Marketing

4 Strategies for Competing with the Juggernauts

4 Strategies for Competing with the Juggernauts

Brick-and-Mortar is changing faster than most stores can handle. Competition from giants like Amazon and Ebay have been humbling even the most iconic brands. And yet, small and medium local businesses are still competing more vigorously than ever before...

You're Being Reviewed

You're Being Reviewed

The advent of sites like Yelp, Angie's ListHundredX, Facebook, Google Reviews, and scores of others has absolutely changed the game in retail, especially for the food service industry. This means Customers will be drawn to— or driven from— your business before they even leave the house...

To Go Big: Go Small

To Go Big: Go Small

You may have noticed something different at your local grocery store recently. You've probably also seen it in the restaurants in your city or even the local liquor store. It's something downright radical: Local Alternatives...

5 Last Minute Black Friday Strategies

Black Friday is — let's get real — crazy. You're probably going nuts already thinking about this upcoming week, so we don't want to pile more on your plate (except on Thursday, because mashed potatoes). After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday. And then Cyber Monday. Even if you've procrastinated up until now, these five tips can help you survive (and thrive) next week without going even crazier. d74220d281851b8e40005a19bc65dbd6

1. Use your email list to send out a major Black Friday deal. Make it so irresistible that they'll skip the mall and come straight to you — better yet, make it something that'll entice them back all holiday season long.

2. Team up with your neighbors. Much like Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, sending customers next door when you don't carry what's on their list. It will endear you to those customers as well as your neighbors. And keeping people in the neighborhood is always a good thing for everybody, right?

3. Put together gift guides. Depending on your merchandise, you could put together specific gift ideas (like gifts for him or five gifts under $15 and whatnot) or do a creative guide with one gift for everybody on your list. Visuals and easy ideas like this are great for sharing on social media and with your email followers too.

4. Offer free shipping for people shopping in-store but sending gifts elsewhere. If your customers know that shopping with you can be almost as easy as shopping online, they'll be more likely to stop in.

5. Host a cute holiday photo booth or another interactive element in your shop. Making it something shareable (think — Instagrammable) will drive great traffic long after Black Friday.

Are you doing any Black Friday promos? Tell us about them in the comments!

image via Artifact Uprising

 

How To Scare Your Customers

With the spookiest of holidays drawing near, it's about time you start figuring out how you're going to freak your customers out this Halloween. Maybe you want to rig up some plastic spiders to descend on them at the checkout counter. Or go with the old severed hand(shake) trick. Or you could take a cue from North Face in Korea and orchestrate a ridiculously elaborate marketing prank involving your entire store. north-face-floor-final-hed-2014

The stunt was part of a campaign called "Never Stop Exploring." Customers enter a normal-looking pop-up shop and the adventure begins. Suddenly the scare is on! The floor begins to disappear and they wind up stuck to a rock climbing wall, putting their sportiness to the test (hey, they are North Face customers, after all). The results are pretty hilarious and come with increasingly cheesy music.

[embed]http://youtu.be/g7CRMrR24Mo[/embed]

Normally we'd advise against scaring your customers, but when done right, a fun prank can go a long way towards gaining publicity, going "viral" and humanizing your brand.

Have any Halloween tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments!

How To Create A Visual Mood For Your Business Online

With the rise of social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, it's increasingly important to extend your brand visually. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, so this week we're sharing our top three tips that you can easily implement today to build your shop's visual mood online. drift

1. Use your brand's color scheme as a guide. This isn't to say, "My logo is red, so I'm only going to pin red things and take pictures of red things for Instagram." However, it can be very impactful to create a cohesive color palette on your boards and Instagram feed. San Diego home and gift boutique Pigment, for example, does an incredible job of pinning according to their palette. You'll see beautiful soft greens and neutrals and pastels, but you won't find many bright, in-your-face colors on any of their boards. They stick to their scheme.

2. Consider how your brand's message fits into each picture. What general feeling do you want to convey? If your aesthetic is rustic, mysterious, cheerful or playful, choose and curate images according.

