The Crushing of Retail Sales and The Box

Online retail sales are crushing brick and mortar sales in many areas and it will only continue. I'll get to the facts on that in just a moment Amazon Box but first a story:

Several weeks ago my wife purchased a new cup for our three year-old grandson. He likes the Hawkeyes. When she presented it to him he looked her and said, "Thanks! Where's the box?" The box? She went on to explain that she purchased the cup from a store and that it didn't come with a "box". He looked at her with a serious questioning face and said, "No box?" He is three and he could not imagine that something new was brought into his house and it didn't come in a box.

Thank you Amazon and now for the facts:

Retail giant Wal-Mart reported solid fourth-quarter results last week with the U.S. business producing another quarter of comparable-sales growth. But the star of the show was e-commerce. Online U.S. sales for Wal-Mart soared 29% year-over-year, an acceleration driven by the company's investments in the acquisition of Jet.com. E-commerce is still small, relative to the brick-and-mortar operations, but that won't remain true for long.

According to the Department of Commerce, total e-commerce sales in the United States rose by 15.1% in 2016, far faster than the 2.9% Online Add to Cartgrowth in total retail sales.

The times they are a changin'.

The reality is that consumers are quickly leaving brick and mortar stores for online deals. They are shopping price as well as convenience as they have seen their wages stagnate and are left with less time to "go shopping". However, the trend isn't always the same for small business retail stores. Especially if they offer a unique shopping experience. So, what can retail, maybe your retail, do to drive traffic to your store? Here are some thoughts:

  • It Ain't About the Product - I can go to big box or online and buy a set of kitchen knives but I can not get the experience that comes with visiting, say, The Kitchen Collage in the East Village of Des Moines or La Gourmet in Valley Junction of West Des Moines. No big box or online retail center can match that experience;
  • Personalized E-Mail Offers - Because your small business is gathering emails (you are right) you can build a very active email campaign to keep your loyal shoppers in the conversation;
  • Retail Celebrations - Places like the East Village and Valley Junction hold special events all of the time...that's not done for big box stores. Getting involved with your neighborhood organization or Chamber can make a difference;
  • Be Exclusive - When going to market find stuff that can't easily be found online and then market that through social media and your email campaign.

All of this takes work...go get 'em!

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Valentine's Day Marketing

Tis the Season! Soon, right after the Super Bowl, young (and old) men will be boosting retail sales as they scramble to prove their love Valentines Day gifts for Himand affection to their Valentine. If you are in retail and directing your marketing message to men...you are not alone but you may be missing an opportunity.

Let's face it, the vast majority of Valentine Marketing Messages are directed to men. Print, radio, television, digital tend to target guys who, by the way, spend nearly twice what women spend on Valentine's Day gifts. Last year the National Retail Federation said the "average person" spent about $143 to honor their Valentine. Men, however, spent $191 to the average of $97 spent by women.

So, marketing to men would seem to be paying off.

But, why not start a campaign targeting women as well? It would seem, just by looking at the numbers, there is room to improve on that demographic. After all, women love too. How about some ideas that might boost your retail sales to females this year?  And, while it may be too late for a full blown radio and TV buy...you can focus on digital and point of purchase.

Call Them Out - You might try any number of cute and sexy ways to catch the eye of the ladies. "Ladies, DO IT, with your Valentine!", "Women Love Too", "Remind him how HOT you really are..." Have fun, be creative and use your digital outlets;

Gifts for Him - Try an in-store display with a valentine vibe but with stuff for...him. Sometimes it's difficult to know what to get that male valentine...make it easy;

Video - Get some female friends together and do a sixty-second bit about buying gifts for the guys...and then share, share, share;

Play to the Super Bowl - "Part of my Valentines Day gift was watching the big game with you. That's just the beginning...";

The point is if you call attention to the fact that women too can play the Valentines Day game you may just move the needle and who in retail doesn't want that?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Referral Marketing - Just Ask

This week Mike Colwell, a guest on the Business News Hour, and I had a conversation about Mike Colwell MPL 14 Dec 2016referral marketing. If you want to check out that podcast, here is a link. Referral marketing works really, really well and to get there you don't have to buy fancy software or a third party platform. Much, if not all, can be done on your own. But there are some critical steps to help you get there.

