It’s only been one year since the US set an all-time record for the number of retail stores that closed down, from Kmart to Sears, JC Penney, Gap and Staples. And these were large businesses! So how are small businesses supposed to thrive in this cutthroat economy?
The answer lies in the words and pages ahead of you in this post. They will tell you how to make the most of your “digital storefront,” how to use local inventory ads and how to use local business listings. With this recipe you’ll be able to effectively attract customers to your store, boutique, food truck etc., to keep your small business alive and thriving!
Three-quarters of consumers go online to find or research a business before they decide whether it meets their needs. Even if customers hear about a local business offline, more than one-fourth (27%) of consumers still visit the website to learn more about the business. In this sense, your website acts like a storefront window; hence the phrase “digital storefront.”
Your store’s website should showcase what you sell (and if you do sell on your website, even better). You do have a website right?! Whether you do or don’t it could be time to refresh that storefront. Spend the money on a professional website design service to get a site that meets your needs.
Your website must also be mobile-friendly. That way, consumers looking for retailers on their phones can easily see what you have to offer. If you do sell products online, customers should be able to easily browse and buy from your website on their phones, too.
Building search engine optimization (SEO) into your website will help your boutique pop up higher in search engine results. Use the Google Keyword Planner to look up popular keywords people use when they're searching for the products or services. Keywords can help you target the people who are looking for the exact products or services you sell, so you can attract more customers. Include these keywords throughout your website, but especially in headlines, title and alt tags, and subheadings.
Keep it Fresh
Just as you change your in-store displays or update your boutique window when you get new merchandise, you should change up your website homepage and main landing pages on a regular basis.
Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, search engines prefer websites that frequently add new content (text, videos, photos, etc.). Second, serving up fresh products frequently helps get customers back into your store more often.
Here are some ideas to switch up your site:
Spotlighting popular products and using their keywords (such as brand names) can improve your search engine results standing and attract more website visitors.
Did you know that only 66% of small businesses advertise online—even though 89% of their customers are online? Advertising on search engines like Google and Bing is affordable and effective, even for the smallest boutique.
Local Inventory Ads
For example Google Local Inventory Ads are great for bringing in new customers because they’re targeted to local regions. Google Local Inventory Ads showcase your business and its products to nearby shoppers searching on Google. And trust us, there are a lot of people searching for products and services near them!
When shoppers are searching online, a picture is worth a thousand words. It allows shoppers to quickly distinguish between you and your competitors products. Shoppers can then click on the local inventory ad that suits their style to view the product in more depth, see if it’s in stock, call the store, get directions or even buy online!
Bonus tip: If you do sell products on your website, offering buy-online-pickup-in-store (also called “click and collect”) can attract more customers to your boutique. While shoppers are picking up their online orders, there's a pretty good chance they'll look around your boutique and end up buying something else, too.
If you want local shoppers to visit your boutique but don’t want to advertise yet, local search directories and business listings are the way to go. These include Google, Bing, Yahoo Local and more. Start with Google, because it's the most popular search engine, and having a local business listing there will get your business on Google Maps. All you have to do is go to Google My Business to create or claim your listing, and complete it with the following information:
The more details you include, the better.
Take a look at the example below. This entrepreneur could be doing much more to enhance their local business listing. There’s no description of the business beyond “women’s clothing boutique,” no hours of operation, and no link to a website.
The boutique below, in contrast, is taking advantage of all the features its local business listing offers. They include a link to their website, a description of their products (“Fashionably bohemian women's clothing & specialty jewelry at a chic boutique with vintage appeal”), hours of operation, and lots of photos that show off the space and the products.
Every small business owner should have at least a Google business listing. Once you’ve got that down move on to setting up other local business listings.
Consumers turn to social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook to network online, connect with people and brands and also to get ideas on products to buy. Whether your brand is using these platforms or not, your customers are already spending time there.
To market effectively on these sites, start by figuring out which social network is most popular with your target customers. For example, if your apparel boutique customers are millennial women, they undoubtedly hang out on Instagram, while baby boomer women are probably on Facebook.
