With 10 years of retail experience and a year of distributor sales experience, I've seen quite a few marketing strategies work and quite a few fail. The ones that fail usually involve poorly written or handwritten signs, lack of exposure, and failure to follow through on sales. The marketing strategies that I've seen succeed involve low prices, price matching, clearly legible signs, awesome customer service, and follow through on all sale prices or rain checks in the event the item is sold out.
The best and cheapest way to get exposure for a retail store is to advertise it online through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and if you only planned on doing one social media website, I would recommend Facebook. Facebook has a huge following and the ability to post longer advertisements via their status updates. They also have an information page that allows for specific store details.
The most important piece of retail marketing is a website. It's not enough that retail stores use social media. They also need a website, and it needs to be a website that matches the store's name. Potential customers who search for your store are going to type the name of your store into the search bar. Having the website named after the store is going to put your store's website at the top of the search list.
For myself, I want to know exactly where the store is located, the store hours without having to call them, what they sell, and what the weekly sales are even if they don't have an online store and checkout system to go along with the website. It's also a great way to let customers know which social media sites you have accounts at so that they can "like" or "follow" you and all their friends can do the same.
Classified ads are good, but I'd go for a coupon in the Sunday paper. Most people are buying Sunday papers these days strictly for the coupons. A 10% off shopping trip to your retail store would bring people in the door, and with great customer service, they'll keep coming back.
Word of mouth
Word-of-mouth is the freest form of advertising and it happens when you provide great customer service, speedy checkout lines, and products people love. The niche market in retail right now is local meat, produce, and products such as apple butter and pumpkin spread. If you're store has a hard-to-find product, people will drive miles to get it.
I know of a local grocery store in my area that has a butcher counter, and people drive upwards of 79 miles to purchase the meat because it's fresh and local.
Rewards programs are also a great way to ensure repeat business, and the rewards can be as simple as a free cup of coffee for buying 10 cups, or 10% off your next purchase after buying a certain amount. To get those free items and discounts, customers will come back and make purchases.
Most retail stores don't realize that distributors like Coke, Pepsi, 7up, Redbull, and other drink distributors provide free signage, free coolers, and free labor. The trade-off is space. The distributors want more space so they're willing to provide free coolers. They also want more sales. The more drinks you sell, the more they sell, so they'll provide signage and sale prices. The only catch is that you have to maintain their price point for as long as they're giving you product discounts.
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