  • Know Your Best Customers - Small and large businesses know who their best customers are, or you should. The first step in referral marketing is to identify who these people are. Who has made your business their favorite? Who is already a brand warrior for you? You may have five or five hundred, it doesn't matter...just know who they are;
  • Ask Them - Once you've identified who your best customer is simply ask them why they love doing business with you. Is it service, selection, price, location??? What? Reach out with a phone call or in person the next time you see them and just ask.  You are already halfway there;
  • Share the Love - The next step is to ask them to share, what they have already told you, with their friends and family. And, if they really do love your business they will not feel put upon to do so. After all they have already told you they love doing business with you now all they have to do is share it.

Because we live in a sharing world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram...) there are plenty of ways for your best customers to share why they love doing business with you. Imagine the impact of a customer doing a thirty second video on their phone telling the world why they love you. You can then post that to your website and share across several of your social media channels. Other ways to share the love:

  • Remind them to rate you on Google or Yelp or Facebook;
  • Ask them to do a selfie with your logo or your product then post it and tag your business;
  • Ask them to re-tweet a message or two each week;
  • Share the love on Instagram;
  • Have them write a recommendation on Facebook, LinkedIn or just have them send you the email and use part of that...with their permission.

Remember, people do business with people they know and trust...your best customers can be your best marketing asset if if you do just two things: Identify and Ask

Thanks for reading...

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Blue Tomato Moves to Prime Land & Sea

Sara Hill and Chef David Baruthio have announced the re-location of the Blue Tomato Kitchen menu as an addition to the newly remodeled Davod Head ShotPrime Land & Sea at 1261 8th Street in West Des Moines. The menu move will allow Prime Land & Sea to be open for lunch starting on November 1st as well as increase the menu offerings of pasta, pizza and sandwiches to go along with the existing steak and seafood fare.

“There is going to be some major re-development at the corner of 63rd and Grand in West Des Moines and our lease would not have been renewed,” said Chef Baruthio. “We have wanted to expand our hours and offer lunch at Prime as well as increase our menu choices so this was not a difficult decision.  With this move our Blue Tomato customers will now have a full bar, an expanded wine list and we are making our own fresh mozzarella cheese on site. We will be offering more selection, more parking, more unique meals in a superior family friendly location. The Blue Tomato isn’t really going away and in 2017 we hope to revive that counter concept in yet another location.”

Baruthio says the price point for lunch and new dinner offerings will be very approachable and match those of the Blue Tomato Kitchen. And, because of the extensive remodeling of Prime there is a larger kitchen and equipment that will improve things like the pizza crust and other offerings. Following dinner on Saturday the 29th the Blue Tomato staff will begin to move familiar décor to Prime on 8th Street and be ready to serve lunch on Tuesday, November 1st at 11am.


Can Local Retail Compete with Amazon?

The information from the report is stunning. According to data compiled by Forrester Research…Amazon.com generated about 60% of total U.S. online sales growth in 2015 far outpacing the Amazon Logo competition.

The report found that the retail giant tallied $23 billion more in U.S. e-commerce sales in 2015 than 2014. Twenty-Three billion...dollars more in sales in just one year.  And that's not all...Forrester forecasts that U.S. e-commerce sales will grow to more than $530 billion by 2020, with more than 206 million shoppers spending money online. 

Is it any wonder that mall anchor stores and big box stores are closing so quickly. We have entered into a new economic reality and one that sends shivers down to spine of every small business retailer in the nation. Or, should it?

You see the report also offers some hope. The report goes on to say more than three-quarters of consumers (78%) say shopping on mobile devices is still hindered by things like slow download times and screen size. Your brick and mortar does not have that issue...right? And your optimized retail website allows people to access YOU with a call or email...from the home screen...right?

Chrissy JensenAnd, the report has several other suggestions on how to stay relevant in this new retail economy: "Retailers should offer unique merchandise and seek out new ways to monetize the business."

