11 Retail Marketing Strategies That Drive Sales
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
A retail marketing strategy is an actionable plan to develop and promote products to attract and keep customers and drive sales. Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just starting a retail business, it’s important to constantly evaluate and develop a retail marketing strategy.
Here are 11 tips for developing a retail marketing strategy:
1. Develop Curb Appeal
The first step in creating a retail marketing strategy is to look at the outside of your store and objectively consider the message you’re sending. Storefronts are easily neglected as business owners are often rushing inside to get to work.
However, for your potential customers and passersby, the storefront is their first impression of your business. Therefore, the outside should be—at minimum—tidy, appealing, and freshly painted with polished windows and a clean sidewalk.
In addition to relentless cleanliness, retailers should also consider the strategies they’re using to lure customers inside. A high-quality and well-designed storefront tells customers you have quality, interesting products here. If you have an outdated or dirty storefront, customers are going to pass by.
You don’t need to go all-out. You can work on small, inexpensive updates like a new coat of paint or power washing your exterior bricks and sidewalk. Replace dated exterior light fixtures, swap out your store hours sign for a modern door decal, and add some planter boxes that can be filled with seasonal plants.
Design Window Displays
Creating appealing window displays is a must for developing your retail store’s curb appeal.
Window displays are one of the most important parts of retail strategy, especially for businesses on a heavily trafficked road. When creating a window display, choose a theme that resonates with buyers such as a holiday or seasonal theme. Choose complementary colors and arrange your display with a variety of heights and depths to make it visually interesting.
Install Storefront Signage
Another important element of your retail marketing strategy is the outdoor signage. If you can, install a storefront sign with your name that can be easily read by cars and pedestrians across the street. Have smaller signage by your front door and on your windows for people walking by your store that may be too close to see your larger overhead sign.
One report found that 80% of customers would shop at a new store with an inviting exterior vs one without. Making your store’s exterior more attractive with storefront signage can make the difference between a pedestrian and a paying customer.
Use Outdoor Lighting
Lighting is another critical aspect of your storefront retail marketing strategy. Having a well-lit entry and sidewalk is important for customer safety. Also, having your sign and window display lit up also helps customers notice or find your store at night.
You can get creative with your lighting too. For example, if you sell eveningwear, dim your store’s lights to match the atmosphere you expect customers to be in when they use your products.
2. Use the Space You Have
When revamping your retail marketing strategy, it’s not always necessary to spend a ton of money or undergo a complete store overhaul. You can take little steps to optimize the space you already have—like replanning your store layout or strategizing your point-of-sale (POS) display to improve the customer experience and boost sales.
Download our free step-by-step guide to planning a store layout to make the most out of your space.
Organize Your Retail Displays
You want to make your merchandise do some of the work for you. Effective product placements can lure in shoppers, guide them through your store, and increase overall sales.
When organizing your retail display, follow these general guidelines:
- Showcase new and seasonal products at the entrance: Entice customers with seasonal or holiday displays and trending products; keeping the front of your store fresh also gives regular shoppers something new to browse.
- Place traffic-driving products toward the back: Place your bestselling items or sales racks at the back of the store so customers need to walk past and see all of your other merchandise.
- Highlight impulse buys at checkout: Stock small, low-cost items like candy, toys, makeup, or electronic accessories by the checkout counter so customers pick them up while waiting to check out.
The two most important parts of retail merchandising are that your displays stay tidy and that you change them often. Products should always be organized for customers, and new displays keep them coming back to see what’s new.
Monetize Your POS
The POS is your checkout counter or the area where customers complete a purchase. High-end boutiques and corner stores alike can monetize this area by displaying smaller, relatively less expensive products customers might have forgotten they needed or items shoppers will be enticed to pick up while waiting in line.
For example, grocery stores usually have candy bars, mints, gum, magazines, and batteries lining their checkout counters. Apparel stores may have items like wallets, hair accessories, or jewelry.
Many wholesalers that supply these smaller items offer free counter displays specifically for point-of-purchase (POP) sales. Use those free displays to test out placing different products at the counter until you see what works, then design a more elegant display that matches the rest of your store.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Customers who spend more time in a store spend more money. Encourage shoppers to relax and take their time by creating a comfortable retail environment. If you sell apparel, create accessible and well-lit fitting rooms as well as comfortable seats for friends and family to wait.
