Category Archive: Retail Marketing Tips

Topics and trends that affect your retail marketing.

Channels, Channels, Channels…

We used to have ‘multi-channel’, which more or less referred to customers having access to brands and companies with different checkpoints. Customers were still in silos at that point… we didn’t have great vision when it came to brick/mortar versus mobile, etc. Then we had ‘cross-channel retail’ wherein customers started to see the brand in different ways because of new touch points (tablets, QR codes, location-based services) but there was still a lingering silo effect. We knew our brick/mortar customers and we knew our mobile customers but it was often hard to make the connection between the two even though they were (and remain) one and the same.

Enter “Omni-Channel Retail”, also referred to as OCR or IR (Integrated Retail). The barrier of siloed customers is a thing of the past in Omni-Channel. Even though its not really quite here yet and for most organizations it will take a lot of heaving lifting and infrastructure rethinking, it’s not going away.

OCR is definitely integrated- retailers have wish lists or ‘suggested items’ for that pair of shoes you just put in your cart, they can notify you of deals when you check in to a physical store location, they love to see you ‘tweet’ about your shoes and might respond to you if you do. They’re happy to send you a short survey asking how your shopping experience was after finishing that sale via the mobile POS tablet on the sales floor… and don’t forget that coupon you’ll get in the mail for your next purchase. Didn’t have a sales person? Maybe you actually just purchased an item at an in-store kiosk and had it shipped home? Yep, you’re in the world of OCR.

It’s topic that warrants a lot more of your attention than we can garner today so we’re hoping you’ll check in on this space often. But suffice it to say there are a few critical tools to becoming an OCR retailer or a brand that works with people in the integrated space. These include:

– A strong mobile strategy to enhance your existing customer data.

– Having a proven search (and retargeting) strategy to strengthen the link to potential customers and existing customers.

– Developing feedback mechanisms (social media email or surveys) to continue communication

– Developing an In-Store pickup program, to save everyone shipping costs and cut lead time for a customer’s item delivery.

– Reframing the Point of Sale and transaction “interaction”. Can you or should you empower staff to conduct transitions via tablet or mobile device on the floor? What about kiosks?

Gartner analyst Chris Fletcher made a great point we ran across recently, citing the e-commerce distinction as a dated term. It’s effectively all e-commerce now. Or maybe “just commerce”.

“Getting into data, analytics, or mobile isn’t even a decision anymore, so we should stop calling it e-commerce and call it just commerce, or maybe pervasive commerce… It’s happening and you have to deal with it. But companies are just getting used to the idea that it’s all one experience.”

Are BMW’s Sales Floors Going Digital, LinkedIn Opening Blogging Platform, and more…
SilverGrass Clippings
Welcome to SilverGrass Clippings, a weekly round-up of news and opinion in the retail marketing world.

‘Geniuses’ to Replace Salespeople in BMW Showrooms

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The Wall Street Journal reported last week that BMW has some major changes to its showroom floors on its wish list, knocking out cubicles and signage and replacing them with digital displays and Apple-Store-esque ‘Geniuses’ to answer customer questions. (Subscription required: http://on.wsj.com/OyoDCK)

It’s an interesting concept, and one that would definitely rock the automotive sales world. As the Millennials move into BMW’s target demographic, it makes sense for the European luxury brand to court the more affluent early adopters among them.

But the article leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Apple’s ‘Geniuses’ don’t work on commissions or get SPIFFs, both long-standing mainstays of the automobile sales world. Instead, the average Apple retail employee makes about $12 per hour. Will commissions go away? Will the geniuses get a piece of that pie? Will the traditional salespeople go away entirely? And what will become of price negotiations on the vehicles?

And what of BMW’s non-Millennial customers, who for the foreseeable future will continue to make up a large part of BMW’s target demographic? Will the prospect of these young ‘Geniuses’ be enticing or alienating? Is there something inherently tactile about the car-buying experience – especially in the luxury sector – that can’t be replaced by digital screens and young product experts?

In short, there are more questions than answers at this point, but it’s an interesting development in an industry with a sales approach that already leaves many feeling uncomfortable and alienated. It certainly bears watching at BMW to see what changes happen, how successful they are, and the impact they’ll have on the American automotive manufacturers’ approaches.

