It's easy to spend marketing dollars on things you feel will drive more business, but what about all the free (or nearly free) methods to accomplish the same or better results? In this day in age, marketers seem to call these growth hacks. These methods may not apply to all retailers and all situations, but they can be integrated almost immediately, and if done properly, can have significant impact on your company's bottom line.
First, why should you bother looking into alternative methods for driving new business? Obviously, we all want more business, but why take the time and energy to try some of these strategies when there are classic ways out there which work just fine? Well, with the saturation of businesses looking to find new customers, it's no longer enough to just use classic marketing strategies. If you consistently try the same things as everyone else, chances are you aren't maximizing how many customers you can bring in.
Second, you shouldn't try all of these at once. Many of these methods will take some time (though it may be a small amount) to implement and see results. Therefore, what's the best way to implement these strategies? Start by picking one or two, do a solid test of the strategy for one month to three months, and carefully measure results. When you feel you have the strategy down, expand the number of hacks you attempt to tackle and repeat the test cycle until you find something that works to improve your business more than the last. As with all marketing, "what gets measured gets managed," so don't start running all sorts of tests unless you have some way of tracking the results. Some of these hacks will represent a challenge in how they get tracked. In this case, consult with your accountant to figure out what your baseline is, and see if the baseline improves compared to a year ago or similar timeframe.
1. Make a big deal about something new. In this case, you're really using a small announcement and making a big deal about it. It could still be a really amazing product, but the point is to choose something your customers will truly appreciate. For example, maybe you got your hands on the newest Nike Jordan. Create a simple website landing page with the new product, as well as an email capture form. Announce the product in-store, online and via email. Mention how the first, 50th and 200th people will get a free pair, and watch the response it gets. People want to feel exclusive, and love the idea of winning something. Combine the two and you've got a winner.
2. Put customers on the clock. Everyone hates to miss out on a great deal. Alert shoppers, whether online or in-store, that there are only "X" units left of a product and they won't be able to get it again. You'll notice Amazon.com does this will all its products, no matter how much inventory it has left. It's a psychological trick that can pay dividends.
3. Offer something monthly. You've probably heard of the "subscription box" fad. Popularized by Birchbox, many retailers haven't caught on to this one. Subscriptions are a powerful way to not only make customers more regular, but to keep your sales more steady. If you sell goods that customers order regularly, let them sign up for your monthly or quarterly box. You can set it up so it's a random assortment of the quality goods you offer, or it can be based on what the customer likes. Either way, it's a good marketing tactic to have and a recurring revenue model.
4. Attract a varied and active customer base from others’ product. If you operate your stores as most retailers do with multiple brands, try offering a special spot in your store to a brand which has a unique audience within your area. For instance, one of our clients in Rhode Island put a brand in its store as a partnership with jewelry company Alex and Ani. Nearly overnight, the retailer estimated the partnership with Alex and Ani generated an additional 20 percent business. If you have a strong local or even national brand, see what you could do. This is similar to making a big deal about something new, but the logistics behind it are a bit different. The marketing behind it should be different as well.
5. Partner with an Instagram model. This has really become a standard for a lot of new streetwear brands. There are a few keys to doing it right. For one, be sure to select the right person for the job. There are a lot of these people out there, but not all of them will attract the right audience. If you want to attract visitors to your store, invite someone with the right following to come by and have an event with them. Consider that someone with 1 million-plus followers will probably want to get paid. But someone with 50,000 followers in your local town may do it for free for their own exposure, or will do it for trade or far less money.
6. Socially smart selling. Again, you can hack social media to get new sales without much cost. In this case, offer the consumer a BOGO, BOGOHO or just a flat discount when they tag you in a photo they're sharing, share a photo of an item they loved and tag you in the post, or share a status about you with hashtags. Snapchat, in my opinion, is underutilized and has a viral effect people will appreciate.
7. Utilize a referral network. This isn't a classic referral network. In this case, you would offer some sort of incentive when the customer sends a unique link to someone they think would like the product. It's like social selling, but it's a bit more direct and uses a different medium for delivery. You could have a simple SMS app within your website setup by the register. When someone enters their phone number and a different (confirmed) number, they get a text with a discount. This works great online, and can be placed in high-traffic areas around the store to entice customers.
8. Place a lure at your place. It's possible to derive a large amount of traffic to your stores if you're nearby a Pokestop (a place within Pokemon Go that wild Pokemon appear and can be caught). The key here is to place the lure and have the right signage to alert players your store is a supporter.
9. Sell with proof. People love popular things — persons, places or things. This goes the same for the items in your stores. Got products a lot of people buy? Try placing an interactive sign above them to alert customers just how hot some items are. Chances are the "sell" will be a whole lot easier. Even better, combine this with social selling and you've got yourself an automated sales machine.
10. Upsell smarter. You've got everything in place, but now how can you get each customer to spend more? Normally, retailers simply help customers find the items they need, but how rare is it for regular e-commerce sites (not Amazon, eBay or other giants) to be recommending products? Very. It doesn't have to be. There are many plugins out there which can go into nearly any e-commerce shopping site to enable product recommendations. These can be based on similar items, frequently bought together items or based on the customer's purchase history. Do a search within the App Store of your favorite e-commerce software, or simply ask a developer what they would do. You'll find most devs at least would agree it's not an overly complicated task. The advantage here is since they're already purchasing, the barrier is lower.
BONUS: Make customers aware that they're close to your stores. Show them easily where your store is in relation to them. Give them the easiest method to get there. Make it known if you offer buy online, pick up in-store. Show customers you make it easy for them to buy whatever, whenever and wherever they need to.
As you can see, these are methods that most retailers aren't utilizing. If they are using these methods, they simply aren't doing it right. It's important not to try all at once, as you'll struggle to really implement effectively. Additionally, as was mentioned, make sure you have the right tracking mechanisms in place so you can see what works and what doesn't. If you try any of these and have success, please share your stories and adaptations for your situation so others can achieve the same level of success. Best of luck on the retail road!
Alex Senn is the founder and CEO of Orkiv Retail Solutions, a retail technology company specializing in delivering location relevant infrastructure for omnichannel retailers.
Alex Senn is the founder and CEO of Orkiv Retail Solutions, a retail technology company specializing in delivering location relevant infrastructure for omnichannel retailers who want to achieve better sales through intelligent marketing, and effective, easy to use software.