Take a cue from Costco or Lush and feature sample stations for customers to test products. Play thoughtfully chosen music and make sure your store is well-lit.
An important part of creating a comfortable store environment is making sure it’s accessible. Create wide aisles and a section at the checkout counter that’s no higher than 36 inches off the ground so a person in a wheelchair can access it.
Boost In-Store Brand Engagement
Another retail marketing tactic is to get your employees involved and engaged when it comes to talking to customers.
As far as nonverbal engagement goes, retailers can:
- Showcase social media handles: Many stores and boutiques have displays with simple signage asking shoppers to follow their Instagram handle or Facebook account; letter boards are inexpensive and effective for this purpose.
- Offer discounts for customer reviews or check-ins: Offer shoppers a small discount for leaving a review or for checking out your business on Facebook.
- Host a giveaway contest: Put a jar at checkout to collect customer contact information for a chance to win a seasonal product bundle.
3. Sell Custom Products
When creating a retail strategy, custom products are probably one of the first things that come to mind. Whether you are manufacturing a patented invention or creating a simple private label line, having products that shoppers can’t find anywhere else is an important step in increasing brand loyalty, name recognition, and can be a fantastic sales driver for your business.
Aside from differentiating you from your competition, custom products create unique and memorable experiences for your customers.
Sell Private or White Label Products
Selling private label products is much easier than developing a custom product but offers many of the same benefits. Private label products are products manufactured by a supplier but sold under your brand name. Private label products are especially popular for skincare, beauty, food and grocery, kitchen, decor, accessories, tools, and electronic products.
Create Brand Equity Through Private Label Brands
When people use products with your brand name or product line name on them, it reminds them of your store every time they use the product. These reminders build trust, encouraging customers to buy more quality products with your name on it.
Plus, retailers can typically make more money from private label products, as they’re usually inexpensive to manufacture, but you can mark them up to a much higher price since shoppers won’t be able to find that item anywhere else.
4. Develop Your Online Presence
Whether you have an ecommerce store, brick-and-mortar store, or mobile sales, your online presence is a crucial part of developing a retail marketing strategy. An online presence provides more opportunities for sales, especially for shoppers who don’t live near your store or can’t make it in during store hours.
Plus, you’d be losing out on the over 2 billion people worldwide that shop online if you don’t create an online presence for your retail store. Engaging with customers online also helps keep your business at the front of their minds so that they think of you when they do need to make a purchase.
Use Social Media
There are a few key social sites that every retailer should be participating in: Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, and Google.
Having an active Google My Business account is important because it helps customers find accurate contact information on Google. Being active on Google and Yelp also allows you to see and respond to customer feedback. These two sites are important for helping prospective customers find your business.
Instagram and Facebook are great for maintaining relationships with current customers. Instagram, in particular, is very effective because you can talk directly to customers through Instagram Stories. Many retailers also use Stories to showcase new products and offer customers behind-the-scenes footage.
Facebook is a great medium for highlighting events and new products at your store. Facebook Advertising can also be a very effective part of your retail strategy for bringing in new local customers. Snapchat has also emerged as a valuable retail marketing tool, especially for appealing to younger shoppers.
You can use all of these social media channels to refine your messaging, testing your pricing, and promote your best products. Analyze your social ad results to see which messaging and pricing combinations produce the best results.
Build Out Digital Sales Channels
To appeal to today’s consumers, having an ecommerce store is crucial. In the US, 88% of adults shop online. If you don’t have an online store, you’re missing out on many sales opportunities with consumers in your backyard and several states away.
Luckily, building an online store is easy with the right tools. Shopify is an affordable ecommerce platform with ready-to-go templates so you can have your store up and running in no time. Plus, Shopify makes it easy to track and fulfill orders, manage products, and sell on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Learn how to start an online store.
5. Invest in Local SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just for online retailers—physical retailers can and should optimize for search too.
Prioritize local SEO—you don’t have to target the general keywords that thousands of other businesses are targeting. Instead, go for relevant keywords the audience in your area would search. For example, along with your website homepage, create landing pages that target individual locations in your city or town.