LinkedIn to Open Blogging Platform to All Users


LinkedIn’s page views are dropping. So to try to increase members’ usage of the site beyond just looking for jobs, it’s opening its blogging platform – now used only by its influencers – to all LinkedIn members. (http://reut.rs/1htZeTb)

The move aims to create a business-focus feed similar to the social feed users are accustomed to seeing on platforms like Facebook.

We think it has potential to be another element of content marketing, exposing a person or a company’s content to an audience beyond just its site visitors. And it will be a fantastic tool for users who don’t have another outlet for longer-form industry writings, say a company or personal blog on the topic.

But what of the individuals or small businesses that already post that type of content on their own blogs or company sites? We’ll have to see what LinkedIn’s policy is on back linking to those original articles so the LinkedIn content doesn’t just siphon views and decrease site traffic for the poster’s own site. And they promise analytics, but will they be as good as what Google Analytics can provide if you host that same content on your own blog?

Still, it’s a platform with which I’ll be eager to experiment, and I hope it’ll help target people who might not otherwise be visiting this site.

Brutal Winter Taking a Bite Out of Restaurant Sales


January and February are traditionally slow months for restaurants, but this year’s brutal weather throughout much of the country has taken an even bigger bite than usual out of restaurant sales. (http://bit.ly/1fmWOT9)

Plainly put, it’s just been too darn cold / wet / snow / miserable for people to want to make any non-essential treks outside. Analysts expect restaurant traffic to bounce back when the winter weather abates, but until then, it will continue to be a challenge.

Our advice? If you deliver, remind people of that. Do an email or direct mail campaign. Post it on social media. Make sure they know you can let them stay cozy in their own homes.

Still need to get them to come out to your location? Plan special one-time events that appeal to your demographic. Have a theme night, a community class, an author appearance – and make sure to publicize it. If you have a bar, offer happy hour specials and let neighborhood residents and businesses / employees know all about it. It’s easy to say, “Yes, I’ll stay for dinner” after a cozy happy hour.

“Buy Local” Campaign Thrives in Lincoln Square – Ravenswood


Don’t mind us if we toot our own horns… We were excited to be a part of the “Unwrap Lincoln Square – Ravenswood” campaign this past holiday season, providing the creative for outdoor signage, CTA signage, posters, brochures, and business cards, as well as designing and implementing the official unwraplincolnsquareravenswood.com website. The campaign generated nearly $95K in holiday spending at the neighborhood shops and restaurants. Kudos also to Ripson Communications for a job very well done with promotion on the event. (http://bit.ly/1fC58Tk)

Make the most of the gift cards you sell…

PrintWith holiday shopping now in full swing, you’re probably not thinking, “What about January?” But you should be, and what you do now can make a big difference in your current holiday sales – and beyond.

Right now, your store or restaurant is likely in the midst of its strongest sales season of the year. And while some of that entails selling your products to your customers now, there’s a good chance that if you sell gift certificates or gift cards, that many of your customers are stocking up on those, as well. After all, gift cards have been the most requested item on holiday wish lists since 2007.

So why is it important to offer these to your customers, and how can you make the most of their visit to your store this month to improve your sales in the new year?

Gift Cards: The Facts
People love gift certificates, and they love gift cards even more. Switching from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards can bump sales 50-100%. And gift cards made up 18% of all holiday gift purchases in 2011.

And for small businesses, gift cards can be a win-win. More than 60% of gift card recipients spend more than the amount of their gift card. 75% of them spend 60% or more over the value of their card. That’s the gift (card) that keeps giving for retailers.

The other 40% or so? They don’t use the total value of the card, moving that unused value to your bottom line.

Gift Cards: Preparing for Dec. 26 and Beyond
In addition to just SELLING gift cards, you can be using this high-traffic time to build toward your post-holiday marketing efforts.

Work now on building your customer list, particularly email addresses, so you can send them post-holiday sale information and encourage them to come in and redeem their gift. Consider a program now where you provide a small gift card to the purchaser for each gift card bought (say, “Free $10 gift card with purchase of $75 or more in gift cards.”) Now you have two customers to come back after the holidays.

