How to Market Your Retail Business to a Specific Audience

A small retail business must have a unique niche, a strong company image and a meaningful connection with its consumers to succeed in today’s competitive retail landscape. Target marketing is the process of focusing marketing efforts toward a specific group of customers. Four commonly used target marketing types that companies can take advantage of include age, income-sensitive, gender-specific, and geographic target marketing.

Determine Your Niche

Using just one target marketing type is usually not enough. For instance, often times targeting an all-encompassing female audience as a retail business won’t cut it. To succeed, a retail business must have a niche, something that differentiates it from the competition. For instance, Lululemon, a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company, targets women between the ages of 25 to 35 that are interested in leading a healthy lifestyle in a fashionable way, explains Mary Charleson, president of marketing consultant company Charleson Communications. Through their niche, Lululemon continues to target the behavior of a unique demographic with store displays, a mobile app, brand ambassadors, and a blog that embodies company culture.

A great way to find your retail business’ niche is by finding out who isn’t being targeted in your area yet and pairing this deficiency with the right products, suggests Entrepreneur. In other words, if professional women above the age of 50 that enjoy playing golf have nowhere to shop for clothing, you can step-in and fulfill that need.

Establish a Strong Company Image

Once you’ve decided on a particular niche, it’s time to establish a strong company image. Forever 21 is an affordable fashion-forward clothing company with a fresh and young image, which is fitting since they target women in their teens and early 20s. Their black and white design puts the emphasis on the clothing and creates a striking contrast compared to other retail clothing stores. Forever 21’s image is bold and stylish, which tells their young consumers that the company is not afraid to be different. Additionally, Forever 21 puts geotargeting into practice by placing its stores inside malls, a common hang-out for teens and young adults.

A company’s image should speak volumes. It should tell your audience right away what your retail business is all about. And one way to speak to your audience right away is with a logo that represents what your store is all about. Some business spend thousands of dollars with a branding agency or designer for a logo that truly represents their brand, and some cash-strapped business even create a free professional logo using a logo design tool. Make sure that the finished result is eye-catching, will look great on both billboards and business cards, and gives shoppers an instant feeling of what your store is all about. The colors and layout you use in your logo should be consistent throughout the rest of your company image. Use your logo as inspiration for the company letterhead, product packaging, and website design.

Connect with Your Audience

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar retail business or an e-commerce website, it’s important to connect with your consumer through the communication method he or she typically uses. For retail stores targeting women, women’s relationship-centric behaviors mean that they spend 40 percent more time on social network sites than men, reports a marketing study by Jack Morton Worldwide.

Furthermore, the content you create to establish a business-buyer relationship needs to be carefully crafted to appeal to the group’s interests, suggests Social Media Examiner. It’s not enough anymore to share lifestyle articles or DIY tutorials. Content and social media user engagement must be tailored to your niche. If your retail business specializes in maternity clothing for stay-at-home mothers with a high disposable income, share or create content that focuses on pregnancy, high-end baby products and homemaking advice.

9 Top Blogs Retail Executives Should Read

There’s definitely no shortage of retail blogs out there to help you keep up with the latest retail trends and learn some tips to improve your retail store or your area of retail expertise. We filtered out some of the noise for you and put together a list of some of our favorite retail-specific blogs. The list below packs something for every company or executive – each blog we’ve selected approaches retail topics with its own unique perspective.

Retail Touchpoints     twitter

The Retail Touchpoints blog is an excellent source to keep up on the latest tips and trends to serve retail customers better. In addition to the blog, the Retail Touchpoints website is a great place to find research and reports, as well as insights from top retail executives across all retail topics from marketing to operations. The website also has a Solutions Spotlight section where some of the top retail solutions are highlighted so retail executives can stay on top of the latest technologies and tools.

NRF     twitter

Looking for a broadview take on where retail is now, and where it’s heading? NRF brings regional, national and global stories to its readers with the diligence, breadth and relevance for which the National Retail Federation is best known.

Shopify     twitter

Shopify’s blog has something everyone will love and learn from. This innovative publication features highly relevant and detailed case studies, productivity app suggestions, marketing innovations and top-notch selling suggestions. For some variety in your retail reading, bookmark Shopify at once.

Retail Minded     twitter

Retail Minded is a leading destination for the independent retail store. Established in 2007, this thorough online publication is a heavy hitter. Whether your speciality is inventory, trade shows, marketing or customer service, Retail Minded has topics small retailers will want to add to their reading list.

Retail Focus     twitter

If you want the latest on retail design and display, Retail Focus delivers. This online magazine puts the emphasis on aesthetics – and the result is a powerful, cutting-edge publication that delivers the top news on what major retailers across the world are designing for their stores and projects.

Internet Retailer     twitter

For a comprehensive look at online retailing today, Internet Retailer does not disappoint. This publication delivers the freshest news, key data, feature articles and insightful analysis of current retail strategies.

