I'm now a quarter of the way into The Greeting Card Project, my YouTube channel where I’m sending more cards each week to try and feel closer to my friends and loved ones. I’ve visited a different shop for each video and have been learning a lot about retail with each visit.
Here are five ways you can improve your retail business:
People are already talking about your shop online so you have to make it easy for them to share and recommend you digitally. Most customers that visit your shop will connect to the internet every day. You need to be there for them too.
Under each video that I post, I add hyperlinks to all the retailers and publishers that are included so that viewers can easily click through and visit from them. Unfortunately I have not been able to do this for all I have visited as some don’t have websites nor any social media presence.
If you don’t have a website, people like me can’t hyperlink to your business and you aren’t able to maximise your business presence online. Remember that these links add value to your website over time. They’re like road signs on the digital information super highway, all pointing to your business.
You need these signs and you need a website. You can keep it really simple and it doesn’t have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds. Using software like Wordpress you can use templates that are predesigned to be mobile friendly. You can always add shopping functionality later. For now you just need a web presence, even if it’s simply a single page with nice photos of your store saying who you are, where you are and links to any social media accounts you use.
2. Your Brand
Shops with their logo on their bags have benefited most because their brand features prominently in the videos when I pay for the cards. I love being able to share the shop brands and so do your happy customers. For instance, the other day I overheard a lady on her phone nearby telling her friend that she was in a lovely coffee shop and didn’t know the name. What a missed opportunity that may be happening countless times a day. To be honest, I still don’t know the name of that coffee shop either. Don’t assume that all of your customers know the name of your shop.
Make it easy for your customers to know your brand so they can share it. Have it up on the walls, on your bags and even on your pricing labels. Add your web address to your till receipts and to your bags so your fans can rave about you online to their friends.
3. Get Social
You don’t have to be on every single social media platform that’s out there. Not all your customers will be using these tools. A lot are though and the majority of the next generations of consumers will be using them in some form or another. We all need to plan for the future of our business.
I recommend Facebook, Instagram and Twitter primarily for strong engagement on social media. I’m also getting a lot of shares on LinkedIn at the moment due to my large network of over 1,300 connections there; people from diverse careers that I’ve met over the years.
The people who get the best results tend to post daily and have a planned schedule of what they are sharing and how they are engaging. They are not just blasting out their sales messages. They are helping and engaging with others. Always listen first before posting on social media. Choose the right type of engagement for your followers and your fans before starting.
Initially you’ll benefit most on social media from improved relationships with suppliers. Most of your card publishers are using these platforms and want to share you with their followers. Tag your suppliers in relevant posts so that they can help you to leverage and grow your presence online with their fans. Make sure you allow yourself to be tagged. Some businesses don’t do this and I think they are missing out too.
Encourage your employees, friends and family to follow and engage with your brand online to help get it going in the digital domain. Each like, share and follow adds to the importance of your business to the Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram algorithms that favour the most active businesses online.
I have to say that businesses with a website and active social media presence are a lot more attractive to me when choosing who to visit and promote for The Greeting Card Project. I spend a lot of my time and energy on each video, so I’d much rather visit shops that will help my YouTube channel reach a wider audience and get more people around the world sending greeting cards.
4. The Customer Experience
Having said that, I’m glad I’m staying open, random and supportive when visiting retailers for this project. That’s because some of the most interesting shops have not had any digital presence. Ironically, these are the ones that I think would benefit most from being online as their back stories are so interesting and their shops are so marvellous. I’m not going to embarrass anyone by mentioning names, if you watch the videos you can probably guess.
My favourite shops have a mixture of cards and gifts. I prefer trade shows that mix these categories up too as I think you can zone out if looking at too many of the same type of thing. Some supermarkets can feel a bit like this for example. Personally, I prefer the Aladdin’s cave experience, where you feel like you can hunt out treasures for yourself or your loved ones.
One of the most interesting retail experiences for me was at the Tate Modern which has several different shops that all work in different ways. For example, they have Tate Edit, in which they sell fine art prints and home accessories. As an art collector myself, it was so lovely to be met be a well trained staff member who talked me through the various items with a soft sales approach. Given that purchases in this shop are hundreds if not thousands of pounds, a more refined lifestyle, interiors type of space with a knowledgable sales assistant worked well. It felt more special, exclusive and nurturing.
Having a mix of products and price points zoned in the right way appears to be a strong way of maximising sales in retail, as are well trained staff who can help customers enjoy their experience.
5. Be Open Online
The people who are thriving online are those that aren’t hung up on protecting their own interests and just looking out for themselves. Marketing is different in the digital domain. You are more likely to be following and engaging with everyone in your digital community these days, including your competitors.
For some this is hard to get their heads around, yet in our industry we all have an interest in encouraging people to send more greeting cards. It doesn’t matter if you are a publisher, supplier, retailer or employee for one of these businesses. It’s one of the reasons organisations like the Greeting Card Association and Giftware Association have been working so hard to include retailers.
If you are not a member of these associations, I’d encourage you to have a look at joining them. It’s relatively inexpensive for retailers to get involved and they are doing some fantastic work online. Look out for the video I shot of the recent GCA Dragon’s Den style pitching event as a great example of what lovely things we can do if we work together to help one another.
I’d love your support for The Greeting Card Project too. I need 24 more subscribers to get the vanity URL, which makes the channel easier to share online. Please click here to subscribe.