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—and it is essential whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just starting a retail business. With 20% of small businesses failing in their first year and over half of them not surviving by their fifth year, business owners must devote more time to developing solid retail marketing strategies to get people interested in their products—and keep them interested.
Read our recommended ideas for implementing a retail strategy for your retail business.
1. Develop Curb Appeal
Curb appeal is about the look and feel of your store from the street, including parking and landscaping.
First impressions last, and this holds for your retail store. For potential customers and passersby, your storefront is their first impression of your business. Your store’s curb appeal must get them into the store so you can have a better chance of getting a sale.
Some ways you can develop curb appeal:
Install Storefront Signage
Your signage communicates not only your business name but also your message to shoppers, so they connect with your brand and want to enter your store. A long-standing study has validated this—60% of businesses increased sales by an average of 10% by updating their signages.
Another report found that 80% of customers would choose to 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 pedestrians and paying customers.
- Install a storefront sign with your name that cars and pedestrians across the street can easily read.
- Have smaller signage by your front door and windows for people walking by your store who may be too close to see your more prominent overhead sign.
Design Enticing Window Displays
Window displays are one of the most critical parts of an effective retail strategy. Like signs, they can cause a passerby to turn and enter your shop when they ordinarily would have walked past without a second thought.
Foot traffic has increased 3.9% compared to pre-pandemic levels as of November 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, it’s never been more important for retailers to focus on their window displays.
- 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 various heights and depths to make it visually attractive.
Window displays not only bring in customers but they help you to display (and promote) new products, strengthen your brand image, and distinguish your store from the competition.
Make Use of Your Curbside & Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting should be part of your storefront retail marketing strategy. Having a well-lit entry and sidewalk is essential for customer safety. Also, having your sign and window display lit up helps customers notice or find your store at night.
Don’t forget about your curbside, too! With close to 50% of shoppers citing curbside pickup and delivery as an important option when shopping, why not set up curbside extras to lure them in further to your store? For example, why not set up a board outside your store with some eye-catching art or witty phrase?
Did you know?
Your signage and parking areas have zoning laws you must abide by. Read our guide to zoning laws for small businesses.
2. Effectively Use Retail Space
When developing your retail marketing strategy, you would be pleasantly surprised that the most effective ones do not always require spending a ton of money or undergoing a complete store overhaul.
You can take two little steps to optimize the space you already have to improve the customer experience and boost sales:
Use our free step-by-step guide to planning a store layout to make the most out of your space.
3. Sell Custom Products
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 and name recognition, and can be a fantastic sales driver for your business.
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. These kinds of 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. Still, you can mark them up to a much higher price since shoppers won’t be able to find that item anywhere else.
4. Create a Profitable & Competitive 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. On the other hand, 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.
Learn more about pricing strategies you can implement in your retail business.
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 lower prices, 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 more.
- Get feedback from your customers. 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.
5. Build Your Online Presence
Whether you have an ecommerce store, brick-and-mortar store, or mobile sales, your online presence is an integral 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
Create Digital Sales Channels
As an omnichannel approach toward shopping becomes the preference for almost one-third of shoppers in the US and studies show retailers lose almost 30% in sales if they do not sell on multiple sales channels, having an ecommerce store is crucial.
In the US, approximately 80% of the population 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.
6. 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. For example, create landing pages with your website homepage that target individual locations in your city or town.
The number of searches that included “near me” increased by over 200% in 2019, and “open now near me” searches grew 400% in 2020. Optimizing your website for “near me” searches and Google Maps is essential to attract more people to your physical store. Remember, if people are searching for something near them, there is a pretty strong signal of intent (to buy).
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 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 and offer recommendations on improving your rankings.
7. Run Geo-targeted Ads
One of the best things you can do to attract more people to your business is to run location-based ads. Unlike general ads, geo-targeted 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
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 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.
8. Stay Connected With Customers
Your first sale is just the beginning of a potentially long and profitable relationship. Part of an effective (and long-lasting) retail strategy is figuring out how you will stay connected with customers after the sale.
Launch a Customer Loyalty Program
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.
Send Regular Email Campaigns
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.
Don’t be shy when sending emails to your customers. Your loyal and top-spending customers likely want to hear from you more often. Of customers surveyed, around 70% preferred if brands contacted them via email.
Implement a Retail Mobile Strategy
Along with emails, collect your customers’ phone numbers so you can send them marketing text messages. Use mobile marketing to send notifications or promote time-sensitive offers to your customers. Location-based messages can also remind them to purchase in-store, provide additional product information, and promote exclusive in-store promotions.
Regularly Conduct Surveys
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 an 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 guesswork out of trying to improve your business, making customers feel their opinion is valued.
Plan Regular Events
Retail events are effective because they give your customers an excuse to shop, while also making them feel appreciated with some 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.
Download our free 2023 retail marketing calendar, which includes all the major holidays for 2023 and seasonal markers, below:
Annual big retail events, such as back to school and the holiday season, are prime selling season. Take advantage of the influx of shoppers by employing these strategies:
- Back to School Marketing Tips for Retailers
- Black Friday & Cyber Monday Strategies, Trends, and Sales Tips
- How to Create a Retail Gift Guide
- Creative Christmas Display Ideas and Examples
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. Partnerships not only increase retail sales, but it’s also a great way to promote your business and get name recall.
A few ways you can do this include partnering with stores in the same location, getting involved in community projects, and wholesaling to other retailers.
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.
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. Training your team and supporting hard and soft skill development is important. 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 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.
Evaluate & Assess Your Retail Marketing Strategy Frequently
Your retail marketing strategy is never complete—you need tracking to know if it’s working.
Retail data analysis can help you unearth trends before your competitors do, allowing you to be an early adopter. Retail calendars, such as the 4-5-4 and 4-5-5, can also be helpful tools to monitor sales figures.
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 grows.