Vend     twitter

From tips on boosting your profit margins to insider looks at what consumers are actually thinking, Vend is here to help. This corporate blog delivers fresh content on a regular basis that is of real use to small to mid-size retail chains. This one is not to be missed.

Forrester Retail     twitter

Retail research, data and analysis company Forrester’s blog is full of rich data and insights that can help retailers today make smart decisions and drive sales. This blog is a highly-regarded way to get a look at retail today, based on the evidence: real data and real interviews with retail’s top executives.

Retail Prophet     twitter

Doug Stephens is one of the industry’s foremost retail futurists. Voted by Vend as one of retail’s top global influencers, his blog is full of pertinent information retailers need to have access to. As an author, speaker and brand advisor, Doug delivers his predictions and insights in a timely and skilled fashion.

There you have it! Making time to keep up with the latest retail trends and tips can be challenging, but these top-notch blogs should definitely make your short list of must-reads. Which ones did we miss that should have made it in our top 9? Let us know in the comments.

How to Use Google Maps to Drive More Traffic to Your Retail Store

According to Google, 97 percent of customers shop for local businesses online; amazing, right? In the world of apps, Google Maps is a heavy hitter. It’s the most popular smartphone app out there, with over 54 percent of smartphone users who use apps using it to get where they need to go.

If you have a physical retail location you can’t afford to ignore this easy and free way to – literally and figuratively – get your business on the map. When your business is listed, you help your customers find you through different Google channels such as Maps, Search and Google+ and drive more traffic to your stores.

With 50 percent of smartphone users using a map app (most likely Google Maps) to find retail stores and 74 percent of smartphone users using location-based services, this is a service that’s becoming more and more relevant as the rise of smartphones continues. Shoppers are using both Google and Google Maps to find restaurants, businesses and retail stores. As Google doesn’t charge to list your business, this is a service you can’t afford overlook.

How to Get On the Map

To get started, you need to have a Google account (this account will work for all of your Google activities from Gmail to Google+). Next, you need to ensure your store is on the map. Believe it or not, the good samaritans over at Google may already have listed it for you; they may not have. To check, surf on over to Google Maps and search for your business. If you find it, you’ll need to ‘claim’ your business. If you don’t find it, you’ll need to ‘list’ your business.

To list your business on Google Maps, you’ll need to do so through Google Places for Business. First, sign in to your account and then create your business listing based on the instructions provided. If your business is already listed, you’ll need to claim it. You can do that by clicking on the corresponding clickable link that pops up when you pull up your business on Google Maps; from there you can choose the option to claim your business. You can get more detailed instructions on claiming your business. As claiming and listing your business can take a few weeks (Google doesn’t just put anyone on the map), it’s wise to get started right away.

Optimize Maps for Maximum Exposure

Optimizing your business for maximum exposure is an important part of your Google Maps strategy. Though getting on the map is the first, and arguably most important step, your work doesn’t end there. Learn to leverage Google to drive more foot traffic to your store. Here’s a plan to help you get more traffic out of maps:

1. Take Advantage of Google’s Free Features for Business

Google wants to be as complete as possible, so it provides lots of opportunities for you to upload information on your business. Start by making sure your Google Places/Maps listing is as thorough as possible. Add photos of your business. Fill out the hours. Provide a link to your website. Next, stay on top of customer reviews that are left for you. Google provides a forum in which customers can review your business; whether those reviews are negative or positive, it’s key to stay in the conversation and respond when a customer discusses your store on Google. Google provides a wealth of information on how to use their free features for big exposure.

2. Use Keywords to Your Advantage

Are there certain keywords or product words associated with your business? If you know a customer is going to be searching for a certain word associated with your store, such as “handbags”, it’s wise to make sure ‘handbags’ is in your Google Maps/Places description. Think of important keywords a customer might use to describe your business, and then include them in your Google description.

3. Encourage and Respond to Customer Reviews

Be sure to encourage your customers to share their experiences on your Google Maps page. Actual customer reviews go a long way in establishing actual trust and reputation within your community. Not only is it great for prospective customers to read reviews, but Google uses keywords from reviews to find relevant places for users. The Google Maps app makes it very easy for customers to rate and review your store on the go. It’s also critical that you monitor and respond to these reviews to show your customers that you care and are committed to making your retail store the best it can be.

4. Optimize Your Online Store for Mobile

Creating or claiming your listing, optimizing your store’s information, and generating and responding to reviews is an excellent start. But don’t stop there. Remember when you added a link to your website in your Google listing? Mobile commerce, specifically purchases made on smartphones, are on the rise. Often times a merchant’s website is not optimized for mobile. Other times a merchant’s mobile version of its site makes it simple to find store locations and contact information. But guess what? Google Maps already gives your shoppers your location, directions and phone number. So your website link you provide them in Google Maps should direct these shoppers to a great mobile experience for your online store. Prospective customers want a glimpse of what items you sell in your store before they visit in person. Make sure your e-commerce site is optimized for mobile shopping and makes checkout a quick and easy transaction.

