The Ultimate Guide for In-Store Marketing

Posted by David Kindervater on Jul 23, 2019

You spend a lot of time designing a marketing plan to get customers into your retail location. But how much effort have you put into a marketing strategy once they're actually in your store? Let's look at the various methods you can use to appeal to your visitors with this ultimate guide for in-store marketing.

What are Your In-Store Marketing Goals?

So you've got customers in your store. Congratulations. Your marketing efforts have paid off. Now what do you do with those customers? There are two main objectives to consider with your in-store marketing strategy.

  1. How can you get them to spend more while they're in your store today?
  2. How can you get them to return again in the future?

Let's look at the possibilities to boost your retail sales and drive customer retention.

Use Digital POP Screens to Connect with Your Customers

in-store marketingYou're likely very familiar with point-of-purchase (POP) display signs throughout your store. Whether they're offering a special price or simply informing your customers, colorful, eye-catching designs work. In fact, displays with signage outperform displays without signs by 20%, according to a study by Brigham Young University. If you're simply arranging products on a shelf without effective signage—especially new products—you're probably sabotaging your own success. 

Digital signs, however, are even more compelling. Research shows that digital POP screens are 2.5x more effective at creating an emotional response than their static counterparts. That makes sense. Customers are more driven towards full-motion digital out of home (DOOH) because it drives high levels of positive brain feedback. They're naturally drawn to these displays.

Another study by Nielsen found that more than three-quarters of the retail stores surveyed received as much as a 33% boost in sales when they used digital signs instead of static print signs. 

Nordstrom has the right idea with their digital signage. Not only is it eye-catching, it's also very useful. They took both factors into account when they decided to help their customers select a pair of jeans. They call it the "Digital Denim Doctor." Buying a pair of jeans is a complicated endeavor these days. There are so many brands and styles to choose from. One quick lap through Nordstrom's intelligent system, however, and you'll know exactly what works best for your body type and lifestyle. 

Offer a mix of printed and digital signage as part of your in-store marketing campaign and test the sales results for yourself. You'll likely find that digital better serves your modern-day shoppers. 

Offer Free Wi-Fi

It may seem like an afterthought to offer free Wi-Fi at your retail location. It's when you don't include something like this, however, that customers take notice. Wi-Fi is a convenience feature, but people have come to expect stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. to provide this free of charge. It's a customer service slam dunk, but there's also an in-store marketing component. Here are the details:

  • Create a custom landing page to greet visitors when they first fire up their smartphone browsers. This is a great place to announce any current deals.
  • Send push notifications with special deals for in-store visitors.
  • Collect contact info by requesting it when someone attempts to connect to your network. This will allow you to reach out to them after they leave your location. To learn more about your customers, consider asking them about their demographics and interests. Don't make this information request mandatory, though. It might be asking for too much just to access your free Wi-Fi. If they choose to provide it, that's a bonus for you.

A Huffington Post article revealed that 50% of consumers feel comfortable making a large purchase in a retail store if that store offers Wi-Fi access. By simply providing this technology, you're proving that you recognize the needs of your customers. You're building trust—which is good for the future of your business. 

Use Overhead Music and Messaging

in-store musicResearch shows that music influences what products shoppers choose and how much they buy. Customers are likely to spend more on impulse items when pleasant music is playing. Music has a subconscious effect on shopping patterns. It also increases productivity and morale among employees. If you change the tempo or style of the music, it changes the ambience—and your customer's shopping habits. Fast music makes patrons move more quickly while slower music makes them move in a more relaxed manner.

The speed of the music doesn't seem to have any effect on purchasing decisions, but the type of music does. Take classical as an example. It influences shoppers to buy more expensive items because it gives them feelings of grandeur. That, in turn, influences more extravagant shopping decisions. If you run a luxe business, try playing classical tunes in the background to influence your customers' shopping experience.

It also makes sense to provide some overhead/background music to keep your store from total (almost deafening) silence. If customers feel like they have to whisper to one another while they're in your store, it will make them feel uncomfortable. Just don't play it so loud that it has the opposite effect.

