For years, brick-and-mortar retailers have watched as the term “brick-and-mortar” has come to conjure images of an antiquated building, crumbling beneath the overwhelming, far-reaching digital empire of online sales. These days, it seems hardly a news cycle goes by without another major retailer announcing its plan to shut down physical locations: Sears, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney — the list goes on. Meanwhile, Amazon has grown so big that sometimes other ecommerce sites make more sales through an Amazon digital storefront than their own websites.
But despite these grim circumstances, there’s no reason for brick-and-mortar store owners to be intimated by the ecommerce giants. After all, there was a time not too long ago when Amazon only sold books. How did it grow beyond that? The company combined excellent customer service with a cutting-edge digital marketing gameplan to grow into the massively successful retailer it is today.
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As it turns out, today’s brick-and-mortar businesses have access to many of the very same digital strategies that catapulted their ecommerce competitors to the forefront. By taking advantage of improving online technology and strengthening their customer relationships, traditional retailers can supercharge their digital marketing efforts. In fact, by following the tips below, brick-and-mortar retailers can even generate greater ROI than they’re used to seeing from traditional advertising.
1. Use localized search engine optimization to drive your online visitors to your physical stores.
In today’s competitive marketplace, you need a website. Most consumers today find information about stores in their area by searching the web. Using search engine marketing means not just having a website, but also ensuring that the content on the site contains relevant keywords, key phrases and localized information so that search engines can find your site and return it in the list of results to a consumer’s search query. In the age of instant gratification, you can actually beat online retailers by providing a same day product receipt vs. the typical one to five days sales completion lifecycle online retailers have to deal with due to shipping times.
It’s especially important that your site prominently features information about where your store is located. This increases the odds that your page will rank higher in the search engine rankings when mobile users look up information while they’re close to one of your brick-and-mortar stores. Local searches via a smartphone lead to 50 percent of consumers visiting a store within one day, and nearly 18 percent of those store visits result in a purchase, according to a Google study. To put it mildly, localized search engine optimization isn’t just an option — it’s a necessity.
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2. Build stronger customer relationships by beefing up social media marketing.
Today’s consumers don’t just want good prices — they also want a rewarding shopping experience. To that end, it’s crucial to create a social media presence and engage your target market. But don’t just post for the sake of posting. Share information that is relevant and timely, including community/customer content; ask questions, start discussions, etc. — all of these will get your customers more involved and increase your brand awareness. Even better, a consistent social media strategy will encourage them to do a lot of the work for you by sharing posts and getting others involved. Even small businesses with a large social media presence can compete with large online retailers because the power of local social networks will bring new customers or retain existing ones with constant, easy reminders of quick-to-access stores.
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3. Get more competitive with a robust marketing mix.
That doesn’t mean you need to spend more on your marketing; it means you need to market smarter by combining traditional methods with digital marketing. Use a range of marketing channels to get your customers to come back, through automated email campaigns or pay-per-click retargeting campaigns if they haven’t been in the store recently or to reward them for being great customers. Just remember to collect robust data on your customers so that you know who, how and when to activate them.
4. Leverage reviews and testimonials to show customers how awesome you are.
Because consumers today are much more involved in the purchasing process, many like to give reviews of products or testimonials of a business. Reinforce reviews early and often, and post the best reviews and testimonials in areas that others can easily see, so that they can influence the next consumer decision. Last but not least, address negative reviews with positive actions vs. negative reactions.