Back in the good old days of retail, shop owners and chain stores only had to worry about getting customers to walk through the door. This could be achieved by reaching out to local consumers through traditional forms of marketing such as print advertising or radio commercials.
Then, more and more outlets and emporiums started to offer mail-order services for their products, which could be viewed in a catalogue or seen on television. Once more, this was another way for retailers to increase exposure and improve turnover.
But today, things are incredibly different and it is all because of the Internet. No matter where you are in the world, it is almost always possible to order something online, regardless of the retailer’s location, and have it delivered straight to your door.
While this brings about a wide range of benefits for stockists and suppliers, it also poses a number of problems, one of the biggest being presence. Never before has there been such an extensive and overwhelming sales platform that anybody can trade on.
So, in this sizeable and substantial environment, how on earth can you create an online presence?
Ask any marketer what is the most powerful tool at their disposal and they’ll probably say content. In recent years, this has been heralded as the king of online promotion and publicity, which in turn can help you establish a strong online presence.
If you think about it, there is a good chance that potential clients and prospective customers will be going online to discover information about subjects closely related to your brand. So, instead of visiting a well known news outlet or popular blog, why shouldn’t it be your company instead?
To achieve this, you’ll need to create content specifically for your website. This can include feature articles, case studies, white papers or any other type of content that your target market will find informative, interesting and useful.
You can discuss recent company developments, produce tutorials about certain products or comment on trending topics related to your industry. Try to include keywords that consumers will be searching for to increase your search engine footprint and don’t forget about using additional forms of content such as images and video to keep visitors on site.
The power and influence of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is sometimes difficult to measure. However, it is fairly obvious that brands and businesses can harness the incredible potential of these sites and use it to improve their online presence dramatically.
Social networks are where we go to communicate with friends, see what is going on in the world and receive some much-needed entertainment. But with the ability to follow or like your favourite clothing company or fast food outlet, it is also a place where product information or discount offers can be discovered too.
Reaching out to the audience and showing your fans or followers that there is a human behind social media communication is absolutely crucial. Even if your business wants to maintain a formal and professional image, most social media users will reject cold and heartless status updates or tweets.
However, don’t fall into the trap of attempting too much. It will be virtually impossible to maintain the same level of activity and interactions on every social network there is, so do your research and pick channels wisely. For example, Instagram is great for appealing to a young demographic, whereas LinkedIn remains a social network predominantly for white-collar professionals.
As previously mentioned, the world of retail is completely different to what it was 50 years ago. Not many shops or stores would succeed if they adopted the same sales techniques as their prosperous predecessors, even if traditional values are still thought of highly by customers.
But the need to stay on top of current trends is even more significant now, as retail keeps on changing and evolving at a rapid rate. In many respects, some approaches and tactics that gained prominence in the 21st century are already out-dated and old fashioned.
At this moment in time, the biggest trend that simply can’t be ignored by retailers is the power and popularity of mobile. Thankfully, this is a movement that looks like its here to stay, but you never know what advances in technology could change things once again.
To establish a mobile presence, you must have a website that is optimised for smartphones and tablets. In addition to this, you can look into developing a dedicated app, making your business information available on online directories and maybe even plan for wearable technology, as this seems like an inevitable future influencer for retail success.
Even though the Internet has transformed the very nature of retail, you shouldn’t discount or ignore tried and tested methods of establishing a marketplace presence. In fact, traditional techniques can be hugely effectively online, especially with certain consumer groups.
Take advertising for example. Several businesses will ignore the benefits of search engine banners, as they believe that organic exposure is much more effective and influential. However, PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising can help you create an online presence straight away and will position the brand in front of the eyes of your target audience.
In spite of the fact that consumers have a huge amount of information available at their fingertips, some people still prefer to speak with a human being. Thankfully, this can be achieved online, either via social media or an instant chat facility. Think about improving the knowledge and expertise of your staff through training and differentiate the business from industry rivals.
At Wranx, our training solution has been used to up skill numerous customer service representatives in a variety of different industries. With a greater understanding and deeper knowledge of products or services, well-trained members of staff can boost any company’s online presence and provide the business with a unique selling point.
Let’s not kid ourselves here; creating an online presence isn’t easy. However, with so many promotional options and marketing possibilities, any retailer can increase exposure, improve reputations and make a name for itself thanks to the Internet.
First and foremost, concentrate on creating top quality content that your clients and customers can benefit from. Secondly, make sure this content is shared on social media and interact with customers directly using a personal tone wherever possible.
Then, capitalise on current trends such as the popularity of mobile to demonstrate an understanding about what customers want and need. Finally, don’t forget about traditional marketing methods, which can prove to be just as effective when creating an online presence.