If your store doesn’t have a mobile-optimized online store or no e-commerce store at all, a mobile commerce platform can be an efficient way to give your shoppers an instant mobile-optimized storefront for shoppers to browse your store’s real-time inventory and most popular items, see specials you’re running, and buy on the go. Shoppers can also order items and select in-store pickup instead of waiting for shipping if your mobile commerce platform is integrated with your point-of-sale system.

According to Google, 50 percent of consumers who search locally on their smartphones visit a store within a day. Don’t miss out on these customers. Optimize your Google Maps listing to help drive more traffic to your stores.

How to Deliver a Fast and Engaging Retail Customer Experience

In today’s retail world, shoppers expect a lot and have grown accustomed to getting just that. What they want can be broken down in fairly simple terms: a fast and efficient experience regardless of their location. This encompasses experiences in-store, online, and access via a mobile device, and is specifically reflected by a retailer’s ability to provide responsive staff service, quick access to info or answers, personalized offers and promotions, the ability to order (and pay) online and then pick up quickly (most often the same day) in-store, and tangibly, an in-store experience that is warm and engaging. If any of these “ingredients” is missing, the customer may quickly go elsewhere.

These standards are high, but are often further perpetuated by intense competition and the quest for innovation by individual retailers in an effort to stay in (and ahead of) the game. The following tactics highlight what you can do to keep your store at the front line of customer efficiency and satisfaction.

Aim to employ your strategies from the customer perspective.

By keeping the end user experience at the forefront of all that you do, you will never lose sight of your exact intended result. The customer is primarily focused on speed and efficiency, but you also need to set the stage for a positive and welcoming environment that will appropriately supplement their needs. Upon entering your physical store, engage with a positive vibe and friendly employee greetings that encourage specific product inquires and availability. Shoppers also want to instantly know what’s hot or what sales your store may have, so make these items easy to spot. But it’s not all about what they can see; store associates need to know which products to direct the shopper to at all times and also provide product recommendations for additional products they might like once the associate understand their tastes.

Consider how the customer experience can be enhanced by technology.

Technology is essential for success, and you must be prepared to meet the increasing technological demands of your customers. This technology not only reflects your investment in the customer, but it also enhances the efficiency of the customer experience, which is huge. Incorporate technology into your business in a way that is both efficient and appropriate for your niche. This may be in the form of a mobile-optimized shopping experience, mobile rewards, information kiosks, mobile payment options, and so forth. In addition to increased availability of technology to the customer, make technology readily available to your employees, as they are the ones who must relay the company image and knowledge in order to keep customers happy.

Be available and relatable.

Provide an open means of communication between your brand and your customers, as their communication and satisfaction are crucial to your sustainability. Personalize your interactions and related offers in order to engage them and use this relationship to encourage repeat business. Shoppers are also more informed than ever, and your employees need to recognize this and work to supplement the vast knowledge made available to the consumer before they enter your store. At the end of the day, your business needs to plan appropriately for both the expected and also the unexpected (think holidays or product promotions). The last thing that you want is for a customer to experience heavy delays in service or product availability due to inefficient planning. If you can maintain a firm grasp on the availability of both your goods and service, you are placing yourself in a great position to provide a swift and efficient customer experience.

Provide a seamless transition between the physical, online and mobile worlds.

Customers have grown to expect this ability to transition from the store to online seamlessly. Many shoppers have researched products online and are incredibly specific (as well as knowledgeable) in their search for the perfect product. If a product is not in stock, you will greatly increase the chance of keeping that sale if you can provide a method of ordering from the store and delivering directly to the customer. Another great method of ensuring both the sale and positive customer experience is to offer customers the ability to order before they come to the store and for you to have the item ready for pick-up that same day. This way, when customers are in a hurry or on the go (which is quite often the norm these days), they can order from your mobile-optimized storefront with the option to pick it up in-store. This blend of online accessibility with in-store product immediacy is a fantastic way to satisfy a wide customer base.

Speed and efficiency can be the primary driving forces behind the notion of a positive customer experience, but should be supplemented appropriately by careful planning, strategies, and of course the incorporation of technology and immediate accessibility into your retail business. If you can carefully incorporate these elements into your brand, you ensure for your customers a positive, engaging, and seamless experience that will collectively drive much desired repeat business.

How Retail Stores Get the Most Out of Yelp for Business

Have you heard of Yelp? Have you used it? Have you optimized Yelp to drive foot traffic to your retail shop? If your answer is no to any of the above questions, it’s time to get serious about Yelp, and what it can offer your business. Yelp is a business discovery and review site. Today’s customers also moonlight as online reviewers, motivated by the spirit of sharing and getting information about where to go, and where not to go. Consumers use Yelp as a place to applaud a business or as a very visible forum in which to lodge a complaint.

