Patricia Norris publisher of Gift Shop magazine offers these suggestions to help retailers develop deeper customer relationships and stay top of mind.
Speaking at a seminar held at the Las Vegas Market and sponsored by Gift + Home at LVMC, Norris said a good promotion not only generates more traffic, but provides a sense of community. “Your goal is to give customers a reason to come in during a specific timeframe,” she stated.
Keep in mind that as a business owner, you must constantly work on building a bigger mailing list – which will come in handy when advertising promotions and generating foot traffic in your store. Give consumers a reason to give you their contact information. For example, in exchange for supplying an email address, the customer is immediately emailed a voucher that entitles them to a free gift when they visit the store. Norris made mention of one retailer that had little containers of lip balm made with the store logo as the “gift.” Research showed that customers who came in to redeem the voucher ended up spending, on average, an extra $25 in the store.
- Direct mail is not dead.
“Promote your event through postcards, flyers, store signage, and creative invitations,” Norris advised. Online sources such as Vistaprint.com, 48hourprint.com, and postcardmania.com offer competitive rates for promotional items (i.e. flipflops, car chargers, LED bracelets, USB flash drives, and keychain flashlights) with your store’s logo.
- Try new advertising vehicles.
Explore options such as Groupon, LivingSocial, Facebook advertising, and e-blasts.
- Approach an unexpected partner for a promotion.
For example, collaborate with a local restaurant, winery, or liquor store for food & wine-tasting event in your store. “Create a center display that ties in the theme with wine glasses or wine glass charms, decorative accessories for the tabletop, and serving pieces for entertaining,” Norris suggests.
Similarly, you can host a BBQ by partnering with a local restaurant or brew pub. For the centerpiece table, you can sell pieces for entertaining, BBQ tools, and even create some labels (from those marketing sources in #1) for BBQ sauce to give out with your store name on it.
- Hold a class.
When you host a class or workshop – it could be about energy savings, LED technology, addressing seniors on aging eye needs, or even simply how to decorate with lighting – it gives consumers a time-oriented reason to come to your store and positions your business as the expert.
- Get involved with a charity.
“Customers feel good about shopping to support a local charity,” Norris states. “Think about polling your customers to find out which charity is most important to them.”
- Have a red bag event.
Customers receive 50% off everything they can fit in the red bag (provided by the store).
- Create theme-based events.
You don’t have to wait for a holiday to come up with a catchy theme. For example, have a Beach Party and hand out a bag of sand dollars (easily purchased on eBay), make a central display of beach balls/towels and a beach chair – customers must dress in beach attire to receive a certain discount. “One retailer I know held a pet costume contest with proceeds from the entry fee benefiting the local humane society,” Norris quips. Other events could be Chinese New Year, the Dog Days of Summer, or a Cup of Joe promotion where you can creatively send out invitations printed on a coffee filter.
- Target a specific demographic.
Women, men, and grandparents are terrific customer categories to attract. When holding a men’s or women’s night out event, consider appropriate free gifts with purchase such as travel bags or golf accessories for men and handcrafted soaps/spa items for women. Perhaps the reward for each demographic might be a $100 gift certificate to a steakhouse or romantic restaurant with a $75 purchase.
- Offer a product demo or sampling.
“Holding a demonstration helps customers feel more comfortable with products,” Norris states. Perhaps demonstrating how closely LED replacement bulbs resemble incandescent versions or a comparison of undercabinet systems. “The Advertising Research Foundation has reported that purchases typically rise 11% to 52% among customers attending an event,” she adds.
- Hold an art show or auction.
Team up with local artists to show off their work during a cocktail reception in your store. Incorporate an auction for even more excitement.