During the fourth-quarter, retailers need all the marketing magic they can get. For independent store owners, having some new ideas in your back pocket will help you meet or exceed your sales targets. Thankfully, Giftbeat is fortunate enough to count 300 stores from across the country as reliable reporters for the newsletter. Every month we ask them to share their bestselling product lines along with insightful information on operations. Here they reveal their best marketing techniques for the fourth quarter and every month of the year.
Countdown to Christmas
Dozens of stores report that “countdown to Christmas” events help drive traffic and create a buzz on social media. A Mississippi retailer ran a 12-day Christmas countdown last year, offering one line or product on sale each day. She’d never run the promo before and says, “My customers really responded to it.”
For an Ohio retailer, a “24 days of fabulous giveaways” promotion she ran on Facebook created a lot of excitement. She says, “Our Facebook followers could comment for an entry to win the day’s giveaway. When customers came to pick up their prize, about half of them bought other items.”
An Indiana retailer noted that her store’s “12 days of giveaways followed by 12 days of Christmas specials” were strong drivers again this year, while a Michigan store owner says that her “10 days of holiday specials” campaign put her name in front of customers for 10 days and helped stir up interest in the store.
Several stores use gift-with-purchase promotions to drum up traffic and create a buzz, including an Oregon retailer who says, “We did a bounce-back coupon – a $25 savings card to use in October off purchases over $100. Customers had to spend $75 to receive the coupon and it really generated business.”
A New Hampshire retailer has been incentivizing shoppers with gift-with-purchase offers. “We gave customers a choice among our leftover collectibles and they loved it.” To spice up fall sales, an Ohio retailer hosted a scavenger hunt in her store. “Each person who came in was given a list of questions to answer.” She served food and gave away three door prizes. “Sales were double our usual Saturday numbers.”
Facebook Promos & Contests
Giftbeat readers have wholeheartedly embraced Facebook marketing and are having great success. A Texas store owner hosts monthly Facebook sale of merchandise that isn’t moving. “Customers come in to pick up the item on sale and usually end up purchasing full-price merchandise as well, and they tell their friends about the awesome deal they scored which is great word-of-mouth.”
A Kansas retailer says, “Our ‘Win-It Wednesday’ Facebook contest gets a lot of views and likes. We have one winner a week, and the non-winners also come in to buy the featured product.”
A Massachusetts retailer, who finally conquered her fear of appearing on screen, has been doing weekly Facebook Live videos that she ties into the weekly emails she sends to customers.
“We post everything as it comes into the store,” says an Ohio store owner who’s an avid Facebook and Instagram user. “We have started modeling the clothing ourselves and our customers love that. We have had several items sell out before we even put them on the floor as customers will comment or message me to hold the items for them. It has really helped increase our sales.”
In addition to marketing their stores, retailers encourage other store owners to become a part of their local Facebook communities. “Belong to as many local forums as you possibly can and share, share, share as many posts as you can,” says a retailer from Massachusetts. An Illinois retailer concurs, saying, “We post shout outs to other neighboring local businesses on Facebook and Instagram when they’re doing something special. It gets our followers to spread the word to others, who then often start following us.”
“Marketing on Facebook and Instagram is the way to go for sure,” says a California retailer who posts a few times a week. “You can boost an ad on Facebook for as little as $5.” She notes that there is a learning curve but that it’s worth the effort.
For a Nevada retailer whose customers have become more like friends, the personal touch goes a long way. “We are ‘huggers’ and it’s amazing how much that action is appreciated.” In between store visits she likes to reach out to regular customers with a phone call or hand-written note. “It stands out against all the other media they receive and keeps the channels of communication open. It’s old-fashioned friendliness and they love it!”
A Utah retailer has found that local vloggers (video bloggers) have tremendous and powerful pull. “If they love a place, their thousands of followers check that place out!” Her store donated products to a plastic surgeon’s “influencer” event. “We wrapped the donations beautifully and added a gift certificate with a personal note and invitation to visit our store.”
Celebrate Every Day
To build excitement, a New Jersey retailer celebrates obscure events. “Our customers know when they come in there will always be something fun happening. For example, on National Dog Day we give out dog biscuits.”
A New York retailer celebrates “anything to do with eating or drinking,” including National Ice Cream Day and National Peanut Butter Fudge Day. “If we can figure out a way to tie it in with our product or if it’s a boring day and we need something fun to do, we come up with an event.”
On National Submarine Sandwich Day the store held a draw for four $10 gift certificates from the local sub shop owner. “We promoted our mustards, napkins and anything related to subs or picnics.”
Another New York retailer has been pooling her marketing resources with other merchants. “We’re working together to market our town as a destination. We can get a lot more bang for our buck together versus booking traditional print or online ads on our own.”
A Colorado retailer makes sure she’s always marketing her store to customers. “We include a bag stuffer with every purchase. It’s usually marketing for our next promotion or a thank you for shopping local. This is very cheap marketing and an opportunity to have another positive touch point with our customers.”
Email, Email, Email!
Realizing that her customers don’t always open their general email newsletter, an Oklahoma retailer developed email newsletters for the different lines she carries in the store. “The subject line of the email tells the reader that this email is worth opening because it’s about a line they purchase.” The store has a sign-up sheet at the cash desk to gather email addresses.
“I think email blasts are one of the cheapest and most successful forms of marketing,” says a Massachusetts retailer. A South Dakota retailer agrees and urges other retailers to be “diligent in capturing customers’ email addresses at time of purchase.”
Marketing is many different things. “It includes the cleanliness of the outside of the store,” says a Michigan retailer who washes her store’s windows several times a week and the front door at least once a day. “The windowsills are scrubbed every morning. All the cobwebs are swept away, and the sidewalk is clear. This is free and easy, and you will be amazed how many people will make the unconscious decision to step inside because of the cleanliness outside.”
Erica Kirkland is the publisher and editor of Giftbeat, an unbiased, ad-free publication dedicated to reporting factual market trends and business advice from the best and brightest independent store owners. www.giftbeat.com