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How to steer your retail business though 2019

A new year calls for new ideas. RICHARD CHIU has compiled some helpful marketing techniques – old and new – to help steer businesses through 2019.

The old adage, ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’ is a truism. Jewellery retailing is highly competitive, and today – thanks to the internet – the fight for the consumer dollar has increased.

Large and small retailers across all consumer categories face difficult trading periods and it’s easy to feel market forces are working against you. However, there is a vast trove of marketing ideas and expertise you can call upon to navigate the headwinds of 2019.

The right advice, simple tips and innovative ideas can help weather the storm. We’ve gathered some of the best and most current retail marketing advice to help you get back on track and boost sales.

Creative and innovative marketing

Innovative customer engagement strategies are vital to getting people in the door and have gained increasing prominence in recent years. Savvy retailers trigger customer emotions and actions. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, with many businesses reporting success through the use of enticing displays stating ‘try me on’, ‘check this out’ or ‘pick me up’.

In marketing terms, this simple technique is labeled a ‘call-to-action’ (CTA) and it’s becoming more important every day.

Your call CTA is the chance to motivate consumer to take real steps toward becoming a customer or client. It can be the determining factor between a lead and a conversion.

Not only are CTAs important for business, customers want and expect them. CTAs and sales funnels go hand in hand. The calls to action serve as transitions between the phases of the buyer’s journey. They instruct the user on what to do next, prompting them to take immediate action.

A US e-commerce giant is one such example. It cleverly used eye-catching signs depicting how one should wear its apparel, as well as matching outfits from brands displayed in its brick-and-mortar outlets. Supplementing these were ‘callto- action’ slogans, stirring customer interest.

Unique marketing techniques such as these help win consumer attention as well as facilitating an enhanced perception of brands and products. Once customers have their foot in the store, many retailers have also turned to other experiential methods to enhance the overall shopping experience.

Based on a study by US and British marketing experts, a physical instore shopping experience with friends or family remains the preferred method for all modern day consumers – from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. The authors report that people often craved or missed the excitement of physical endeavours when compared with digital immersions or two-dimensional virtual market representations.

A number of global retail chains have capitalised on this by experimenting with comfortable multi-sensory experiences for shoppers. Climate control, scents, ambient music and visual garden settings are among the methods. At the extreme end, some companies have implemented augmented reality instore scenarios and experiences.

Question: Does your store, website and marketing feature CTAs?

The personal treatment

Establishing a personal connection remains the key strategy for attracting customers to your store and away from competitors. Aside from improving logistics, product fulfillment and pricing, retailers have found customer personalisation equally important in converting new customers into loyal patrons.

"Retailers are increasingly turning to external specialists to develop content that tells a meaningful ‘story’ behind their stores and brands."

In 2019 and beyond, smart retailers are upping the ante in this area by widening their customer contact channels. Through personalised emails, messages and greetings during festive periods, retailers are promoting a sense of importance and value with clients, which go beyond the initial sale of goods or services.

The same principles apply to loyalty and rewards programs, one of the more traditional marketing methods, and which remain just as relevant today. These systems enable businesses to recognise customers and their preferences making them feel appreciated, while forming the necessary foundations for repeat business.

Other emotional connections are also just as important. This is perhaps most relevant to jewellery retail where products are often purchased to mark special occasions. This concept adds value to the purchase, providing more than just a practical solution to a problem. It gives consumers a reason to buy whether it is celebrating successes, milestones or love.

In addition, to elicit these emotional responses, retailers are increasingly turning to external specialists to develop content that tells a meaningful ‘story’ behind their stores and brands.

Question: What’s your unique story and how well do personalise your marketing messages?


While not a new concept, collaboration with participating brands can be a key driver in boosting sales for some retailers and has become increasingly popular in recent years, which has increased foot traffic into stores and boosted sales.

A leading US retailer has been known to launch instore themed shopping events with a brand or a collective collaboration of like products. These events are conducted with products curated from participating suppliers.

This concept has a two-pronged advantage – it helps provide customers with a convenient shopping experience and brands being able to showcase their products.

However, curated products must take on a ‘less is more’ approach, so as not to overwhelm customers with too many products or brand options.

Suppliers will jump at the chance to help with well-planned instore events, while social media and the internet have played major roles in helping customers narrow down their brand or product options, helping them make their initial shopping decisions before setting foot in a store.

Question: Are you trying innovative marketing strategies, or just going through the same old motions?

Customer reviews

It’s a fact that customer reviews are playing a more important role in shopping decisions. They will become even more essential in 2019, as consumers like to read what other customers say about a business.

Leveraging product and customer reviews has been hugely beneficial for businesses and can offer clear insight into how the company and products are performing. Most, if not all, consumers rely on these avenues to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of a business.

