Brand and Customer Loyalty Risks
Retail is often brand conscious, with customers searching out the best prices for specific brands. That consciousness extends to your store’s brand image as well. Repeat customers are so important to a small store’s success that if you fail to build a loyal customer base, you might be forced to close your doors.
You must identify your target customer base and then build your store brand to cater to that clientele. Find what sets you apart from your competitors and play up that uniqueness. For example, if you own a women’s apparel store, you might decide to specialize in a particular niche, such as unusual fashions from local designers, or petite or plus sizes, maternity wear, fashion accessories or any number of targeted specialties. This gives your store an identity your customers can count on over time.
To promote your brand, you’ll need to develop a marketing plan. Even small boutique owners may find that marketing and advertising are among their larger expense items. But there is a lot of marketing and promotion that you can do yourself for little or no money, particularly if you leverage online resources like social media and blogs. More sophisticated advertising campaigns that use visuals and targeted sales copy may require the help of a creative professional.
Continued uncertainty in the economy has caused consumers to become more conservative in their purchasing. Marketing can help to boost your brand awareness and get customers into your store. In-store promotions and displays can then help to influence spontaneous sales. A 2017 survey of more than 1,000 customers found that over 70 percent of consumers prefer to shop at brick and mortar stores than online.
- Nurture personal connections with customers. Reach out to customers when a particular product you know they like comes in. Offer loyalty and referral programs so your long-term customers can help you reel in new customers. Stock unique items to set your store apart from big box competitors whose inventory may be more mainstream.
- Advertise. There are a lot of ways to advertise your store depending on your customer demographics, location and budget. Choose from direct mail, print ads, radio, TV, online and social media. Point-of-Purchase (POP) in-store advertising, such as counter cards, window displays, pennants and banners, digital signage and other displays can help bring in new customers and influence buying behavior once they’re handling the merchandise.
- Get creative. Host concerts and other special events as a way to make people aware of your brand. If you take care to align your business with events that target the same demographic, sponsorships can be a powerful way to promote your image and products and generate good will in your local selling area.
- Go online. Maintain a vibrant online presence, including a brand website with or without an e-commerce component, and social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. Engage with your customers and fans and promote your brand without being overtly salesy.
- Partner with a mentor. For help in growing your small retail business, including marketing and branding advice, connect with a mentor through SCORE.