By Abby Heugel

One of the biggest mistakes that brick-and-mortar retailers can make is to dismiss online marketing.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace filled with change and innovation, small businesses are now having to compete with larger organizations like never before. It’s no longer good enough to rely solely on word-of-mouth for increased business and new customers. Retailers must now provide an omnichannel shopping experience that brings people in and brings people back.

What does this have to do with online marketing? More or less, everything. If you want to achieve retail success, you need to have a strategy that leverages not only social media and email, but one that also gets creative and makes good use of new forms of marketing.

According to Statista, retail e-commerce sales worldwide reached $2.84 trillion in 2018 and are expected to reach 4.9 trillion in 2021. Translation: the Internet isn’t going anywhere.

But while customers are shopping and pricing things online, in-store sales still accounted for 91% of all retail sales in the US in 2017. And according to one study, 58% of US consumers hate paying for shipping, and 34% think product return process is difficult when shopping online.

So while online sales are important, brick-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere, either.

What this means is that in order to compete with larger stores and survive in 2019 and beyond, retailers have to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all sales channels — both online and off. Give them what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. But with consumers increasingly relying on digital tools and channels to aid their shopping journeys, you have no choice but to keep up.

Here’s how online marketing tools can help to drive traffic to your store.

Tool #1: Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS)

“Buy online, pick up in store” is just what it sounds like. Customers shop your online store, make their purchases, and then physically come into the store to pick them up. According to a survey from JDA Software, 50% of consumers had used BOPIS in the past year, which is a 43% increase over two years ago.

Almost every major retailer offers this service now, with 44% of retailers surveyed viewing BOPIS as a competitive imperative, with another 38% saying BOPIS was key to bringing shoppers into the store where they make additional purchases.

But it’s not without challenges, as retailers have to focus even more on logistics and inventory tracking, all while training and managing staff with new responsibilities. But the end goal of BOPIS is something retailers are focusing on already — providing a memorable customer experience.

Here’s how to make sure the BOPIS experience is as convenient as possible for both shoppers and staff:

Integrate your online and offline sales channels

Use a multichannel integration platform that gives you insight into both your physical store and website inventory — the what, where, and how quickly an item can get to the store where it’s needed.

One example of a retailer doing this right is Hop Burns & Black, a craft beer, hot sauce, and vinyl records retailer in London. Hop Burns & Black uses Vend and Shopify to sell both in-store and online. Since the two platforms are tightly connected, they’re able to offer services like BOPIS without having to manually update their inventory system.

Vend and Shopify are able to “talk” to each other, so whenever Hop Burns & Black sells something online or offline their sales and products sync automatically.

Overcommunicate with BOPIS customers.

When shoppers place an order, send an immediate confirmation, along with details about when the order will be ready, where to pick it up, and what kind of identification is needed.

Macy’s does this really well. In addition to sending you a confirmation email AND text message when you complete the purchase Macy’s notifies you when your order is ready for pick up. It sends you a detailed message both via email and text, containing:

The store address
The pick-up area within the store, including a detailed description of where to go
A list of things to bring when picking up your order

Stay on top of staff training

The concept of BOPIS is easy enough to understand, but executing it in-store isn’t as simple. Depending on your processes, you may need to conduct additional staff training when it comes to:

Fulfilling online orders and preparing them for pickup. As DigitalCommerce360 points out, “order fulfillment training needs to be passed down the employee chain – from the regional manager, to the store manager and to all store associates. Retailers must ensure all employees are familiar with the necessary POS tools to ensure a seamless checkout process, whether through regional training events or user guides.”

Upselling and cross-selling. Nearly half of people who opt for in-store pickup end up making a purchase when they head to the store. This means that you and your staff have a solid opportunity to increase the basket sizes of BOPIS customers. Dont’t miss your chance to convert them.

Train your team on the art of upselling and cross-selling without being sleazy. Encourage them to connect with customers and make sure they have the knowledge and tools they need to further assist shoppers.

Tool #2: Email marketing

In 2018 alone, more than 218 billion emails were sent — every single day. That number is expected to increase to more than 333 billion daily mails in 2022. When it comes to email marketing, the average return on a $1 investment is $44, and email marketing is used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies.

Smart retailers know they can’t do it alone, which is why millions of people use email marketing to create engaging newsletters that encourage conversions.

For example, with MailChimp, there are multiple customization tools to make your content look and feel professional, and they offer sign up forms to specifically match your brand. They also make it easy to add merge tags and offer subscriber profiles. This helps you see exactly how engaged each customer is, and what their website activity has been.

