14 April 2020

Keeping your retail store social during social distancing

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by Patrice Bouchard
Owning your own business is a dream for some, but it comes with lots of ups and downs. Unfortunately, right now having a brick-and-mortar where you rely on foot traffic is a major hurdle to reaching sales goals and encouraging cash flow. To make it through the COVID-19 pandemic, your typical business model needs to adjust; you can no longer rely on people coming into the store with daily foot traffic coming to you. 
Your customers trust you and your product knowledge, and that relationship creates repeat customers. So how do you keep that relationship and also create new customers without foot traffic? By being social…embrace social media! Ecommerce strategies are not for all retailers, but having some type of online presence during these times is crucial for your business to survive. 
Start with Instagram by engaging and posting. Your content doesn’t have to be perfect and polished, but it does have to be frequent and authentic. Scrolling through stories is easy for people to see and equally easy for you to add to throughout the day. Host a try-on session where customers can see what products look like on real people. While showing off the different angles or styling options of the products, describe the feel, fits, etc. Take your customers on a little tour through the store on your Instagram stories, talking to them so they feel connected to what is going on during your day. Don’t always be focused on the sale, but instead on building the relationship. Even talking about something random that happened in your day will help shoppers connect with you.  
How else can you generate sales without directly selling? 
Post a question on your Instagram and make the responses into a contest. Offering something like a $25 gift card for the winner will encourage two things: engagement by your audience, and new revenue from a potential shopper. Whether social distancing times or not, connecting with other small businesses in your area is a good way to cross-promote with your neighbors and fellow small business owners. 
Try creating an event such as a “virtual shopping tour” with other businesses. Promote a select day where you all “go live” at back-to-back times. All businesses want to survive this COVID-19 setback and thrive on the other side; working together now will only strengthen your business and help you to build relationships with customers and each other. Encourage liking and tagging your neighbor in all posts and have them do the same to help grow your local customer base quickly. 
Selling from Instagram is also a great option. However, if your page is new and you don’t have the needed followers, you can still sell via direct message or by having them direct message, call, or email you. Have fun feature a collection of items each day and have customers contact you for purchase. During social distancing, they can pick up curbside or you can ship. Stay engaged with your customer on a daily basis. 
Facebook is also a great social media tool for many retailers. Paying to promote a post on Facebook is a small investment and a great way to reach a larger audience based on filters you create for your store’s demographic. All your posts from Instagram can automatically be linked to your Facebook page, making it easy for you to post the same daily deals. Or, host a Facebook live event featuring a try on-session, if you have more engagement with your shoppers on Facebook than Instagram. There is overlap on audiences for both, but some people use only one platform so make sure to post on both. Staying engaged on a daily basis and utilizing the tools each platform offers is the key to social media success. 
If you do have the resources for an ecommerce side of your business, start simple and build from there. Some retailers simply feature a landing page as their website that illustrates their brand. Oftentimes, you can make it easy and sell one thing from the page such as gift cards. Many people are looking for ways to support local businesses, and when you re-open customers will ready-to-go with their gift cards.  Be sure to include your Facebook and Instagram link on the page as well.  
For fresh styles to use for your next try-on session or sell on your landing page, join us for the next OFFPRICE Show, August 15-18, 2020, at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas. Or, shop online today at OFFPRICE365.com.

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