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.

It’s Simple: Make Your Business Mobile-Friendly, Or Lose Customers

The Pew Research group reports that more than half of the U.S. population is mobile tech enabled — 58 percent have a smartphone and 42 percent have a tablet. More and more people get their news, do research and purchase products on their mobile devices. Smart companies are gearing up to support this mobile revolution, and smarter companies have been catering to smartphone users for years. Get your business and web presence mobile-ready. Without doing so, you’re recommending more and more customers to shop with your competitors ever day… unless you’re into losing money and that kind of thing?

What is the Impact of Mobile Access?

Tech Crunch reveals that 21.8 percent of the Black Friday sales last year were through a mobile device. Tablets accounted for 14.4 percent of the sales and smartphones 7.2 percent. KPCB predicts by the end of 2014, 25 percent of the Internet traffic globally will be through mobile devices. And smartphones will be used more and more for actual transactions, not just browsing then switching to a tablet or desktop for the transaction.

The Google Mobile Path to Purchase showed 48 percent of research on mobile starts with a search engine users started a search on a mobile device. Nearly 55 percent of those mobile searchers made a purchase within one hour. Do you want that purchase to be with you? Or with your competitors? The mobile user wants access to concise information through which they can make a quick decision. Your business needs to cater to these mobile searchers to stay connected.

Mobile-friendly Business

Forbes writer Joshua Steimle goes as far as to say that if your website is not mobile-ready in 2014, you may not be around for long. Making your website and content available to mobile users is key to competing with companies that have made the change. The three primary ways to manage this are through responsive design techniques on your website, by creating a separate mobile site, and creating a mobile app designed for specific devices. The path you ultimately take to be mobile-ready really depends on the type of content you’re serving up.

Websites and Responsive Design

Responsive design is a way to make your web presence look good and function well on any device, whether that’s a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Websites with responsive design will detect any of those devices you are using and format the page accordingly. Your website will display correctly without the user having to zoom in on portions of the page. They will have buttons that they can actually press without zooming in or pressing two buttons at once. Viewing your site is one thing, but making it easy for the mobile user to select items, fill in fields and check out is critical.

If you have a fairly new website, or it’s simple and for information only, implementing responsive design shouldn’t break the bank. If you haven’t touched your site in years, you may want to do a total rewrite to get the benefit of the best of responsive design techniques. You might invest several thousands of dollars on a rewrite with a responsive design, but your investment could place you ahead of slower moving competitors. Just remember that good web developers today think about responsive design first, not just an afterthought when you’re already knee deep in a website redesign that then adds big dollar signs not in the agreed upon budget.

Some of the areas addressed by responsive design include:

  • pages adjust to the size of the device’s screen
  • images resize automatically so they stay within their sections
  • page headers and footers remain small to allow for more content to display
  • custom menu systems are created to allow the mobile user to navigate through your site easily
  • search boxes are easy to find and use
  • product images are used as a focal point instead of text
  • product options are easy to select on a mobile device
  • cart and checkout buttons are easy to find and use

Responding to Mobile Users with an App

Some websites are just not conducive to responsive design. These include older and very complicated websites. In those cases, a special mobile app may be the solution. The social media platform LinkedIn chose to create a web app for each mobile OS so that those mobile users could have a unique experience, notes Forbes. Both iOS and Android users have an app to access LinkedIn that uses the native functionality in those devices. This ensures LinkedIn doesn’t miss any of its market due to lack of mobile compatibility.

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.

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?

Retail Apps + Toy Stores: A Match Made in Parenting Heaven?

From marketing via Instagram and Pinterest to location-based deals and targeted rewards, today’s niche and small retailers are getting creative. If you own or manage a shop that sells products kids and parents love, it’s time to think outside the toy box.

Big box stores offer the masses of overtired and overworked parents some serious appeal in terms of convenience – moms and dads can buy everything from computers to diapers in the same location. If you want to appeal to the parent shopper you’ve got a challenge – but not one that can’t be overcome! Shopping apps bring a lot to the sales floor and keep a toy store relevant with busy parents.

Retail Apps Offer Parents Sanity

Think about your average parent. They’re usually rushing from job to pre-school to birthday party to dinner: if they’re not cleaning spaghetti off the walls, they’re safeguarding the electronics from juice-crazed toddlers. Sometimes, parenting can feel like trying to manage a house full of frat guys (minus the alcohol). Needless to say, sanity can be a struggle for moms and dads, and as a result, they naturally gravitate toward anything that makes life a bit easier. The tired parent is an untapped market: send personalized purchase ideas and give moms and dads the ability to self pay from their phones (when they have a flock of kids in tow) and you can create an extremely loyal customer base.

Retail Apps Offer Parents Deals

Penny pinching has become a cultural phenomenon. From deal sites like Groupon to tv shows about couponing, shopping has become a serious business for a lot of us. Folks watching their budgets so closely is not the worst thing ever if you adapt and find ways to engage them: shoppers are more willing than ever to look around for a good deal. Shops that embrace the right retail app can keep their savvy parent shoppers in the loop on special prices and great buys. From offering customers check-in deals or even product-specific discounts, small business owners that utilize shopping apps can lure customers in with the power of a good, old-fashioned deal.

Retail Apps Offer Personalization

Check-in deals. Shared shopping lists. Mobile payments. Shopper analytics. Retail apps are an excellent way for stores understand their customers and enhance the shopping experience for busy parents. Retail apps also offer stores the powerful ability to target customers based on preferences. You know how Amazon offers personalized recommendations based on past purchases and browsing histories? Shopping apps do too, which is one more reason a parent will want to shop your store instead of passing it up to shop with the online giant.

