As a website consultant focused on serving independent home improvement retailers, I truly enjoy working with retailers like yourself and have learned so much over the past few years about how you build your businesses. What’s most impressive to me is the attention you place on customer experience. Judging by those of you I have worked with, it is clear you care about the needs of each and every customer who comes into your stores.
However, in businesses that take such a high degree of personal attention, it is sometimes difficult to make online marketing and digital promotions a priority.
Yet, online tactics can be one of the best ways to connect with customers.
Prior to coming into your retail store, most customers have already looked for information about it in one of three places: smartphone, tablet or computer. What’s more, the use of mobile devices now transcends almost all ages, genders and markets. So how do you stay relevant? You need to ask yourself, “Does my website give my customers the same first impression that they have when they come into my store?” If so, you are doing great. If not, you may want to ask someone else on your team to give you honest feedback. This can be an eye-opening experience.
Your website should do the same thing your team does when a customer walks into your store: It should be helpful, engaging and inspire customers to come to your store and do business with you.
Great websites also start with great pictures. But “great pictures” for retailers don’t need to be shot by an expensive professional photographer. The best pictures build upon your strongest assets, character and community whether you’re paying to have it done or asking a friend or employee to do it.
We work with Nyberg’s Ace in Sioux Falls, S.D., for example. The Nyberg family has been part of their community for generations. The staff love to post pictures of the owners in Santa hats, the barbecue they hosted at the Community Center or even Kevin Nyberg shoveling snow. Their online customers’ first impressions include:
“I really like these people and their store.” Personality works. If you have it, use it.
Encourage User Interaction
The Internet user also likes to click on points of interest. So be sure to include lots of links on your website that point to your most recent ad circular, featured brand or even a helpful video from the PlanItDIY.com library. Each section of the site needs to invite users to “click here.” Remember, customers will enter their email address, if you give them a good reason.
The amazing thing about the Internet these days is that you can check up-to-the-minute website traffic through analytics. A well-constructed home page will be viewed for more than two minutes and can lead your customers to view between two to four pages. Imagine how happy Kevin Nyberg is when he sees 2,000 customers come to his site each month and those customers look at 6,000 pages of information about his family store. That is exactly what happens when you make a good first impression and follow it up with clear calls to action.
Utilize Email Campaigns
Email campaigns are an incredible marketing tool, and your customer list is one of your most valuable assets.
Many retailers are concerned about flooding their customers’ email inboxes; our research has shown that emails are viewed by your loyal customers as a helpful service. Customers like knowing about store events, new product or upcoming deals or coupons. We have seen email campaigns where an ad circular was viewed by 35 percent of the customers who received the email. So if there were 1,000 customers on the list, more than 300 viewed the ad.
What makes email even more effective is that you can trace its effect through Google Analytics. Here again, it is important to give customers something to click on, look at and link to. Each time they click, analytics record insight into what your customers want.
We send out email promotions for more than 150 stores every month. The results are consistent and impressive. Events, coupons and product promotions marketed by email increase store traffic and increase the average sale per customer. Nothing is more gratifying than having a customer waiting at your door in the morning waving an email coupon or flier in his hand.
Facebook is happening now, and other channels, such as Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are growing. Over the past 18 months, a business page on Facebook has gone from a “nice to have” to a “must-have.” There are many reasons for this. First, of course, is the incredible growth with the use of Facebook. However, social media goes a little deeper than that. There is a segment of the market that uses Facebook for everything. If you don’t include these media in your marketing mix, you are missing a new and extremely valuable part of the market.
Additionally, Facebook advertising is the easiest of all the marketing tools to set up and use.
We find that an effective and simple strategy to engage the Facebook community is to link your Facebook page to your website and post information simultaneously. Also, with a simple click, you can post your email promotions straight to Facebook. Each of these tricks gets you more exposure for information you have already created.
The “360-Degree Marketing” approach, marketing activities that feature all points of consumer contact, has worked for many retailers just like you. When you prominently advertise your Facebook information on your website, you increase your Facebook reach. Similarly, when you link all your Facebook posts back to your website, you will increase your website visits. And, if you aggressively promote Facebook in your email, you can dramatically increase your Facebook friends.
We work with Rome Ace Hardware located in Rome, N.Y., on its online marketing. Owners Steve and Kristen Grunder and Jim Rizio, manager, created a Christmas photo contest that they promoted on the store’s Facebook page, through email campaigns, on the store’s website and in store. They offered a Weber grill for the winner. More than 150 customers posted the greatest, most fun pictures of their family, pets and Christmas decorations. Customers cast more than 1,000 votes. The posts on the Facebook page were incredible. Customers even started to lobby for votes. You would have to spend thousands of dollars on marketing to get that much exposure; yet, the staff at Rome Ace did it with a few hours of work.
Now it’s time to log on and get started. First, build a professional, personalized and engaging website.
Second, send out email promotions—one to four times per month. Make the emails personal and engaging and vary the message. Third, create a professional Facebook business page. Make it easy and post content you already have on hand. Run a fun contest from time to time and use email to drive more customers to your Facebook page. Put this all together, and your efforts will add up to more footsteps in your stores, more sales at your registers and, most importantly, customers who have even more reasons to feel good about coming into your stores to shop.