5 Key Digital Marketing Strategies for Retail Businesses

Cover: 5 Key Digital Marketing Strategies for Retail Businesses

As more and more business takes place online, times are changing for retail businesses. Just because people are spending more time online, however, doesn't mean non-Amazon retail businesses aren't viable. In fact, the internet is crucial to the success of all retail businesses.

Forty percent of consumers buy more from retailers that provide a personalized shopping experience across digital and in-person channels. Shoppers want a seamless experience between the web and brick-and-mortar stores. That's important to consider when starting your own retail business or making growth-minded changes.

Decision-makers for retail businesses must think in a digital mindset. These tips will help you incorporate digital marketing strategies into your brick-and-mortar operations and increase your bottom line.

Embrace Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing may sound intimidating, but it's important that every business embrace it. A whopping 73 percent of retail consumers use multiple channels to shop. They'll Google products they're interested in, look at product reviews on your website, gather more information from other customers on Facebook or Twitter, and check to see if they have any coupons from promotional emails. Then they'll finally step foot in your brick-and-mortar store ready to ask their final questions, try things on, and buy. (And even after all that, they still may prefer to buy online.)

Customers have no shortage of shopping options, so retailers must make the shopping experience as seamless and comprehensive as possible. That means investing in data specialists and analysts to harvest data and use it to improve your retail experience. With better data, you can better target prospective customers, optimize the customer experience, and bridge the gap between online and in-store.

A great omnichannel marketing strategy uses customer data to determine when individuals are most likely to browse your site, visit your store, ask a question, buy, and much more. Armed with that information, you can build customer personas and send coupons or special offers to all of your customers who tend to shop on Wednesdays. If Friday afternoon is your busiest shopping time, you can ensure your most productive salespeople are on the floor at that time. All of this data helps you optimize the in-store experience so customers prefer to shop in-store rather than online.

Offer In-Store Wi-Fi

One of the best ways to differentiate your store from competitors is to offer Wi-Fi. Research shows that 62 percent of businesses that provide free Wi-Fi report their shoppers stay longer. It's a great perk for your shoppers, but it's also a valuable asset to your marketing strategy and your bottom line. That same research showed that half of businesses report higher customer spending after they offered Wi-Fi in-store.

Typically, you can't gather customer information unless they make a purchase or choose to opt into your promotions or newsletters. It's difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to build an email list when associates have to ask for and add customer information to a database. Customers will do that themselves by accessing your Wi-Fi network.

In exchange for free Wi-Fi, ask shoppers to give you their email address, a phone number, or some other valuable piece of information. Your Wi-Fi platform can track their shopping habits and map their shopper journey in-store so you know what your customers respond to and what they don't. Plus, your Wi-Fi network will build email or calling lists to enhance your omnichannel marketing strategy, letting you engage with customers who didn't buy as well as those who did.

Utilize Google Shopping

Google receives 63,000 search inquiries per second (not all of those are shopping-related, of course, but many of them are.) Google's shopping module makes it easy to display your products or help your business stand out online. After all, 34 percent of "near me" search inquiries result in store visits.

Google is like a digital shopping tour guide, which is why it's vital that your retail business has an SEO-optimized online presence. There's a lot you can do to improve SEO but that's another story. When you use Google Shopping, Google will do the hard work of connecting your business with people in your area searching for the products you sell. If you have an e-commerce storefront as well as a brick-and-mortar store, you must use Google Shopping. Even if you only have a single retail outlet, Google can help increase your foot traffic.

Think Mobile

You may bemoan the state of humanity when you're walking down the street and notice everyone is staring at their phones. As a retailer, however, you should also be thinking, "How do I take advantage of that?"

Turns out, people use their phones all the time while shopping in stores. Eighty percent of customers use a phone inside a store to look up reviews, compare prices, or look for other locations of your stores.

That means your digital marketing strategy must be mobile-friendly. Offering Wi-Fi is great because even if shoppers decide to buy elsewhere, you still gain data from them. Utilizing an SMS marketing platform lets you answer customer questions proactively while they're on the phone in your stores.

Shoppers are also likely browsing social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter while in your stores, which means you must have an active social media presence. Whether they're looking for reviews or feedback from other customers or they'd like to engage with your brand, social media activity is an essential cog to a successful digital marketing strategy.

Instill a Sense of Urgency

Everyone has made an impulse buy before. Many did so because they felt they might miss out on something if they didn't buy. That's good marketing at work.

While you can put a sign outside your store that says, "BOGO Sale Today," that still limits your audience to the foot traffic outside. When you instill that same sense of urgency in your digital marketing efforts, you capitalize on a much broader range of impulsive tendencies. Your entire email list won't walk by your store on any given day, but you can ensure they all hear about your one day-only sale.

Whether you're running a surprise sale or your regular calendar sales, a sense of urgency can make a key difference. Smart retail marketers will leverage the time of year - Valentine's Day, 4th of July, Christmas - and plan sales, promotions, or offers around them. If your digital marketing messaging tells shoppers that these sales are in-store only, they'll come running.

The Bottom Line on Digital Marketing Strategies

There are many ways to improve your retail business's profit margins. Investing in a smart, comprehensive digital marketing strategy is one of the best. From implementing an omnichannel marketing infrastructure to honing your brand's digital messaging, digital marketing can make a huge difference for your retail store's bottom line.

About the writer: Eric Goldschein is the partnerships editor at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in history and English writing. Eric has nearly a decade of experience in digital media and writes extensively on marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, and small business trends.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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Eric Goldschein, Fundera

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