After all, if 60% of those gift card recipients are going to spend MORE than the card value, there are more sales to be made.

And 55% percent of gift card recipients will visit your location more than once to spend the balance of their card. Multiple visits provide you extra opportunities to market your products and services to those gift card holders.

Gift Cards: If Not Now, When?
And don’t worry. Even if you’re not selling gift cards or gift certificates, it’s not too late to begin. After all, 81% of consumers purchase gift cards for birthdays (67% of customers buy them for other holidays, as well). So if you’ve missed this holiday season, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start.

Need Assistance?
We’d be happy to help you with your gift card campaign, or your marketing plan for the New Year. Fill out the form below to request information. Or stop by 1KMarketingMakeover.com to see how we can help you make the most of your marketing in 2014. (Mention this article in your 1K Marketing Makeover sign-up form and get 20% off your plan! Hurry! Offer ends 12/25/2013.)

 

Sources:
http://www.card9.com/giftcard-statistics.asp
http://grifinancial.com/id154.html
http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/morning_call/2011/12/unused-gift-card-total-41-billion.html
http://www.giftcardexchangeday.com/statistics.php
http://blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2012/08/16/should-states-be-able-to-seize-gift-cards
http://www.giftcardpartners.com/Q4GiftCardIndustryTrendReport.htm

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The time is NOW for your holiday marketing plan

Successful holiday marketing and advertising campaigns have suffered from being ‘burned at both ends’ in recent years — many companies are starting the campaign creation process later due to staff cutbacks and budget uncertainties, while the Holiday season itself creeps further forward every year.
Here are our four simple reminders to help ease you through the process of preparing your Holiday marketing this year.

1. You’re already behind schedule. But Fear Not.

Holiday Marketing 2013Some of you will laugh it off and others may want to pull their hair out, but start planning now. Your messaging, offers and creative will invariably take you longer to nail down than you recall. Even if you’re a single-store front retailer, your goal should be to have a final plan in place and discussed or distributed to key personnel somewhere by October 1st. Spend October fine-tuning creative, grinding through the printing process for your materials and making sure your media buy is bulletproof, weatherproof and in place. Which leads us to…

2. The Holidays start in October

We’re not suggesting you roll out holiday trimmings and set up POP with holiday imagery just yet. Odds are you might not have taken control of most holiday inventory, but that shouldn’t stop your messaging from beginning. And by that we mean your ‘engagement messaging’. If you’re going to do a social media push to connect with people, alert them to the fact that you have a Loyalty Program, that you sell gift cards online, have a mobile app, etc. now is the time to sow those proverbial seeds. You’re trying to make the funnel larger before the holiday advertising onslaught is under way and you can’t pull customers into the funnel with much success. By mid-November consumers are already distracted and some of their budget has been spent. Speaking of November…

3. Know your Dates

Holiday Marketing 2013Hanukkah starts November 27th this year, getting a one day jump on Thanksgiving. That’s right, Thanksgiving…not just Black Friday. If a large retailer in your area is open on Thanksgiving that shouldn’t come as a shock to you anymore. But many consumers will take that entire week off and are well out the door on Wednesday evening for big box sales. Make sure your email campaigns are timed to take advantage of when consumers will be checking their phone or tablet and have some ‘down time’. (More on that below.) Last but not least, Small Business Saturday in the U.S. is November 30th, and represents one more opportunity for some of you to reach out to customers with a message that won’t seem intrusive. But with the receiving approximately 38 emails a week during the holidays*,

4. Mobile/Digital: The Elephant In The Room is not going away

Email and to a lesser extent display ads take many forms and just as importantly, timing. Email campaigns are more important than ever for reaching mobile customers and ‘tablet shoppers’ who are weary of running around out on the road, but a study from GetRepsonse shows top engagement times fell between 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. last year. Average open rates and CTR increased by as much as 6%.** But that’s not a hard and fast rule and it never hurts to get ahead of the curve. Deploying to arrive early allows you get your message out before your customer is focused at work, and if they happen to leave it unopened in the ‘inbox’ for a few hours then there’s no missed opportunity.

