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Small Business Resources

What 9 creative retailers are doing now to attract customers back to stores

November 3, 2021

By Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor
www.retaildoc.com

Attracting customers is a never-ending process for any business. Retailers in particular are anxious to look for new local store marketing ideas because direct to consumer brands are targeting their formerly loyal customers through social channels. Price and promotion levers that once were used to draw shoppers in have lost their steam as most consumers know that “once in a lifetime,” Super Saturday and friend-and-family sales are like buses; there’ll be another one coming shortly.

While it is natural to think, I just need more customers, that misses the bigger problem: Why aren’t you converting more lookers to buyers from people who already are in your store? To really do it, you’ve got to be out on the sales floor. You need to know where you’re losing sales. Just reading a spreadsheet or having an app tell you what sales you made doesn’t convey the whole story. You need to observe what’s going on on the floor. If you’re a senior-level executive, you need to be out on the sales floor on a weekend at least once a month. And if not, you’re just flying blind because you’re going to believe whatever somebody brings into your back office. “Oh, it’s all about contactless payment. It’s all about curbside.”

That would be like the hit musical Hamilton promoting, “Oh, you can get our tickets by fax or email or we can hold them at the box office.” No, what Hamilton promotes is, “We know you can’t get tickets. We’re opening up more, and we’re launching a new tour. We’re excited to be coming to your city.”

Smaller stores have got to get back to driving demand. As curbside pickup driven by pandemic fear of going into the store disappears for many retailers and the need to find creative ways to bring shoppers back has increased, I asked my fans to share some of their favorite methods to attract customers. Here are some of the best — and without discounting.

Create your own YouTube channel

Eli Gurock created a YouTube channel that educates people about his products and business. It creates a tremendous amount of goodwill for his company, Magic Beans, and viewers reciprocate by shopping. He shared a recent customer comment on a post, “Baby is due in June - I’ll be buying the Nuna Pipa RX from your store because you deserve the business for this awesome video! Helping me a ton with the first-time dad-to-be jitters.”

Hold a live shopping event

Heidi West of Lifestyles of Saratoga noted that she started with Facebook and Instagram videos, but when she did a live shopping event in which customers could click and buy products being discussed right on their screens, it really took off! To do that, go through Facebook Live Shopping in the Facebook Live Producer and use an external camera. Then have your products in a Facebook shop that links to your website.

Show scarcity

Jennifer Backus of Jenn’s Java shared her neighborhood marketing success. “During the initial lockdown, we posted Dessert Drops with pictures of desserts as we were cutting them in the store. People would message us to reserve items and then come grab their assortment at the end of the day. Thankfully, we’ve been able to stay open for at least pickup through the entire experience. It was wildly successful.”

Find novelty with mass appeal

Debbie Sue in Alberta, Canada, brought in locally grown, heart-shaped cucumbers. “I special ordered them as a novelty item for Valentine’s week at our garden center. Posts, videos, sharing customers stories on Instagram. Value added. Literally no other retailer has these.”

Direct mail a print catalog

Jon Stiles wanted to make sure that his customers knew that The Party Source could be a solution for their gift giving, so he printed and mailed a few thousand first-ever catalogs. The marketing maneuver generated $500,000 in new business and opened up a new part of his gift basket business that will produce over 1 million in sales in 2021.

Change your Google listing

Linda Pasco added categories and changed the name her company, Lemon Grass Gifts, used in the local phone listing and on Google to more adequately reflect who they are and what they sell. Lemon Grass Gifts previously had bath, baby and home attached to the name; now, it sells more home accessories and furnishings and so has changed the listings to home, garden, gift, furniture and custom decorating.

Hold a socially distanced event at your local movie theater

Holly Hamilton Dorgan of H2Design & Co. rented out the local theater to stage a Galentine’s Chick Flick Movie Night. It involved a local winery to supply some wine, a florist to supply flowers and a restaurant for some sweet treats.

Send personal texts and cards to your best customers

Robin Rivers Jeffs of Molly’s Meanderings said she sent “a personal text to a dear customer who loves butterflies and the retail brand Brighton. Her husband bought a Brighton handbag for her as a Valentine’s gift — retail price $575. Besides social media, I know my customers and I send them pictures of what they love. Equals sales. I always write personal cards. Sent a private gift. Sent love. Love is the best and personal attention. It’s sincere, never a gimmick.”

Broadcast from your mart

Sidra McWhorter of Sweet Pea’s Boutique did a Facebook Live from one of her trips to the markets, demonstrating the product along with the owners. Net result? She sold 92 teeth-whitening kits at $119 each and is still selling more in store.

Attracting customers takes great visual merchandising, creative use of social media and innovative use of all the ways customers interact with you on the web, via email and via text. Use these current tips to help you rebuild your customer base after COVID-19.

But remember, no one ever raved about average. Truly building word-of-mouth buzz around your brand takes training your crew to open their hearts to strangers, actively listening to what they are saying and finding ways for them to buy what you have to sell. Miss that, and you’ll be stuck as a transactional retailer selling stuff versus a relationship retailer bonding with different humans who are not like yourself but their trusted brand.

This article orginially appeared at www.retaildoc.com.