Optimize for “Near Me” Searches
The number of searches that included “near me” increased by over 200%, according to 2019 Google data. To attract more people to your physical store, optimizing your website for “near me” searches and Google Maps is essential.
You can get started by creating or updating your company’s Google My Business profile. Your profile should include your business name, address, opening and closing hours, contact information, photos, and a description that includes keywords. Consider incorporating local citations as additional cues to Google.
Keep all your details consistent across your website and on any other third-party app. To make your listing more relevant, encourage customers who visit your store to leave reviews on your business profile. There are also local SEO tools that can automatically optimize for you, as well as offer recommendations on how to improve your rankings.
6. Run Geo-Targeted Ads
One of the best things you can do to attract more people to your business is run location-based ads.
Put simply, geo-targeted ads—unlike general ads—target only people in a specific geographical area, preferably those who live in the same town or city as your physical store.
Considering that businesses are expected to spend more than $32 billion on location-targeted ads by 2023 in the US alone, it goes without saying that this ecommerce marketing strategy works.
Target People Near Your Store
To get started with running geo-targeted ads, you’ll need to create a business account with a platform from where you plan to run the ads. This could be Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, and/or Snapchat, among others.
Once your account is set up, you can create ads to show to people within a set radius around your store.
For instance, you can show ads to people within 10, 5, or 2 miles of your store. The bid amount changes depending on the radius you set. This is a perfect tactic to promote click-and-collect services or online ordering for restaurants—especially ideal for minimizing foot traffic during COVID-19 outbreaks.
Learn how to run a successful ad with our ultimate guide to Facebook advertising.
Run Ads During Significant Local Events
Another way to increase foot traffic to your retail store is by running geo-targeted ads during a large or significant local event.
For example, if you run a music store and notice a famous artist or band is performing in a nearby location, you can quickly run ads that target the audience attending the concert.
This strategy works particularly well if you’re located close to an airport, stadium, university, or some other area where a specific demographic may gather. Retailers can also run these location-based ads during holidays.
7. Create a Pricing Strategy
How you price a product is another important consideration for your retail strategy. If your prices are too high, you could deter customers and lose sales. If prices are too low, you can make a lot of sales, but won’t have any profit margin.
Many retailers and ecommerce sellers use keystone pricing to price their products. Keystone pricing is a standard 100% markup, or double the wholesale cost. Selling a product for double the amount you paid is considered standard retail practice.
Consider Your Market Position
There are situations where you’ll want to deviate from keystone pricing. For example, if a product is selling exceptionally well, you might be able to increase the price. If you have a lot of private label or custom products, you may also be able to charge higher prices for those. However, if competitors or online businesses sell similar products at a lower price point, you may need to consider lowering your prices to stay competitive.
Conduct a competitor analysis to see how others price their products. If you find out all the other stores around you are offering the same products for the same price, you might look to create something unique—free alterations, no-questions-asked returns, or complimentary gift wrapping, for instance—and then charge higher.
Talking to your customers also gives you valuable qualitative insights into how to structure your pricing.
Use Promotional Pricing
Many businesses use promotional or sale prices to drive traffic and sales. Discount prices can leave small businesses with small profit margins but can effectively attract customers or clear out merchandise. Seasonal sales and coupons are popular promotional pricing strategies for retailers.
8. Stay Connected With Customers
When developing your retail strategy, it’s important to consider how you’ll stay connected with customers after the sale. Your first sale is just the beginning of a potentially long and profitable relationship.
One of the most direct ways of staying connected is through email marketing. You can collect customer contact information at the point of transaction using a modern POS system and keep up with them post-sale.
When sending emails to your customers, don’t be shy. In fact, it’s likely your loyal and top-spending customers want to hear from you more often. Of customers surveyed, more than 50% preferred if brands contacted them via email.
When crafting your retail marketing strategy, make sure your messaging isn’t one-sided. Customers need to feel heard. Two-way communication can be as straightforward as quickly responding to social media messages and emails. However, it could be better to take a proactive approach and ask for customer feedback after each purchase.
Customer surveys are an important part of your retail strategy because customers can provide unfiltered feedback on ways you can improve. Customer satisfaction surveys can be simple, with one or two questions and open-ended space to leave longer comments.