Would you ignore hundreds or thousands of people standing outside of your business with signs that either praise or complain about your services ? Bottomline? Don’t ignore Yelp. The consumer review platform has a monthly average of 120 million unique visitors, with 55 million unique mobile users. With an impressive mobile following, this means users are most likely closer to a purchase decision. And Yelp, along with merchants that know how to utilize Yelp, help those users at that crucial time in the purchase process.

Devise an Action Plan for Yelp

Yelp created an active community full of shoppers who use it to get connected with the services other community members recommend. When customers search for businesses on Yelp, they usually know what they want to buy and are ready to make a purchase – they just need some direction as to where exactly to do so. That’s where maximizing Yelp to work for your business comes in: in a world full of different ways to market, both online and off, Yelp is the real thing. Create an actionable plan for your business to follow: you can pay to get ahead with Yelp, use it for free, or do both. What follows is a run-down on both paid and free ways to leverage Yelp.

Paid Yelp Advertising: What It Is, How It Works

Like most content-driven resources, Yelp makes money from its advertisers. Yelp has what businesses want: local shoppers who want to spend money. Advertising on Yelp comes with a host of benefits – from removing competitor ads from displaying on your Yelp listing to allowing your ads to display on a competitor’s listing.  To help businesses select an advertising option that’s a good fit for their unique services, Yelp created a few different choices to choose from.

Call to Action

A call to action is a simple way to advertise on Yelp. You create an enticing line, as well as a link. An example of a call to action would go like this: a customer searches for yoga and along with the normal results, a call to action for your yoga studio would pop up reading something like this: “Register for Yoga Classes Now and Get 15 % Off”, or “Schedule Time For Yourself at Lilly Yoga Studio”. Call to Actions put your business right in front of potential customers when they are in the decision making process. Yelp advertising packages are custom-made and depend upon a lot of different factors – a good guideline is anywhere between $300 and $3,000 dollars per month.

Deals

Yelp Deals work in a similar way to Groupon and other deal platforms. You start by offering a discount for your product or services (for example: $20 for a $40 voucher) and Yelp helps you market it. You don’t need to pay Yelp: your customers pay Yelp and Yelp gets a cut (30 percent for deals). Yelp pays you your proceeds on a monthly basis.

Gift Certificates

Yelp will help you sell your gift certificates at full price. You can choose an array of different price options to offer, and the buyer can send a friend or family member will then purchase the gift certificate from Yelp, who then sends that gift certificate to the recipient. In exchange for this service, Yelp collects a percentage fee of ten percent and pays businesses their share of the proceeds each month.

Free Yelp Advertising: What It Is, How It Works

Aside from paid Yelp advertising options, there are myriad free ways to put Yelp to work for your business. Claim your business on Yelp and roll out the red carpet to make your Yelp listing an inviting and comfortable place for your customers to gather (and hopefully, leave great reviews).

Directly Communicate with Customers

Yelp gives you the chance to directly respond to customer reviews, both privately and publicly. If a customer leaves a positive remark, it’s a good idea to build engagement and comment back, “Thanks!”. If, however, a customer leaves a negative review – you can comment back or send a private message.

Promote Your Yelp Listing

It’s a good idea to remind customers who love your shop that you’re on Yelp. Start an in-store “Call to Yelp” program: get some signage that says “Find Us on Yelp” or “Yelp About Us” to make your presence known. Another good tactic to invite more reviews is to add a link to your Yelp listing – directly from your store’s webpage.

Create a Sharp Yelp Listing

Yelp lets you add photos that showcase your business, employees and products. Add as many great photos as you can to really entice would-be shoppers to stop by. You can also add a link to your website and write a strong description of your business that puts your best (virtual) foot forward.

Simply put, Yelp is powerful – and it’s a powerful way to drive foot traffic to your store. Start learning to speak Yelp – and aim for fluency in this popular local platform.  Whether you invest time or money (or both) into powering up your Yelp presence, it is an investment that has the potential to pay off big time. Build your Yelp listing one review at a time – and watch the shoppers start to come in.

How Mobile Data Can Change Your Retail Strategy

Google’s Our Mobile Planet report showed mobile shoppers spend 25 percent more on average than traditional shoppers. Retailers need to embrace this new era, and embrace the fact that 80 percent of shoppers carry around an Internet-ready device at all times. Furthermore, 78 percent of shoppers use their smartphone while in a store. A mobile website or app is a great start, but to capitalize on mobile shoppers, you must discover who they are and what they’re doing.

Scan and Run

It’s been called showrooming—a smartphone user scans the barcode of an item to see if they can get the item cheaper on Amazon. A brick and mortar store can’t be surprised by a consumer who wants to save money and time if there’s a long checkout. These shoppers are not a lost cause though. A comScore report found the average amount of time to receive online goods is 7.2 days. And, 78 percent of those polled say they choose the least expensive shipping option available, according to Internet Retailer. In our impulsive world, consumers still prefer to pay less and wait longer. Combat this trend by benefiting from smartphone usage yourself. Offer discounts through email or app notifications. Expect consumers to price check and don’t set premium prices on goods that are widely distributed especially if they retain value over time. If you’re able to offer exclusive products not sold online, make it happen.