Consumers also fail to distinguish ‘discount’ messages (percentage or $ off) from regular messaging during hectic times. So your offer either has to be incredibly relevant through segmentation (a practice that we can’t stress enough) or most likely, its going to come down to subject lines that communicate a conversation to the discerning consumer. Data for open rates and CT’s on your messages is available almost immediately through your vendor or IT staff and can inform and guide your delivery strategy. There’s no excuse for continuing to send out messages or display ads that are being ignored.

Facebook and Twitter can be allies during ‘down times’ such as lunch early-evening when consumers are taking a break to see what their timeline has been up to. Some well-timed posts or sponsored content are another way to connect.

What’s your plan?

Do you have your plan for this holiday season in place? Do you need help in getting your holiday marketing plan in order? Contact us and we can work with you on a plan that fits your budget and delivers they holiday retail sales results you deserve.

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* Respsonsys email study
** http://blog.getresponse.com/uploads/2012/10/Best_time_to_send_email.jpg

Nearby Construction? Keep Your Business Booming

Retailers and other small business owners have so many factors that determine whether their business is successful each season. The economy, local trends, supply and staffing issues, even the weather. On a good day, success can be tenuous. Now what happens if you throw the dreaded “C” word into the mix?

The “C” word? Construction.

Whether the road in front of your business is closed, or a vital public transportation option has been diverted, business is much more of a challenge if your customers can’t get to you. While there’s no way to solve the problem completely, we’ve put together some steps you can take to lessen the blow.

Retail Tips - Construction EditionHow to cope
1) Inform your customers
If construction has made it more difficult to get to your business – or even if people might only have the perception that getting to you will be harder – you will run the risk of fewer customers making it to your store / restaurant / office.

Nip it in the bud. The key is to let your customers know as soon as possible that there will be construction in the area, that you will remain open, and other ways they can get there.

We saw a good example of this while traveling this summer. For anyone who has spent time in the midwest, you’ve likely at least driven by the Mars Cheese Castle off I-94 in Kenosha, WI. Rarely do we make the trip from Chicago to Milwaukee without a stop to pick up some cheese curds or some found-only-in-Wisconsin beer. It’s usually a quick and painless hop off the highway, and the parking lot is typically full of other like-minded travelers.

But this year, construction on I-94 meant exit closures, and that meant the easy on-off access to the Cheese Castle wasn’t so easy anymore.

But we knew that MILES before even reaching the store. Why? Well first, they bought billboards miles on either side of the exit, announcing that there was a detour to get to the store. Detailed instructions of alternate exits, and then homemade signs pointing the way made it impossible to lose your way on the new route. And the website prominently displayed detour information and alternate directions.

MarsDetour

By being proactive and informing customers as in-advance as possible, we, and countless others, were able to make our regular visit without inconvenience.

So if you’re in a place where you can post signage, do so. Let people know in advance on your website. Send out email blasts to your existing customer list. Get the word out that yes, you’re still open, and let people know how they can get to you. Is there an alternate route? Another form of transportation? Off-site parking / shuttle service? You’ve added a bike rack for bicyclists? Whatever it may be, let people know.

2) Take your show on the road
If you run a restaurant, now would be a good time to think about and / or ramp up delivery (and the marketing of it). Do you offer services in an office (insurance agencies, financial planners, etc.)? Find a friend who has a conference room to spare for client meetings. Or offer, in some cases, to make house / office calls to your customers. Do you own a retail store? If delivery could work for you, let people know how it works and try to maintain your business and your relationship with your customers throughout.

3) Specials & Events
You don’t want to panic and declare every day as half-price day just to get people into your business. That will only hurt you in the long run. But offering strategic discounts to the customers who may need enticing could keep your cash register ringing. Holding events that add value beyond just your products and services may provide the incentive necessary to get your customers to brave the construction. Are you pretty sure younger diners may have the energy to brave the construction to try your restaurant? Offer a half-price wine night. Own a boutique that relies on foot traffic for sales? Organize a few events where you bring in stylists to offer free consultations, provide snacks, and have people make an afternoon of it.