Word-of-mouth remains a persuasive advertising channel, according to a global marketing research group, which indicated most customers wouldn’t hesitate to share a product or service experience. A separate study supported these findings by publishing a survey that demonstrated most shoppers who had an ‘excellent’ customer experience were highly likely to recommend the brand.

Question: Do you review and monitor customer reviews?

Simplify the purchase process

We are all getting busier.; there never seems to be enough time in the day.

Time-poor consumers expect their instore buying experience to be convenient and easy – and research suggests the same is also true for online purchases.

Studies have shown each additional step during checkout results in a 10 per cent decrease in transactions. Put simply, for every 100 customers, a business is expected to lose 10 every time a step is added to the purchase process.

In addition, e-commerce retail statistics revealed 70 per cent of people abandoned an online purchase if it became complicated. According to the survey, the three top reasons include: unexpected costs (shipping or hidden fees), requirements to set up a customer account and a lengthy checkout process.

Question: While online sales are not significant for a traditional jeweller, does your website quickly assist potential customers to buy?

Social media marketing helps maximise product exposure
Social media marketing helps maximise product exposure

Leverage social media marketing

This is one of the latest e-commerce trends being led by social media giants Facebook and Pinterest. For instance, Facebook’s Marketplace segment allows businesses to market products and services which, in turn, can be purchased on the same platform.

A US consumer report highlighted that more than half of consumers agreed that online customer service via social media made it easier to ask questions and resolve complaints, including queries on shipping and delivery methods.

This relatively inexpensive e-commerce platform also helps retailers maximise product exposure. Facebook’s user base is quickly moving towards 2 billion, while Pintrest boasts 250 million unique monthly visitors.

These platforms have shot to prominence thanks, in large part, to the advent of smartphones, now considered a key tool in the purchase process and customer engagement.

Within the next two years, mobile e-commerce is estimated to reach more than half of global online sales due to exceedingly longer times users spend on devices. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report, Australia will exceed global trends. The report predicted that smartphone penetration would surpass 90 per cent by the end of last year while the rest of the world will take until 2023.

Question: Is your retail business mobile friendly?

Your biggest asset

Everything changes. Products and services change, businesses change as do consumers. Shoppers buy in many different ways these days, however are your staff trained in the latest trends? Your staff can be the secret to business success. Human resources make up the qualitative aspect of any business and play a major role in ensuring that customers return.

Training is an important aspect of employee engagement; being competent in their role boosts their confidence. Empower staff with the skills and knowledge to provide intrinsic value to brands and products when serving customers.

Employee engagement does not have to be costly and elaborate. It’s better to allocate funds for a sustainable staff training and engagement program that could run a long race rather than creating a program that quickly wanes.

Helping employees have fun at work and discovering their passions can help boost productivity and earnings for retailers. Happy workers are often found in companies investing in employee support and satisfaction.

For long-term success, it’s essential retailers employ the best people and to fulfil their potential, staff need to be respected, recognised, rewarded and, most of all, satisfied with their work. This, in turn, filters into customer interactions.

In 2019 retail marketing will place greater importance on customer relationships.

Too often staff training revolves around process and delivery, however smart retailers train staff with soft (interpersonal) skills, which assists in creating lasting customer relationships. Upskilling sales staff to communicate effectively by telling stories about products or experiences helps them reach a client’s inner psyche and becomes an advantage in winning them over.

Question: When was the last time you updated staff training?

Quality over quantity

When marketing to customers, it’s important to give interesting and palatable content utmost attention. Avoid bombardment of generic material.

People will always look for a reliable and consistent information source that constantly attracts their attention, satisfies their curiosity, and offers innovative solutions to everyday problems.

Retailers need to make every effort to better understand their customers, including their online habits, challenges and market behaviour.

Customers need to be continually provided with interesting and valuable information, whereas advertising ideas must be flexible for use on different media platforms. The difference between platforms may not be significant, but each one has its unique characteristics and one method may not necessarily blend well with another. Analysing consumer behaviour and habits on those platforms lets marketers know how to approach it.

Interestingly, a leading media research group found almost half of internet users considered digital ads a nuisance. Many go as far to install ad blocker software. A major complaint among internet users is that they see no relevance in the advertisement. Not only is wasted advertising a cost to retailers, it also causes inconvenience to consumers.

It is better to develop quality content that is consistent, compelling and interesting to target consumers.

In addition, data analytics is expected to increasingly influence merchandising decisions among retailers. An international footwear brand uses this method efficiently by basing future designs on consumer buying trends, sales, and product preferences, making their product planning and designs decisions more responsive to proven buying trends and needs.

By adopting smart marketing and retail strategies, including embracing technology, retailers will find themselves better placed to handle the 2019 retail market. An evolving customer base has drastically changed market conditions during the past decade, and storeowners constantly need to adapt and remain relevant.

Marketing is a facet of business that requires careful consideration and a multipronged approach to maxmise foot traffic and boost profits. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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