It’s no secret that for independent retailers, being present in the digital space is crucial to remain competitive.
According to research presented at the 2017 State of Independents Conference, 65 percent of consumers say that if an item is available online or at a nearby store, they prefer to go to the store to get what they need. However, 38 percent of consumers say they research or shop online for home improvement products more than once per month. Of the people who shop or research online, the majority are looking to research prices, look for product reviews and promotional offers and to see products offered in store.
Even if you don’t have the time and resources to do e-commerce, being active online via a company website and social media platforms are important ways to help drive business. Meag Shaffer, executive vice president of social media for social media firm Kel & Partners, shared with Hardware Retailing why a website and social media are so important for independent retailers.
A website lets people know you exist.
Many shoppers start the buying cycle with an online search. If your business is not online, customers won’t know you exist and won’t realize that you’re able to provide the product or service they’re looking for. Even though it may be difficult to quantify how many in-store sales your website drives, a well-designed website worth the investment to raise awareness about your brand.
“The biggest opportunity is in awareness, and the primary goal in any marketing piece, including your website, it to let people know you’re there and to keep top of mind with the people who are already your customers,” Shaffer says.
“A website is the foundation of any digital marketing campaign,” Shaffer says. “Without a website that contains vital information like store hours and information about your business, you’re missing a chance to engage with many people. There’s a sense of validity that’s imparted to your business just by virtue of having an active website.”
Social media allows you to join the conversation.
Customers of all ages are going online daily to interact with friends and family. When your business is active on social media, you can be part of the conversation.
“Image being able to drop your business into a phone call between a mother and a child or between siblings and friends,” Shaffer says. “Your customers are going online to have conversations and be social, and you can be part of that experience.”
Social media is a social space, so the way a brand engages on any social media platform should reflect that. In addition to providing information about what sales are happening, Shaffer explains that it’s often more effective to talk about topics that interest and attract your ideal client. Examples topics might include DIY project inspiration, home decor trends or other topics your customers may be searching for.
While sharing informative posts about sales, promotions and in-store events is important, the main function of social media is to consistently engage with your customers day-to-day so that when a customer needs to make a home improvement purchase down the road, your business comes to mind.