“Stopping by” may be a bit more difficult with the construction, but most people will go out of their way for destination-type goods and services if they’re appealing to them.

4) Been wanting to take on your own construction project?
While this won’t be feasible to many businesses, if you’re one of the few who was planning on doing some remodeling of your own, and were considering closing during construction, why not piggyback it with the road work? Of course this will all depend on permits in your municipality, but using the prospect of reduced sales during this time might give you a great window for getting that long-awaited project done without as much impact to the bottom line as it otherwise would have.

5) Celebrate the end
Just as important as letting your customers know in advance that the construction is going on, you’ll want them to be aware when it’s over, too. Invite your customers to enjoy the newly paved road / great new park benches / faster traffic flow / more convenient pedestrian areas / etc. that the construction promised in the first place. This lets you take advantage of those improvements while getting back on top of mind with your customers who now will know they can get to your business unimpeded.

What other ideas have you used to battle through a business-disrupting construction project in your neck of the woods? We’d love to hear what you’ve done.

Do you know what Manufacturers and Vendors are willing to give you?

CoOpIndustryListAbout $40 billion is provided each year in Trade Fund — or Co-Op Advertising — support from Manufacturers to retailers and distributors. But huge amounts of that money go unclaimed because many small- and mid-sized businesses simply don’t know it’s available — or how to go about claiming it.

Are You Eligible?
Chances are you’re eligible for at least some marketing and advertising support from the manufacturers and vendors whose products you use and sell, and you can take some simple steps to find out.

  1. Make a list of all of the vendors / manufacturers from whom you acquire products. If you get merchandise directly from the manufacturer (from, say, an area sales rep for that company), you can contact that rep to ask what may be available. In most co-op or trade fund programs that provide funds directly to retailers or dealers, the sales rep will be the person with the information about how to qualify, how much money is available, and what you need to do to claim any funds.
  2. If you get merchandise from one or more distributors, you may still have access to funds. For programs in which manufacturers fund the distributors, rather than the end-seller, those distributors receive and then determine how to spend or distribute those funds. Simply ask your main point of contact with the distributor if they can find out whether you’d be eligible for any of these funds.
  3. See the graphic on this page for an idea of the types of manufacturers who provide co-op programs. If you sell any of these products and services, chances are you qualify for some sort of manufacturer support for your marketing and advertising.

I AM eligible. Now how do I get these funds?
Congratulations! You now have access to more money for your marketing and advertising programs. There are often rules, however, for these programs, and they range from lax to strict. If you are eligible for funds, you need to make sure you know and understand the program rules so you can get the full funding to which you’re entitled.

First, request the manufacturer’s Co-op or Trade Funds Program Guidelines, if they’re available. These rules will typically let you know everything you need to know to qualify. Some things to watch for:

  1. Some programs will reimburse you for 100% of your advertising expenditures for a certain product or products, while others will allow you to claim a portion of those expenses. Some of the more complicated programs may even have differing levels of reimbursement depending on how much of their product you sell each year. Ask what you’re eligible for now, as well as if there are other tiers of eligibility.
  2. Nearly all of these programs have rules about how the brand is allowed to be conveyed in your ads for you to be eligible for payment. Some of them will have requirements on how much of the space needs to be devoted to the products or to the manufacturer’s logo, while others will disqualify ads with any products not from that manufacturer. If in doubt, check with your sales rep, the distributor, or the company administering the program for details BEFORE you create and place your ad.
  3. Each of these programs will have rules about how much time you have to claim any of these available expenses. Some of them will require you to file a claim within 15-30 days of the advertising invoice date, while others simply require you to file everything by the end of the fiscal year. Stay on top of your filings so you don’t risk losing out on your reimbursement.

    Online Marketing Resources
    Many manufacturers will provide you with some sort of online support for the program. Whether it’s a simple page that allows you to check the balance of your advertising account, or a full-fledged marketing portal that allows you to create entire advertising campaigns with a few mouse clicks, find out what is available.

    Some of these tools are much better than others, but you’ll never know unless you access them to find out. Some of them will even allow you to file your claims online, saving you some time and postage. Others will allow you to order materials like POS pieces or direct mail, and deduct the funds directly from your co-op account.