3. Know what not to post. It's tempting to Instagram cool pictures whenever you take cool pictures or share funny cat photos when you come across them, but it's incredibly important to know when to bite your social media tongue, so to speak. If it doesn't fit your shop's mood, save it for your personal page!

mood

Want to get started? We suggest creating a mood board like the ones pictured above — this'll give you a visual guide to reference for you or your employees.

Shoppertainment 101

We love following Storefront's blog, and they recently published a great post on shoppertainment. The word itself might be made up, but the concept certainly isn't anything new to the retail community. From interactive technology (think: Apple Store) to hands-on play (think: the FAO Schwarz piano in the film Big) to crazy and wild (think: IKEA's slumber parties) to not-so-tragically hip school buses (think: Warby Parker) and more, shoppertainment can take many forms across many industries. To help you use shoppertainment to increase sales and build your business, we thought we'd go over the basics of shoppertainment and how you might want to apply the principles to your shop.

the-big-piano-at-fao-schwarz

What is shoppertainment?

Shoppertainment is a fun, hands-on, tactile experience for customers—intended to leave a lasting impression.

Why is it effective?

Shoppertainment gives people a fun story about your business that they are often more willing to share, either by word of mouth or through social media. It lets them try (and perhaps buy) products that they might not otherwise. But most importantly, it creates memorable, personal experiences that add that human element to your brand and encourages customer loyalty.

At IKEA's slumber party in Essex, for example, 100 lucky guests put on their PJs and were treated to massages, movies, manicures, bedtime stories from celebrities and a find-your-perfect-mattress guide. The experience was inspired by a Facebook group called, "I wanna have a sleepover at IKEA," so already the marketing team had an idea of how viral this PR stunt could become.

IKEA sleepover via Trend Hunter

What makes shoppertainment successful?

When planning shoppertainment experiences, we recommend starting small and working your way up. This basic checklist below should help. If your idea doesn't meet all three criteria, it's time to try something else.

  • First, is it shareable? Will people Instagram this? Will they tell their friends? Will they
  • Second, is it related to your shop and products? Sometimes you might come up with a crazy-fun idea, but if it doesn't reflect your business, then what's the point? It might not be worth the investment. Some businesses lend themselves better to shoppertainment than others, but truly the only limitation is your creativity!
  • Third, is it too marketing-focused?  Great shoppertainment isn't about overselling—your customers will see right through it and that's worse than no shoppertainment at all. It should always tie back to your brand, but in a natural way.

How would you implement shoppertainment in your store? Let us know in the comments!

How To Host A Happy Hour Shopping Event

It's Friday, so like any busy worker bee, we are looking forward to celebrating the weekend with our best pals at happy hour. This week though, we want to bring the fun to your business by helping you host your own happy hour shopping event. Happy hour shopping events, sip and shop parties, open houses and the like are easy ways to promote your business to new customers, show appreciation for your existing customers, get to know your neighbors, and bring in a little bit of extra dough on otherwise slow evenings. Don't tell anybody, but wallets tend to be a little looser when you add wine.

We've got the basics covered below to get you started!

so happy

1. Pick a date and a time. This will be different for everyone. Cnsider your slowest evenings and your busiest to determine the best night for your shop. Think about  foot traffic in your area. If you live in an area with great nightlife, maybe you want to consider late-night or after-hours timing versus happy hour. Or if the brunch restaurant next door always has a wait on Sundays, consider hosting complimentary mimosas and mini croissants at the shop!

2. Define the audience. "Everyone I know" doesn't count as an answer. Really focus. Is this happy hour primarily meant for your friends and family? Is it to encourage existing customers to spend more or give you feedback? Is it to attract new customers? Is it to build relationships with your business community? Will it be mostly men or women? Defining your audience will ensure you throw the best, most tailored happy hour you can.

3. Make a wish list of ideas. In an ideal world with an unlimited budget, what would your customers' experience look like at this event? Now, reign that in a bit, make some compromises (the chocolate fountain might not be practical) and fit what you can into your budget.

4. Barter. Now that you have your wish list, think about how you can make it happen using your contact list. The bakery down the street might love to donate some brownies to the cause if it means some extra promotion for them. And the brewery where your friend works might be down to provide beer if you help them out by letting them raid your housewares section when they need to borrow colorful props for a photo shoot. Call in favors, and return them in kind.

