this is the Compare the Market advertisements that circulate to this day, after all who could forget the utterly ridiculous premise of talking meerkats complaining about a website? Even if 90% of watchers never even think about purchase, going viral is a great way to obtain publicity with the meerkats proving their worth by doubling sales in under a year.
3) Referral Programs
Referral campaigns are a more indirect form of advertising, in that you don’t target potential customers, but rather grant benefits to existing customers if they refer new ones to you. Since a high proportion of consumers trust peer recommendation over advertisements it can be an excellent trust-based tactic to attract customers. It’s especially effective if both referrer and referee are granted incentives, such as Koodo Mobile’s $25 cut to both the customers’ bills, and Airbnb’s account credit program. The investment app RobinHood also grants free stock to both the referred and the referee if a successful referral is made.
While the latter two’s methods of seeming to put money back in their customers’ pockets may seem identical to bill cuts, it also encourages future purchases in a two-for-one strategy to boost business.
The Airbnb strategy mentioned above is also a great example of remarketing, whereby retailers seek to improve revenue by reaching out to existing or previous customers. This can be done in the form of emails, offers and more, with the focus being on enticing those consumers back into your stores. Since a customer who has already purchased from you is familiar with your brand, you can keep things short and to the point when communicating with them. You can also use technology such as AI in order to target web ads at suitable consumers; after all, one who is more receptive to your brand is far more likely to interact and not simply ignore it. Pinkberry have used this to great effect with their emails that contained both a limited-time free item reward and a message of “We miss you!”, combining both remarketing and urgency in one stroke.
5) Flash Pricing and Urgency
Of course not all retail marketing takes place online, and sometimes you need to get customers who are inside a store to buy your products. That’s where flash pricing, also known as urgency tactics, comes into play. It’s where you advertise for quick, sharp price drops that will last for maybe a few days or even a single day in order to encourage consumers to physically come to your location and increase footfall. You can also do this online, however it’s much more effective at creating a sense of urgency in your customers if you’re advertising with regards to a physical location, or advertise directly at the location. In-store ads have also proven to be highly effective, with 69% of customers who were privy to an in-store advertisement going out of their way to look for the product in question, and 61% of those questioned intending to purchase it.
Urgency is key here, as customers see the price drops and will have to make snap decisions, which more often than not leads to sales if the customer was on the fence about purchase anyway. You need to be careful that you don’t price yourself out of the market, however, keep a good profit margin in order to keep your revenue streams positive!
6) Tracking Seasonal Peaks
A good tactic to pair with the above is seasonal sales, as well as other strategies to take advantage of peak time frames of buying. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter are notable ones with almost every store you can think of having some kind of sale around those dates, but it’s good to look at other key points that are more niche too. Depending on your product, you might want to focus on the beginning of summer, the back-to-school rush, and other times of the year.
Seasonal sales can produce high levels of profit, with Black Friday sales raking in billions each year. However, you need to be aware of the pitfalls that can befall you. Things need to be prepared in advance, and extra support is needed during those peak times to allow for continually high customer experience ratings so you don’t get a bad reputation. This translates into more staff in physical locations and a more robust server for online-hosted retailers.
Establishing meaningful partnerships with other brands can be a great way to reach new customers and advertise your product.
Links to other brands online could exist merely in the form of cross-store advertisements, or be as in-depth as co-operative marketing campaigns. Due to the nature of online media it’s easy to reach out to the most compatible partners you can find; those who share a target audience and philosophy are ideal.
In the physical world however, things are a bit tricker. Depending on your market you can make partnerships with local brands/stores, for instance a food supplier might partner with a culinary school in order to promote both businesses in an arrangement that increases reach for both.
Great examples of this in the digital realm include Red Bull and GoPro who both targeted athletes and action-loving individuals with a co-branding campaign, and BMW and Louis Vitton who similarly shared a consumer base but chose to take a more direct partnership with products designed to work together perfectly in order to attract lovers of both brands to the other.
Simone Somekh is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in marketing and communications for B2B SaaS companies. He teaches Communications at Touro College and he is the author of an award-winning novel published in four languages.