ConstantContact allows you to create email marketing campaigns with drag-and-drop customizable templates that you can personalize, send to your contacts, and track the response. And if you’re looking for an email marketing platform with more than 700 mobile responsive email templates to automate your email marketing, AWeber might just be what you need.

As for how you can use email marketing to drive traffic in-store, consider the following:

Announce free gifts in-store

Dealing with excess stock? Got additional store swag that you can to give away? Use those items to drive in-store traffic. In September 2018, for example, Kate Spade offered complimentary tote bags to their in-store visitors and then used email to spread the word.

Talk about events nearby

When you’re running in-store events, don’t forget to notify your email list. Pro tip: If you have multiple stores, segment customers by location, so you can email them with events closest to their location.

Total Wine & More, for example, regularly sends out “Events Near You” emails that contain a lineup of in-store classes and workshops happening at the recipient’s neighborhood stores.

Encourage people to bring a friend

Get your email subscribers to visit your store and bring friends along with special promotions.

Check out what cannabis retailer MedMen are doing. They ran a “BFF deal” that awarded shoppers 20% off their purchase when they bring in a new customer. The email had a clear call to action (i.e., Find Your Store”), which let people find the nearest MedMen location so they can plan their visit.

Tool #3: Social media management platforms

In order to survive, retailers have to not only have a presence in-store and with a website, but also on social media. That means you have to put time and resources into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest depending on the nature of your business. But that’s a time-consuming task. How will you find enough time to share and manage various social media accounts?

The answer to your problems is to use a social media marketing platform like one of the tools listed below.

Buffer helps small businesses schedule social posts on various social networking platforms. It allows you to manage all your social media accounts in one place, schedule social media posts for your preferred times, review your analytics to see how your posts are performing, and add multiple team members and set access levels.

With Hootsuite, you can quickly find and schedule social content, then measure its impact. You can keep your social presence active 24/7 by automatically scheduling hundreds of social media posts at once, across your social accounts and then measure the impact of your social media campaigns through comprehensive reporting.

Sprout Social understands that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that offers a personalized experience, which is why they help you “create real connection by understanding your consumers’ needs and meeting them there.” You can extract real business value out of social media through effective engagement, publishing, and analytics.

Tool #4: Mobile promotions that are redeemable in-store

Mobile users spend more than four hours a day on their phones, and according to Statista,
mobile accounted for 52.5% of worldwide website traffic in 2018. Not only that, but while email has an average open rate of around 24%, the rate of text message open rate in the US is a whopping 82%.

What this should tell retailers is that while email marketing is necessary and still very effective, you should also be optimizing the use of mobile in your marketing efforts. Just as you collect email addresses, start to collect phone numbers, as well.

Once you have a decent list, use SMS to start sending coupons and gift codes that can only be redeemed by coming into the store — where you can hopefully entice them into more purchases.

Snowflakes, a dessert shop in Cerritos, CA does just that. They occasionally reach out to existing customers via text who haven’t stopped by in a while with an offer they can redeem in-store.

Tool #5: Local inventory ads

According to a study from Kibo Software, 80% of consumers are less likely to go to a store if they can’t view available inventory levels online in advance, so why not give the shoppers what they want?

The first step is to make sure shoppers can easily find your local store and all the necessary details, like phone numbers, email, hours, and address. Then provide local inventory availability information for each item at each store location.

Does that sound daunting? Enter Google Local Inventory Ads.

With Google Local Inventory ads, online shoppers have an easy way to identify products available in stores near them. For example, say someone is camping and wants a new pair of sunglasses. All they have to do is take out their phone and type in “womens sunglasses near me” and a list of stores with available sunglasses will pop up.

If they click on the ad, they’re brought to a Google-hosted web page of the store (known as the local storefront) which provides the sunglasses available, and also the distance to the brick-and-mortar location and store hours.

That’s truly an omnichannel shopping experience.

According to Google, in order to qualify for local product ads, you must meet the following requirements:

You must have a local brick and mortar business location where customers can physically visit, view, and purchase the desired item.
Sell physical goods that shoppers can buy without an additional purchase (like a membership).
Protect customers personally identifiable information (PII).
You must be physically located in the country for which your ads are targeted.

Further Reading

Looking for more insights to help you engage and sell to customers? Check out Vend’s Sales Guide, and learn the 10 proven techniques to increase sales in your retail store.

In this resource, you will learn how to:

Optimize your store design for maximum sales
Set yourself apart from your closest competitors
Add real and perceived value to each sale

Learn More

Looking ahead

In order to be successful, retailers have to have a sound online marketing strategy in place — one that incorporates social media, email marketing, and convenient options that approach customer acquisition and satisfaction in various ways.

It also means using the right tools at the right time, and hopefully these online marketing tips will help drive more traffic to your store — both online and off.

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