5. Promote. Whether you go old-school and hand-deliver paper invitations or new-school and do a full-on social media-only invitations, remember this—always under-promise and over-deliver. Not only does this manage guest expectations, but being a little vague also leaves wiggle room in case that bakery down the street brings blueberry pie instead of brownies at the last minute. Hey, we'll eat either.

6. At the event, be present! These sorts of events are perfect for making genuine connections with your customers. Don't waste that opportunity running around frantically looking for a corkscrew and trying to ring someone up and trying to Instagram all the pictures. Delegate a friend or one of your employees to be "in charge" of details that night so that you can do you.

7. Document it. Hashtag it. Put it out there. If it's not on the Internet, it doesn't have much of an impact on anyone outside the room. We recommend keeping social media posts on loose auto-pilot. Schedule a couple of general posts beforehand and then whatever you post live from the happy hour is icing on the cake. Snap pictures of your customers enjoying themselves and don't be shy about asking for their Twitter handle. People love shout outs!  In addition to your iPhone skills, ask your product photographer if they'd mind snapping a few pictures for you of the event. If you have a blog for your store, share photos and a recap there. Create a Facebook album perhaps, and definitely use the best photos to share with future partners that might want to get involved next time!

We hope this helps you throw the best happy hour shopping event in history. Let us know how it goes (and what you sipped) in the comments! 

6 Pinterest Tricks For Your Retail Business

You have a Facebook strategy and a Twitter strategy, but what about Pinterest? Pinterest's popularity has absolutely blown up since it was launched. And for retailers, it can be much more valuable than its social media counterparts. "Data shows that Pinterest users shop more when they follow links to retailers' web sites. When pinners buy, the average order value is $199.16, compared with $92.27 for Facebook and $58.02 for Twitter, according to data analytics company RichRelevance." In fact, 70% of Pinterest users actually cite "finding inspiration on what to buy" as one of the reasons they use the site in the first place.

The unique thing about Pinterest in comparison to other social media platforms is that it's really all about the products. In retail, your inventory is everything—so a social media that reflects that is pretty fantastic for your community.

To help you get started or explore further with Pinterest, here are a few simple tips and tricks of the trade!

1. Make sure your business is "Pinterest-worthy." That is, don't focus your energy on Pinterest marketing unless Pinterest is a good fit for your business. The most popular categories for users are food, DIY, health, fashion, humor and tech. If you're selling artisan jewelry or reclaimed wood cutting boards, Pinterest will eat that up like ice cream. If you are selling refurbished computer parts, you might not have a huge impact on Pinterest.

2. Sign up for a Pinterest for Business account. This works just like a regular account, but allows you to track analytics on your pins and gives you access to a lot of helpful resources for business owners. Already have a personal account set up that you use for your business? You can easily switch it over too, without losing your followers or pins.

3. Make sure your content is "Pinterest-worthy." People use Pinterest to connect with the latest trends and follow brands, friends and influencers they love. Not surprisingly, a successful pin must be visually appealing to gain attention—regardless of the content behind the picture. Anything you pin that leads a user back to your brand should be visually appealing and have the content to back it up. Your pins should be high-quality, professional images—whether they are your own product shots, event posters or simply the pins you are curating.

4. Don't just create, curate. On Pinterest, creating great content is important to drive people back to your page, but curating shouldn't be forgotten either. Curating non-promotional pins can go a long way to developing your brand on Pinterest and showing off your personality. Also, it's fun. :)

5. Check the time. The best times to pin are in the evenings. 9 p.m. is the peak pinning hour.

6. Take care with your descriptions for search optimization. Are you pinning a picture of your new organic ginger candy in it's pretty new wrapper? The description should not just say, "yum," despite how yummy it may be. Make your descriptions searchable, so that the next time someone is searching for "candy," they'll come across your gorgeous pin. This also goes for your curated boards—give your pins personality and take the time to change the original description.

