Internet Marketing for Retailers

A store in Dublin courtesy of Ellen Bras, Picasa.
A store in Dublin courtesy of Ellen Bras, Picasa.

As a retailer, one of the biggest challenges is getting customers to come in the door. One way to do this is by internet marketing and/or advertising.

In the old days, a retailer would use direct mail to contact current customers and potential customers. The problem with direct mail is that it is time consuming, expensive, and bad for the environment (all that paper!). Additionally, direct mail usually required a graphic designer and a marketing specialist to implement the program.

Internet marketing is cheap and quick to implement. Additionally, a small business owner can create and run an internet marketing campaign without relying too much on outside experts.

Here are some ideas on how a small business owner - specifically a retailer - can get the word out and also get more people to come into the door of their store.

Create a website. This is the basic cornerstone of an internet marketing program. Every retail location needs a website that has the following: some pictures of the store, a listing of what types of products the store sells, directions to the store, and a sign-up box to capture emails.

Many small retailers hire an outside web designer to create the website for them. If this is what you would like to do, you should expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $1000 for a simple, elegant website. (If the web designer uses a template – expect to pay on the low end).

If you’d like to create the website yourself, there are plenty of services that allow you to drag and drop to create a website. For example weebly. Or you can create a facebook page and have that be your website. (See below).

Email Marketing Every retail store needs to start collecting email addresses from their customers and then use those email addresses to let their customers know about sales, promotions, and other events at the store.

You should have your clerks ask customers for their email addresses and have a sign up sheet at the counter. The more names that you get, the more successful your email campaign will be.

After running numerous email campaigns for retail stores, I've found that the numbers usually break down as follows. Around 25% of your customers will read your email. And 10% of those that read the email will click on something in that email to find out more information. So, if you email 1000 customers – you can expect 250 of them to read the email and maybe 25 to click on a link in the email.

You should email your customers at least once per month but no more than twice per month. This allows your customers some “breathing room” but still reminds the customer that you are there.

There are many great companies that allow you to send out beautiful emails cheaply, and effectively. One of the companies that we like is icontact. We've used a total of five different email marketing companies for our email blasts and we've found that icontact is the best one out there. It is inexpensive, gives you great templates and authoring tools, and archives your email messages on the web.

Yelp Reviews

Yelp is a review website for retail establishments. It allows customers to rate their experiences at the store. Yelp also allows the store owner to claim his business, write some information about the business, make special offers, and also to respond to the reviews.

Yelp is a two-edged sword. Some retail owners love yelp and the free advertising that it gives an establishment. Other owners hate it because of the negative reviews that pop up. Truthfully, both sides have a good argument.

I would recommend that you find your yelp review, claim it, and start adding information about your store. And then whenever anybody posts a review, respond to the review. But never, never, never respond negatively to anybody. A negative response makes you look like an idiot.

Facebook and Twitter

Every retail store needs to have a Facebook and Twitter account. These accounts will help you get the word out to people who aren’t on your email lists. Also, since both of these services archive the data you post, your Facebook and Twitter accounts will end up being a repository of the history o the store and allow potential and current customers to look back at all the things that you’ve done.

Event Websites

If you are hosting an event at your store, besides sending a press release to local newspapers, you should post your event on websites that specialize in event listings. I recommend Zvents and Eventful. What's interesting about these sites is that they are feeder sites for other sites and so you will get added exposure that you didn't even know about.

Let me give you an example. When I recently ran an event at my retail store, I posted the event on Zvents. After the event, I found out that one of the customers who came had heard about the event on his local newspaper's web site. It turns out that his local newspaper had gotten rid of their own "events" section and instead used information directly from zvents.

Location Based Social Networking

As of 2010, the best location based social networking site is Foursquare. (This might change in the future as Facebook or Yelp gets in the business, but only time will tell). Basically, Foursquare allows customers to "check in" to different retail establishments and retailers can reward these customers with different prizes or offers.

For example, I helped a small coffee store set up on Foursquare. We set up their account so that the first time that a customer "checked in" to the store, they got a free small coffee. And then we also set up that after 20 "check ins" the customer got a 20% off coupon. Finally, we rewarded the "mayor" of the coffee house - basically the person who has checked in the most - with 50% off the total bill. The store noticed an immediate increase in sales as a result of this promotion.

Other Avenues

There are numerous other ways to get your store's name out there. As time permits, I'll keep adding to this hubpage or perhaps start other hubpages with more information. And If anybody else has a good idea on getting the word out through the internet, please write a comment!


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Comments 1 comment

online marketing2 6 years ago

Good tips, nice article. I'd also add that for many businesses, they may want to start with some well targeted keyword phrases - possibly focused locally. This will show quicker results as they are likely less competitive.

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