Adam Bernstein discusses how to keep customers interested in shopping locally and embracing small boutiques
The world of retail is ever-changing. It’s true that the high street has had its fair share of challenges in recent years, especially when confronting the web. But it’s also important to not lose sight of the one thing that bricks and mortar have over online – a local community to market to.
Being able to draw on customers that can come into store, pick up and examine products is something that web traders can never do. High street retailers also have the ability to satisfy any instant needs. So how best to engage with the community?
Read More: The Best Way to Bring in More Brides
First off, consider the free options that include the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as groups in the locality. Facebook is a good example. Most think of it as a conduit to share pictures, videos and gossip. That may well be the case, but it’s just as important to keep in mind that a good number of potential customers use the platform to keep abreast of what is relevant to them.
The advice here is to construct and maintain a good Facebook presence and at the same time, join village or town-based Facebook pages. Clearly each will have their own rules on advertising, but well-placed messages can work wonders, especially if they come via a page member who posts a link to your business. Keep in mind the need to not irritate group members with overly frequent or irrelevant posts.
Allied to this, don’t ignore the need for a website- not everyone is on Facebook. An actively trading site is not critical, but some form of online presence is, or else customers will not know of your existence. For this reason, use location targeting via Google Adwords in addition to that on Facebook.
Local groups are another potential source of new business; see if there is any where you can offer advice to would-be brides. Use it as a soft sell with tips, for example, on choosing a gown.
Higher education, voluntary organisations and business breakfast clubs are another way to propagate a business among the locality. But wherever you visit and whomever you talk to, let the advice do the work here – a good rapport with the audience will do more for the business than pushing products ever will.
And if you have time, join a local chamber of commerce or your parish or town council. Be seen as someone who gives to the community; the more networking you do, the better your reach.
Read More: 10 Ways to Promote Your Bridal Business
Can you organise a tie-up with another organisation or event to cross-fertilise businesses? Just as local ale and cheese shop could partner with a music venue to host a beer and music festival, could you do the same and start a local event where others run stalls and you run, say, a bridal fair, with a prize that is presented in the shop which can be publicised in the local paper?
In a similar vein, could you sponsor a local event? Depending on where you are located, there may be regular events every year organized and run but other local groups. In many cases, these groups are looking for fellow businesses to support their cause, either by teaming up to organise the event or just by donating money in exchange for being mentioned in their programme, website and advertising.
Both of these options are an excellent way to get your business in front of local customers.
Something else to consider is SMS marketing. Clearly this requires customer consent and an ability to know when not to burden customers with too many messages. But used correctly, you could send customers a short text to alert them of a sale, or a hard to get item that’s just come into stock.
This form of local marketing is great for brick and mortar businesses that want to drive in-store foot traffic or those who want to contact their customers in real-time. Even better – it’s more responsive than email. But at the end of the day, your best method of reaching local customers is to offer excellent customer service so that your trade grows mostly on recommendations.
Read More: The Best PR Tips For Your Business
Yes it’s true that according to an October 2018 House of Commons report, Retail sector in the UK, that web trade stood at just 5% in 2009 and now makes up 18% of all retail sales, but that still means that 82% of sales are from a physical store.
And if small businesses are the backbone of a community, then customers are the heart of the small business. As such, it is vital that your business focuses its efforts on providing the best customer experience possible.
You can read even more expert advice like this in the September/October issue of Bridal Buyer.