In the U.S., more than 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchase decisions. On top of that, nearly 50% of people who do local searches visit a store within one day.
If you own a brick-and-mortar business, these stats make staying on top of the latest digital marketing trends crucial to attracting customers. From social media to blogging and search engine optimization, having a strong online presence for your business can do much more than relying on traditional word-of-mouth and offline marketing alone.
Aside from being just another destination for selling your products outside of your storefront, your online presence is also a great place to provide free value to potential customers in a way that your competitors aren’t. You can fortify relationships with existing customers and encourage repeat purchase behavior that’ll help create advocates for your brand.
You might have a company blog that shares a behind-the-scenes perspective on the new line of t-shirts you’re launching. Or perhaps you have an Instagram account that takes customers on a journey to the far-off coffee plantations where you import your beans from.
Regardless of what you sell, you need to follow two basic principles in order to boost in-store sales with online marketing tactics:
First, we’re going to cover how to drive traffic to your company website, and then we’ll focus on eight marketing tactics for getting those valuable subscribers into your store and buying your products.
Before you can hope to increase online sales or convert your website visitors into foot traffic for your storefront, you need to have an active, healthy website with high-quality content that motivates people to do business with you.
For most small businesses, that means keeping your existing community up-to-date and educating new potential customers with a company blog that publishes useful content regularly—at least twice a month. If you need some inspiration on what to write, here’s a creative list of 40+ different ideas for blog posts from Hubspot.
Before hitting publish, though, do some keyword research. Make sure your content is optimized for eventually rising to the top of Google’s search results on a specific phrase related to your business.
For example, if you own a coffee shop in Brooklyn, you want to do everything you can to rank well in local search results for “coffee shop Brooklyn,” to maximize the amount of foot traffic coming from people who are searching online for coffee shops to try out. One way to rank at the top of these search results: Make your website the authority on coffee in Brooklyn by publishing a huge roundup post on your company blog, highlighting unbiased reviews of all the major coffee shops in Brooklyn. Be sure to lead the list with your own location, and emphasize authentic customer reviews sourced from Yelp or otherwise, rather than being overly self-promotional.
When thinking about the types of search terms your customers are using online, start by asking yourself, “Who are my customers?” If you’re not completely sure of the trends and commonalities between your existing customers, do a bit of demographic research by polling 10 to 20 customers rather than making guesses.
Say you run a graphic design and print shop that specializes in high-quality business cards—you probably want to target business executives in their 40s or startup founders who constantly network and attend trade shows. Or if you run a travel agency that caters to backpackers, you probably want to target young professionals who can afford to travel and want an authentic local experience wherever they go.
Depending on the kind of people you interact with, you want to find them on the right social media channels. If you do B2B marketing consulting, you could run a sponsored post on LinkedIn or an ad campaign through Twitter. If you’re targeting direct consumers rather than commercial clients, focus on growing your audience on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest to get the best reach for your demographic. Check out this definitive guide from Hootsuite to figure out which social network is right for your business.
Once you’ve optimized the content you’re publishing on your website, the next step is converting your readers into email subscribers.
Be sure to include a prominent call-to-action for signing up with you—you could put it in the sidebar of your blog and strategically place it within your blog posts, to maximize your opportunity for capturing customer emails.
If you own a product-driven business, incentivize your readers with an immediate online or in-store discount in exchange for signing up for your email list. And employ inexpensive or free tools like Sumo’s List Builder and Optinmonster to create visually appealing email opt-in forms, display exit-intent popups and more to increase your conversion rates.
For service-based business owners, consider offering a free download, do-it-yourself template, authoritative eBook, or complementary phone consultation in exchange for readers to sign up for your email list. If you can provide massive upfront value to your readers in a way that other local businesses won’t do for free, you’re in a position to build meaningful relationships with your readers—and convert them into customers.
Once you have a growing email list of people who love your brand or at least your content, it’s time to experiment with bringing them into your store and incentivizing them to buy from you.
Here are eight creative tactics to get you started.
Get people to show up to your store by hosting events that include the things they love. Even if you make an exciting product that practically sells itself, like gourmet cupcakes, you still need to build context around what your business does, who you are, and what you want to represent within your community. This is especially important for businesses that don’t have excitement or shock value built in, like if you sell office furniture.