    Isn’t This a Lot of Work?
    Well, it’s true that some manufacturers or vendors will make you jump through more hoops than others. But in many cases, they’re providing you free money for your advertising and marketing, so they expect something from you in return. If you sell products from only a handful of manufacturers, the bureaucratic aspects of the program will be easier than if you sell products from dozens or hundreds of manufacturers. But even then, the monetary value may make it worth it.

    If you work with printers or agencies who help you with your marketing, they may be willing to file your claims for you (it never hurts to ask). We offer that service to our customers, and they appreciate the value of having the professional help with their marketing and the peace of mind that their funds are being claimed properly.

    How We Can Help
    Here at SilverGrass, we have more than a decade of experience working with manufacturers, dealers, and distributors on getting the most out of their co-op programs. We offer a full suite of marketing services for dealers and retailers, we provide consultations on how to find out if you’re eligible for co-op funds, and we file claims on behalf of our marketing and advertising customers.

    Let us know if there’s any way we can help you get the most out of the money available to you.

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Customer Engagement – can you create an ‘Engagement Scale’?

Recently spending a week on the road (literally- I was driving and not flying) was a quick re-immersion in the world of what we now call “casual dining”. Casual dining and fast food are always interesting in that our decision process can be affected by so many things – left hand or right hand turn, destination distance, brand loyalty, overall fatigue and other intangibles (eg “Will there be a wait? Do I have a taste for Chicken instead of Burgers?”). Sometimes I suspect we’re not even conscious of the items that make up our checklist for where we’ll dine.

I am completely certain, however, that we prefer dining experiences where we have an emotional connection or an experience that provides more than just a need. We all love a bite somewhere that enhances our wellness and overall self-esteem. You’re probably saying “yes but so what, we don’t usually get much of that nor need that from casual dining” but that’s a peculiar question- how can Fast Food outlets and the middle tier of the Casual market (Fridays, BW3, etc.) create more engagement?

More importantly for you, where do your customers fit on that engagement scale and can you identify the things that might move one customer into a different tier? Start simple- break engagement into four tiers such as Highly Engaged, Mostly Engaged, Somewhat Engaged, Not Engaged. Which customers end up in those tiers? For those not engaged, is it because your business is driven by price or lack of competition? Even the most un-engaging of products these days is marketed to us to stir emotion, whether its car fuel or bottled water. There should be a way to move the engagement needle for that customer. Conversely, are there Highly Engaged customers that act either out of brand loyalty or some other emotion (lifestyle decision, fantastic service, product quality) and how can you get the Mostly Engaged crowd into the Highly Engaged segment?

Starting with a simple scale and figuring out how to bump each segment along will make organic growth much more manageable than staring out at the sea of consumers and trying to address them all with one message or platform. And we can all drink (and eat?) to that. I’ve got a fairly primitive ‘sample scale’ below for you to use as a base.

Sample Engagement Scale
Engagment Pie Chart

5 easy ways to improve your retail marketing

Improve your retail marketingYou already know that effectively marketing your retail business goes beyond advertising in traditional and new media. But we often have conversations with retailers who ask us for other inexpensive (or free) ways they can be getting their name out to potential customers – and how to get their existing customers to visit more often.

So we put together a few of our ideas that we think every retail business should consider. Even if a few of these are no-brainers, taking a look at your customer service or your outreach can sometimes unearth some areas where you can improve your retail marketing.

How do you say “Hello”?

How do you and your employees greet your customers when they walk into your business? Do you approach them right away, offering help? Do you offer a passing greeting while letting them find their way around your store? Do team members only say something once customers make eye contact with them?

How you greet your customers sets the tone for that visit. Make sure your message engages them the way you would want to be engaged. Do your employees have the proper training to be able to offer help to customers and find them the products or services they need? If customers don’t feel like you understand what they need, they will go somewhere else to find someone who does.

Make sure all employees know what is expected of their customer interactions, and make sure you have ongoing training to keep their knowledge as polished as possible. If your customers have confidence in your employees, you have a better shot at them having confidence in your business.

