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 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.

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.

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?

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.

Adding Clicks to Your Bricks: Tips for Taking Your Retail Business Online

Establishing a strong retail business can be challenging, but once you have solidified a brick-and-mortar base, adding e-commerce to the mix is a natural next step. These quick tips will guide you to online success as your business grows.

1. First thing’s first

74% of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location. Are they finding you? Before even thinking about an e-commerce site, let’s stop cover a few things to check off your to-do list first.  The overwhelming majority of purchases still happen in-store and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future, so make sure you make it easy for shoppers to discover your physical store… where most of your revenue will still come from after you start selling online.

Location, location, location

Make sure you are easily found. These are all steps you can take even before having a website or e-commerce store, and this article gives step-by-step instructions to help you.

  • Create a Google Places listing
  • Create a Google+ profile and Google+ Local listing
  • Claim your Facebook Places Page
  • Create or claim your business listing on Foursquare
  • Claim your Yahoo! Local listing
  • Claim your business page on Yelp

A bare bones website

Now, it’s time to get a website up and running. But this doesn’t mean you have to set up an online store already. It’s okay to start slow, but you have to start somewhere. At the very least, this starting point is a fast and easy way for shoppers to find you and tell them about your store.

  • Set up a domain name using GoDaddy or a similar service.
  • Get web hosting (via a service such as HostGator). When it comes to the company that keeps your store alive, this is imperative. Your business will be relying heavily on this third-party hosting company.
  • Set up your email using your domain name. By establishing an email address such as [email protected] (as opposed to an address like [email protected]), you significantly increase credibility as a retailer. You can get free email through HostGator, but Google Apps for Business is another great option if you don’t mind spending $5/user per month.
  • Let’s start small… Get one page up on your website that, at the very least, includes your address, phone number and email address.

2. Sell through another channel before your e-commerce store is open

Here’s another quick win… After you’ve made sure shoppers can find you and before jumping into a lengthy process of launching your online store, give your shoppers the ability to buy from you from their phones from the comfort of their home, yes, without an e-commerce site. You can offer your customers an engaging mobile shopping app in a matter of hours with ShoppinPal. This way, shoppers nearby can discover your store, browse your inventory and make purchases using the retail app, taking advantage of an additional sales channel while you’re building your e-commerce store and setting the stage for your online store’s debut.

3. It’s time to build your online store

Okay, so you’ve completed the quick and easy steps, and now it’s time to dig in and get your hands dirty and do some heavy lifting to get your online store up and running. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but these pointers should give you a good head start.

  • Choose your e-commerce platform
  • Add items to your online store. This step can take some time, so use these tips to be prepared and be efficient during this exercise.
    • Do you have high quality images of your items? If not, you may want to invest in a good camera in order to make your products shine.
    • Do you have product descriptions of the items? This can be one of the most time consuming exercises for a successful online store. Be sure you write original, descriptive, and lively product details for each and every item. After all, it’s not just the convenience that drives shoppers to buy online, but also the wealth of product information to help them with purchase decisions.
    • Is your inventory frequently changing? If so, the ongoing management can be very time consuming and pose an additional challenge in retail sales online. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time managing these product listings yourself, or delegate this task to a team member that will be your point person for the online store.
  • Optimize the checkout experience so that your shoppers have the least amount of clicks possible to buy from you. The last thing you want to see on your online store’s dashboard is tons of abandoned carts.
  • Speaking of abandoned carts, be sure to set up automatic abandoned cart recovery emails so shoppers can easily revisit their cart and complete their purchase if they happen to get lost in the Wrold Wide Web before they actually buy something.
  • Just as you do in your store, make customer service a top priority online as well. Aim to deliver a site that is both aesthetically pleasing, thoughtfully functional and easy to find contact information.

4. Make your e-Ccmmerce store Google-friendly

Getting your store up and running is only half the battle. Now, it’s time for the never-ending efforts to optimize your site and your product listings so that shoppers find you online instead of your competitors.

  • Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to choose appropriate keywords to boost your company’s online presence as well as the visibility of each and every item you sell.
  • Link to other websites and vice versa. This will give your site greater visibility in Google Search results and via other companies.
    Frequently update content. Make sure to stay on top of new and changing trends that may affect the content on your site.
  • Submit your site manually to search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) and optimize SEO rankings.
    Using manufacturer or distributor product descriptions on your simply won’t cut it. How many retailers do you think take the easy way out and copy and paste? You need unique product descriptions and keyword rich image names that set you apart from the others and give you the best opportunity to be found online.

