3 Essentials for Retailers to Grow and Compete

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Episode 34 with Kevin Doran, owner of R&A Marketing.

It’s tough to stand out and create the traffic your retail store needs (both digitally and in-person). You're either competing with everyone or fighting to create demand. How can your small business differentiate itself and bring in enough customers to keep business booming?

We’ll start by answering these three questions:

  • How can you stand out from competitors?
  • How do you create repeat customers?
  • How can you design an online shopping experience that gets customers to make in-store purchases?

We’ll talk through each of these points, so you can walk away knowing how to get hyper focused with your customer targeting and ultimately grow your profits.

1. How can you stand out from competitors?

Retailers like you tend to sell commodity items or niche products. How do you compete with stores that offer those same products and become the go-to for customers?

It comes down to the right messaging with the right media. Your goal is to find your target audience and speak to them in a way that appeals the most to them, whether it’s email, text, or video.

You can best pinpoint those preferences by creating a customer buyer persona, or a fictional representation of the customers you typically serve, including their:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests
  • Education level
  • Job title
  • Income level
  • Buying motivation
  • Pain points
  • And any other relevant details

You can gather this information by looking at existing metrics you have already collected, talking to your sales team, or sending customer surveys.

Once you have your customer buyer persona created, you can start targeting the percentage of your customers who are ready to make a purchase.

The best ROI you can get is going after those particular customers who are at the top of your buying funnel, and focusing on sales over lead generation for your business strategy.

But how do you find those hyper targeted customers who are ready to buy?

Now that you’ve created your customer buyer persona, it should serve as a base that helps you account for individual differences and preferences within your customer base. That includes those who are most likely ready to make a purchase.

From there you can create personalized marketing messages and content that brings those customers directly to you.

For example, customers with differing price ranges are more likely to convert when they see messaging or content that caters to their specific price point. So someone who is purchasing $500 to $1000 in retail items will probably want to have closer, more personalized communication with you than someone in a lower price range, and your marketing should showcase that they'll get that kind of quality experience.

The more you advertise your personalized shopping experience and tailored options like that, the more conversions you’ll get. 90% of marketers say personalization contributes to profitability, and 63% of customers say they will stop buying from brands with poor personalization strategies.

PC: SuperOffice

That’s why you need to make sure you show off all the options you offer, including:

  • Price ranges
  • Styles
  • Back-in-stock and out-of-stock reminders
  • Virtual try-ons or tours
  • Customizable discounts, promotions, and coupons
  • Automated updates on new product

There are a lot of different ways to share these personalized features with your customers, but one way that works consistently across generations and buying groups is text messaging.

Text messaging gives customers the power to communicate with you the way they most prefer, and advertising it can be as simple as including “Text us!” calls-to-actions on marketing materials or inviting customers to join a SMS subscriber list for personalized rewards.

53% of the texts some retailers receive are product and pricing inquiries.

2. How do you create repeat customers?

The pricier the retail items you sell, the harder it may be to drum up business beyond first time purchases. This is especially true if you’re selling items like furniture, which typically only get replaced once every eight years.

How can you ensure customers come back with time gaps as big as that?

The reality is that most customers will likely come back on their own once they’ve made a purchase that big. You’ve already done the work to prove to them that you are the best option, and that’s why they made the purchase in the first place.

What you should be focusing on instead is making additional business by getting those happy customers to share their experience. 46% of consumers get info for potential purchases from family members, while 45% get information from friends.

You as a retailer have a great story to tell when you take care of your customers. Your goal should be to get your brand and name out there based on that quality service, which you can do through referral campaigns or sharing customer stories in case studies or social media content that showcases your:

  • Reasonable prices
  • Solid customer service
  • Consistency in carrying items target customers would expect to be carried

You could also text customers to ask if they could share their positive experiences in reviews or refer friends and family members for discounts.

Customer loyalty is an invaluable marketing tool, especially when you reward those same customers for word-of-mouth referrals. 50% of consumers choose word-of-mouth recommendations over any other source of information.

Related: 15 Text Templates for Requesting Customer Reviews

PC: Entrepreneur

3. How can you design an online shopping experience that gets customers to make in-store purchases?

Customers need the option to buy online. It’s just what’s expected now and part of the consumer demand created by Amazon. The key is to offer a hybrid experience where customers feel comfortable making purchases from either your e-commerce or brick-and-mortar stores.

Your online store experience should be as close as possible to your in-store one, including the ability to review:

  • The amount of an item still in stock
  • Which location the item can be found at
  • The option to see the item in different styles, colors, and environments
  • The option to try things out before they are purchased

Your job is to showcase that you offer all those great things, and then amplify them with additional tools to make customers' shopping experience more personalized.

For example, some furniture retailers now create digital tours with personalized items based on what the customer tells them they want to browse. They then send the items they reviewed via text, and then the customer can decide on their own time whether or not they want to make the purchase.

Sometimes the customers will even make “v-purchases,” where they see the item online, check out the item in person, then purchase it online later that night because they’re able to shop the way they prefer to on their own.

The more ways you give the customer to shop, the better your chances at converting them are. Your goal is to have a business model that eliminates any hurdles or gates keeping them from that experience.

One way you can do that is with SMS Chat. It’s a widget that customers can use to start conversations with you as soon as they reach your website.

Giving customers the power to start conversations like that (just like they would in a physical store) is key to converting them. It prevents them from just skimming through your website and never finding a next step.

Your growth strategy should be to amplify retail sales that were already happening on their own.

At the end of the day, you’re in business for a reason, and you’re most likely already on top of running your retail store. Your goal is to showcase the good work you’re doing, and amplify what’s already successful through your marketing efforts.

From there it comes down to following through on the basics, including:

1. Identifying which customers you were already successfully selling to

2. Recognizing what things you have to offer to that specific customer

3. Creating the right media and messaging to drive those customers to take some type of action

It’s less about focusing on the bottom line, and more about directing your marketing strategy toward building upon the top line you’ve already established.

Related: [Podcast] 4 Essentials to Marketing Your Local Business