Like any good Sage Business Expert, I spend a lot of my time speaking and networking – and a networking group recently set me the challenge of sharing five top tips on how small retailers can get themselves noticed. After all, the key to selling more stuff is, first of all, for potential customers to know that you exist, and then, once they’ve found you, to love what they see.
Immediately, I began thinking about the well-known idea of ‘kerb appeal’, though it soon became clear to me that the concept is more complex than you might at first imagine.
Essentially, the issue here is that your store doesn’t have just one kerb where it needs to appeal – there are, potentially, up to three kerbs to worry about:
- The actual kerb – the physical presence of your high-street shop
- The e-kerb – your website or online store
- The social kerb – your presence across social networks, like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
At each kerb, how you portray your business can entice people in or scare them away. So, how do you make the customer or (potential customer) step over the kerb, and then keep them coming back? Here are those five top tips.
1. See what the customer sees
The first impression a customer gets of your business – whether outside your shop, on your website, or through your tweets – is crucial.
So, put out the (virtual) welcome mat, clean the windows, and expunge all those dodgy spelling mistakes. We’re all customers at one time or another, so just put yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing your business (at whichever kerb) for the first time, and make sure you like what you see. If you prefer a third-party opinion, rope in an honest friend or an affordable retail expert 😉
2. Wow with your windows
A huge element in encouraging the customer over the kerb is your shop window – whether that’s your actual window display, the homepage of your online store, or the pictures that you share on your Facebook wall.
So, go to town and do all you can to catch the eye of every potential customer. If there’s an opportunity to tie that into an event – like Hallowe’en or Bonfire Night – all the better. When I was in Yorkshire this summer, many retailers in towns like Keighley and Skipton had created brilliant, playful windows to celebrate the Tour de France – ensuring that visitors received a colourful welcome, but also giving locals a good reason to go and check out what was happening on their high street. Posting pictures of your creations on your blog or homepage also keeps your website fresh and Google happy.
Just make sure you somehow link the display to what you’re trying to sell, rather than plonking a few sad-looking pumpkins in the window. A half-hearted or unintentionally comedic effort can grab the attention of passers-by for all the wrong reasons.
3. …and then milk it!
And if you’ve created something fabulous, make sure you milk it via every available channel.
If there’s a local paper, see if you can turn what you’ve done into a news story. Got an email newsletter? Great! Make use of those pictures of your handiwork and show your most loyal followers what you’re up to. And it goes without saying that you should be sharing photos of your creations via networks like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram – nothing sparks interest and engagement online like a beautiful picture.
Indeed, if customers love your display so much that they want to snap and share a shot of it, let them – and maybe even offer a prize for the best pic! Positive word of mouth – whether delivered via the virtual world or in person – is still the best form of advertising.
4. Get social
Sticking with that subject of online marketing, it’s fair to say that many independent retailers are fantastic at social media – but, incredibly, there remain plenty of others with no online presence at all.
Of course, being online takes some effort and commitment, and isn’t a panacea – but if you’re not part of it at all, you’re missing out on the chance to get your name in front of thousands of people who might never walk past your front door or hear about you otherwise.
Scared to make the first move, or just too overloaded to take the plunge? Don’t worry! There are plenty of people out there who can help you get started. So, if you’re not sure which networks are the best fit for your business – or what you should say on them – call in assistance.
5. You’re not Tesco, so celebrate it!
Small retailers on the high street often wonder how on earth they can compete with the big chains, especially as online shopping gets bigger and bigger.
The trick is to turn the situation on its head and make a virtue of everything that makes your business unique – whether that’s the look and feel of your distinctive handmade products, the superb and personal service that you offer customers, the fact that you’re a business rooted in the local community, or, indeed, that you (unlike many chain-store managers) have the power to be creative and individual with your shop window (linking back to tip 2, above).
Online retail is great, but it hasn’t yet worked out how to replicate touch, smell, or the sheer joy of a lovely shopping experience – so that’s where you, as a small, interesting, independent retailer, truly have the upper hand.