Some retailers also use customer surveys to measure interest in new product lines, events, or additional shopping hours. Using customer feedback takes some of the guesswork out of trying to improve your business, and makes customers feel their opinion is valued.
Retail events are effective because they give your customers an excuse to shop, while also making them feel valued with some kind of extra like a goody bag, early access to new products, or a special discount. Events drive traffic to your store and provide a reason to send out lots of marketing and promotional material.
A customer loyalty program is a great way to incentivize repeat purchases and learn more about your most frequent and biggest spenders. You can also incorporate referral rewards into your loyalty program to encourage word-of-mouth marketing—fueling both customer retention and acquisition simultaneously.
What’s more, with a customer loyalty program you can create shopper profiles that can serve as the basis for product marketing and your overall personalized marketing efforts. Associates can make tailored recommendations based on these profiles, and you can automate marketing campaigns and product recommendations based on their behavior.
9. Expand Through Partnerships
Local businesses thrive when they work together. When developing your retail marketing strategy, consider neighboring businesses and how you could work together. This could be as simple as exchanging business cards with other local stores and cafes. Or you could co-host events and do joint community outreach.
For example, in Stratford, Connecticut, the founder of Mellow Monkey Decor brought together other local businesses to form the Stratford Lower Loop, a marketing tool that creates a destination out of the local shops in the area.
Build Out Additional Sales Channels
Retailers can also use local businesses to build out additional sales channels. Work with other businesses so when they host events, you can sell your products in their stores.
Get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce and other town organizations to learn of vendor and sales opportunities at community events. Being present within your community—outside of your store—will organically spread awareness about your business and boost name recognition.
Wholesale Products to Other Retailers
If you create custom or private label products, consider selling those products to other local businesses. This is particularly effective if you are in a tourist destination or college town and your products are reflective of your area.
For example, The Two Oh Three is a Connecticut lifestyle brand that sells apparel and accessories with various local logos. It sells online and at events, but it also sells its products to other local boutiques to resell.
10. Turn Your Associates Into Marketers
Associates can and should double as marketers and brand ambassadors for your retail business. They are the ones who interact with your customers the most. With the right sales staff, you can create an unforgettable and personal customer experience—and drive more sales in the process.
Use Associates as the Face of Your Business
Humanize your business by showcasing your employees. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, your regular shoppers already know your store associates and will appreciate seeing a familiar face online and in marketing materials. If you have an online store, create an “About Us” page introducing your staff and put some faces behind your brand name. Or you can feature them in social media posts, like Somatic Massage Therapy & Spa does:
Offer the Right Training
Hiring great associates isn’t always easy. It’s important to train your team and support hard and soft skill development. Make sure everyone knows about your latest promos and store updates so they can share them with your customers.
Outdoor retailer REI is an excellent example of a business with associates who proactively contribute to the retail marketing strategy. REI hires associates who share a lot of characteristics with its target customers. Plus, they’re knowledgeable about the products and activities for which REI products are used. They have smart product recommendations and can promote items from their own personal experiences.
Arm Staff With the Right Tools
Equip your staff with the appropriate business tools like a mobile POS to help them feel more confident and drive sales instead of simply answering questions and maintaining the space. This way, they can walk around the sales floor and meet customers where they are. When customers have questions, they can look up the answers on the spot.
11. Analyze & Optimize Your Efforts
Your retail marketing strategy is never complete—you need tracking to know if it’s working.
Unlike many other business sectors, retail businesses are easily affected by change. For example, the COVID-19 lockdowns caused many stores relying solely on foot traffic or in-person sales to lose a lot of money. Nearly a quarter of small businesses said the pandemic negatively affected them, while only 2% said otherwise.
Pandemic or not, customer needs are changing fast and retailers need to keep up. Retail data analysis can help you unearth trends before your competitors do, giving you the opportunity to be an early adopter.
With retail data analysis, you can accurately measure, track, and interpret sales, employee, and customer data to better understand your business and continue to hone your retail marketing strategy.
Developing a retail marketing strategy requires thinking about what kind of products you’ll sell, where you’ll sell them, and how you’ll keep customers engaged post-sale. It is holistic and encompasses everything from your store’s appearance to product selection and pricing. Remember: There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, and your particular retail marketing strategy will evolve as your business continues to grow.