By John White, CMO, AVB Marketing
When it comes to marketing in the independent retail industry, we have to stay on our toes. No sooner do we master the latest development in digital marketing technology than a new one surfaces, and we must adjust.
BrandSource is committed to staying abreast of any new technology and trend that promises to make members’ lives easier and their businesses more profitable. That means staying on top of the way online strategies are changing and finding ways to make those strategies work for members.
We know those changes are coming fast.
Right now, about 22 percent of industry purchases are made online. In three years, we expect that number to be 28 percent.
By 2021, video will represent 82 percent of all web traffic. Think about that number in relation to your own online presence: How much video do you use on your website? Do you have a plan for creating high-quality videos that are relevant to your business and easy to upload to your site?
For most independent retailers, the answer to those questions is no. Who has time to think about planning, creating and posting videos in the midst of all the other responsibilities you have as retailers? AVB Marketing is ahead of the curve, however, and ready to make sure you have the video content you will need to stay competitive.
We’re in the process of creating a video library that will take the work and worry of this part of online marketing off your shoulders. These videos – featuring some of the best sales people in our group – will be relevant to your customers because they’ll highlight the products and technology you are selling and will showcase your expertise as dealers.
Everybody knows that retailer websites are vitally important for a dealer’s business – it’s where customers go first to find out whether you have what they need, how you compare to your competitors and how easy you’ll be to access and work with.
There are other things you can do online to promote your value to customers. First, play up your local connection. Nobody is or will probably ever be a national behemoth, shipping products all over the country. Your value as a local business is the speed of delivery and the ease of communication. Don’t overlook those qualities as you build your marketing portfolio.
Online chat is something few businesses have begun to utilize but has yielded big dividends for those that have. It doesn’t have to be labor-intensive: offer it during business hours and designate someone who is already at their desk the majority of the time to answer the calls that get elevated to that level.
For Level 1 questions – for instance, the store address, business hours, product lines or categories you sell – we can automate those for you. If a customer can get his question answered automatically, you’ll never even know they called, and you’ve expended zero man hours to provide basic customer service.
For customers who have questions that need to be answered, not everybody wants to make a call and speak to someone. We’ve found there is a very high rate of conversion from chat questions to sale; that is not the case for email questions, which have a very low conversion rate. Make sure you are prepared for text too. Social profiles are also a great avenue to field customer questions. Bottom line: talk to customers through their preferred methods and channels.
Your website should make it easy for a customer to find and purchase add-ons, such as extended warrantees. Think about all the things a customer might be interested in and make them obvious and available online. It’s not enough to have add-ons buried in tabbed pages; people do not want to dig for what they need. It’s no different than a salesman offering the warranty or other add-on as a part of his sales pitch on the showroom floor.
Here are some other things to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your online presence:
PRICE ISN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Price is no longer a major factor in how customers make purchasing decisions. Manufacturers control prices the majority of the time and consumers are comfortable doing their own online research to figure out how much they can expect to spend on the appliance they need. That’s why it’s important for dealers to include prices in their online catalogs. Telling people to request a price is the same as telling them your products are too expensive. It tells them not to shop at your store.
Availability of products. Using LINQ to manage inventory and tie your POS system to your website ensures that customers get at an accurate picture of what you have. What you don’t want to do is say you don’t have something – give sales people an opportunity to work with a customer seeking something you don’t have in stock. Otherwise, they’ll go elsewhere.
Speed. Same-day delivery should never be free. Next-day delivery typically shouldn’t be free either. These are valuable services, and no one can provide them but you. There are times when you might want to offer specials that include free delivery, but that should be rare and special and make sense for you.
Payment options. Last year, 60 percent of transactions were done with digital payment services, such as ApplePay and AndroidPay, and 40 percent of those were made online. That’s not so say everyone has to become a dotcom retailer, but BrandSource Financial is working toward making this easier for members who want to participate.
Choices. If you do things in your store that differ from national promotions – bundles or packages, for example – those should be replicated on your website every day as a matter of course. LINQ makes this easy with “set it and forget it” rules.
In the world of digital marketing, the attention market has reached saturation – there is no other way to get attention than take it from someone else. We do that by meeting consumers where they are, anticipating their needs and making their online and offline shopping experience seamless. The key to success is a deep integration between the physical and digital shopping experience.
YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.