Now, if you want a lesson in how to offer unique how to monetize your business to a broader audience go see my friend Chrissy (photo) at Domestica located in Des Moines East Village. In my mind she does this better than just about anybody. Honest...   

 

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Bad Public Relations is Bad Branding

If the numbers are any indication shopping malls in the United States are becoming extinct. Overwhelmed According to Green Street Advisers, a real estate and REIT analytic firm 15% of US malls will fail and be converted into non-retail space in the next ten years. In 15 - 20 years retail consultants say that as many as half of the current malls in this country will fail...unless your anchor is a very upscale store.

With that kind of future one would think malls would be trying to find a way to offer a kind and welcoming face to the public. One would think.

Last year Merle Hay Mall became the first to demand that the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) move their bus stop off their property. DART says they tried to negotiate something with mall owners but, in the end failed. (They tell me they are still open for negotiation.)

Valley West LogoThen last week management at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines sent a letter to DART telling them they would have to move their bus stop off mall property. In a Des Moines Register piece this past weekend mall management, I suspect Paul Stender, says the current bus stop has "overwhelmed the retail center with buses and riders". DART has told me they continue to reach out to Valley West Mall to compromise.

Internal statistics from DART suggest that 75% of the riders to Valley West Mall are employees or shoppers and 25% are seeking to transfer to a different bus.

But, the mall is "overwhelmed".

Here, in all its glory is exactly the wrong way to brand...anything.  Get into a very public pissing match with an agency that serves, often, handicapped individuals, poor folks who can't afford a car and employees who are stuck at a retail minimum wage jobs.

Nice going...and now, on Facebook, there is an ever growing number of people who are offering to ease the crowding at Valley West Mall through a boycott.

Let's return to the first paragraph. Malls are in enough trouble and, for the life of me, I can't understand why they would wish to hurry their demise. One of my favorite stores is Von Maur. How favorite? When I pull out my Petersen Harned & Von Maur credit card I got back in 1982 employees tend to oooh and ahhh and say, "My, you have been with us for a very long time". I suspect, if I want to continue shopping there, it may have to be on-line. On-line shopping....the other reason malls are floundering.

Thanks for reading.

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It's About Relationships

Not long ago, on my daily business news broadcast, we had a story about how the Internet has  Car Sale Promotion
changed the way many buy their vehicle. It's not only that you can buy "on-line" but, more importantly, the consumer now has the same, or more, information about the vehicle than the car dealership.

That fact changes the dynamic greatly. Now, the purchase isn't so much about "best price" or "availability" but how the salesperson at the dealership builds a relationship with you the customer.  

No longer "hard data" it's now all about "soft skills".

This shift has happened across the business landscape. The power of knowledge is in the hands of the consumer in most instances. Now the focus, for salespeople everywhere, is about building long and lasting relationships. And, given the availability of social media, it is easier than ever to engage your existing and potential customers.  

Oh, and that hand-written note that's put in the mail with a real stamp...bet your customer will smile and keep it long after that shout out on Facebook.

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Use It or Lose It

Back in November the Greater Des Moines Partnership (whom I admire and am an active Look Local First 2015member) rolled out a marketing plan designed to remind holiday shoppers that buying local has an enormous impact on the local economy. Look Local First had all the stuff: Images, a website and even a hashtag #LookLocalFirst to be used to promote the program via social media.

The other day I did a Twitter Search for #LookLocalFirst just to see if anybody had been using the hashtag. You know, spreading the whole idea that "Shop Local" is good for the local economy.  Here is a screen shot of what I found.

Look Local First Twitter Mentions 21 DecLook, I get it.  People get busy, they forget and sometimes it's tough to market a movement...even if that movement helps serve the commercial interests of the area.  So, how about some social media tips for the use of a hashtag promotion?

