The marketing environment for retail businesses has shifted significantly over the past decades. Whether your focus is on attracting local customers or advertising on a national scale, you need to get the best return on your investment. From print advertising to the rising importance of digital marketing, there are lots of options to consider.
Advertising is a constantly shifting market which can be difficult for retailers to get right. While online marketing is growing fast, traditional advertising channels are still crucial areas for small to medium retailers to use.
- Print advertising in newspapers and magazines is still hard to ignore for its local impact for retailers. Small ‘freesheet’ newspapers rely on advertising and are a targeted way to gain exposure in a local area. You can also ask about including dedicated leaflets for your business to be included in deliveries. See advertising: the basics and leaflet drops and handout.
- Regional newspapers can offer wider audiences and the potential for additional online advertising slots. Television advertising through commercial and community channels in Northern Ireland remains an option to widen awareness of your retail business.
- Billboard advertising is another area where local retailers compete for prime spots. Consider contacting local advertising agencies for more information on these and other opportunities eg public transport vehicles and shelter advertising. See choose and manage an advertising agency.
- Digital marketing is growing in importance, especially if your retail business has a website and/or trades online. Running an advertising account with large search engine providers can drive interest and sales from a highly selective base of potential customers - this can be a very efficient use of a retailer’s advertising budget. See a develop a digital marketing plan.
Social media for retailers
The pull of social media for retail businesses is becoming very hard to ignore. There are examples of the smallest local shops to international retail chains using social media to successfully market their business. Local influencers can make a big difference to customers’ spending choices, and social media is a great way to get your brand onto their radar.
Using social media to drive interest in your retail business takes planning, time and effort to get right. You need to keep a sharp focus on your end goals. You should also consider the advantages and disadvantages of using different social media platforms. Paid advertising is also becoming important to making an impact on social media, and you need to decide if your retail business could benefit from it. See social media best practice for business.
Retailing is fiercely competitive, but there are lots of ways for similar retail businesses to work together for mutual benefit. The things which make a retailer successful, eg brand exposure, customer service reputation, regular footfall can all be marketable assets to other retailers. This can be seen on a large scale with individual retailers opening concession areas in larger department stores which can provide guaranteed customers.
Smaller retailers can partner successfully to offer branded product lines which are complementary to other businesses, such as a special promotion area within another retailer’s premises eg a branded ice-cream stall in an entertainment rental shop. This type of partnering can allow your retail business to gauge demand in new areas and be a platform for further growth. Look for potential partner businesses by searching our companies directory.
Pop up retail
Getting your products in front of new customer is always a challenge. A tried and tested method of opening new markets is to use pop-up sales platforms. This can be as simple as negotiating short-term space in a popular shopping centre for a product stand. City and town marketplaces can also offer short-term pitches. You could look at opening a full pop-up shop in empty premises to sell a new line, sale stock or to diversify into a completely new area of retail. For more ideas on how to use short-term retail space to boost our business see how to set up a pop-up shop.
Associating your business with another well-known brand or organisation has obvious benefits to widening your reach. Your choice of sponsorship can also say a lot about your business ethos, eg sponsoring a charity or other good cause. For more information on getting involved in local good causes - see corporate social responsibility (CSR).
There are also plenty of opportunities to sponsor local organisations like sports teams. Your business could gain exposure through channels which might be too expensive as a standalone option, eg sports teams featured regularly on local TV news reports or playing to live TV audiences nationally or internationally.
Know your legal responsibilities
- Do you need a licence?
- Get the right business insurance
- Comply with the law when providing goods and services
- Know your customers' rights
- Distance and online selling rules
- Understand pricing legislation
- Buying goods from outside NI
- Selling goods outside NI
- GDPR compliance checklist
- Pay your business rates
- Understand staff contracts and your responsibilities
- Taking on contractors and subcontractors
- What you need to do about health and safety
- Know your legal obligations on pensions
Understand tax and VAT
Sell and market your products or services