Brand awareness is a term often thrown in the ‘jargon’ or ‘business lingo’ pile, but if you’re an ambitious, developing retail store, brand awareness is essential to your prospects.
Increasing the likelihood of people being aware of your brand’s existence provides the groundworks for all other strategies that ensure the longevity of your business. Without an engaged, informed and loyal customer base, getting your brick-and-mortar store off the ground will be a struggle.
With the ever-rising popularity in online retail, we often see physical store owners worrying that their brand simply cannot get the exposure it needs to get off the ground. Many believe focusing on physical sales now seems old-fashioned and out of touch, while having an online presence in such a competitive industry provides little opportunity for physical store conversions. Neither of these assumptions are true.
Developing brand awareness online and offline
Modern businesses can (and, in many cases, should) combine an online presence with a physical presence. More and more businesses are finding innovative ways to make their brand take customers from their mobiles, tablets, and laptops, into their physical store. A number of new brands are generating momentum online through alternative, eye-catching tactics, and then using that brand awareness to kick-start a thriving brick-and-mortar store.
Digital PR strategies are the starting point to achieving this, exposing your brand and everything about it (your business model, products, morals and unique selling point (USP) to an audience of web users looking for something new.
Let’s take a look at some of the best …
A tailored website that reflects your brand
Regardless of if you intend on embracing e-commerce and making online sales, a quality website is a necessity for any brand looking to generate awareness. Online search engines have become the default starting point for just about anyone looking to answer a question or discover what they’re looking for. Not representing your business in this area severely limits the scope for your brand to expand.
As it will dictate the first impression that many people create about your business, your website needs to be the perfect, professional reflection of your brand. To ensure this from a technical standpoint, don’t try to tip-toe around small (but extremely worthwhile) expenses, like dedicated web hosting and customized website design. Then, tweak every aspect of your site to make it suit your brand and the products or services you’re selling. The color scheme; the structure; your brand voice; make it all embody what your brand is about.
If you’re looking to drive physical store traffic, feature your store heavily. Include pictures, location details, and reasons why potential customers should visit your store, like special offers, product demonstrations, and the benefit of face-to-face communication with the expert staff in your store.
Spread the word: get blogging
Now that your website is up and running, it’s time to start writing unique content that will attract and engage your chosen audience.
Starting off with a blog section on your own site, create a portfolio of content that helps establish your brand as reputable, knowledgeable, and worth following. You know better than anyone what makes your brand worth being aware of, so use your passion and knowledge to promote what makes it special.
Write the content that you would want your favorite brands to write about. Take readers behind the scenes and make them feel involved with your business. Comment on hot topics relevant to your brand. Include links to reputable sources, high-authority sites, and other key pages of your own site.
Your brand is defined by the products or services you sell as much as any other factor — so why not get them into the public domain more?
Online reviews and giveaways are great Digital PR strategies that can make people more aware of what interests them most about your brand: what you are selling. The incentive of a free product or another type of exclusive discount is also a well-established way to generate some buzz. The expense of giving one or two items away will be quickly negated by the extra sales generated by increased brand awareness and interest in your product.
Digitally, you can organize these PR campaigns through your own site or by collaborating with another publication. Pick a key product that you stock and create a competition that guides entrants into engaging with your brand. To enter, have viewers share the product online and follow your social media channels (more on those in a moment).
Tactics like these give you a greater chance of engaging viewers again after the competition, regardless of if they win or not. If you’re looking to funnel traffic to your physical store, an entry requirement could be to sign up to the newsletter where you encourage people to visit the store, to fill out a form in the shop, or even to take a picture of your store. Get creative, make it fun and tailor the competition to suit your brand.
In terms of reviews, link up with respected bloggers and offer one of your products to review, free of charge. If a reputable blogger is seen using and writing about your products (and lavishing it with praise), plenty of that blogger’s loyal following will want to have the product, too. Vloggers are also great for reviews, as they can use their YouTube channel to showcase the product in action.
Don’t sleep on social media
All of the above strategies can be implemented, promoted and expanded upon by your brand’s social media channels. Blog posts, competitions, and reviews can be advertised. Your brand voice can be cultivated and refined. Your growing customer base can even do some brand awareness for you!
Social media juggernauts like Facebook and Twitter may seem obvious suggestions, but they’re still perfect for keeping regular web users up to date on your brand. Use these hubs to share content and promote any important goings-on, as they happen. Planning to start a flash sale at your brick-and-mortar store? Outline the products on sale and the start time on Twitter. Got a big product launch that’s got customers queuing outside the entrance? Stream the activity via Facebook Live and broadcast how popular your store is.
Aside from the ‘big two’ of social media, other channels can be used efficiently to catalyze brand awareness. Instagram and Pinterest are great for brands that are big on visuals — so arts, crafts, decorations, photography and the like. Snapchat, meanwhile, is perfect for brands with a real down-to-earth, blue-collar feel. You can take viewers behind the scenes and break down the metaphorical fourth wall with Snapchat, tracking daily activity at your store and the general culture it sits within.
Don’t over-commit to social media, though. Inactive and unresponsive channels are surefire ways of making your brand look unprofessional and unreliable. Use the channels best suited to your brand, outline a strategy, and stay consistent.
Online PR and physical stores can co-exist
Online presence and physical store success can co-exist; it just takes some creative digital PR strategies to make it happen. In today’s society, word of mouth is not a reliable enough tool for brand awareness, but neither are faceless press releases and spammy e-mails.
There’s no getting away from the fact that online sales own a huge chunk of the retail market that will only continue to grow. Instead of letting that fact scare you out of committing to your brick-and-mortar stores, use it to your advantage. Be creative, use digital PR strategies effectively, and watch your brand awareness soar.
About the Author: Charlie Marchant is a Content Marketer and Digital PR Specialist. She has run bazillions of successful Digital PR and Blogger Outreach campaigns for eCommerce websites with brick-and-mortar stores. Charlie is currently head of Digital PR at Exposure Ninja, and you can track her down via LinkedIn.
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