Do you know what you could be doing better?

What you’re doing might have been working for years, but what happens when your customers’ expectations change? Do you really know what your customers think about how you stack up to your competition, or even with other non-related businesses?

You can engage your customers informally during checkout or by picking up the phone and calling after their visits. If you want more formal answers, send them an email invitation to take an online survey (if you have their permission to email them), or email questions directly to them. If your Point-of-Sale system allows it, include a couple of questions at the bottom of your receipts with an email address where they can send their responses.

Most importantly, if you’re going to be soliciting feedback, you should be willing or able to make some changes. If your customers do have a problem AND they know they’ve told you about it, they’re going to expect you to do something about it (or at least to address it with them). If you ignore it, you could end up frustrating your customers even more.

Get involved in helping your community

Do you know about organizations or other businesses in your neighborhood who are helping in the community? And do they know about you? Are you doing what you can as a company to inform your customers about how they can help in the community? Are you getting involved in the fundraisers and events going on right around you?

Many major manufacturers have millions of dollars they can spend on philanthropy. And it works! But playing a role that helps people in your community doesn’t need to cost much – or even any – money.

Find local organizations or causes that align with what your business does or causes you believe in. Own a neighborhood shoe store? Contact a local group coordinating a 5K fundraiser, and volunteer to hang posters, accept / process sign-ups, and host a pre-event shirt / chip pick-up. Have a store that closes early or opens late? See if any groups can use your parking lot for a concert in the evening or a neighborhood garage sale early in the morning. (Just be sure to make sure your insurance covers you for such events). Promote the event inside your store in the lead-up to it. Think creatively about what you have to offer, and find a cause that can use it. Odds are, there’s an organization out there who’d love to take you up on your offer and who will be more than happy to include your business name in their outreach efforts.

Engage online

Do your customers know how to find your information online? Do you know what is being said about you on business review websites? Are you getting the pages views you were hoping for out of your Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Marketing efforts?

In all of these situations, engaging online can improve your presence and drive more customers your way.

Take advantage of free services such as Google’s business listings to have your location, contact information, and hours readily available for users who look for your store online. To improve your chances of being listed in organic searches, make sure to create a site map of your online site and submit it to the search engines. Find blogs or other sites that offer information about the type of goods and services you offer, and use your expertise to offer valuable comments on those sites. Visit customer review sites, such as Yelp, often to protect your brand reputation online.

Any of these efforts stands to improve your standing within organic searches on the major search engines, and that improvement in content quality may also improve the performance (and decrease the cost) of your purchased search engine ads.

Analyze your numbers

Do you know what subset of your customers bought your highest-margin items last year? Do you know how successful your advertising last year was in bringing you new customers? Do you know how many people are visiting your company website each day, and what percentage of those potential customers are buying from you?

Analysis is the key to understanding what is and isn’t working within your business, and how to improve on the areas that need some work. And while it can be pricey or time-consuming to do a full-scale analysis of all areas of your business (and it’s often worth it), you can start small by first coming up with a few questions you want answered and trying to find the answers to those.

First take a look at the basics. What ARE your highest-margin items? Do you a have loyalty program (even if it’s just a basic one) that affords you a bit more understanding of who your customers are? Even if you only have basic information, you can often have that augmented with pay list services, or do it yourself. The customer satisfaction surveys mentioned earlier in this article can be a great way for you to ask a couple of targeted questions about your customers (do they live in the neighborhood? Do they have kids? Do they own or rent their homes?) Once you know that, you can figure out how to target other people like them to buy your targeted products.

Consider email campaigns for some of your advertising so you can measure how many customers responded to that communication. Think about adding Google Analytics to your business website so you can see where your customers are coming from, what they do when they get to your site, and how many of them are buying your products.

Even if you don’t think you have a lot of data, you can learn a lot, even from a little. If you start small, you may be surprised at what you can learn.

And that’s the case for any of these ideas. Starting small (and having goals for each initiative before hand, so you know if your efforts are working) can have a real impact on the success of your business. With most of these ideas being free – or close to it – it can’t hurt to try.