5. Engage and build community with social media

Now it’s time to attract visitors to your online store by engaging with shoppers online where they hang out while telling them a bit about your store and products while you’re at it.

  • Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social platforms to your best advantage.
  • Whichever platform you choose, be sure to add buttons on your website encouraging people to follow, like, and connect with your company and your products.
  • Consider setting up the ability to sell through Facebook. Shopify and Volusion also make this very easy.

6. Don’t stop there

Having a great online presence is a continuous effort, and it takes an all-around approach utilizing various channels and techniques to see the most value.

  • Don’t forget to use newsletters (via email subscriptions) to update your customers and advertise new products, deals and sales. If you don’t currently use an email marketing solution, MailChimp is hard to beat.
  • Once you have optimized your site, blogging is a great means of keeping it that way. Search engines love original, organic content, and one of the most effective ways of keeping your site fresh and search engine-friendly is to incorporate a blog on your site. This also provides a great way to engage with and solicit feedback from your customers.
  • Finally, Google Analytics provides insight into how people find and use your website. This will help your business gain valuable knowledge of customer behavior and further, will help you make educated decisions on how you will improve your online retail presence.

Valentine’s Day: How Your Store Can Win the Hearts of Last Minute Shoppers

Any guy who is shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift this late in the game is probably in panic mode. Whether he suffers from life-long holiday procrastination or is just downright clueless on what to buy his significant other, retail stores can make his life, or at least his Valentine’s Day gift buying, much easier. With no time to spare, the faster it is to get from “uhhhh” all the way to purchase, the more likely you’ll be the go-to store for his next gift giving occasion. Here are some ways retail stores do just that:

A Can’t Miss Display

An in-store Valentine’s Day display that hits a guy in the face right when he walks in your store is a no brainer. Pick your top-selling gifts for women and Valentine’s Day merchandise, include plenty of pink and red, and watch a purchase decision happen in seconds. Your male shoppers will remember the weight you are capable of lifting off their shoulders in a flash the next time they need go buy something “thoughtful.”

Order on the Go

Providing a mobile ordering option will help your store best serve shoppers on the go. Flowers are still the quintessential Valentine’s Day gift, and 1800Flowers has put a lot of focus on making their mobile properties a fast an easy way to order and pay for flowers. In fact, the retailer’s mobile site was rated as one of the fastest mobile checkouts. Imagine a guy on his way home from work taking out his phone, finding your store, and completing an order so it’s ready for him when he walks in your store, saving him enough time to actually write something on that Hallmark card this Valentine’s Day.

ShoppinPal TipTip: Enabling the out-of-store purchasing option in your ShoppinPal Merchant Center allows your shoppers to browse your store’s inventory from their smartphone while at home on the way to your store. You’ll receive a notification via ShoppinPal when an order is placed so you can get the order ready for pick-up.

Buy Online, Pick Up in Store

A guy who has waited until the last minute to buy a Valentine’s Day gift does not have a few days or a week to wait for a gift to be shipped. More and more customers are demanding this option. Stores like Nordstrom, Kay Jewelers, and Things Remembered all have in-store pickup options to help them save face with their sweethearts.

Gift Recommendations

Chances are, if a guy has waited until the last minute, he may not have any ideas for what to buy. This is your chance to help him get the perfect gift for his better half and be indebted to you for eternity. But really – being knowledgeable about the products and being fast is a surefire way to help you retain their business for the long term. Make sure the store staff knows the most popular Valentine’s Day items for various age groups, where exactly to find the items are on the shelves, and why his valentine will love it.

ShoppinPal TipTip: ShoppinPal automatically shows shoppers most popular items from your store instantly upon checking in, so even if your customer is clueless, he’ll be sure to have a quick head start. As he browses inside your store and scans a product barcode,  he’ll also see related and frequently purchased together items to make picking the perfect gift much, much easier and increases that chances that his significant other actually like what he picks out.

Gift Wrapping

Offering gift wrapping is essential when trying to cater to men who are shopping for a last minute Valentine’s Day gift. Let’s face it, most men generally aren’t that excited about gift-wrapping. Adding a gift-wrap option will boost your sales and help bring your customers back. Even if your store only offers gift wrapping during certain holiday shopping times, this and other customization options can help set you apart from your competitors and make your business more memorable.