  • Encouragement - If you've got a built in set of social media followers continue to encourage them to use the hashtag and make sure they understand the relationship they have to share the message;
  • Use It - In this case the last time I could see that the sponsoring organization used #LookLocalFirst was the end of November. A long range campaign needs engagement all the time;
  • Cross Promotion - Use other media to explain the message. A couple of short videos, done by (in this case) small business people gives a human reason to use the hashtag;
  • Key Players - Get some key players in your social media world to use the hashtag. People follow people;
  • Blog About It - One and done doesn't get it. Sure you can have a big rollout but if you move on too quickly it loses steam. Offer a few success stories;
  • Start Early - If it's a campaign meant to cover the fourth quarter or two months of the fourth quarter start the campaign awareness at least a month earlier.

Big companies and organizations often have way too much going on and tend to forget about the campaign they started. That helps nobody. Stay with it and your ROI will improve.

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Want A Brand Warrior? Give a Great Experience!

A "Brand Warrior" is a person who isn't afraid to tell others how fantastic, rewarding and VonMaurwonderful your product/service/store is.  They will use opportunities to "name drop" your brand, they will share photos of your brand, they will use social media to promote your brand and...you don't pay them a dime.

How does that happen?

It's not price. It is not convenience. It's not the paid advertising. It's all about the experience.

I've been a "Brand Warrior" for Von Maur for years. Why? It's all about the experience.

Here's a quick example:

Three weeks ago I purchased a bottle of cologne. The choice was made by a sample I'd been given by the Von Maur staff a few months earlier. It was OK...but for some reason the scent "left" just an hour after application.

Von Maur InteriorSo, I took it back. I was a little concerned that they might say, "Hey, you've used this for three weeks and NOW you want to bring it back?"

Nope...no problem, no pressure just a genuine concern that I got what I wanted. So, I picked out a different scent. However, my Bride didn't like it...so... within a day back to Von Maur.

Once again...no issue.  No "customer service hell" just lots of help and, yet, another great experience.

You want to create a "Brand Warrior" for your business?  Excite. Over Deliver. Empathize.  All while charging a price that is worth the..experience.

Thanks for reading!

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Turning a Blind Eye...

Have you ever been so enamored with one or two forms of media Woman Blind Eyeadvertising that you turn a "blind eye" to everything else? Hey, you're not alone. That's why, years ago, we made the decision to listen to all the pitches we got from advertising folks. You never know when you might hit on the "silver bullet".

So, let's talk about an ancient advertising vehicle that you may dismiss because, heck, that "social media stuff" is new, flashy and..."free"! (Well, not really but you know what I mean.)

So, let's talk radio.

What? "Boring old radio?", "Nobody actually listens to radio anymore." "I only listen to satellite radio!" I've heard them all and never mind that, according to the Pew Research Center on Journalism and Media"Traditional AM/FM radio, meanwhile, continues to reach the overwhelming majority of the American public – 91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened in the week before they were surveyed in 2014."

Yeah, never mind.

Chuck Meford MPL Talking Two 3 march 2015The issue isn't that "nobody listens" to AM/FM radio the issue is that you don't know how to advertise on radio and you won't listen to people who know the business. So, rather than seek the answers, rather than ask the question, rather than do the work...you turn a blind eye toward radio.

So, let me make this really easy for you. And if it seems like I'm shilling...well fine...but it's because I believe this might help your business.

On the 3rd of November, here in Des Moines, a fellow by the name of Chuck Mefford is presenting a FREE seminar on branding and radio. Chuck isn't some "fly-by-night" huckster he's got years and years of success in Chuck Mefford Book helping big and small corporations focus on their brand and their brand message with a focus on increasing sales. (Because that's the real measurement.)

Here is a link to the Des Moines Radio Group Registration Page and NOPE they are not paying me, they did not ask me, they don't even know I wrote this (until now). If you need more proof here is a link to Brands Formation the Chuck Mefford company. (Don't let the BIG NAMES scare you..radio is still affordable!)

Your cost to attend?  A little time.  And, if you tell me, "Michael, I've been to these free radio seminars before and they don't work!" I'll tell you that the reason they don't work is that you didn't work the system.

Does that mean "print is dead"? Nope but that comes later.

Thanks for reading! 

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