But without digital indie retail will struggle:
5 tips to build a digital content strategy
Independent retail stores will always have a place in consumers’ hearts, but retailers who don’t connect digitally will struggle in the new retail.
The physical store’s role in the retail economy is dramatically shifting, and indie retailers who don’t make the shift will continue to lose customers regardless of how the flu panic plays out.
Have you ever stopped shopping at an independent retail store because your favorite salesperson left – the one who knew your name and what you love – and it became a hassle to go to a dirty store, pay a higher price, and talk to associates who didn’t know the products or how they were used?
In this time of unprecedented uncertainty and virtually unlimited choices, customers are acting differently and changing how and when they buy. Just as pandemics and politics have altered relationships, promoted unfriending, and scattered old links and networks, consumers are adapting retail to their life, not their life to retail.
According to a report in cooperation with Microsoft, PSFK, a business-intelligence platform for retailing, consumers want greater choice and access, business and transaction transparency, and they want to control how and when they shop without losing personalized sales and service. They want their preferred businesses to adapt to the new circumstances, and their loyalty will only go so far if they don’t.
Concern about store visits
PSFK reports 89% of shoppers are concerned about shopping in physical stores primarily because of being too close to other people (63%).
The report says 87% of respondents said they experienced out-of-stock products in-store and online, and 79% are somewhat or very likely to buy the same product from a different retailer if you are out of stock – substituting retailers not products.
High-touch, contactless retailing
Another major consumer change from 2020 is the rapid acceleration to online shopping and buying. However, a PSFK analysis says retailers who deliver hyper-personalized sales and service will have an advantage. That means providing “high-touch, contactless methods of brand communication and support.”
That could mean interactive live streams and one-on-one video chats with retail experts. Higher-end capabilities might include immersive visualizations, such as 3D and virtual tours or presentations.
Consumer willingness to purchase through social media continues to rise, PFSK reports, saying 58% of consumers say they are comfortable buying through a social-media page instead of a website. Facebook live has become an easy and effective way to present products and services and sell via orders made on chat.
Livestreaming has been very popular among direct marketers for several years, especially in apparel and jewelry sales, but now livestream shopping is spreading broadly. A bookstore in Ft. Meyers, Fla., uses Facebook live to tour the store, talk about curbside service and other pandemic-driven services, and to show latest products, offer reading recommendations, and introduce staff.
Live presentations offer personal insights into the presenters, product demonstrations, and sales. It has become a form of entertainment and human connection.
A finding by Juniper research forecasts spending via chatbots will reach $142 billion by 2024, an increase from $2.8 billion in 2019, further separating consumers from stores. Chatbots are robots – computer programs designed to simulate human speech and interact with customers in real time to make shopping easier (to a point).
Chatbots increasingly are driven by artificial intelligence, and the growth of software service providers in this area is increasing rapidly. AI and Google neural speech and voice research are changing the game, making talking to a robot easier and more effective. Google can track your voice pattern to enhance personalization of your search – and shopping – as you interact with their robots.
For independent retailers, already strangled by polices that have eliminated traffic and killed sales, connecting with customers in new ways should be the top priority. PSFK says 48% of consumers want brands to create ads that provide information, and 84% say they want their retailer social channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer support to those in need during the flu crisis.
Community support is big with consumers as 77% say they feel more positively about brands contributing community support and 80% say brands also should show how they are supporting their employees during the crisis.
If you are an independent local or regional retailer hoping to keep the business open, assess your customer strategies. You might look at how your overall operational strategy is working and consider cooperative measures to improve efficiency and lower costs, but content marketing is a powerful tool to connect and engage customers digitally to provide “high-touch, contactless methods of brand communication and support.”
Five Tips to Build Content Marketing Strategy
These five tips to develop a content-marketing strategy will help keep you in front of customers and provides information and education to not only stay connected but grow leads and sales.
1. Know Your Customer
It all starts with retail basics: capture customer contact information so you can track their store purchases by category and product. Offer rewards and build trust so customers feel comfortable giving you their data.
With that data, use your point-of-sale system to organize and report customers or find a suitable customer relationship management tool to capture, organize, and analyze your sales and customer information. Then it will be easy to pinpoint not only your best product sales and categories but also your best customers in those categories.
Use the RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) overlay to drill down into your customers and to understand who is buying what. (This practice is also valuable for optimizing what you’re carrying in the store and offering online, and overall inventory management.)
Another vital analysis is knowing your customer and why they shop – or might shop – with you. If you’re seeing gains in one area, losses in another, ask your customers why through surveys, Net Promoter Scores, or small meetings with best customers (a great opportunity to personally reward them with snacks or a meal and talk product passion).
Use this combined information to create a persona, a great tool to understand how your store fits into your customers’ lives and lifestyles and lay a foundation for marketing and promotion.
2. Show You Care
Align with a community, charity, or service program that relates to your store’s mission and purpose. Think through how your store and its products stimulate interest in what you find passion in, such as child development through sports or hobbies, helping less fortunate people get through the pandemic, creating a future through educational or personal development.
This offers many opportunities to not only connect with customers in ways they say are important, but also to build community around the products or services you offer.
3. Evaluate your web and social media
Audit your existing content and target what needs to be updated or eliminated.
Consider that content marketing adds dimensions of education and information aimed at helping your customers learn about and trust you, gives them information on what and how to buy, and guides them to a purchase. This isn’t about brash hyperbole and hard-sell promotions but giving customers information they need to feel safe with you and your company and trust you enough to buy from you.
If you haven’t used live social-media tools, look into them and get prepared. Setup is easy once you get the hang of it and understand what you need, such as ring lighting, a tripod, or other option to ensure people can see you and what you’re talking about. It’s easy and affordable to get started.
Plan a live session and do a test. Here are a couple of resources:
4. Make a content plan
Even small retailers should make a content plan or content map. It’s simply an outline of your customer’s buying journey from first awareness, to research and evaluation, to consideration, to decision of how and where to buy. You know what your customers are asking, what their objections are, who your competition is and how you compare. All these things are mixed into your content map so content and information is provided at each step to inspire, inform, and convert.
The trick here is understanding how your products and services fit into your current or new customers’ lives and to speak knowledgably about each phase. Retailers do it all the time in the store, but you may want to seek professional help to map it out and create appropriate digital content to save you time and let you keep selling.
Consider what your best customers want and need in terms of information and how you successfully engage them now. Think about what somebody who never heard of you would want to know about you, your company values and mission, and why they should trust you.
Know what you need to say when and ensure you and your staff are ready to give a consistent message and response to customers. Think of fun (or otherwise appropriate) ways to do that so it relates to the customers you’re trying to keep and attract.
5. Execute your plan
This is the fun part because this is where you can be yourself and have fun by enjoying the passion that put you into retail in the first place.
Reintroducing yourself to your customers, showing you care, ensuring your existing content is fresh and accurate, having a content plan, and executing your plan will give you powerful new ways to stay engaged with your customers and provide high-touch, contactless methods of brand communication and support.