In post one and post two of this three-part series, I talked about ways that smaller chains of supermarkets can compete effectively with the large chains, mass merchandisers and club stores that dominate the supermarket channel. And I began to describe some of the marketing and brand related aspects of store operations that smaller operators can use to build customer loyalty and increase bottom line profits.
In this final post, I’ll review three more ways you can get the jump on your competition and draw some useful conclusions for your consideration.
Like it or not, the Internet has changed the world. A well-designed Web site that engages, informs and assists your customers is no longer an option. Properly conceived, it can become the hub of your store’s brand communications. While that’s a long term consideration, it can also support your ongoing sale and promotion efforts.
Too many small markets have outdated and largely irrelevant Web strategies. But the truth is that huge numbers of consumers have learned to use the Web to improve their efficiency, shop more intelligently, communicate with their retailers, communicate about their retailers, and deepen their ties to trusted brands like yours. And because the Internet enables engagement within communities, it’s especially suited to the branding needs of local businesses.
But don’t kid yourself. Building a Website with customer relevance takes strong internal will and commitment. Planning and execution are both involved phases. You’ll need a Web development partner who’s demonstrated ability in both areas and you’ll need to follow their lead to get good results. One retailer we’ve worked with scaled back other advertising and marketing efforts for a year to free up the resources to pay for the effort. Remember, a Web site is a long term investment that will pay dividends and leverage the value of your other marketing dollars as time goes on. So if you’re going to do it, do it right!
Once your Web site is up and running, you can leverage your online presence with an ongoing e-mail program targeting your regular customers. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the store circular, only far less expensive and with greater functionality.
Each e-mail can publicize your special offers. But it can also provide links to different pages of your Web site: special recipes, blog posts (if you’re blogging), upcoming events, community happenings, and more!
There are many good ways to build a list of e-mail addresses. And there are companies that specialize in managing e-mail distribution. But the truth is that there are also very inexpensive online programs you can administer yourself once you’ve designed your e-blast template. Constant Contact and Emma are just a couple that come to mind. (This e-mail reached you by virtue of Constant Contact software.)
Today health, simplicity, eco-consciousness and time constraints are very significant factors in consumer behavior. Have you done anything lately to show you’re in sync with their concerns? Could you add or develop an in store expert on wellness? What have you done to improve the checkout experience? Have you taken simple steps to make your business more green?
One way to start is to develop conversations with customers. Ask them what’s important to them and how you can make your store more valuable to them. Reward them for making suggestions. Reward employees for engaging customers and soliciting feedback. Any time you implement something that addresses a concern or issue shared by a significant portion of your customers, publicize it in your advertising and in-store communications. You’ll strengthen your customers’ trust and deepen the bonds your store’s brand enjoys.
The only thing certain is change. Sometimes it’s forced upon us. Sometimes we can act purposefully. The economy is currently in flux. Fortunately, it hasn’t been as bad a ride for most supermarket operators as for other businesses. But your competition isn’t sleeping. Fundamental changes in store strategy are taking place at all levels. If the ideas discussed here makes sense, maybe they’re worth your consideration. The market that plans ahead with a good understanding of its alternatives has a great opportunity to solidify and grow its market position. A brand communications expert who’s worked with businesses like yours can help you explore the options.
What do you think of the ideas I’ve proposed? Feel free to use the comment box below to state your view or start a conversation!