Also, use the audio system you have to subtly announce any important information, like special deals, discounts, upcoming events, etc. 

Talk to Your Customers in a Natural, Friendly Manner

Don't talk to your customers like you're selling to them—even if you are. Instead, approach them like an expert in your field, or even a friend (ideally a mix of the two). TIME magazine says the retail worker of the future is "cool, charismatic, and better paid." Well, they're only better paid if they're cool and charismatic, thus leading to more sales. But no matter how many vital components your store features, perhaps the most important aspect features staff members who treat their customers with respect and care. You can make up for a lot of other deficiencies with outstanding customer service and helpful, honest advice.

There are three primary reasons shoppers don't enjoy the retail experience, and they all have to do with sales associates. Customers have a problem when they:

  • Can't find a sales associate when they need one.
  • Are blatantly ignored (no smile, no greeting, not even eye contact).
  • Don't get any sympathy for long check-out lines.

The greeting is the first impression a customer has with your brand when they walk through your door. It sets the stage for the experience they're about to have. Be authentic, friendly, and conversational. Small talk breaks the ice and establishes a human connection with your customer. If you're already familiar with the person, nurture that relationship. Show them that you're getting to know them by commenting on something they usually buy or simply let them know you're happy to see them again.

Chick-fil-A is well known for their friendly greetings and clever small talk. Additionally, all staff members are encouraged to respond with "my pleasure" instead of "you're welcome." The mannerism started when owner Truett Cathy was staying at a Ritz Carlton hotel. After he gave a “thank you” to a hotel employee, the employee responded with, “my pleasure.” He felt like the phrase gave the Ritz Carlton a classy, luxury feel. From that moment on, he trained his employees to do the same.  

Allow Your Customers to Play

in-store entertainmentDepending upon what types of products you sell, consider allowing your in-store visitors to "try before they buy." Let them experience your products firsthand. That's why over 55% of consumers visit retail stores before buying online. They want to see it in person. They want to get a sense of what it's really like, as opposed to merely looking at it on a screen. The younger the consumer, the less this principle applies, but it still affects more than half of all shoppers.

Nike Miami is a mammoth, two-story retail "experience" that's located in one of the region's most popular shopping districts. The store provides their Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone which lets customers shoot hoops, test shoes, and practice drills with in-store athletes. Customers can also test out running shoes on a treadmill or soccer cleats on a synthetic turf field floor. 

There are plenty of other well-known examples, from very expensive luxury goods to impulse products. You'd likely never buy a car without test driving it first. IKEA lets you plop down on their furniture at will. Many ice cream shops allow you to taste some of their flavors before buying. (Don't be a sample abuser, though.) When you allow your customers to put their hands on your merchandise, it gives them a better sense of what the product will feel (or taste) like.

A helpful hint: Be sure to keep your test products clean. From sneakers to mobile phones, headphones, computers, mattresses, and couches, nobody wants to try something that looks like used merchandise. 

Reinvent Yourself Regularly

One of the most disappointing retail experiences a customer can have is to walk into a store and see the same displays and same merchandise every time. Here are a few things you can try to keep your store fresh and interesting. The goal is to make sure your customers don't get bored with your store.

  • Prominently show off your latest products.
  • Move your merchandise to different locations in the store.
  • Switch up your window displays to reflect new items, seasons, events, etc.

It might not be practical to completely revamp your store every couple months, but if you follow these steps, you can keep things new and interesting.

Macy's created something called STORY, a store within a store that features products from local small businesses. It changes every couple months with different editorial themes, like "Remember When," "Wellness," and "Home for the Holidays." They call it "reinventing retail." Macy's founder Rachel Shechtman believed that shopping could be about more than just buying merchandise. Over a seven-year period, STORY changed more than 40 times, featured over 5,000 different small businesses, and hosted more than 500 events. The STORY concept is now in 36 Macy's stores across the U.S. At the Pittsburgh location, for example, there are weekly workshops ranging from nature journaling to kite customization.

