Retail Ideas That Work
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, 4/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
First launched in Home Accents Today's July 2011 issue, an ongoing roundup of interesting ideas, innovations and inspirations from home furnishings retailers around the country.
Make your store an irresistible destination. Chad Harris of The Garden Gates in Metairie, La., has taken retail entertainment to a new level with the addition of several new features: An outdoor area with comfy seating, and a Sunbrite 55-inch, all-weather outdoor TV. While mom and dad relax, the store's youngest visitors can wear themselves out on a 1950s replica Kid Steam train that operates by hand cranking. During the colder months, Harris revs up his Antari snow machines. "In New Orleans, it rarely snows so we crank up snow machines and kids play in the snow," he said of the device, which uses a biodegradable water-based product similar to bubbles.
Deliver Christmas. Here's another winning idea from The Garden Gates. Last September, Harris started taking orders for Christmas trees - delivered, and pre-trimmed with lights. Combined with the new attractions, it all added up to an incredible boost in business. After watching sales fall 15% in the first six months of 2011, the new marketing strategy reversed the trend to a 15% increase year-over year, with November sales up a whopping 78% over November 2010. "We were so busy none of us could figure out what to do; we even doubled our staff," Harris said of the success.
Be mobile-friendly. This tech tip comes from I.O. Metro's marketing director, Amber Langston, whose first task, when she joined the company last year, was to get the retailer's newly launched website off the ground. "We invested in the ability for our website to be mobile-friendly through a programming technique called ‘responsive-design.' This technique is typically less expensive than developing a separate mobile site, which is why it appealed to us. Whether a customer is viewing our site on a smart phone, tablet or laptop, the site will respond to the device and shift its contents to fit the screen." More than 25% of I.O. Metro's web visits originated on mobile devices in the first few months following the October launch.
Get on the travel bureau's radar. Make contact with the local travel or visitor's bureau to see if there are any promotional opportunities for retailers. One retailer from the Midwest recently told Home Accents Today she worked in conjunction with her local Convention Visitor's Bureau to enhance her store's brand exposure at key events going on in the city, including high school state sports tournaments, and said it's brought in more out-of-town shoppers.
New source for social media posts and events planning. SnapRetail's new Calendar marketing tool is a digital monthly calendar that comes pre-loaded with lots of ideas for special events, seasonal suggestions and silly messages, all designed to engage retail customers and drive traffic into the store. Retailers can customize their own store calendar of events by dragging and dropping ideas from the "Idea Bar" - Earth Day, Fragrance Day, Easter Sale, Golfer's Day, Garlic Day, National Popcorn Day, Fragrance Day, Daylight Savings, First Day of Spring - then create their own special events and campaigns, schedule their Facebook and Twitter posts and track response rates, all in one place. The calendar launched in March, and it's free with a subscription to SnapRetail's Traffic Builder. If you're not familiar with TrafficBuilder, you can try it free for 30 days at snapretail.com/trafficbuilder.
No-frills frequent shopper program. When asked what the "biggest new thing" she'd done in her store in 2011 was, a retailer at an ART Roundtable gathering last summer brought up retail consultant Bob Negen's name. "In July we started implementing his 6-Box Frequent Shopper Program. Many of our regular customers are signed up but we've gotten many new people on our mailing and email lists as well. It's simple, affordable and rewarding!" Negen describes the program, which can be started with nothing more than a recipe box and a pack of index cards, as one of the most effective marketing tools an independent retailer can use to boost sales and build customer contact/email lists. When customers are ready to pay for their purchases, they go to the card box (which should be clearly marked with signage and accessible to shoppers) and present it to the salesperson, who records the amount of the purchase (minus tax) in one of six boxes on the card front. After six different shopping trips have been entered in the card's six boxes, the customer receives 10% in the form of a store credit. The customer is always greeted by name (since it's written on the back of the card, along with email address), and the sales staff is instructed to extend "membership" to everyone who comes to the counter card-less. For more on Negen and the 6-Box program, visit whizbangtraining.com.
Revisit television. Some retailers, such as Eric Lackey of The Decorator's Edge in Thomasville, N.C., say they're switching more of their advertising back to television. "As we've continued to thrive and grow during the economic ups and downs of the last three years we found that advertising is still our largest advantage in maintaining our market place and image," Lackey told Home Accents Today. "In 2011, we rotated quarterly the stations we advertised on so we could see exactly where each station was best representing us in our geographic marketplace. The result was not only an increase in walk-in traffic, but we had a much larger response for our name recognition. It seemed like wherever we went our commercial trademark as ‘the best kept secret in the Triad' was not only remembered but identified with our name."
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