Having a successful brick-and-mortar store is a proud accomplishment, but if holiday sales were slow for your business, your goals for 2017 might include ways to improve or expand. One possible strategy is online retailing. According to retail research firm Conlumino, in 2016, “online sellers dominated with a 17.1 percent increase in sales, while stores saw a 2.6 percent increase,” (NFIB). Foot traffic declined 3.9 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, signaling less people walking into stores but increasing the amount of their purchases.
How will your physical store keep up the pace with online retailers this year? By joining them! Reaching online shoppers does not mean your brick and mortar store will go by the wayside; it simply means you’re increasing your stores reach to a wider consumer base.
How do you begin your online presence? First and foremost is creating your online retail space. There are several companies that can help with this, including Shopify. They have a fantastic how-to resource guide that can get you started quickly and easily.
Once you have your online retail store set up, you must analyze your current clientele. Things to note include sex, age, income range, education level, and whether they reside in urban or rural areas. All of this information will help you determine where they ‘live’ online. There are an estimated 3.2 billion internet users worldwide to tap into – your task at this point is to find those users who fall into your target market.
It’s safe to say that most of your target market is online and on social media. Once you’ve outlined who your preferred audience is, extend your brand’s online reach by creating profiles on the social networks in which they reside.
According to Pew Research Center, Facebook is the most popular social media site with an estimated 79% of Americans using the platform. In a survey conducted in 2016, they found that the age range doesn’t vary dramatically, nor does it vary dramatically for income levels. Most users have some form of higher education, and they live pretty equally in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Think of Facebook as the place to connect and hold long conversations with users. It’s going to be the most important social network for your brand to have a presence on.
The second most popular social networking site to consider is Instagram, where an estimated 32% of internet users have profiles. It’s a popular site among younger adults (ages 18-29), and women are much more likely to utilize Instagram than men. Instagram is going to be an important network for your brand, especially if your merchandise is visually appealing, such as clothing, food, décor, beauty products, and more.
The third social network internet users utilize is Twitter, where 24% of all internet users are members of. Once again, this is a platform typically used by both men and women in ages 18-29. Most have college degrees and earn $50,000 or more yearly. This network will be an important tool to connect with influencers and utilizing hashtags to tap into conversations that relate to your brand.
Once you’ve built your profiles across appropriate networks, create a consistent schedule of social media postings across all. The key to building an online network is consistency – staying consistent with your brand voice, postings, and engagement. To help keep you consistent, consider utilizing tools like DrumUp or Social Studio to source, manage, and post content. The benefit to utilizing social media is also creating advertisements targeted to your specific audience. Unlike newspaper and TV advertising, you have an opportunity to create laser-like campaigns set to display to audiences you determine based on region, language, age, sex, interest, and other demographics.
When you connect with those influencers, whether they are on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, consider partnering with them. In doing so, your brand has the potential to be featured to thousands, sometimes millions of loyal influencer followers who are the ideal demographic for your brand. The quickest way is to send them a private message, research their websites to email directly, or tag them in posts asking them to contact you to discuss partnerships. Offer to send them samples of your product or other incentives in return for blogs on their website, photos of the product on their networks, or video testimonials of your product in use. To go more indepth, Jayson DeMers, contributor to Forbes, put together a fantastic article to take you step-by-step on forging relationships with influencers.
As more people begin to learn and talk about your products, you will need to have a place for them to turn to learn more and purchase from. As mentioned before, Shopify and other companies are built to help you quickly and easily build your online store. When you begin drawing online users to your store, ensure that you have a lead capturing system in place on your site, followed by utilizing a CRM like Salesforce to manage your leads. You don’t want to have shoppers visit your website without giving them opportunities to give you their information. This can be done through pop-ups, forms, profile creations, or at check-out. This will help you to develop a robust email marketing system like Pardot or Constant Contact to continue fostering positive relationships with customers, sharing news and updates, and incentivizing them to return to your store to make a purchase. Email marketing will let you tap into the ever growing mobile market and stay literally in the hand of your customer.
To stay competitive in a connected world, having a robust shopping website in addition to your physical store location can help you reach your 2017 goals. Consumers around the globe will have access to your product, thus expanding the opportunity to generate new revenue. The key is to build it right, develop it right, and promote it right.
Stephanie Duncan is the Communication Coordinator for Veterinary Hospitals Association, a member-driven association organized to represent the interests of their over 345 members and the veterinary community. She is also the owner of Oh So Sociable, which she blogs at infrequently. Follow Stephanie and VHA on Twitter at@theStephDuncan and @VetsHospAssoc.