Checkout Overhaul

A Yankee Group survey last year found 32 percent of companies with 500 or more employees are already using mobile POS and 29 percent plan to convert in the next 12 months. Retailers need to plan now as the checkout process is transforming. First, focus on customer service with your checkout process. A bad experience may be enough for a customer to switch to online shopping for good. Conduct surveys to find out what your customers desire and apply it to the checkout process. On the technology end, research firm IHL Group found mobile POS sales reached $2 billion in 2013. Integrated with several of the new breed of POS systems, ShoppinPal allows customers to browse a your store’s items, order ahead to have items ready for pick-up, and redeem rewards and self-pay on their phones so you keep their business. Take advantage of mobile POS and the value-driving mobile shopping solutions that work hand in hand with these point-of-sale systems.

Big Data, Big Strategy

Online retailers got a jump on big data by collecting information from ISP addresses. Now, brick and mortars can use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology to obtain valuable consumer information. Retailers can find what areas of a store a customer visits, how long they stay and their reaction to digital offers. This is all done without compromising the users security i.e gathering phone numbers and contacts. This data can be used to form a strategy that gives the customer a personalized and one of the kind experience. If one area of a store gets heavy traffic but low volume of purchases, decipher whether the issue is pricing or display. Analyze purchase history by integrating POS data into Quickbooks. This allows customers to be treated like VIPs when they are offered relevant deals and suggestions. Return customers should be given the most attention, these are the dollars that stores can keep away from their online competitors.

If you offer customers a personalized experience whether it be on though mobile or face-to-face, they are likely to come back for more.

Retail Marketing: Drive Foot Traffic To Your Store with Location-Based Apps

Location-based apps have revolutionized the way consumers shop and the way merchants are discovered. They connect shoppers with the nearby stores and deals they’re most interested in. Pulling up an app to scout out a store or virtually checking in at a new location has become all but second nature for the smartphone-armed shopper. For smaller shops and niche outlets, location-based apps have the ability to transform retail marketing efforts by affording shop owners the opportunity to connect with a large existing user base.

Why Location-Based Apps?

Location-based apps are a powerful way to drive local foot traffic to small retail shops. Location-based apps such as Foursquare and Yelp have loyal, and quite sizeable, followings that make it easy for retailers to tap into. Yelp’s mobile app, for example, had an average monthly user base of 10.6 million during the final quarter of 2013; Foursquare states that it has a total of 45 million users under its fold.

You may not have created or claimed your store listing on any location-based apps yet, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting noticed as a result of their large user bases: most likely, your shop is already listed on these apps and you are already seeing some foot traffic and even sales as a result. Claiming your store could drive a lot more traffic to your showroom. Let’s take a look.

How to Leverage Location-Based Apps to Drive Your Foot Traffic

There are two main angles of approach when it comes to leveraging location-based marketing to generate buzz for your business. The first key way is going through the steps and “claiming” and managing your listings. The second key way to leverage location-based apps is through advertising or offering deals.

Claiming Your Business

Claiming your store is free – and vital – to do. Think of this as the virtual equipment to rolling out an open sign or turning the lights on. When you claim your store on a location-based app, you can provide important information, supply key photos and respond to reviews. To get started claiming your store on location-based apps, Search Engine Journal has some very clear instructions that make the process easy to understand. Once you’ve claimed a few, claiming more will become easier as you get the hang of it.

Managing your listing

Creating or claiming your listing is just the start. Now it’s time to optimize your listing in order to attract customers to your store. Make sure you add high quality images that show customers what your store is about and what type of items they’ll find when they arrive. Stay on top of your reviews and comments for each location-based app. If customers leave a positive review, thank them. If they are disappointed, apologize and tell them how you’re addressing the issue.

One other key part of managing your listing is to add your store’s website url. This is crucial for shoppers to see what products you have in  your store. The url you share through location-based apps must be optimized for mobile product browsing and mobile payments.

Advertising

Location-based apps allow businesses the opportunity to advertise targeted messages that reach your desired audience with ease. For example, with Foursquare, your ad displays not only when a user is nearby your store, but it also only displays to people that are most likely to shop with you based on their past check-ins. With campaigns such as these, you can start small and set a target budget (an amount you are willing to pay). Your ad will then be displayed to the app of choice’s targeted audience until you have reached your target budget. You can then decide to add more money to your budget, based upon the results you receive.