Sometimes retail stores change up the location of their merchandise to "force" you to go down different aisles. This introduces customers to new products, which could increase sales volume. This strategy of change can backfire in some situations, though. For example, grocery stores. People tend to buy the same things each week. They know where items are and how to get to them quickly. If they show up one day and have to search for their staples, it's going to upset them

If you're going to regularly reinvent your retail location, be sure you've got the right business to do so.

Offer In-Store Entertainment

retailtainmentAs its name suggests, retailtainment is the combination of retail and entertainment. Its purpose is to elevate the shopping experience. Author and sociologist George Ritzer describes it as the "use of ambience, emotion, sound, and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy." (Taken from his book Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption.)

Data shows that in-store entertainment experiences drive people to shop more traditionally rather than on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Almost 50% of Gen Y (aka millennials) and Gen Z consumers surveyed said they were visiting retail stores more often. The reason was primarily because of the retailtainment experience. 

Barnes & Noble opened four new concept stores to explore the idea of retailtainment. These stores featured full-service restaurants and bars, with a variety of seating options (traditional and lounge chairs) and power stations to accommodate battery beleaguered mobile devices. Barnes & Noble described it as a "sit-and-stay" space as opposed to the more popular "grab-and-go" marts that cater to today's fast-paced lifestyle.

The Barnes & Noble concept stores emphasize how entertainment makes the typical shopping experience more robust. Other brands have done their own thing with retailtainment.

  • Google had a pop-up store in Manhattan. It was a giant pseudo snow globe made out of foam. Visitors could take pictures inside with Google's Pixel smartphone, thus introducing shoppers to the device's award-winning camera and other features.
  • American Girl is a line of dolls and accessories. Mattel launched an American Girl experiential store in New York City where young girls could schedule hairstyling appointments for their dolls. 
  • Calvin Klein partnered with Amazon Fashion to open a holiday pop-up. The fitting rooms had Amazon Echo devices in them that answered questions about the merchandise. 

These are all recent examples, but consider what you've likely seen with your own eyes for many years. Holiday choirs singing at busy shopping malls. Pop-up shops with live DJs. There are any number of ways to provide retailtainment. It depends on the type of store you have and what your target market looks like.

For example, you could bring in celebrities or industry professionals. This is probably the oldest "trick" in the book, but it works. If you want to get people into your store, hire a celebrity your target market really wants to meet. For example, if you had a sports memorabilia shop, you could have a professional athlete there to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

The idea is to give your customers more than products on a shelf. Give them as many good reasons as you can to visit your store. The more reasons the better. They'll enjoy the experience and you'll savor the sales.

Use Omnichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing is the mix of all your different marketing channels, from your retail storefront to your brand's website, your mail-order catalog, and everything in between. It's any method you have of marketing to your customers. Omnichannel marketing is similar, but different. It uses the multichannel sales approach, but all of your channels work in unison. This provides your customers with a coordinated shopping experience.

Omnichannel marketing enhances your in-store marketing efforts by giving your customers options. In other words, an integrated, accommodating shopping experience. Your first order of business is to make sure your digital and physical stores work seamlessly. This is pretty much standard practice for any retailer that wants to attract and retain the largest audience possible. Allow your customers to make their purchase online, via your website and/or app, and pick up the item in your store. Alternatively, allow your customers to browse your website while they're in your store. This way, if you're out of stock of an item, they can order on the spot and have the item shipped directly to your store or their home.

Let's look at what Target does with omnichannel marketing. Target estimated that about 75% of their customers live within a 10-mile radius of one of their stores. They have about 1,900 stores in North America. With that in mind, they refined their "buy-online, pick-up-in-store" service. If you visit Target's website, you can search for an item and find out if it's in a store near you. In fact, you can find out how many items are in stock and what aisle they're in, too. Now that's convenient omnichannel marketing. 

JCPenney discovered that their omnichannel customers spend twice as much annually as their single-channel customers. They were not alone in their findings. A Harvard Business Review study of almost 50,000 shoppers showed that omnichannel customers spend 13% more in stores when they do online research first.