Looking for help in executing any of these ideas or developing a strategy tailored to your retail business? We’ve helped countless retailers do just that. Drop us a line!

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A quick post about Mobile

We understand, just the very mention of a mobile site or mobile advertising sends people into deep sighs, occasionally rolling eyes and wringing hands. The old adage about ‘herding cats’ certainly used to apply for product suppliers and manufacturers but for consumers the benefits are clear: mobile is the path forward. Time spent with mobile apps (127 minutes per day) is starting to challenge television (168 minutes)*. That may not mean you need an app (hint: you likely don’t) but it does mean that a haphazard mobile site or a mobile site bereft of any responsive design could be driving customers away.

We’ve also seen first hand from customer feedback that a bad mobile site is a ‘confidence destroyer’ as pertains to capabilities. If your mobile solution isn’t up to speed, there’s a very real chance your customers feel that other parts of your business need an upgrade as well.

Not surprisingly, retailers are at the forefront of the mobile charge. A recent study of retailers by e-tailing.com noted that mobile visits compose 20% or higher for web traffic among over 50% of respondents. Simply put, there’s a 50% chance that over 20% of your traffic is mobile. More importantly, of those retailers surveyed, nearly 30% of all revenues will come from mobile devices in 2013.**

If you’re looking for more information on responsive design sites or just a way to harness the headache of trying to understand where and how your mobile traffic is coming from, feel free to reach out to us.

*Flurry Analytics study, 2013
**E-tailing.com merchant survey; press release 04/13

It never pays to insult your customers

That seems like a no-brainer, right? Especially in the era of social media. We’re going a little off-topic for this post as we don’t usually address Customer Service but this is a fascinating little blip on the Service radar that showed up yesterday.

The gist is this: local coffee-shop owner gets frustrated at an international bike race running through his community (note, shop is located in a “tourist” town) and decides to close for the day rather than struggle with the logistics of staying open for business and exploiting the event for any other purpose (sales, awareness, community goodwill, etc.)

Stating this is in a simple and pleasant manner would have been enough, but the proprietor of Joe Momma’s Coffee Shop in Avila, CA, went on what can only be described kindly as a rant, offending not only the tourists but his long time customers. See image below.

Customer Service - Sign seen in the window at Joe Mama's coffee shop.

Sign seen in the window at Joe Mama’s coffee shop. Click to enlarge image.

Now, full disclosure, I am a cycling enthusiast (and a coffee enthusiast for what it’s worth) so I heard about the activity on JM’s Yelp! page via a friend. But it’s worth a look to see the kind of collateral damage the sign has caused: http://www.yelp.com/biz/joe-mommas-coffee-avila-beach-2

By my count last night there were over 40 “one star” ratings tied directly to the sign. You may say “ok so what, if its 40 or 50 people over the grand scheme of things that’s not a lot.” Let’s argue that with a little math. Say 30 of those people would have gone to JM’s in the future but now they won’t. What if they went approximately 5 times a year and spent $6 on average on each trip. $900, right? Let’s say those 30 discourage another 100 who didn’t bother to read the Yelp! page but were disgusted anyway. That’s an additional $3,000. So reasonably $3900 a year multiplied over three years (before the “incident” is washed away) and suddenly Joe Momma finds themselves out of nearly $12,000 in unrealized income, not to mention the ill-will of his commerce contemporaries and anyone who would have advocated on his behalf at town council meetings, etc. That same 12K working on his behalf would have let him put a small team of people to work doing door-to-door marketing or offsite marketing for several hours a week for several months.

Now if that ‘positive marketing’ had netted him additional unrealized profit ($5K ? $10K?) over the course of those months, we start to see just how big the chasm is between were Joe wants to be and where he ended up.

I know several restaurateurs who say “they refuse to read Yelp! or to put any credence in to the reviews”. Fair enough, there can be some pretty nasty unsubstantiated stuff online. But it doesn’t mean that your customers don’t read it and don’t believe it. And it just may be putting a larger crimp on your profit than you realize.

SilverGrass would be happy to talk about this and other issues with you over a cup of coffee if you want. Feel free to reach out.

– Jay
jclark@silvergrassonline.com