Once you have figured out which platform works best (because you don’t want to spread yourself too thin managing too many platforms), focus on posting consistently, engaging with others and even looking at your competitors social media sites to get inspired. No matter which social media site you focus on, follow these tips for success:
Think visual. Show off what you sell with high-quality photos and videos.
Do a soft sell. Social media is not the place for in-your-face marketing. Instead, focus on sharing what you sell and providing valuable information (like photos of the best outfits your offer for music festival season).
Engage with your social media followers. Always respond to comments positively and with a light heart. Aim to grow audience through genuine content and interactions. The more active your followers are on your social media page, the more likely their connections are to see their activity (and your posts). Make it fun! For example, engagement could take the form of an apparel boutique holding a contest where customers post their music festival outfits on Instagram and whoever gets the most "likes" wins a prize. Contests can definitely help businesses build an audience, but they won’t always be the most authentic since they’re just in it to win it. So focus most of your attention on posting and engaging. Slow and steady wins the social media race.
Pump up your presence with social media ads. Use targeted ad campaigns on social media to reach people who live close to your boutique and are in your target customer base. You can even pay promote certain posts that do well to build momentum around social content that’s working.
Email is a highly effective marketing strategy to convert “window-shoppers” into real buyers and then keep them engaged. Just make sure to always get customers' permission to send them emails from your business. You could collect emails on your social media channels or on your website with a “Sign up to our mailing list” prompt. Most businesses offer a discount to sign up to their mailing list these days:
Once you build a mailing list you can then set up a regular cadence of emails to keep in touch with customers. Let them know about in-store promotions, give them access to VIP sales or even first access to new products.
Make sure you share useful information with personality that is true to your brand and with proper formatting! You could even send yourself a test email first. The goal is to make your emails valuable to your customers so they will actually open and read them.
If you’re feeling doubtful about emails as a small business, get over it. Almost seven in ten (69%) of consumers prefer local businesses to communicate with them via email than by any other method:
So start your mailing list and start communicating! You’ll be attracting new customers in no time.
Have you ever held an event as a business or a brand? Consumers love the “experience” brands can give. It’s a way to up the fun factor with your customers while showcasing your products or services.
You can also partner with relevant brands or other small businesses to plan an event. For instance, if your store sells party dresses, you could hold a pre-prom fashion show and invite a local salon owner to do hair and makeup for the models. Or try tapping into the popular popup trend by hosting a popup shop featuring a designer whose clothing you sell.
There are so many fun and creative ideas for branded events, so get out of your comfort zone, lighten up and have some fun! You’ll attract new customers and you’ll likely retain them having already created that human connection with them.
Speaking of retaining customers...Getting a customer to visit your boutique once is great—but you also need to know how to attract customers to come back again and again. That’s where loyalty programs can help.
57% of consumers, more than half, say a business can set itself apart with special offers for returning customers. 31% expect special offers for loyal shoppers:
Today’s loyalty programs go far beyond the paper punch card. Digital loyalty apps enable you to learn from shoppers’ preferences and send them offers and rewards tailored for them. Belly and Fivestars are just a two of the many digital loyalty apps available for small retailers and boutiques.
Here’s the thing, no matter what you do your customers are going to leave reviews about their experience with your business. And that’s amazing publicity if they liked their experience, but most businesses are bound to have at least one unhappy customer who will leave a negative review. So do your best to always please your customers because you’re always being graded! To attract new customers though, you should try and generate as many positive reviews for your company online as possible.
So if you do feel like a customer has been given a great experience with your business, ask them to leave you a review. Don’t be shy! Did you know 89% of consumers would leave reviews for local business if asked—but only 7% have been asked?
If you don't ask your customers to review your business, you're missing a big opportunity for free publicity and marketing to bring in new business. Read our step-by-step guide to how to increase and improve your reviews online here.
This post has covered a lot of ideas for how to attract customers to your boutique. Of course, you don't have to implement all of them — but using even a few of them can definitely help grow your sales. Start small and take it one step at a time, beginning with your website. Before you know it, your boutique will be bustling with customers.