Want to learn more? Check out some more stats about Pinterest this infographic below and explore Pinterest's resources for businesses.

pinterest rules

http://business.pinterest.com/

How To Get Reporters To Notice Your Small Business

Between keeping the lights on and managing your staff and doing the accounting and all the other roles that come with the territory, you've got plenty on your plate as an entrepreneur. We're going to add one more thing—small business press.Small Business Media Outreach Why bother investing time into media outreach? Well, quite frankly, it's free publicity just hanging out there—ripe for the taking—that will otherwise spoil when opportunities are missed.

Drawing from my own experience, I appeared on a Minneapolis lifestyle news program a couple of years ago to highlight locally made holiday gifts. Within one day, each of the three businesses in the feature reported that several people had called or stopped in specifically because they saw something they liked on TV. Those are real customers through the door who had no idea these businesses existed the day before.

These opportunities might seem hard to come by, but connecting with media outlets can be easier than you think. Here are a few tips to get started.

1. Tell stories. Reporters are not interested in giving you a free commercial to tell the world about why they should buy your stuff, but they are interested in stories that fit their audience. If you can tell a new, informed, colorful story, reporters will want to talk to you. What kinds of stories?

-How you started your own natural health business after 10 years as a successful pharmacist. -Why you are organizing a benefit for the fire-damaged shop across the street. -How you are crowdfunding and crowdsourcing ideas for your second location.

2. Be the expert that you are. Or introduce reporters to experts you know, using your business as the backdrop. Reporters remember community connectors.

-How you are the only person in the world who makes jewelry cast from a tiny octopus. -How you navigated the state's new brewery regulations. -How two of your gym's best customers are a husband and wife duo training for Olympic ski jumping.

3. Use your inventory. Let your products be the story. Get personal with it. Get generous with it. Get weird with it.

-Drop off a Pinterest-worthy picnic basket filled with your signature maple syrups to all the local television stations with a handwritten note before National Pancake Day. -Ask a local artist to build a diorama made out of noodles (using some of the 2,000 types of you have at your Asian grocery store) and invite food journalists over for a bite to eat. -Those tiny octopus earrings? Bring 'em back out and invite a major fashion blogger to style them into one of her outfits and see invite her for a tour of your studio.

Do you have any other media tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments or say hi on Twitter!

Twitter Making the Move to e-Commerce

Since Twitter’s initial public offering that has more investors with skin in the game, they have been searching for ways to make the social media giant more profitable. Advertisements alone will not satisfy the shareholders as they continue to expect dividends and rising stock prices, so drumming up revenue is critical to their continued success. Not surprisingly, one of the areas they are looking to branch out is into e-commerce and they are looking to through their hat into the ring immediately.Most people who follow technology trends are probably aware that Jack Dorsey was the founder of Twitter. You may also know that Jack Dorsey is responsible for the remarkably profitable and successful mobile payment company Square, so it may come as a surprise that Twitter will be directly competing against the Square Marketplace. While it is also true that Jack Dorsey is no longer directly associated with the way Twitter is operated, one may assume that blood is thicker than wine and that they would at least extend the courtesy to Square of processing their payments. However, that isn’t the case and Twitter is entertaining bids from a variety of companies including Square’s largest competitor; PayPal.

Twitter isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel, just using their unique and interesting position to leverage more visibility and sales. This means that they aren’t going to waste time by building a system to handle all the payment processing portion of sales, but just a place where users can offer their products in a Twitter storefront. This will cut down on the threat they create to other companies in the same arena while at the same time expatiating the process of getting the project off the ground.

One of the reasons that they are considering using PayPal is because all of the payment processing will be taking place online rather than swiping credit cards. PayPal has millions of more users signed up to make payments online, so they are perfectly suited for the job. Though Square has the same ability as PayPal to handle these types of payments, they are widely seen as a credit card processing company with the main “claim to fame” being their incredibly popular Square Register program that turns an iPad into a touchscreen cash register. If Twitter was looking at having a brick-and-mortar store, Square would probably be a much more viable options.

In the end, business is business and Twitter does not appear to be offering any apologies. Though Jack Dorsey made Twitter what it is today, the company has to answer to thousands of shareholders and not a former CEO and creator. Only time will tell what the future holds for Twitter’s e-commerce ambitions, but it is becoming very clear that Square will likely not have a seat at the big boy table right now.