Deals & Coupons

One way that location-based apps maintain such an active user-base is through providing their users with reasons to keep coming back – and a key way to do this is through offering deals and coupons. Some location-based apps allow businesses to offer a check-in deal which rewards users for “checking-in” through the app and sharing this check-in with their friends on social media. The check-in deal is a strong way to build up word of mouth and buzz while enticing more customers to stop by and see what you’re all about. Another way to reward customers for shopping with you is offering a deal or coupon that can be purchased in advance.

Which Location-Based Apps To Focus On

There are new location-based apps coming out seemingly every day, and others dying… seemingly every day. For developers, it’s a scramble to create the biggest and best app to appeal to the largest base of users and and be at the top of this SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) revolution. For this post, we will focus on a few of the big names so that you can really maximize your results.

Yelp

Yelp has over 53 million monthly unique mobile users and offers several different advertising solutions to make themselves attractive to businesses – and you may want to take advantage of their service. You can purchase ads, featured search result listings or offer a deal that Yelp sells for you in which they keep 30 percent of the deal’s purchase price.  Yelp will also sell gift certificates for you (for a 10% charge). To find out more about Yelp’s options, visit their advertising home online.

Foursquare

Using Foursquare is a great way to reach a very social userbase of 45 million. Advertising on Foursquare depends upon how much you want to spend, and how many people you want to reach. It’s possible to create an ad campaign with just a few dollars – or to spend thousands. To connect with Foursquare, contact their business outreach department.

PayPal

With over 7 million active mobile app users, Paypal is becoming a more and more popular way to not just pay online, but also inside brick & mortar retail stores. Although known to date as only a way to pay on mobile, PayPal continues experiment on ways to add value beyond the mobile payment functionality through order-ahead, customer loyalty programs, and many cool features to come with PayPal Beacon, including hands-free payments without shoppers even having to take the phone out of their pocket, and tailored offers to encourage repeat visits.

Facebook

Not quite the “location-based app” but Facebook’s pretty powerful for helping businesses maximize their retail marketing efforts, mainly because they have a gazillion mobile users, or at least 1 billion mobile active monthly users at last count. Facebook’s Nearby Places tools is essentially their version of Yelp and allows users to search for nearby places, check in to local merchants, and write reviews. They no longer offer check-in deals, however you can create an online offer for free, and then you have the choice of paying Facebook to help you promote the offer. Beyond that, you can choose targeted ads and set your budget for as low as $5. Be sure to stop by their page all about advertising solutions for local business.

Let’s Sum It Up

Location-based apps for retail stores are really what you make of it. You can start small and get your feet wet by getting familiar with the many location-based apps and claiming your store (remember – it’s the digital equivalent of turning your lights on) and keeping your listing up-to-date with photos and responding to comments and reviews. Once you’re comfortable, move on and create a free offer over at Facebook and see what results that nets for you. If you’re interested in going beyond that point, you can start looking into setting a conservative budget to see how this targeted kind of location-based marketing works for your store.

Daily deals for you store: The good, the bad, and how to do it the right way

With limited time offers of huge discounts, daily deal sites have catapulted to the forefront of consumer preferences and are used by many types of retailers in diverse industries. The idea is that the deal creates an incentive for further purchases and repeat business, creating a win-win of sorts for retailers and customers alike. There are undoubtedly many a horror story on these deal sites. Of course, when offering these types of discounts, retailers take on a legitimate risk in order to better the bigger picture the business. If the risks are assessed properly and adequate care is taken into this decision, placing your business services and/or products on a deal site can bring a much-needed boom in customer awareness and revenue. Below we’ll highlight the good, the bad, and how to do it right.

The Good

Creating a deal for your product or service can grow a customer awareness of your brand. It’s essentially an additional marketing method that can bring in new customers and with it, new revenue. If you provide a great service/product and a great customer experience, it can have long-term payoffs in that people will want to come back. Keep in mind that with the household name deal sites there’s essentially no cost unless actual coupons are sold. That means, if you only sell 50 deals, you are only responsible for those 50 deals (not the total amount made available for sale).

The Bad

There will always be people that come to you for the deal and have no intention of giving you repeat business. These people won’t come back unless they keep getting that same deal. This is inevitable and needs to be taken into consideration when you decide on how much of a discount you are going to offer.

There will also always be the inevitable customers who won’t follow “rules” (i.e. they use more than one voucher, they try to combine vouchers, they expect more than what it offers, etc.) In addition, you cannot sustain your business off of these discount deals in the long-term—they should only be considered for a short-term potential boost in business exposure.

Many merchants make very little or even lose money with these deals due to offering a deal with too steep of a discount, the inability to sustain the number of deals offered, and lack of preparation for the response to their business. This typically happens when a business is unprepared to fulfill the offer in some way (i.e. lacking in staff, resources, and other essential ingredients that must be maintained in order to provide that fantastic first impression that will gain repeat customers.)