Bottom line: multichannel marketing is a great idea, but omnichannel marketing is even better. Find a way to marry all your marketing channels and watch your revenue rise.

Make the Checkout Process Easy and Fun

in-store marketingBased on your own experiences as a customer, you likely know what it's like to stand in line, waiting to check out. Don't do this to your customers. When they want to check out, they should be able to do so with as little delay as possible. There are a number of ways to make sure this happens without a hitch.

  • Have additional registers ready. Even if you have the slightest indication you're going to see increased traffic on any given day, make sure you have the equipment (and staff) prepared to handle it.
  • Use your iPad. If you don't have the room for extra registers, take the registers to your customers. You can use your iPad as your point-of-sale device. This allows you to process a transaction from anywhere in the store.
  • Allow an in-app checkout option. Do you have an app? If so, consider letting your customers help themselves, so to speak. Sam's Club is one retail store that lets people scan the barcodes on their purchases via the "Scan & Go" function within their app. This completely eliminates the hassle of getting into a checkout line.

The more difficult it is for your customers to buy your products, the less you'll sell. Over half of shoppers will spend less or leave the store altogether without buying anything to avoid a slow checkout.

Smart Marketing Case Study: The Peach Truck

The Peach Truck is a business that started when a married couple began selling fresh Georgia peaches out of their Jeep in 2012. The concept became so popular that they expanded to various states around the country. They recruited support staff and filled a tractor trailer with just-harvested peaches. The response was overwhelming, but it wasn't by accident. The peaches have been described by customers as the best in the country, but one could argue that the experience of buying the peaches is equally as impressive.

Their checkout process is not "in-store," but the same retail checkout principles apply. And to their credit, they've mastered the process with helpful information, handouts, an email list sign-up, and pre-sale tokens. It's especially impressive considering hundreds of people are lined up at once to get their fresh fruit.

Rick Haley, director of The Peach Truck Tour, said "people don't mind standing in line as long as the line is moving." Tour employees, who are naturally equipped with a southern drawl, make sure that happens—or at least the illusion of it. They stop at various points in the crowd and announce tips on how to handle your peaches. They also pass around an email sign-up sheet and handouts that illustrate the best ways to care for your precious peaches. 

Technology has enabled them to speed up the checkout process considerably. Rather than having each customer pay for their peaches upon receiving them, staff members quickly wind through the line completing purchases with customers in advance. They use a Square reader attached to an iPad, then hand out tokens that match their purchase. By the time the customer arrives at the pickup spot, they simply hand the tokens to the sales associate, accept their peaches (and/or pecans), and get on with their day.

"Tokens became a necessity for us because we typically serve 1,000 to 1,500 customers within a two-hour period," Haley said.

Ultimately, people come for the peaches. But they keep coming back because of the flawless in-person marketing experience they receive. 

Collect Customer Data

The most obvious first step in getting customers to return in the future is to collect their data and contact information. Think about how you treat your website visitors. You wouldn't want them to leave your site without providing their contact info. The same can be said about your retail shop. By collecting their contact information, you can retarget and remarket to them with promotional offers in the future. This will hopefully bring them back into the store at another time.

Here are some ways you can collect contact info.

  • As previously mentioned, ask them for their info when they check out or request to use your Wi-Fi network. At the checkout counter, consider giving them an incentive for this information, like a coupon.
  • Run a contest that requires their contact info to be eligible.
  • Create a loyalty program that includes their contact info—a customer profile with special offers and rewards for repeat shoppers.

A great way to keep in touch with your customers is to send them a handwritten note of thanks. Greeting cards are an $8-billion-per-year industry for a reason. People like to receive handwritten notes in the mail. When you send a handwritten note as part of your brand's marketing strategy, you're telling your customers that their business is important to you. Plus, it provides a personal, human touch. Contact us to discover how you can use handwritten notes as part of your in-store marketing strategy. 

Topics: Customer Loyalty, Customer Experience, retention marketing, customer retention