When the ease of digital shopping is merged with real-time benefits, both the shop and the customer wins. Bottom line? If you sell parent and kid-friendly products, from nursing aprons to science sets, a retail app is a great way to drive sales while offering parents the stress reduction and convenience they crave.

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?

Retail Marketing: Adapting Strategies for the Millennial Generation

The millennial shopper currently represents the largest generation of consumers in a changing retail marketplace, one where retailers must make a continuous effort to evolve marketing strategies in order to stay ahead of the game. Millennials are officially categorized as having been born between 1980 and 2000. They are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one, making for an interesting marketing dichotomy and retail challenge when reaching out to this particular demographic.

Millennial shoppers are unique and important to marketing strategists because they have experience with both old century values and the boom of new technology. They share similar shopping preferences with generations before them (The Baby Boomers and Generation X), but also prefer to engage with brands far more extensively and personally than those previous generations. Technology has created for them more demanding expectations regarding how their needs are reflected in the brands they purchase and also, how they go about choosing and reviewing products.

Engage with Mobile

There is no doubt that mobile technology has changed shopping. With it, millennials have been gifted with a convenience unmatched by the marketing strategies of previous generations. Now, companies have the ability to provide direct marketing based on specific needs and personal demand. Further, while this generation is entirely comfortable (and often prefers) buying online, mobile devices and shopping apps are also essential for product information, reviews, rewards, and payments, particularly while in-store. When millennials see discounts, they are much more likely to buy, so providing this kind of access is essential for retail success.

Millennials are certainly very savvy online customers, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped frequenting traditional brick and mortar stores. Mobile shopping apps enhance this in-store experience, allowing for potential customers to explore inventory, shop smarter, and save money with personalized offers. Regardless of how technologically on-trend you are, quality and service still matter, and this helps to achieve the next step in marketing to millennials: relevance.

Provide Relevancy

For the millennial, it’s all about a validation of needs. Many of these consumers use the Internet to sharpen their shopping skills by checking product ratings or feedback on particular retailers. Ultimately, they are looking for best value AND service. This combination means that purchasing decisions are influenced on a much larger scale than ever before. Most shoppers seek personalized, targeted promotions and discounts as the price for their loyalty.

Ultimately, a shopping experience depends very much on how relevant your brand is to the shopper, how much you can tailor your offers to fit a personal preference, and further, the strength and overall functionality of the goods and services that you provide. In addition to this, you need to think about who influences millennials (friends, family, celebrities) and also, think about whom and what they don’t trust (general advertising, products that are “too good to be true”).

Social media and mobile devices are certainly at the forefront of all marketing efforts, but retailers need to think beyond Facebook in reaching this particular group of consumers. Many sites, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest have become bigger platforms for providing relevant product recommendations from one millennial to another.

The Relationship: Reputation and Referrals

Things have become much more personal, and the buying of specific brands now reflects personal values and an overall “place in the world.” Millennials need 24/7 availability and also, a connection with retailers that moves away from one-way push communications to more of a two-way open dialogue. The millennial shopper often makes purchasing decisions based on other’s experiences and research into how others have encountered a particular brand or product for themselves. This method of social conversation garners word-of-mouth marketing that no retailer’s advertising budget can compete with. This article on marketing to the mothers of millennials highlights in greater detail this preference for referrals and the importance of brand reputation.

Millennials can be complex consumers, and it can be tricky to figure out the right balance between old school strategies as they mix with up-and-coming technological strategies. By focusing on a whole relationship with the consumer, retailers can nurture a bond that will essentially move to market itself to additional shoppers within the marketplace.

ShoppinPal to Speak at Independent Retailer Conference

ShoppinPal will be joining the Independent Retailer Conference in Las Vegas in March as one of several retail experts to host educational sessions filled with the latest retail insights and trends for attendees of the ASD Show.

RetailMinded’s Independent Retailer Conference is dedicated to helping indie retailers succeed by providing rich educational content from industry experts. And for the first time, the event will be held at the ASD Show in Las Vegas March 16-19.

The ASD Show is one of the largest and most comprehensive trade shows in the country where retailers buy inventory for their stores. Now, with the addition of the Independent Retailer Conferece, attendees can not only find the right items for their stores, but learn how to make their store more successful, from operations and store layout to marketing and mobile commerce.

ShoppinPal’s Sriram Subramanian and Jason Trout will be hosting discussions with retail decision makers, along with executives from other companies focused on helping independent retailers, including Constant Contact, Shopify, Snap Retail, Vend, and Independent Retailer Magazine. Check out the complete speaker lineup.

Need an excuse to go to Vegas? Register here and let us know you’re coming.

Here’s what ShoppinPal will be sharing with conference attendees at ASD:

The future of the brick & mortar store: What retailers need to know

Technology is changing how shoppers shop and how retailers cater to their customers’ wants. Advancements in point-of-sale systems, mobile payments, shopper tracking, personalized offers, location-based marketing, customer loyalty… the future of the brick & mortar store is full of exciting changes and new opportunities for retailers to delight their customers.  Learn about these new innovations and how to create a connected shopping experience inside and outside of the physical retail store.

How to keep your store relevant with today’s tech savvy shopper

Spoiled by the convenience of online shopping and armed with the power of smartphones, your customers are shopping differently today, and retail stores must adapt. Learn how your customers’ shopping habits are changing, their new expectations of a retail store, and how you can stay relevant with today’s tech savvy shopper.

Showrooming: how to fight back and capture lost sales

Shoppers’ phones can be a retailer’s worst nightmare, enabling them to browse your carefully selected in-store merchandise only to buy it cheaper online, sometimes even while standing in your store. But is showrooming to be feared? Learn the truth about showrooming and how retail stores can win the battle.