How to do it right

First, think about where you are now. Be very mindful of your company’s current goals and profit margins. Be careful not to be too ambitious in the discount you will offer. As previously mentioned, many people won’t come back unless they get that same deal. Offer a discount that errs on the more conservative side and aims more for exposure. It’s also imperative that you limit the total number to be sold. Don’t try to be too ambitious and start smaller so as not to overwhelm your business.

Employ strategy when timing your offer, as timing is often everything. Think of seasons, holidays, events and additional occasions that may increase your exposure and the need for your product or service. Or perhaps you have a few slow months during the year, and you can use a deal to help consumers think of you during these months and also help your store see a bump in sales. It helps to maintain a larger window of available time for customers to use the deal, as people will be more inclined to buy if they are not rushed to use it.

From an operations standpoint, if your business is unable to handle the surge in business, you will not attract positive brand awareness and could end up hurting your business. So making sure you maintain adequate staff and that the staff knows the redemption process is essential for your success with a daily deal. And during that training process, teach staff to upsell on the discounted product or service, and to sign new customers up for your loyalty program, keeping them engaged and happy.

For products, consider deals that emphasize in-store pickup. Groupon is in the test phases of launching this style of deal program and many individual local deal sites are able to offer this to businesses. This way, shipping won’t eat into your already small (or nonexistent) margins and you will be able to unload inventory that you haven’t been able to otherwise sell at full price.

Most popular sites:

  • Groupon is extremely popular and offers an extraordinary amount of exposure.
  • Living Social is another great option that is highly current, very similar to Groupon, and provides great exposure.
  • Amazon Local has also been staking its place in the online world of daily deals, combining the power of Amazon with geographic specificity that will surely and efficiently get you noticed.

Whatever outlet you end up choosing to feature a daily deal for your business, it’s best to really invest the time into ample research and planning that tailors the deal specifically to your retail business. This will allow you to establish a means of exactly how your business can best benefit from the deal and limit your overall risks as much a possible. In doing so, you will utilize deal sites in the way they were originally intended in order to increase your exposure and gain loyal customers.

Adding Clicks To Your Bricks: Local Search for Physical Retail Stores

Once upon a time, the brick and mortar store and the virtual store lived on opposite sides of the tracks. Today, things have changed, as small and niche retailers embrace the online world and services such as shopping apps and social media not  just for fun, but to keep their brick & mortar store relevant with the new tech savvy shopper.

Your customers are socializing online. Working online. Shopping online. But when it comes to finding products to buy at nearby stores or simply searching for stores nearby that they may want to visit, where do they turn? Their smartphones. A great way to maximize your sales is through capitalizing upon local search. In this post, we’ll go over what exactly local search is all about, and then we’ll cover some key ways to make sure your business is on the (local) map.

How Local Search Works for Retail Shops

One way to think about local searches? They’re like an interactive yellow pages that provide customer reviews, directions and photos in addition to the basic 411. Local search engines make it easy for customers to connect with businesses close to them. If a customer is searching for a rug and carpet retailer, for example, the customer might enter “rugs” into the search box on their phone’s browser or an app that helps them find stores nearby. Once he or she has entered “rugs” as their search term, the search engine or app delivers a results for rugs and rug stores; most options have been reviewed by customers and are rated based on a star system. Customers usually go with the business with the most reviews, photographs, information and highest ratings. Search engines and location-based apps like Yelp and Foursquare work hard to put local businesses like yours on the map so that nearby shoppers know where you are, what you offer and what the buzz on your shop is.

Where Retailers Should Invest Time

You spend time every day making sure your store is clean and attractive, both inside and outside; spend time making sure your online presence is appealing to potential customers, too. Local search marketing can be a time consuming task, but we aren’t telling you that you need to be a search engine optimization specialist. What we are telling you is that the place to start is simple: local listings. When your local listings online aren’t kept up, you risk turning off your local customers… if they even find your local listing. So, where should you invest your energy and time? Some of the main players in local search that smaller retailers should pay attention to are: Yelp, Google Places, Google Plus, Foursquare, Facebook Local and Bing.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on what the main players in local search do:

  • Yelp: a local guide that functions as both a local search engine and as a place to leave and read reviews

  • Google Places: displays local businesses at the top for relevant local searches

  • Google+ Local: a function of the Google Plus social network that allows users to search for local businesses

  • Foursquare: a location-based social networking app for friends to follow real-world activities

  • Facebook Local: a function of the Facebook social network that allows mobile users to search for nearby locations while being able to view the business’s Facebook profile

  • Bing Places: a function of Bing that displays local businesses at the top of search results for relevant local searches

  • Yahoo Local: a function of Yahoo that displays local merchants and acts place to read and leave reviews for those businesses

How to Get Started to Show Up in Local Searches

Getting started on local search engines is a relatively simple process. We’ll use Yelp as an example on how to get your business registered and ready.

  • First, log on to Yelp and ‘claim’ your business: Yelp provides you with detailed instructions on how to do so.