Plan an event that’ll bring your email subscribers through the front door. It doesn’t have to be related to what you sell. Going back to your demographic research, if you’ve uncovered that the majority of your customers are pet owners, consider hosting a doggie day at your consignment boutique, a smart and growing trend in retail. Alternatively, you could plan an event that aligns more directly with what your business does for your customers. If you own a farm-to-table restaurant, try hosting a monthly cooking class. Teaching customers about where the produce and meats they consume comes from could be an additional revenue stream and a way to get your most loyal customers even more engaged in your brand.
It’s not enough to send your subscribers a monthly coupon for 20% off their next purchase and expect them to show up at your store in droves. You have to create a sense of urgency. Send your subscribers a coupon for their next in-store purchase, and tell them they have only 72 hours to redeem it.
Research shows time and time again that urgency works wonders in marketing. Tap into the human fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) response, and you’ve come up with a surefire way to push people over the tipping point to make a purchase with you.
Consider donating funds or committing time to a good cause in your local community. It can be a win-win, especially if the cause is well-aligned with your business. Why not get involved in issues that matter to you and your customers? If you’re not sure which causes your customers care about most, send out a quick survey using Google Docs and ask them to vote on a few options you’re considering.
Once you’ve gotten that feedback, send a follow-up email with plans for your first fundraising event or details about what percentage of sales from each purchase will go to the philanthropy of choice next month. Whether it benefits the local no-kill animal shelter or raises money to support Habitat for Humanity, this gives your customers a sense of ownership and involvement in your business, which can foster a lasting relationship based on more than just transactions. Not only do you extend your brand’s local image and get the local community talking about you in a positive light, you’ll do some genuine good in the world at the same time.
In some cases, it might actually be easier for customers to order online and come by your store to pick up their purchase from you. For example, if you run a furniture shop that sells handmade wooden tables, local customers can save on shipping by picking up the product from you instead—which also reduces the amount of work your team has to do.
Retailers like Kohl’s have successfully deployed this click-and-collect strategy to revive many of their struggling brick-and-mortar locations—there’s no reason your store can’t do the same. You can also glean a lot of valuable data on your customers by employing this practice. Kohl’s found that 75% of their click-and-collect shoppers were enrolled in their loyalty program, which suggests you too might be able to create more recurring business with the people who are really into your products.
Ad retargeting is a smart and proven method for bringing in more sales. You’ll reach people who’ve recently visited your website by surfacing ads to them while they surf. With a retargeting vendor like Adroll or Retargeter, you can install a tracking pixel on your website that’ll set a cookie in your visitor’s browser, which lets you display advertisements to those visitors on other participating websites they visit for days, weeks, even months after they’re on your site.
With your email subscribers, you’re speaking to people who already trust you enough to give you their email address. They’re more likely to buy from you than someone else if you stay top of mind when they’re ready to make a purchase.
The genius of using Facebook ads to get the attention of your customers is that you can be laser-focused in who you target with your ad campaigns. Maybe your iPhone accessory shop has too much inventory with Disney character prints and you want to quickly unload hundreds of those types of cases. Create an ad campaign spending $50/day targeting followers who like Disney films on Facebook, and surface your case designs to them at a discount. You should see results. This guide from AdEspresso will get you started.
Go back to the demographic research on your customers and consider some of the other products, services, and experiences they probably love. If you’re not sure, ask them! Are your customers into gourmet chocolate? Chances are, they probably love good coffee, too. Reach out to other businesses in your area that sell something your customers probably like, and forge a joint partnership to co-promote your brands. Host a chocolate and coffee tasting event after hours at your cafe, and promote it to both of your email lists, distribute flyers, and run a Facebook ad campaign targeting local customers.
Everyone likes free stuff. If there’s a product of yours, something else you know your customers love, or even if there’s a low-margin item you plan to discontinue in the future, a giveaway can be a smart way to create a lot of hype around your business in a relatively short period of time. Incentivize your email subscribers to come in and make in-store purchases by offering a free product or upgrade on all items bought in-store on a specific weekend. Just make sure your customers don’t get used to the expectation of a free product—otherwise they might continue waiting for the next deal to roll around.