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...

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.


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!

4 Ways to Use the New Hyperlapse App for Your Business

We love a good app launch, and Instagram/Facebook just launched a new one that we think is going to have some fun applications in the retail world. It's called Hyperlapse, and it creates amazing time lapse videos right from your smartphone without expensive equipment. hyperlapse

Typically, you'd need a big tripod to make this even remotely possibly on your phone, but the Hyperlapse app instantly stabilizes your footage to smooth out the little (and big) bumps in the road and give a cinematic polish to your videos. All you do is shoot timelapse videos in motion while you're doing whatever it is you're doing. Then speed up that video and share it on Instagram of Facebook directly—or save it for later to include in your next blog post.

The app's simple design makes it easy to use, and you don't even need an account to get filming.

Hyperlapse (1)

Here are a few ways we'd love to see businesses use this new app:

1. Go on a shop tour: Give customers a quick look behind the scenes into your shop or your workshop.

2. DIY handmade products: In just 5 seconds, show days of work on your handcrafted jewelry or other goods.

3. Recap a shop event: Hosting a special event? Why not share it with your community so everyone can feel like they were there!

4. Inventory animation: Create an internal contest for your employees — whoever comes up with the coolest time lapse inventory videos wins!

Are you going to try it out? Let us know what you think!

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!


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.


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!

16 DIY Stamp Projects For Your Retail Shop

When it comes to retail branding and packaging, we're a little bit stamp happy. Why? Custom printing is expensive! Stamps are an affordable way to dress up any sort of inexpensive boxes, tags, business cards and even tissue paper. The sky is the limit, so we've rounded up a few of our  favorite DIY stamp projects for small business owners. Whether you need a packaging overhaul or just want to personalize a few things, put your (rubber) stamp on it. fragile

1. Fragile stamp: Especially if your goods are easily breakable, you're gonna want to upgrade from the chicken scratch currently scrawled all over your shipping boxes. This cute feather stamp is perfect. (via Etsy)

biz card stamp

2. Business card stamp: Leave your calling card on more than just cards! This rubber stamp gives you added the benefit of never running out of business cards.

why thanks

3. Why Thanks stamp: Gratitude is important.

mae mae stamp

4. Little bags: Stamps aren't just for paper products—they work perfectly on little dust bags like these.

made in idaho

5. State pride: Promoting your local-ness is never a bad call. Hooray for shopping local!

stamp coffee bag

6. Coffee beans: These beans from Hoboken Coffee Roasters are all dressed up and ready to go home with your next customer.

package stamp

7. Gifting goodness: If you're wrapping up a gift, personalize it (or let the giver add their touch) to the wrapping!

stamped wrapping paper

8. Stamped wrapping paper: Don't wait until the holidays for this easy potato stamper project. It can be customized by season or simply something that works with your shop all year. You can also use a regular stamp, of course, but an old-fashioned potato is pretty fun too.


9. Stamped tags: Give your tags some foxy handmade flair.

do not bend

10. Do not bend: This little number is great for prints, artwork and photography heading through the mail.

baked by

11. Bakery nod: Are you warming up to the stamp idea yet? Hope so!


12. URL IRL: Keep it simple with just your web address to help people find you online later.

address form

13. Address upgrade: When you have time to hand address a package, use that time wisely.

stamped soap

14. Custom stamped soap: If skin care products are your game, they are begging for your name.

custom order

15. Special delivery: Your clients are unique—make 'em feel special.

oh hello friend


16. The whole package: This branding package is about as stamp-friendly as it gets.

What are you inking at your shop? 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

6 Online Order Fulfillment Extras That Work

There's no better time to solidify a customer relationship than when a purchase is made, especially in the eCommerce world when you don't have the face-time of a brick-and-mortar shop. To give you an extra edge, we've rounded up five easy ways your shipments can do more for you with online order fulfillment extras. 6241098539_56e4edaf8b_b

1. Thank you notes:

Take a cue from your mother—always send a thank you note. Etsy sellers are the most gracious community of business owners out there in this respect. In fact, we don't think we've ever received an order from Etsy that wasn't nicely packaged—complete with a personal note. If your volume is too high to send every customer a handwritten note, have some kindly worded cards printed up to include with your packing slips. These should always include your social media accounts for easily tweetable pictures of their order. If you keep records of past purchases, you could even ask a customer how they liked their last order, which shows them you care!