  • Once you’re all set, you can complete your profile by adding uploading attractive photos of your retail floor, entering your website’s url and providing the best contact numbers for customers to call.

  • Be sure to mention any amenities your store offers, such as complimentary coffee or the ability to do self checkout from a smartphone!

  • Encourage customers to review your store by asking them to (whether you ask in person or on a sign).

Now that you’ve got the handle on Yelp, move on to Google+ Local, Foursquare and Yahoo, etc.: they all work in a similar way. You’ll find it gets easier as you go. For more detailed instructions on setting up your local search profiles, here’s some great guidance.

Getlisted.org is a great online resource for retailers and businesses to use: the site has a tool that helps you see which local listings your store has and which one you need to create or claim.

Key Takeaway

Services such as Foursquare, Google+ Local and Yelp can help you succeed, if you let them. One of the challenges in retail is getting the word out about your business. But shoppers are searching for nearby stores and products everyday. Are they finding you? Or are you making it easy for them to find your competitors?

Leveraging the Customer’s Line of Sight: 9 Tips for Retail Stores

In today’s competitive retail world, it can be challenging to keep up with the wants and needs of your customers. Once you have drawn customers into your store, the next crucial step is to keep them engaged and to leverage their line of sight in order to best ensure an appealing environment and positive sale.

The following tips will help you create a customer experience that embodies contentment and effortlessness as the customer navigates your store.

First impression

Always keep in mind what you place in the front of the store sets the stage for the customer as they move deeper. Create intrigue in what you have to offer right off the bat by placing a display in the front of your store that will get the customer to slow down and set the stage for a great experience. A display of seasonal appeal is an extremely effective way of doing this, and creates a point of interest for the customer to build on as they move through the store. If you can, draw shoppers to the right side of the entryway. Studies have shown that most people naturally look left first, then move right as they enter a store. If you can guide them in this direction, you are not forcing them in the “right” direction so much as you are working off of their natural route instinct.

Surrounding Décor

The décor and supplemental arrangements need to act in support of your merchandise. It’s best to use decorations and organizational materials that reflect a clean and open feel, leaving plenty of space for your retail items so as not to distract from the overall intrigue of what you are trying to sell. Be creative and use décor items that supplement your brand and product, but as you aim for a unique feel, make sure you don’t go overboard.

Packaging

If your product is packaged in any way, aim for a bold appeal and unique delivery. Be careful, however, that you don’t create any sense of distraction from the actual product, as it will not deliver its first impression as clearly as it should. Think about how you can implement packaging that communicates exactly what the product is or does while at the same time, standing out in what may be competitive product territory. Assess your use of color, font, shape, etc. in order to adequately communicate your company’s overall brand and image.

Placement and Organization

Where you place your products can greatly affects their potential for sale. Shelves and racks need to flow in a way that makes sense for both the browsing shopper and the shopper who is “on a mission.” Accessibility is also crucial, as items places too high or too low will go unreached, unseen, and unsold.

Lead the customer

When mapping out the structural framework of your store, aim for a continuous flow whenever possible. Don’t stop a display at a blank wall, closet, or employee area, as this can create an awkward transition and loss of attention on your product(s). Engage the customer with creative organization, and create a flow that makes sense, is appealing, and also reflects an upbeat sense of your product and your company.

Relationship

Make sure that one shelf of products doesn’t distract attention from another. Flow is always important, and if you establish cohesiveness between your displays, customers are less likely to become overwhelmed and/or disinterested. Be careful not to place a long line of products that goes on and on—this increases the chance of customer boredom and goods being skipped over. Small break spaces can be filled with unique standout merchandise or light décor to give the customer a chance to take a breath and become drawn in by the next display.

Checkout and Point of Sale Displays

It’s never too late to generate product intrigue. Even as your customer heads to the checkout counter, aim to complete their purchase with strategically placed merchandise that is often necessary but forgotten or even overlooked. Highlight smaller products that will appeal to a wide consumer base within your target demographic, and make sure they are at a most comfortable (and therefore, appealing) price point.

Bigger Picture

Of course, how you think about your company’s overall image will surely impact the customer’s in-store experience. Make sure you have aligned your brand, store layout, and merchandise to fit your target demographic. Take time perfecting your company logo and think about incorporating it into your displays and/or merchandise layout. Copywriting is another very broad area that affects retail stores on many levels. Words, signs, and product descriptions can dramatically enhance the customer experience and assist in encouraging your customers to maximize their in-store journey and delve deeper into your products. Also, change displays regularly, perhaps even using many of the same pieces, but rearranged and re-inspired to create a fresh perspective that will draw the customer into your products and best guide them around your store.

Store Specificity

Depending on your specific niche, there may additional methods of appealing to the consumer that rely on the particulars of your store, employees, and of course, the customer. Have employees give first hand input regarding common complaints or discrepancies they see as customers browse the aisles. Create an engaging and open atmosphere by simply asking frequent and loyal customers how they might better be served or access your products.