5 Tips for Creating an Effective Online Presence for Independent Retail Stores

It seems that some of the greatest challenges in retail involves marketing strategies to help drive sales. Technology seems to outdo itself on a very regular basis, and the choices you make (digitally) can be crucial to your retail business.

Traditional forms of marketing (ie. print, mail, TV, radio, catalogs, brochures, etc.), while certainly not obsolete, can require a much heftier investment and a substantial amount of labor to get them to the masses in a way that appropriately appeals to your business. And measuring the impact of these traditional forms of marketing can sometimes be limited to nothing but a gut feel. Digital marketing methods offer a much greater potential for a return on your investment (that can actually be measured), providing an extremely cost-effective way of using a smaller marketing budget to grow your business.

These tips will highlight how small companies with potentially limited resources can launch a successful digital presence to boost the online footprint and overall exposure.

Create Powerful Web Content

First, make sure you create a great website. Your website is the first place that many people go to supplement their interest in your business. It is extremely easy to invest in this and create an online presence that is informative and appealing to the customer. Aim to maintain a connection with the consumer by providing the latest in company and industry news, helpful blog posts, and delightful images and information on your products.

Make sure that you also include appropriate keywords for SEO purposes. This way, more people searching products and info within your industry will be able to locate your business and expose themselves to your strong content.

Keep In Touch

According to a study by ExactTarget, 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email. Use email marketing to reinforce relationships through special offers or bonus content and keep your product or service in your customers’ minds. Make sure that this content doesn’t solely focus on your product, but more so gives customers a feel for your store’s unique personality and why customers should care. As a small business, you have a unique advantage over larger retailers in that you have the ability to personalize content and really establish that individual connection with customers.

Master Social Media

Human interaction is invaluable to business success, and social media allows for such interaction to take place on a virtual platform, thus allowing for a broad-spectrum reach that face-to-face interactions would not easily permit. One of the biggest mistakes businessses new to social media make is trying to do it all and failing to do one thing well. You don’t need a presence on every social network out there. Can you imagine being active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, YouTube… and still running your business? Instead, do some research to make sure you know which social networks your customers and prospective customers use most, and start with one social network.

Be active, maintain a presence and a conversation with consumers. This ties back into your “powerful web content” and can greatly improve your customer loyalty and engagement.

Mobile Presence

Not only must your content be engaging, but it also must be done in a way that can be easily read and acted upon, particularly when done so on a 3-6 inch screen. Make sure content is appropriate for whatever screen a customer wants to use. For example, your website needs to be impeccably compatible for mobile devices and contact information should be easily found. Essentially, your entire communication and marketing strategy needs to be mobile-friendly.

Make sure that when people nearby search for your store or items you sell, they can actually find you. Visit GetListed.org, enter your business information, and submit your business info to each of the directories available.

Set Goals and Track Results

In order to maintain a place and know how you need to adapt in order to move forward, you must monitor goals and track results. Consider what types of posts and promotions people are responding to. Analyze the referring sites that actually bring people to your website and brick-and-mortar location. As a small business, you have the advantage of adaptability in that if something isn’t working, you have a much quicker ability to change and redirect your marketing efforts. It may take a bit of trial-and-error to figure out exactly what works for your business, but the process can flow much more efficiently than it will in the marketing department of bigger chain stores.

Google Analytics provides a great (and free!) starting point for tracking the movement in your online presence. You can track page views, referral traffic, bounce rates, overall traffic, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. All of this information can be used to validate what you’re doing right (or wrong) and make changes as needed.

What have you found to be most successful for your store when establishing an online presence?

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