2. Custom packaging and shipping materials:

Make sure your branding runs throughout your packaging and shipping materials. This can be as simple and affordable or as luxurious and high-end as your business allows. Here are just a couple of ideas for branded packaging materials: a branded self-inking stamp, custom packaging tape (a la Amazon), logo stickers, custom shipping boxes, branded tissue paper, screen-printed cloth dust bags, etc. Not everything has to (or should have) your logo on it, but well-rounded branding shows your customers your attention to detail and helps them remember you as a high-quality business.

3. Free samples:

Have a new product that complements a particular customer's order? Use that opportunity to surprise them with a free sample. Your wholesale suppliers will typically be thrilled to provide you with samples if it means you'll sell more of their products. This is also an effective way to rid yourself of slow-moving inventory, though we suggest making sure the products match well with a customer's order. The last thing you want to do is put someone off by throwing a bottle of wrinkle cream in with an order of baby shampoo.

4. Information about complementary businesses you support:

Say you own a fair-trade jewelry boutique and your friend owns an organic apothecary—and you both make close to the same number of online sales each month. Your target customer base heavily overlaps, but you don't compete with each other so it is a match made in marketing heaven. Capitalize on this by trading cards, so to speak. You include a postcard about their business in all shipped orders and she includes one about your business in hers.

5. Informative literature:

The tea company pictured above includes a cute little booklet with background on all seven types of tea they carry, along with space to journal while you enjoy a cup at home. This is an excellent example of informing your customers about your other products in a non-salesy way.

6. Discounts or other deal-sweeteners for future purchases:

Be judicious about when and where you approach discounts by using your customer profiles. You might try offering a free or upgraded shipping code for their next purchase. Or use the opportunity to let customers know if you have a sale or event coming up. Or perhaps you send every customer a loyalty discount  shipped with their third order. You know what's best for your business.

Anything else that's worked wonders for you? Let us know in the comments!

Why You Should Buy Inventory For Your POS Area

Think about the line at the grocery store. When was the last time you didn't at least consider buying a pack of gum? Big retailers experiment with the positioning their goods constantly and small business can implement a few of their merchandising tips too. The global beauty chain Sephora, for example, is a master of maximizing these mini purchases. Their checkout line is like a corral filled with trial size goodies. Just small and cheap enough to inspire people to throw a few into their basket on the way. These are products you'll find all over the store (a store that will give out free samples of everything, no less), but miniaturize them and throw them near the register and they become irresistible.why you should buy inventory for your pos area

1. The people buying things are already there. Your customers have already decided to make a purchase, so it's the best time to subtly encourage them to make more purchases by prominently displaying the things they might want. Try showing off some of your newest products near the register so that your regulars will take notice of something they might pass by while browsing.

2. It adds urgency to the purchase. While wandering around a store, it's easy to put something down and pick it up later. But it doesn't feel that way while waiting in line at a register. Simply being in line creates a mental time limit for a person's buying decision, which is often the difference between "maybe another day" and "I'll take it."

2. The extra $2 adds up. People get excited when they see little "deals." They are also more likely to buy easy edibles or drinkables like candy or a bottle of water or even a day-old danish, so don't be afraid to stock some chocolate bars near the counter even though your bread and butter might be fair trade home decor.

3. You'll engage with your customers. There's nothing that solidifies a good customer experience than actually having a conversation, so put those conversation pieces near the register or get creative with your display. Even if they don't buy anything extra, you've made a personal, hopefully memorable impression.

What successful strategies do you use at your register? Let us know in the comments or say hi on Twitter or Facebook!

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!